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Hanken on Labor Day Madness Print E-mail
By Jerry Hanken   
September 4, 2008
Jerry Hanken

There are three holidays in the calendar year, which are uniquely American. Of course, the 4th of July is our national birthday. Thanksgiving Day is the traditional celebration of our “peace” with the Native Americans. Finally, Labor Day is the holiday, which is more American than any other because it represents the strivings of an entire class of people: the working class of America.

Because the 4th of July is the 4th, it tends to bounce around to different days of the week. It’s not always easy to plan a chess tournament on that holiday although we all know that the World Open is always there for us in Philadelphia.  Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, and can certainly be the anchor of a four-day tournament, such as the American Open in LA, and the National Chess Congress in Philly.

The problem with Thanksgiving for chess purposes is that not everyone gets the Friday after the holiday off, and many players would simply prefer to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family on Thursday. Presidents’ Day, although now on a Monday, is not universally recognized as a day off, and the same can be said for the January Martin Luther King holiday.

This leaves us with Labor Day as the most common, and fittingly, for the working man, the most available weekend for a chess tournament! Labor Day always falls on a Monday, the first one in September, and everyone gets that day off.

In browsing through the TLAs in the August issue of Chess Life, we can note that there are no less than fifteen major grand prix tournaments played on that weekend, as well as two non-grand prix tournaments. The major portion of U.S. Chess Federation membership has these tournaments available to them. The oldest and most prestigious of these Labor Day events is the New York State Championship in its 130th incarnation, which has the largest prize fund of these events. These Labor Day tournaments almost always represent state titles, both adult and scholastic, and are, quite often the annual business meetings of the state affiliates of the USCF. Without Labor Day, some of these organizations would become moribund from lack of having central meeting places for the most dedicated of the state organizers and players.

I’m not going to take you through each and every one of these Labor Day tournaments, but you should read Labor Day Madness Part I which profiles three biggies (NY State, NJ Open and North Cal) and Part II, in which Gary Kevin Ware goes more into depth on South Cal . Also click on links to Xtables and additional reports throughout this article. 
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “Heritage”, these are tournaments that have been organized by the same groups for at least twenty-five years. So, when you see that in the TLA section for one of these Labor Day tournaments, you can be sure it’s been around for a long time.

Michael Atkins reports to CLO on another oldie- "The 72nd Annual Virginia Closed State Championship was held in Richmond over the Labor Day Weekend. For the second year in a row, a High School student won the State Championship. Adithya Balasubramanian (In FIDE, just Adithya B.!) took clear first with 5/6. In second on tiebreaks was last year's young champion Edward Lu. After drawing in Rd 1, Adithya wheeled off 4 wins in a rwo, including wins over the two highest rated players in the tournament. Ed Lu took 1.5/2 from Macon Shinut and Dan Miller who have 7 state championships between them. Tom Belke scored 5.5/6 to become the State Amateur Champ for 2008. final standings can be found on the VCF home site - www.vachess.org.The tournament was smoothly and ably directed by the new Virginia Chess Federation President, Mike Hoffpauir."

Certainly worthy of mention is the 74th Southwest Open, held this year in Fort Worth, Texas. There was a four way tie for first between University of Texas at Dallas students: Alejandro Ramirez, Jacek Stopa, Puchen Wang and Salvijus Bercys.   

The Tennessee Open, in its sixty-second incarnation, held this year in the home of the USCF headquarters: Crossville. Todd Andrews wrote a musical report of that event a few days ago on CLO . The fifty-fourth Iowa Open Championship, played this year in Cedar Rapids, is also worth mentioning. (CLO will update this article when MSA link to Iowa Open is published.)

The Illinois Open, although its age is not given, finds itself in one of the oldest and richest in USCF membership in, Lombard, Illinois. This year, a Texan, IM Kirill Kuderinov took first place with 5.5/6, with five Illinois players Emory Tate, Angelo Young, Alexander Stamnov, John Burgess and Albert Chow a point behind in 2-6th. See full Illinois results and MSA info.

Since I’m speaking of traditional tournaments, I would be remiss in not mentioning the sixty-eighth New England Open, played this year in Boxborough, Massachusetts. That event saw a three-way tie for first between Alexander Ivanov,Alex Cherniack and Denys Shmelov. Check out full crosstable here.

Down in Florida, youngster Ray Robson and GM Julio Becerra tied for first. Check out complete MSA here. With a major international event planned for next week (Sept.10-14) and two smashing victories in the first two weeks of the U.S. Chess League, Miami seems to be a hotspot this fall.

 Of course there was also the sixty-fourth Ohio Chess Congress, held this year in that great chess center of Ohio, and the home of the 1977 U.S. Open: Columbus. Ohioan Chris Dobbs told CLO about that event, "With fourteen players rated 2200 or above USCF in the Open, it was a tough field to beat. When the smoke cleared and the dust had settled, Mark Heimann claimed sole first with 5.5/6, with IM Calvin Blocker in clear second with 5/6, and Alexander Heimann in clear third with 4.5/6. Mark Heimann’s performance was impressive enough to push him over 2400 for the first time! We should all congratulate him on this terrific accomplishment."

My friends Jim and Frank Berry would probably be a little miffed at me if I didn’t mention the fourth annual Okie Chess Festival, which had a $6700 prize fund guaranteed, as well as the Okie Masters’ Invitational with a guaranteed prize fund of $3100 for 8 top regional players. Bryan Smith came out on top--you can read Tom Braunlich's in-depth report on CLO. 

If you don’t take into account the Okie, which replaced a scholastic tournament four years ago,  the Southern California Open is the one of the babies of the litter at thirty. The fact that So. Cal. And Northern Cal are separate states, escapes some people. I could run you thru the saga of conflict and agony, which resulted in the bifurcation of California in the World of the USCF, but that tale is for another time. Suffice to say that it is the only state with two Federations. (DC is not a state.) Northern Calif. “Calchess” had a 15 World Chess Live GP in the heart of San Francisco and we in the “southland” (L.A.) had our SCCF Open Championship in the stand alone city of Pasadena.

I played for the first time in seven years, though, when it was the "combined” California Open , usually held halfway in Fresno, I played all the time. In 1964 I won that Cal. Open clear with six and a half of seven, beating Jose Mandragon, the then Champion of Mexico, in the last round, one of my greatest achievements in chess.

44 years later in the 30th SCCF Open, things were a lot tougher for the old guy. I played for a couple of reasons, the first being that the Pasadena Hilton, a very nice venue indeed, which hosted this event, is only four miles from my house.  I also wanted to give my friend and prize student, Jessica Lauser, (AKA “Chessica”), a chance to get in a good competition with some one to one training by her coach.

 Jess came up on the bus from her new home in San Diego, where she is completing her degree in Russian. Its only about 120 miles and would have been fine if she had not gotten food poisoning the day before she left. Instead of training Jess on the Friday night before the tournament, we spent six agonizing hours in a nearby emergency room. By Saturday morning, she was out of the hospital and rearing to play! I tried to talk her out of it but she was having none of that!  She had not taken a four hour bus ride, heaving all the way, to sit on the sidelines!

Jessica actually won both of her games that day but had not recovered well enough to be at her best and she made an even score in the under 1800 section

  As for YHR,  I threw away three positions in the first two days that I would have KILLED to have! My mostly young and all under 2000 opponents were not impressed with my good positions and beat me on the board.  I did win two the last day. The second was a nice Benoni, similar to the line I used against Yermo in Foxwoods two years ago when I won an exchange and forced the GM to yield a draw to “his decrepitude.” 


1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 c5 4.d5 d6 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4 e6 7.f4 Ne7

To keep me out of one of my favorite systems, White should play Be2 here so the Black KN can not so easily be traded. That knight belongs on c4.
 8.Nf3 exd5 9.cxd5 Bg4 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 0–0 12.Bc4 Nd7 13.0–0 Kh8!

Stops all later complications on the white diagonal c4-g8. 14.Be3 f5  Now Black is fully equal and takes the initiative with this move. 15.g4 fxe4 16.Nxe4 Ne5 17.Qe2 Nxc4 18.Qxc4 b5!
This pawn sac is thematic-- look up my game with Yermo mentioned in the text.  White should not take it but the trade of Ladies leaves Black the better ending.
19.axb5 axb5 20.Qxb5
20.Rxa8 bxc4 21.Rxd8 Rxd8 And White must lose a button.
20...Rxa1 21.Rxa1 Nxd5 22.Qd3 Nxe3 Now its over 23.Ra4 Nxg4 24.hxg4 Qd7 25.Ra6 Qxg4+ 26.Qg3 Qd1+ 27.Kf2 Bd4+
resigns   Not an immortal by any means but it does show how easy it is for YHR when he gets into one of his pet systems. 0–1

Gary Kevin Ware, CLO's problemist will tell you more about the top places
, but the big winner on tiebreak was IM Enrico Sevillano. The current US Open Champ from Dallas last month, added this title to his collection for his great triumph in The Southern California closed! ( He will now be known as “Mr. tiebreak”  as he won all three that way!)  As U.S. Open Champ Enrico, who at 40 looks 30, qualified to play in the 2009 U.S. Championship. The 09 Champs are set for the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center and boasts a 130 K prize fund.  There he can go for his second GM norm. In my U.S. Open coverage in the November Chess Life Magazine, look for an in depth interview with the man I think is close to being the strongest IM in America.

All things being equal,  I had a blast last weekend. (Jess got a ride back with the very kind and considerate Chuck Ensey who came up for the SCCF meeting and played a last round house game while waiting for Jessica to win HER last round game.) When I won my Cal. Open in ’64, if anyone had suggested I would be playing Labor Day chess 44 years later, I would have laughed my you know what off!   I hope to play again next year.  I am an optimist these days.