Raven Sturt's Rating Jumps into 2011
By Steve Immitt   
January 9, 2011
Photo Polly Wright
NM Raven Sturt welcomed in 2011 with quite a bang, as he swept the New York Winter Game/45 Grand Prix, held at New York's Marshall Chess Club January 8th: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201101080971-12836880  This year's edition was notably top-heavy, with 3 GMs and 3 IMs, but sometimes things don't always work out like they're supposed to.  One might be understandably reluctant to bet against all three top-seeds in the same round, but that bet would have paid off handsomely in Round 3, when all three GMs fell victims to lower-rateds. Sturt downed GM Mike Rohde on Board 3, while IM Jay Bonin ended a long drought with GM Alex Lenderman on Board 2, just as IM Justin Sarkar was busy outplaying GM Mark Paragua on Board One.      

Sturt's upset win opened up the path to victory, after his Round 4 win over NM Evan Rabin left him atop the field with the only perfect score.  This time he faced IM Justin Sarkar on Board One in the last round.  Raven, playing White, continued to press his higher-rated opponent for the entire game, methodically converting a space advantage into more and more activity for his pieces, and finally sacrificing the Exchange to immobilize Black with a laser-like pair of Bishops and a 800-pound gorilla pawn on the 7th rank. 

At the end, Sarkar's flag fell in a position where he was helpless against the White Knight's romp from g5 to c7, making way for the e7-gorilla to become a Queen.        

Between rounds, FM Nathan Resika, a professional opera singer, dispensed some fiery holiday spirit of his own, serenading the field with some of his favorites by Verdi, as his unmistakable booming baritone echoed throughout all five floors of the historic Greenwich Village brownstone, wafting out onto the festivities of Tenth Street outside.  A vocal chorus of "encore!" was sorely disappointed by the necessity of having to begin the final game instead.         

The New York Winter Game/45 caps off a tremendous recent run by Raven Sturt, one of the Marshall's top junior whizzes. Not quite one month ago, he won the Twelfth Grade Section of the USCF's National K-12 Grade Championships in Orlando, ceding a lone draw to top-seeded IM Marc Arnold while sweeping the rest of the field.  And just six days ago, Raven tied for 2nd in the "This Is Just Pure Insanity!" Championship, joining a 50-player(!) "all-nighter" (ten games: Saturday night thru Sunday morning) at the very same Marshall Chess Club, where he ran the table with 7 consecutive victories, including a last-round win over top-seeded IM Yury Lapshun, after losing two early games against lower-rateds!  On his way to eclipsing the 2400 barrier, Raven is keeping alive a 12-game winning streak, including wins over 2 IMs and 1 GM!