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Three-Way Tie in Agoura Hills Print E-mail
By Jerry Hanken   
January 29, 2008
Matikozyan, co-winner of the Western Class Champs for two years in a row. Photo Chris Roberts
The Martin Luther King holiday weekend has long presented a problem for chess organizers. Not everyone gets that Monday off.  In fact, less than half do in California. So how do you run a chess tournament over that weekend and secure the maximum turnout? Bill Goichberg, President of The Continental Chess Association,  has wrestled with this conundrum for years now. The CCA puts on the highly successful North American Open in Las Vegas with NO weekend between Christmas and New Years.  Bill and his wife Brenda,  like to spend the winter in Southern California to escape the worst of the New York bitter icebox. Thus began The Western Class Championships in Agoura Hills over MLK weekend.

Bill has tried a number of formats and prize structures. Last year, the event was a 7 round 7-section affair with twenty thousand dollars guaranteed.  About 180 showed up and the tournament lost money.( This was the last of the tournaments in which I participated before all my chess strength went on a long vacation.  I won money in a tie for 2nd place Masters and even earned Grand Prix points.)

This year Bill came up with a new idea. He expanded the tournament to 10 sections with odd class sections only on Saturday and Sunday (except the Masters’ section), and based the prizes on 250, which it used to get regularly,  with 6 rounds instead of 7.  Still, no big cigar but it almost broke even with about the same number of players, and paid out a  $16000 total.

This did produce at least one anomaly. IM Andranik Matikozyan and I were the only to show up for the 2-day Master class section. Bill didn’t think a 3 game match between us before the merge in round five would be appropriate so Andranik got two full point byes and I got 2 half point byes, and we moved to the 3 day schedule.

Matikozyan went on to come in a 3 way unbroken tie for first with 4.5/6, along with the very powerful Bulgarian-American IM Valentin Yotov, rated 2625.The last member of that triumvirate is a story in itself. The thoughtful, focused,  L.A. Master Matt Beelby, who recently turned 50 and is therefore a senior by USCF standards, overcame a first round loss to Yotov to claw his way back to the first place tie. His most significant victory was his 3rd round game with the February cover boy of Chess Life 11 year old Daniel Naroditsky, who was recently crowned World under 12 Champion.         

Last year Beelby won the Master prize in this event just below the titled players,  and got a  $900  payday. Matt had a remarkable performance after a long layoff from chess that year, finishing ahead of GM Yermolinsky in the standings. This year, he and his fellow winners each received $800.  When asked if he had a statement for this report, he said “I want to thank Bill and Brenda Goichberg for putting on high quality Tournaments in Southern California even though they have lost money on them” Matt did not feel that any of his games were worthy of publication so I have honored his wish .Actually, I was quite impressed with his total refutation of my latest try at “Parting With The Lady” in round three.

Matikozyan also had to make a big comeback. After his two full point byes, he lost to LA Master Michael Casella. Some of you may remember a whimsical profile I did on Mike Casella a couple of years ago for Chess Life when he told us that he had the pictures of Grandmasters he had prevailed over on his refrigerator door! Matikozyan rebounded with wins over LA Master Ron Hermansen and the congenial  IM Enrico Sevillano, who is rated almost 2600. 

A three-way tie is unusual for a 22 player Swiss, but all the winners suffered a loss in this six round donnybrook. Yotov dropped a point to young LA. Master John David Bryant in the first round and he too had to scramble back up the ladder to tie for first. For those of you who don’t know, Bryant is the stepson of Selvillano.

 Ironically, Yotov's crucial win was against Enrico Sevillano:


With a last round win over Bryant,  long time L.A. Master Ron Hermansen secured the $320 under 2400 prize.


 I know Ron has been around for quite a while and must be close to 40, but with his blonde good looks he still could pass for 25! That’s from living the good life in southern California! I know, I sound like a travel brochure.

 Daniel Naroditsky  and L.A. Master Eugene Yanayt tied for 2nd Under 2400 with 3.5 points each. I had a very pleasant talk with Eugene in California. He is an intelligent,  well-educated 24-year-old who makes his living at poker!  He must be on the verge of a big chess breakout, as I always seem to see him on high boards. Eugene, if only you put all your energy into the Royal Game?!  Eugene and Daniel both won $160 which, goes a ways in explaining why Eugene stays with poker though he loves chess! 
What happened to last year's co-champ and the only GM this year, Melikset Khachiyan?  After a long hard fought draw with Bryant in round 4 where, he was up an exchange most of the game, he withdrew and did not play Monday.


Funny enough, two wins that day would have put Khachiyan in a tie for first.

Another fine performance was the undefeated record of tall former Texan Greg Small!  Greg made four draws in the games he played and could have won a prize if he had played and won his last round game.  Go figure.

My fellow Chess Journalist, Frisco Del Rosario, rated 2079 going in, won only one game but it was notable. In round 3 he upset Senior Master Joaquin Banawa.


Banawa was not in good form as he had lost to Master Michael Pearson in the first round and withdrew after falling to Frisco.

Nine-year-old Nicholas Nip of San Francisco made no progress this time in breaking the record of youngest U.S. Master ever. His two points shaved five rating points off his 2113 rating.  He did beat a high expert but lost to Master Michael Pearson.


He may make it yet. He certainly has both talent and enthusiasm.

Nicholas Nip, pictured here at the Mechanics Club, at 8 years old. Photo IM John Donaldson

If you add it all up, a remarkable 43 players won prizes, about a quarter of the entries. I know they all feel good about chess and we hope they will come again to the elegant Renaissance Hotel in Agora Hills next year, when the tournament will go back to seven rounds and a more conventional format.

The whole Shebang was smoothly handled by the Goichbergs and NTD and IA Randy Hough. The pairings were out on time and the wall charts were kept up to the minute. The Chess palace provided another fine display of books and equipment and I saw a number of folks using the Monrois to keep score, even though there was no live broadcast.

On a final personal note, I played three games and sacked my Queen, aka, parted with my lady, in all three. Each looked good at the time and each was proven unsound and lost.  Do you think I might be living a little in the past?

Section Results

In the Expert section, veteran Carlos Garcia collected $800 for clear first. Martin M. Nita III and Takashi Kurosaki (who took a reentry and got it right the 2nd time) tied for 2nd and 3rd with each getting a $320 prize. Derek Tan and Branko Sretenovic shared 4th and 5th.
The seven-player 1700 to 1899, played at a fast time control, was won by Sergey Yurenok who came in unrated and won $800 with five and a half.  Robert Xue and Michael Mulford each got $320 for 2nd and 3rd and David Portwood won $160 for 4th. (When was the last time more than half of a section won money?!) Playing the same no Monday fast schedule, 1400 through 1699, had fifteen entries. The winner of $800 and clear first was 1599 rated Dennis M. Neymit. Tied for 2nd thru 4th and winning  $267 were Richard Yang, Terrence Sun, and Conner Reck.
Now we move to the conventional classes. In class A, which had 25 entries, Kaylan J Burleigh outscored the field by a full point to take the $800 first prize. Tied for 2nd and 3rd and winning $320 each were Michael A.Schemm (A CPA from Washington State who broke my heart by beating The Old Man [YHR}  in the 2006 Senior Open and keeping me from the Geezer {70 and over}) Trophy.) and Henry Castro.    4th and 5th were Zoran Djoric and Joseph Roth. Each got $80  ( By the way, Schimm got his expert rating back with his performance!)
    In Class B, the $800 clear winner was David Karapetyan. Second was Armen Samuelian, a full point back. He got $400. Third with a check for  $240 was Hubert Jung. Tied for 4th thru 7th and getting a modest $40 prize were Edwin B. Silva, Ryan Polsky, Ed Isler, and Jeffrey Ding. 
In the 14 player class “C” championship. Yash Pershad was clear first with a prize of  $800 and 4 tied for 2nd thru 5th. Receiving  $200 each were  Richard E. Martin, Shirolly Anand  (A relative perhaps?) ,Steven J. Dahl, and Anna Karapetyan. (AT  LAST,  a female! )
    In the class “D” section of 13 players, Ellie Simon won clear first along an $800 prize. Clear second,  at a prize of $400, was Charles M. Morgan. Stand alone 3rd at  $240  was  John Kitapszyan and in 4th at $80 we had a tie between Jan Olderdissen and Wyatt Duvall.
We now come to the largest single section, the Class “E” Championship of 28 players. First and with winnings of $800 was Sanjay Siddhanti. The runner up at $400 was Scott Xue. David Halajian placed third for $240. There was another 4-way tie at $40 each between David Alday, Daniel Mousseri, Robert Gardner, and John Gardner.  
Finally  we have the under 900 Trophy section. First was Alexander Blaine at five, second at four and a half was Chantelle Field, and, tied for 3rd and 4th,  were Aaron David Green and Ernesto Lim, who each had four of six in this dozen player class section.