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6th Fairfield County Open Quick Attracts Star-Studded Field Print E-mail
By Jeff Peterson   
December 12, 2012
IM Jay Bonin holds the unofficial world's record for participating in the most chess tournaments of any human being ever (nearly 3,500 since 1991 alone, when the USCF began keeping records of such things, though Jay had been participating in tournaments probably for at least twenty years prior). He has seen it all, so when I heard him holding forth on the strength of this year's Fairfield County Open, rhetorically asking "What is this, the US Championship?", I knew what we were in for. With 6 GMs, not including our current and many times US Woman's Champion IM Irina Krush, as well as 11 masters and 8 experts, the tournament was an unparalleled sensation of Connecticut chess.


The format for this popular tournament, now in its sixth year, is simple: seven rounds of G/10, no delay. What it results in--especially when the field is deep--is an afternoon of pure adrenaline. I acquitted myself respectably, finishing with 5/7, losing only to GMs Tamaz Gelashvili and Mikheil Kekelidze. With 5/7, I shared my friend FM Dan Shapiro's expectations for a cut of the staggering newly heightened prize fund of $2000 (what other tournament in the world guarantees $2k in prizes for one afternoon of playing time?). But once again we were to be reminded of the ferocity of the competition as we both found ourselves penniless as prizes were doled out to a massive 5-way tie for first that included U2400 winner FM Leif Pressman along with GMs Tamaz Gelashvili, Mikheil Kekelidze, Alexander Stripunsky, and Giorgi Kacheishvili.

Perhaps I shouldn't have felt so bad as I found myself sharing prize impoverishment with such notables as former world's top 50 player and clear first place winner of the 2005 HB Global Chess Challenge (the largest open tournament prize in world history), GM Zviad Izoria, as well as new member of the USCF 2700+ club, GM Alex Lenderman. Zviad has been retired from chess the past few years but is making a bit of a comeback, attracted by the glamor of the event. He wasn't the only retired chess master who came flocking out of the woodwork to get a glimpse of this event, including NM Oktay Kurbanov who hadn't played in a chess tournament in 10 years. Even Kurbanov was almost topped, though, as NY master David Quinn tried to squeeze the event into his schedule but failed, settling for a bit of spectating. His last recorded event was a couple quick events at the World Open in 1992!

Octogenarian and elder statesman of Connecticut chess, expert Oswaldo Fernandez turned out for the event alongside junior super-talents Josh Colas and Kapil Chandran, fresh off representing the US in the world youth championships in Slovenia. William Graif, a 2047 rated player in 7th grade took top U2200 honors. U2000, U1800 and U1600 went to Barry Hammons, Rohan Suryawanshi and Lawrence Moy who all tied with 3.5 points. In total, 47 participated in this 7-round G/10 event.

In addition to cash prizes for placement, prizes in the form of CCFC mugs, t-shirts, and other gear were distributed to participants in different categories who registered early, thus reinforcing the first and primary rule of the tournament, announced by CCFC Director Melvin Patrick at the start of round 1: "Rule 1: Have fun!" As players headed to the exits 1/2 hour earlier than anticipated, many deserved thanks for the professionalism and efficiency of the running of the event were offered to Melvin and tournament director Ian Harris. As one participant said, it's not an event you want to miss! We hope to see everyone again next year and if you're reading this now, be sure to mark it on your chess calendar for 2013!