Texas sized Swiss – Four GMs tie for first in Southwest Class Print E-mail
By Colonel David A. Hater   
February 22, 2015
US Champion Gata Kamsky, Photo uschesschamps.com
You don't often see a weekend Swiss where four grandmasters tie for first and ten more grandmasters leave empty handed, but in Texas everything is bigger.  Continental Chess Association returned to Texas after a nineteen year absence with the 2015 The Southwest Class drawing 272 players in seven sections.  The last event held in 1996 suffered a major snowstorm.  

This year's even saw snowstorms across the country - this writer's flight out was canceled due to snowstorm Octavia hitting the eastern United States.  Dallas escaped any major snowstorms, but the temperature changed from a high of 72 degrees on Sunday to a low of 30 degrees on Monday.  The temperature may have changed dramatically , but on the chessboard, much remained the same as many of the tournament section leaders jumped out to quick starts and never looked back. 

In the Master's section, GMs Gata Kamsky, GM Yarsola Zherebukh, GM Anton Kovalyov and GM Holden Hernandez Carmenate all tied for first at 5 ½ - 1 ½ with Kamsky taking the $200 first place bonus on tiebreak.  The four GMs all took different paths to the winner's circle.  Kamsky actually did not play on board 1 until the final day and he drew both games on Monday.  Kamsky started with 4 ½ out of 5 and added a point on the last day to take the title.  The crosstable may have made it look routine, but the story is anything but routine as Kamsky played Zherebukh, Kovalyov, and Hernandez Carmenate defeating both Zherebukh and Carmenate.  Kamsky played 5 GMs in this 7 round 56 player Swiss!  Kamsky opted for the three day schedule for the three day schedule and faced strong opposition from the outset defeating Millionaire Open U2500 winner FM Kazim Gulamali in round one.  It is not often that a senior masters gets paired up in round 1 of a weekend swiss! 

Kazim gets an honorable mention.  After starting with losses to two GMs and drawing in round 3, he won four straight games including a win over GM Bartolmiej Macieja.  His 4 ½ was ½ point out of the money, but the comeback was impressive. 


Round two of the three day schedule saw three GM pairings in the three day schedule!  Kamsky faced GM Valentin Yotov on board one in the Master's section and playing the black pieces against a fellow GM "only" managed a draw.  Board 2 saw GM Alex Onischuk paired against GM George Margvelashi with Onischuk coming out on top.  Interestingly, Onischuk then withdrew. Onischuk was coaching many of his students in this event.  Still, I don't think I have ever seen a GM withdraw from a Swiss when leading the field with a perfect score! One amusing occurrence happened in round two when the tournament directors renumbered the boards.  In round one, board "one" of the three day schedule started on board 71.  Due to space, the TDs moved board one to board 70.  The GMs thought board one still stated on board 71 and all the GMs played the right opponents with the right colors on the wrong boards!

Kamsky continued his path to the winner's circle with three straight wins beating  IM Andrey Gorovets, GM Hernandez Carmenate and GM Koyalyov. On Monday morning, Kamsy drew quickly with black against GM Elsha Moradiabadi on board 1.  This set up a last round matchup between two 2700+ GMs as Kamsky had white versus GM  .  I expected a quick draw since both were over 2700 and each would grab a share of first with the draw.  GM Moradiabadi  told me that it would not be a "grandmaster draw: that Kamsky would see if he could get an advantage with white.    Kamsky not only did not get an advantage, but he had to fight for a draw when GM Zherebukh caught him with a prepared line.  This was Kamsky's first trip to Texas.  His 5 ½ points was good for $1450 and a $200 first place bonus.  Kamsky finished with a performance rating of  2843 and picked up  11 rating points!


GM Zhrebukk opted for the "easier" 4 day schedule and "only" had to play a master in round one and didn't have to face a GM until the second day in round 4!  Zherebukh "only" had to play 3 GMs on his way to first place! He defeated GM Yotov in round 6 while he drew Moradiabadi in round 4 and pressed Kamsky in the last round but only drew.  Zherebukh and Kamsky were the only ones in the Masters section who played all 7 rounds to finish undefeated.


Due to his lower seeding (he started as the 15th seed), GM Hernandez Carmenate started with "easier" pairings and jumped out to a 2-0 start since he was playing 2200 players in the early rounds.  Hernandez Carmenate was paired up in rounds 3 and 4 against two 2700+ GMs.  He drew GM Andrey Stukopin (who finished clear 5th at 5-2) in round 3 and lost to Kamsky in round 4.  He then had to win his final three rounds and after being paired down in round 5 was paired up in rounds 6 and 7 beating GMs David Berczes and GM Moradiabadi in the final round. How unusual is it for a GM to be paired up in 4 rounds of a 7 round weekend swiss?

GM Kovalyov also opted for the 4 day schedule.  Kovalyov had the "easiest" schedule as he only faced 1 GM losing to Kamsky in round 5.  However he score 5 ½ out of 6 against non-GM players  That may sound routine, but he played three strong IMs, 2 FMs and a strong master who started off 2 ½ out of 3 collecting a GM scalp along the way.  After scoring 1 ½ against two FMs.  Yolatov defeated IM Jeffery Xiong and then Michael Coralllo who was coming off a victory over GM Conrad Holt.  He then lost to Kamsky, but defeated IMs Darwin Yang and IM Andrey Gorovets on the final day.  


By now, the reader has probably figured out that this tournament was quite strong.  Over half of the Masters section was over 2400 USCF!  Also, well over half of the field had FIDE titles as there were 14 GMs, 5 IMs, 7 FMs, 2 WGMs, and 3 WFMs.  The average USCF of the GMs is 2665 and the average FIDE is 2587.  If those GMs were playing an international it would be a category 14!

The tournament was so strong because of the college chess programs in Texas.  All of the players in the roped off area except Kamsky were from one of the three Texas powerhouse colleges.  There were certainly other players from the schools, but the flagship players were: GMs Zherebukh, Moradiabadi, and IM Gorovets from Texas Tech, GMs Kovalyov, Hernandez Carmente, Stukopian and Macieja from University of Texas at Brownsville and GMs Holt, Yotov, Margvelashvili, and Berczes from University of Texas at Dallas.  Of all the players with 4 ½ or more points, only 4 (Kamsky, Erenburg, Gulamali, and FM Ruifeng Li were not from one of the three schools!

The theme of titled players and scholastic chess continued in the U2200 section.  WIM Aura Cristina  Salazar from UTD won the section clear first with 6-1 and pocketed $2000.  She was also one of the mixed doubles teams and took an additional $500 for that.  Her total winnings of $2500 was 8% of the entire prize fund and was the most won by any individual player.  Aura was the first seed and played every round on board 1.  Going into round 6, she led the field by 1 ½ points!  Her only loss was round 6, but she came back and won in round 7.

In the class A section, Hassan Sobh scored 6 ½ out of 7 to take clear first and $2000.  His only draw was to clear second place winner Vasfi Glacer.  Sobh started the tournament barely in the A class at 1804 and picked up 200 points on his wallchart rating to cross expert at 2004.  Sobh entered the last round leading by one point and finished a full point ahead of Gucer.  He was guaranteed at least a tie for first going into the last round even if he lost.  The class A section 2 day schedule only had 4 players!  This resulted in repeat pairings in round 4 as the players had already played all the oher players prior to the merge.

In the class B section, there was a two way tie for first between Steven Villarreal and Benny Thottakkara both with 5 ½ out of 7.  They drew each other the last round.  Interestingly, Thottakara did not win his first game until round 3!  Thottakkara played the two day schedule and there were only 5 players in that two day schedule!  He lost round 1 and recived a bye in round 2.  He then won 4 in a row before drawing Villarreal.  Villarreal started 3-0 and then lost to Benjamin Frenkel who finished in a tie for 3rd. Frenkel would have been in the tie for first had he won his last round, but he only drew.  After losing to Frenkel, Vilarreal won his next two before drawing Thottakkara.

The class C section was dominated by Lakshmana Viswanath with 6 ½.  He outscored his competition by 1 ½ points picking up nearly 300 rating points to go with his first place check of $1500.  Viswanath won his first 6 games before playing a very quick draw with Ethan Emmanuel who finished in the 2nd place tie.  Viswanath entered the last round already securing clear first.  His draw was so fast that it was posted before the revised wall charts were posted.

Speaking of quick draws, there was a mini controversy in round 5.  There was a true grandmaster draw between GM Yotov and GM Moradiabadi.  Two different spectators complained about the draw.  The spectators claimed the players agreed to the draw without even setting up pieces.  This was not true.  I witnessed a brief post-mortem and the players produced scoresheets showing hey had played over 10 moves.  The TDs (three of us) spent more time resolving the complaint than the game lasted!  I realize some players do not like short draws, but there is nothing illegal about them and I personally have no problem with the conduct of either grandmaster.

In the Class D section, there was a two way tie for first between Sean Mcgowan and John Sapp.  Each pocketed $900 for their efforts.  They both finished 1 point ahead of the field.  McGowan beat Sapp in round 3, but the very next round.  Both McGowan and Sapp entered the last round  They could be caught by other players and they were not playing each other.   Both were paired down to players in the 4 ½ point scoregroup. Since a short draw was not favorable, both players played for victories and both won.

The class E section saw the tournaments only perfect score.  Kabir Ahmed went 7-0 and won $800.  He finished 1 point ahead of the second place picking up over 150 rating points in the process.

Continental Chess Association offers a unique prize in many of their tournaments - a mixed doubles prize.  Players can be from different sections and teams do not pay any extra entry fee and can win this in addition to any other prize won.  The only requirement is that the 2 player team must be one male and one female and have an average rating of under 2200.  The big winner in the mixed double was the team of Anvita Kotha and Sri Raghuraja.  Kotha scored 5 and Raghuraja 4 ½ - both in the Class E section. Even though neither won a big prize in their section, they each pocketed $500 for their share of the mixed doubles prize! 

Second and third teams were the teams of Stephanie Ballom, Class A, 5 points and IM Jeffery Xiong, Master, 4 points and the team of WIM Aura Salazar, Expert 6 points and Christopher Shen Expert 3 points.  Each player won $250.  The 4th place prize was shared by 4 teams.  Each player took $37.50.  The teams were:  Emily Nguyen Expert 4 ½ and Duy Nguyen Exoert 3 ½; Susana Ulrich Class B 4 and IM Darwin Yang Open 4; Aparna Yellamrajv Expert 4 ½ and Daniel Rodriguez Open 3 ½; and Adisri Mohapatara Expert 3 and Jason Esposito Class D 5.  Special congratulations to Susanna Ulrich for playing up and still placing!  The fact that the players were distributed across many sections and that many of these winners did not win large place prizes attest to the popularity of the prizes and the need for both players to score. 

The tournament was directed by NTD Steve Immitt assisted by NTDs Wayne Clark and David Hater and Senior TD Rob Jones.

Find rated results on MSA
and also find crosstables and results on http://www.southwestclass.com/