Chess on Fremont Street: Mantis Open
By Juan Jauregui   
May 2, 2014
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On the weekend of April 25-27, 48 chess players came to the Learning Village, located at the corner of Fremont Street and 8th Street in downtown Las Vegas, to compete in the Mantis Downtown Chess Fest.  This five round swiss system chess tournament was named in honor of the fire breathing preying mantis sculpture located next door at the entrance to Container Park.  The tournament had four rating based sections and featured four chess masters playing in the open section: Tom Brownscombe, Ronald Gross, Rockwell Shah, and Mike Zaloznyy. 

The round three board one game between Rockwell Shah and Mike Zaloznyy was a very close affair that turned into a rook and pawn ending that featured competing passed pawns on opposite sides of the board.  Shah was able to stop Zaloznyy's passer, but an inaccurate king move by Zaloznyy allowed Shah's passed pawn duo to go all the way for the win.

 On board two, the game between Brownscombe and Gross was even closer.  Brownscombe pressed on the kingside, but he was not able to break through.  Gross had some space on the queen side, but he was not able to create a breakthrough.  So the board two game ended in a draw, leaving Shah in clear first place after three rounds.  And then this confrontation occurred on board one in the fourth round:



In the fifth round, Brownscombe sacrificed a bishop on h2 against Hugo Santiago.  But he was only able to get a perpetual check.  The draw on board one gave the players on boards two and three an opportunity to compete for first place.  On board three, Earl Salazar developed a powerful attack against the exposed king of Ron Gross.  Salazar was on the verge of achieving a checkmate or winning Ron's queen.  But Gross generated enough counter play to stave off defeat and turn the tide in his favor.  When the dust settled, Gross had an extra bishop and an easily won endgame. 

On board two, Shah won a pawn and converted his extra material into an endgame victory.  This left a four way tie for first place in the open section with Tom Brownscombe, Ronald Gross, Hugo Santiago, and Rockwell Shah sharing first place with 3.5 points each and splitting the prize money equally.  Juan Jauregui and Jonathan Mikolic split the prize for the top scoring player rated under 2000 in the open section with 2 points each.

The Mantis Downtown Chess Fest was the second tournament in the southern Nevada state championship qualifier series.  The first tournament was the Presidents' Day Open, and the final tournament will be held in the summer.  Players who play in the open section of two or more of these tournaments can combine their scores to create a qualifying score.  The two players with the top qualifying scores will be invited to represent southern Nevada in the 2014 Nevada State Chess Championship.  After two tournaments, Tom Brownscombe and Hugo Santiago have the top two qualifying scores with 6.5 points each.  But with another qualifying tournament still to be played, any player who has scored at least two points in either of the first two qualifying tournaments has a chance to surpass Brownscombe and Santiago.  Here is the list of players who are in contention (with their best score from either of the first two qualifying tournaments):

Elliot Liu 5; Patrick Lacey 4; Virgilio Reyes, Rockwell Shah, Ronald Gross 3.5; Mike Zaloznyy, Joshua Quint, Barry Lazarus 3; Damir Trtanj, Juan Jauregui, Glenn Bidari, Earl Salazar, Ryan Phillips 2.5; Scott Raymond, John Trivett, Jeffery Gallegos, Alejandrino Baluran, Jonathan Mikolic 2.

In the under 1900 section, Edgar Khachatryan had a strong start with four straight victories.  This was enough for Edgar to secure clear first place, even though Jason Cruz defeated Khachatryan in the final round.  Cruz tied for second place in the under 1900 section with Alan Losoff, who is best known in the chess world as the lead organizer of the Las Vegas International Chess Festival.  Losoff had a rough day on Saturday, drawing with Cruz and losing to Khachatryan.  He was so discouraged by these results that he almost withdrew from the tournament.  But Losoff's perseverance led to fourth and fifth round wins against John Currell and Todd Imada and an equal share of the second and third place prize money with 3.5 points.
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In the under 1600 section, the ladies showed their mettle.  Vivian Liu started the tournament with a half point bye in the Friday night round.  She then proceeded to win four straight games to secure first place in the under 1600 section.  Audrey Grigore continued to demonstrate the ladies' superiority in the under 1600 section by scoring 3.5 points to take second place.  Antonio Artuz rounded out the list of prize winners in the under 1600 section by taking third place with 3 points.  Jonathan Luong won the under 1300 section with 4 points.  Max Jackel took second place in the under 1300 section with 3.5 points, and Rhomer Johnson was third with 3 points.
 
All of the players would like to thank the Las Vegas Downtown Project for supporting this event.  Juan and Sabrina Jauregui organized the tournament on behalf of the Las Vegas Chess Center.  Tom Brownscombe and Juan Jauregui directed the tournament.  For complete tournament results for all players, including all rating changes, please visit the member services area of the US Chess Federation website.   And find more information about other Las Vegas Chess Center events here.

Upcoming in Vegas: The National Open in June & the Millionaire Chess Open in October.