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Labor Day Madness 2011: Part II Print E-mail
By Braunlich, Matthews, Ensey, Perks & Buchanan   
September 12, 2011
Labor Day weekend is host to dozens of Grand Prix chess tournaments and State Championships across the United States resulting in what the late Jerry Hanken coined "Labor Day Madness." Each year, CLO posts Labor Day round-ups to offer insight into some of America's most vibrant chess communities.  Our second installment features tournaments from San Diego, California to Naples, Florida. Also see Part I, which featured reports on North Carolina, New York, Texas and Maryland. Finally, get ready for our next big round-up of tournament reports across the nation in honor of National  Chess Day, set this year for October 8, 2011.

Okie Chess Festival — Upsets and Rating Gains
By Tom Braunlich

grandsky.jpgThe 7th annual Okie Chess Festival in Tulsa also featured the dramatic upsets and incredible rating point gains that were seen at the nearby Southwest Open in Dallas and other Labor Day events… but in our case mostly from players returning from a long layoff.

The Open section was convincingly won by 33-year-old expert Ben Gradsky (2048, left), picking up 55 points with his 6/7 score. Ben learned chess late at age 20, playing mostly bughouse. After a long layoff from tournaments and a new electrical engineering degree in Kansas City, he recently returned to the sport with all circuits firing.

Here is an example of Ben’s play, cleverly escaping from a dangerous-looking King’s Indian attacking phalanx from Mongolian NM Orgil Batsaikhan:


A 152-point rating gain was the reward for Tulsa attorney Michael Klenda, who has only played once since 2001 but nevertheless dominated the U1800 “Reserve” section with just a 1568 rating. He is a graduate of Wake Forest and OU Law School, and says his maturity has helped his chess. Apparently so! Ten-year-old Howard Zhong of Norman dared to play up into this section with his 1233 rating and gained 104 points with an even score. He is another name to watch in the future.

Is it possible for a junior high school kid to also have a big comeback after a long layoff? Oklahoma student Nathan Yu has gained 465 points (!) in just four events this Summer after an 18-month tournament hiatus, including 129 points by winning the U1300 Booster section here with a smooth 6.5/7 score. Last month he jumped an incredible 258 at the U.S. Junior Open! I wonder what the record is for the greatest point rise in one event for a player with an established rating?

Prize Winners: Fischer-Random: Tom Braunlich (7/8). Open: 1st Ben Gradsky, MO (6) 2nd NM Bob Holliman, MO (5), Top A, James Long, AR (4.5). Reserve: 1st Michael Klenda, OK (6);  2nd Karan Mehta, KS (5); top Class C, Zachary Schuh, KS (4); top Class D, Annie Yin OK (4) — who also gained over 200 points!


by Melinda Matthews

The Florida State Championship’s tournament venues are becoming destinations in their own right, vying to supersede the tournament itself.  As Tournament Director Harvey Lerman stated, "[We are] continuing our use of 'upscale' locations for our recently renamed state championship, the 2011 Arnold Denker Florida State Championship.” 

This year’s setting was the rejuvenated Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, an expansively sprawling, multi-era, multi-building complex nestled among 125 lushly-landscaped acres overlooking the Gulf of Mexico’s wide, white sand beaches to the west and a rolling 18-hole golf course (designed by Ron Garl) to the east.  Originally founded in the 1880s, the original beach club moved to its present location in the 1940s, with guest buildings added through the 1970s. Currently undergoing a massive facelift, much of the hotel’s raffish charm stems from its eclectic mix of restored and new architecture, vibrantly rampant orchid displays fresh from the on-site conservatory, and the surprisingly spacious rooms replete with Old Florida charm. 

The conference room in which the tournament was held, located across the street from the guest rooms, was comfortable but almost claustrophobically narrow given the rambling graciousness of the grounds.  However, this did not deter the 140 eager players from around the state as they spread out their boards and settled in for six intense rounds of competition. 

Notably absent from this year’s tournament was titled star power. “No titled players came to take advantage of the offer of free entry fee for GMs & IMs and $10,000 in guaranteed prizes,” Harvey said. Perennial state champion, GM Julio Becerra, elected to sit out this year’s event as he and his wife eagerly anticipated a private Labor Day of their own: their first baby’s imminent arrival (congratulations, Julio!).  As no other state GMs or IMs stepped forward to try for the crown, the tournament’s top-ranked player was FM Eric Rodriguez, who experienced a setback in Round 2, but who fought his way back to the top board, facing 18-year old NM Jeffrey Haskel in the final round.  Jeffrey, fresh from his travels abroad, had torn through the tournament undefeated and Round 6 was no exception: he drew the final match against Eric to become the 2011 Florida State Champion, ending Julio’s five-year winning streak.  Eric, Ernesto Alvarez, Jorge Diaz and Grant Ho all shared the remaining Open prizes.

2011 Florida State champion, Jeffrey Haskel (left) with Tournament Director Harvey Lerman

Here is Jeffrey’s fourth round win against Ben Bentrup:


In the U2000 section, Michael Tannenbaum and father-son duo, Xudong He and Albert Ho, shared top honors, with Michael taking the trophy on tiebreaks.  James McTigue, Alexander Shah, Sam Sokhanvari and Michael Gianatasio landed in a four-way tie for second.

The U1800 section saw Robert Cheyne as clear winner, with Eric Heerschap, Duniel Remedio and Cory Riegelhaupt tying for second.  
Herbert Valdsaar took clear first in U1600.  Second place was a two-way between Nathan Barnavon and Aladdin Pettit.
In the U1400 section, Kevin Beal and Warren White tied for first, with Kevin taking the trophy on tiebreaks.  Jay Wu finished clear second.
Finally, Mark Lipson took clear first in U1200, with David Lowrey finishing second.
Our state tournament would not be complete without its two regular side events: the Quick and Blitz state championships.  Julio, who, along with co-champion Robert Perez, had wrested the South Regional Quick Chess title from Nicky this year, was slated to represent South Florida for the state title.  With Julio absent, and with Robert headed to college this fall (where we expect him to tear up the Boston chess scene once he settles into his MIT classes), the South’s do-or-die honors should have fallen either to Nicky or  to Vlad Yanovsky, who had tied for third at regionals.  However, due to a breakdown in communication, our region wound up without a representative for the playoffs.  The three-way battle ended with Corey Acor from the West holding the trophy.  Andrew Cunanan, representing the Northeast, took second, and barefoot wonder boy, John Ludwig of Central Florida, finished third.
2011 Florida State Quick Chess Champion, Corey Acor (left), and 2011 Florida State Blitz Champion, Andrew Cunanan (photo by Harvey Lerman)


Rounding out the side events was the ever-popular blitz, won by Andrew Cunanan after an Armageddon playoff against Goran Markovic.

On a personal note: unfortunately for me, the tournament was slightly marred by illness.  Though I thought I had sufficiently recovered from fighting a week-long malaise, I relapsed with a vengeance on Saturday night, alternating between fever, chills and nausea interlaced with major bouts of whininess (I finally learned I have walking pneumonia, so I am now feeling a bit more justified over my self-pity).  Because I was under the weather off-and-on all weekend, I spent far less time prowling the tournament hall than I usually do; therefore, I’m offering a grateful shout-out to Harvey, who graciously and quickly provided the information I did not obtain: extra photos, results and games.  Thank you, Harvey (and kudos for running another great tournament)!

I was happy to rally a bit on Sunday evening, finding sufficient energy to join Nicky and his long-time friend (and U1600 second place co-winner), Nathan Barnavon, on the beach for a brief round of frisbee (I have the fat lip to prove it) and a little dancing with Nicky to the Beach Boys’ Kokomo (there was a party, a DJ and an irresistible  beat).
Nicky, Nathan and frisbee on the beach between rounds

 Sunday night, in many ways, defined the entire weekend: this year, the lure of the beach and the quaintness of the community served to enhance the usual promise of good times with friends bookended by rounds of concentrated chess.  As we walked to our car after the final round, Nicky expressed his wish that the weekend would never end.  When I asked him why, he replied, simply, that this tournament represents one of the few times he can hang out this way with his chess friends from around the state.  I realized, with a slight pang, that as Nicky is growing up, so are his chess contemporaries: some have already left for college, others no longer play; younger players, whom we don’t know as well, are swiftly filling the ranks of the up-and-coming. 

For me, it was a reminder to enjoy these statewide tournaments – and these times – while I can still share them with Nicky.  And so I’m already marking our calendars, because next year’s tournament venue is set: Daytona Beach, with sun, sand and competitive chess around the clock practically guaranteed.

Southern California  
by Chuck Ensey                 
Two years ago the Southern California Open was held in the same location, The Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego’s Mission Valley, and attracted 131 players. This year there were 3 major tweaks: 1) the $20,000 Prize Fund was guaranteed, 2) a 2-day option was added and 3) IMs and GMs played for free, with not even prizes deducted. Although only 4 players took advantage of the last perk, the other two factors seemed to have had a big effect and attendance jumped to 180 players (including 1 re-entry).

About half the players were locals and half were from out of San Diego County. It was not quite the 200 total we were looking for, but we are hopeful that next time, we will far surpass 200 as word spreads about this great event. The 59-player Open Section included 21 Masters and 30 Experts.

GM Varuzhan Akobian was the highest rated by far, so it was no surprise that he won First Place ($2,600) and gave up only a last round draw to the recently crowned Southern California State Champion Roman Yankovsky.
 IM Dionisio Aldama of Arizona took clear Second Place ($1,800) with his only loss being to Var. A critical game for Dionisio was the last round duel with Gregg Small which ended up being the last game of the event. Gregg appeared to have the upper hand for most of the six-hour game, but he somehow went astray against the strong IM, who gamely battled back to win a nice endgame with a big sigh of relief. The players laughed and shook hands at the end in a great show of sportsmanship.

Six other players scored 4 ½ and took home $800 each: Roman, as mentioned, along with Howard Chen of Washington state, Shijie Chen, a new young player from China, rated only 1989, but no doubt soon to skyrocket, GM Melikset Khachiyan, and local players Ali Morshedi and Alan Tsoi.

Six other masters trailed with 4 points, good for $266 each: Gregg Small, Eugene Yanayt, Giovanni Carreto, Ronald Bruno, Kyron Griffith and Ryan Porter. In the U2000 Section, Vincent Nguyen tied for First with Alexander Xie; Richard Yang was Third Place while Paul Duncan, Alex Wang, Kenneth Xu and Bobby Avila tied for 4th. We had a clear winner in the U1800 Section with Brian Glover of Los Angeles winning $1,000 for his 5 ½ point score, young Annie Wang was the only one to nick him for a draw in round 4. Nicky Korba tied with Poker Star Allen Cunningham for 2nd/3rd Place ($500 each), with 5 points; Alan lost only to Nicky, and Nicky only to Brian. Charlie Berkman was 4th Place.

The U1600 section also had a clear $1,000 winner in young Theo Caen who scored 5 ½ with a last round draw against Ajay Krishnan. Sam Kennedy, Blake Borskey and David Bonner tied for 2nd- 4th ($400 each). All 3 of these players lost to Theo! Finally in the Booster Section, Avi Jannol won clear First, although he was tied by an unrated player who also scored 5, Fridha Becerra of Mexico. John Carson, James Holder, Roy Benson and Daniel Sun tied for 3rd- 4th with 4 points and Anthony Wong won BU1300, also with 4. Young Gia Petersen was 2nd U1200. Bruce Baker directed the event which went off smoothly, on time and with no major issues or complaints.                                 

By Grant Perks, tournament director

griggs.JPGEven though the Ohio Chess Congress is a state championship event, it tends to draw players from various states.  Of the 117 players in the recently completed Congress, 16 were from out of state, including the top rated player in the tournament Alex Zelner of Florida.

When the dust settled, Zelner, Carl Boor, and Walker Griggs finished in a three way tie for first place. Since Zelner is not an Ohio resident Boor and Griggs were declared Ohio Co-champions. This is the third championship for Boor and the first for Griggs. Griggs is an amazing story having only played rated chess since 2009. He is the second youngest Ohio Champion at the age of 15.

Taking top honors in the under 2000 section was ten year old Maggie Feng. First in the under 1700 section went to Blair Koman and scoring a perfect 6-0 in the under 1400 section was Ben Tancinco. John Hughes finished first in the Ohio Blitz Championship.


Eric Montany is Colorado State Champion
by Richard Buchanan, tournament director

97 players assembled at the 2011 Colorado Open, keeping up the good attendance we have seen since the tournament changed from three days to two and settled in at the Doubletree in south Denver.  And a great tournament it was, with friends old and new, seasoned veterans and talented youngsters, upsets galore, and hard fights for the top prizes.

In the end, Eric Montany of Ft. Collins led the Championship section with four wins and a half point bye.  His last round win from Zack Bekkedahl (who himself scored a win and a draw against our masters) put him a full point ahead of the nine-player pileup for all the rest of the prizes.


Chess Dad Austin Lin, with a rating of just 1569, took clear first in the Under 1800 section, also with 4.5 points.  He was followed by Mario De La Victoria, Barry Hepsley, and Randy Reynolds half a point back.  The U1600 money went to Ryan Snodgrass (who, you will recall, won the U1400 section last year) and the trio of Eric Barkemeyer, Scott Swerdlin, and Steve Mechels.

There was excitement as well in the U1400 section as youngsters Deanna Alter and Alex Hemmat scored four points to tie for the top places with Richard Brown and Jordan Dorchuck.  Deanna continues to impress with her strong, mature play as she takes her place among Colorado’s ranks of talented women players.  Jordan’s son Sam was only half a point behind to take the top U1200 money, followed by Daniel Herman, Bruce Lewis, and Ginny Gaige.  The U1000 prize was split among Aidan Marco, Robert Spann, and Sam Scheuerman.

It was a very satisfying tournament.  Things went smoothly, the Membership Meeting ended on time (almost), and a lot of good fighting chess was played.

This article was written for the Colorado Chess Informant. For more information and games, see www.colorado-chess.com.

The six-round Illinois Open featured a strong field. In the end three players tied for first with 5/6: GM Mesgen Amanov, IM Angelo Young and . See full results on the USCF MSA and the official website, chessforlife.com for prize breakdowns.  


GM-in-residence at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis Ben Finegold won the Saint Louis District Championship held over Labor Day weekend. The event was held just before a series of major chess happenings in Saint Louis, including the opening of the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Boy Scouts Merit Badge unveiling. See full results on the USCF MSA.

by Neil Dale

Nick Raptis, Photo Rusty Miller
A few weeks after the Portland Chess Club Centennial it was time for the Oregon Open in Gresham.  90 players came came to the tournament (43 in the Open Section and 47 in the Reserve). In the top section Nick Raptis was the winner with 5 points, despite not playing the last round. 5 players shared 2nd through 6th with 4 1/2 points: Steve Breckenridge, Daniel Gay, David Rupel, Peter Lessler, and Michael Wang. Robert Fisette lost his first game, but was undefeated after that, and took clear first in the U-2000 section with 3 1/2 points.

Gordon Higbie was a clear winner in the reserve section with 5 1/2 points. James Mc Aleer, Philip Placek, and Aaron Pikus shared 2nd through 4th with 4 1/2 apiece. Gabriel Skoro and Jeremy Coste shared the top spots in the U-1400 group with 4 apiece. Sebastian Clark and Venkat Doddapaneni shared the top prize money in the U-1200 group with 3 points each. Junior players in the reserve section also had the opportunity to play at a $15 entry fee for non-monetary prizes. The winner here with 4 1/2 points was Dillon Murray.  I wonder if he wishes he had paid the higher entry fee? 2nd in this category went to Leonardo Sun with 3 points.

Mt. Hood Community College once again provided the playing site. The tournament was directed by Grisha Alpernas and yours truly assisted, i.e. the Baltic Mafia at work again. The organizers would like to thank all who came to play and make this tournament a success.  

Find more information on the Northwest Chess website, http://www.nwchess.com/

New England
IM Igor Foygel took clear first with 5.5/6 at the 71st New England Open in Leominster, Massachusetts. See full crosstable on the MACA website.


September - Chess Life Online 2011

Nakamura in Brazil: From Fighting Anand to Miss USA Hilton on Chess CosmopolitanismUS Chess League: Week Four Highlights Nakamura Psyched for Bilbao Masters Gata Kamsky Hits Top Ten on New FIDE List The U.S. Chess School Comes to Saint LouisVera Menchik Becomes First Woman to Join World Chess Hall of Fame G/30 and G/60 Champs Set for Santa ClaraPeter Svidler World Cup Champion US Chess League: Week Three HighlightsK v Q Ends in Triumph for Nakamura, Finegold and Kings Team Kalev Pehme, Former Chess Life Editor, DiesU.S. Class Set for Houston, Sept 30-Oct.2Chevrolet Fireball Run Southern Excursion 2011 is coming to Crossville Kings Steamroll Queens in Saint Louis US Chess League: Week Two Highlights Labor Day Madness 2011: Part II Boy Scouts Merit Badge Unveiled [VIDEO]Kings Crush in Day 1 of K v Q: A Battle of the Sexes World Chess Hall of Fame Opens [VIDEO] A Chess Board in Memory of 9/11 Merit Badge & Hall of Fame Opening Mark Big Week for Chess in St. Louis Karpov, Polgar out of Kings vs. Queens Shankland on the World Cup: Making the Most of Luck Ruth Haring New USCF President Labor Day Madness 2011: Part I Timur Gareev Wins 11th Metropolitan Invitational Kamsky Advances to Top 16 in World Cup US Chess League: Week One Highlights American Chess Weekend: Labor Day Madness Kicks OffJennifer on 960 aka Fischer Random & K v.Q Ivanov Eliminated in World Cup; Kamsky Gears Up for Round ThreeThe September Check is in the Mail Kamsky Advances to Round Three; Ivanov Off to Tiebreak