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Western Class: The Young and the Veteran Print E-mail
By Randy Hough   
March 13, 2012
Nov08CLMcover.jpgThe 19th Annual Western Class Championships marked the third, and most successful, iteration of a five-rounder in March at the Agoura Hills (northwest of LA) Sheraton (formerly Renaissance) Hotel. The turnout of 227 players, plus six re-entrants, was the best of the three. A prize fund of $18,700 was paid. One GM, eight IMs, and a strong contingent of out-of-state juniors, were included in the turnout.

Veteran IM Enrico Sevillano (now with two GM norms), 43, emerged on top after knocking off the previous leader, 19-year-old IM Roman Yankovsky, in a last round thriller. Black's treatment of the Alapin Sicilian left him with a solid position (doubled isolated e-pawns aren't always a liability!), but he went wrong in a tactical position on move 29 and Enrico promptly exploited the weakness (30.Qa8 appears even better) and went on to win.


Like most of the top players, Enrico opted for the fast schedule, with the first two rounds at G/75. In an anomaly typical of these multiple schedules, he found himself playing his stepson, FM John Bryant, and a quick draw resulted. Three straight wins (the victims included IM Andranik Matikozyan, sent reeling by Enrico's Exchange sac) set up the final round pairing.

Yankovsky played the slow schedule, and downed IMs Ray Kaufman and David Pruess en route to his initial 4-0 tally. Kaufman's restrained treatment of the Gruenfeld and acceptance of a isolated d-pawn and doubled b-pawns left him with weaknesses he was unable to overcome.


Pruess might have improved with 12...a5, 13...a5, and 17...Ne8. White's surprise 21st move is winning: 21...fxe6 22. Bf4 Qa8 23.Nc7 Rxc7 24.Rxc7 leaves him with a large edge, and in the game continuation 23...fxe6 isn't possible because of 23.Rcc7.


IM Zhanibek Amanov, a genial Kazakh now living in LA, tied Roman for second place at 4-1. Only a loss to Pruess marred his performance. Amanov weakened his position a bit on move 18 (18.b5 or 18.0-0 improve), 24.Bd4 is more tenacious, and 29.Be3 or 29.Rf1 would at least have prolonged matters.


David's annotations of this and other games can be found at his blog, dpruess, on chess.com.

In the final round, "Zhani" smoothly refuted 14-year-old Michael Brown's early attacking attempt, exploited the weaknesses, and (like Yankovsky against Pruess) cashed in with a Ne6 pseudo-sac.


GM Melik Khachiyan yielded too many draws (three) and finished tied for fourth place with 3½ points, along with Pruess and the Under 2300 winner, FM Gregg Small, who upset Matikozyan and downed Texas's 11-year-old sensation, FM Jeffery Xiong, in the final round.

The Expert section was swept by Kofi Tatum, another "not so young" player (33), who resisted the temptation to withdraw and protect his first-ever Master rating after three rounds. Two more wins left him at 2235, and much richer! Robert Akopian and Francisco Alonso trailed, a respectful point behind.

Another 11-year-old, Ethan Li of Arizona, tied local player Pierce Shaad for Class A honors. Ethan (who tied for first A in the American Open with a last round bye), played all his games this time and finished with 4½. He earned his first Expert rating.

In the B section, veteran Merrill Chaney began 4-0, but his last round half-point bye enabled young Asatour Dovlatyan and "twenty-something" Jacob Portukalian to catch up and tie for first. Local player Chris Stychinsdky and James Roberts of Washington split C honors, also with 4½. The D section also resulted in a three-way split, with Sergey Zakaryan, Anthony Wong, and Gregory Mitchell scoring 4. And in Class E, young Jean Azcunaga topped his rivals with 4½.

The venue in the Conejo Valley (just west of the San Fernando Valley) was blessed with the same balmy weather we mentioned in last year's report. Perhaps this was part of the reason for the good out-of-state turnout. In addition to those we've mentioned, top visitors included IM Sal Bercys of New York and 11-year-old masters Samuel Sevian of Northern California and Jonathan Chiang from Texas. Two other 11-year-olds from "No Cal", Cameron Wheeler and Vignesh Panchanathasm, are likely future masters.

One local 12-year-old, Daniel Mousseri, showed tactical alertness in spoiling the hopes of Arizona's Tony Yim, who had reentered after losing the first round. Black's best chance was 17...Rxc3 18.bxc3 Nd5, but 17...d5 also improves.


The tournament, directed by Steve Immitt and this writer for CCA, went fairly smoothly except for one unfortunate incident. A player consulted (then purchased) a book on the French Defense during the game; it included the variation he was playing. His excuses were unavailing, and his opponent was awarded the point.  This sort of thing used to happen more frequently before the computer boom. Today, alas, we can only wonder how many cheaters are surreptitiously employing hand-held devices during their games. One's integrity is infinitely more important than winning a chess game!

CCA will be back in beautiful Agoura Hills for the Pacific Coast Open in July; hope to see you there!