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Bryan Smith Takes Okie Chess Festival Print E-mail
By Tom Braunlich   
September 3, 2008
IM Bryan Smith in his game against Chaitanya Vadya (2325)

Experimenting with tournament formats is great way for organizers to spice up the Swiss.

In a summer when turnouts have been down, presumably due to high gas prices, the 4th Annual Okie Chess Festival (Labor Day Weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma) was up. Featuring three “laddered” events — two 8-player master rounds-robins a 53-player open Swiss — plus a Fischer-Random speed chess pizza bash — the unusual structure attracted players with more than the normal tournament fare on the menu.

The Master and Challengers round robins are invitational, with high prizes and no entry fee to draw top players from the area. But players can also get into them by qualifying from the Open, allowing everyone to feel involved.

The 2008 Okie Masters RR featured $3100 in prizes, and was sponsored by IA Frank K. Berry. With a minimum prize of $250 (to cover expenses), the event is aims at giving mid-level masters the rare chance at professional-style round robin play, complete with opening ceremony and traditional pea soup for good luck!

This year’s Okie Masters was dominated by IM Bryan Smith of Philadelphia. He was aided by the last-minute withdrawal of two main rivals (FMs Michael Langer and Keaton Kiewra), but I doubt if it would have made any difference since he played very sharp and scintillating chess all weekend.

An example of Smith’s sparkling play was his last round game with 15-year-old master Conrad Holt of Kansas, who also had an excellent event. With a 1.5 point lead, Smith offered a draw on move three. He seemed a bit miffed when the kid refused, and proceeded to create a terrific queenless mating attack:

2008 Cadet Champion, Conrad Holt

The only one to hold Bryan to a draw was Bayaraa Zorigt, a UTD student from Mongolia, and she had to sac her queen for a nice perpetual check to do it!


Smith won $1000, plus $200 for snatching first place in the popular Fischer-Random speed chess tournament.

Smith has had had some disappointing results recently, but after this event he was saying, "Chess is fun again!"

The Challengers RR was won by former Denker Champion Nelson Lopez II and Mihail Bantic, of Serbia. Both are students at chess powerhouse UTD, and both qualify for next year’s Masters. 2008 U.S. Junior Open Champ Maxx Coleman was leading throughout, but a tough reversal to Tom Brownscombe in the last round set him back to third in this hard-fought tournament.

Mihail Bantic (Serbia), Nelson Lopez II (North Carolina), IM Bryan Smith (Pennsylvania)

The Okie Open 7-SS ended in a four-way tie between Tim Steiner, James Long, George Trammell, and Chuck Johnson. Experts Steiner and Long qualify for next year’s “Challengers.”

The events were directed by IA Frank Berry, and organized by me. Click here to see full crosstables.


Tom Braunlich is the author of Playoff Theory , a detailed look at various ways to break ties in chess. Read it if you missed it and also look out for Tom's twin article, Move Theory later this week.