State Champs from New York to Iowa
September 10, 2014
In our second edition of Labor Day weekend and State Championship coverage, we go from New York to Iowa to North California.  

U.S. Champion Is Now New York State Champion
By Steve Immitt

GM Gata Kamsky, after successfully defending his title of U.S. Champion earlier this year in St. Louis, recaptured still another one in Albany.  This time it was that of New York State Champion.  Kamsky, who previously won the title by scoring 5½ points after six games in 2005 in Monticello, repeated his performance nine years later, over the Labor Day Weekend.  New York State thus has the unusual honor of having the reigning U.S. Champion as its current champion, and in both cases a two-time title holder.


Two former New York State Champions also tied for 2nd-3rd at 4½ points in the 39-player Open Section:  1984 Champion GM Max Dlugy and three-time (1982, '97 and '99) winner IM Jay Bonin.  They each won $600.  A six-player logjam developed one-half point behind, with Igor Sorkin, IM Timothy Taylor and Matan Prilleltensky winning $100 each, while Patrick Chi, Mahiro Abe and Joshua Rubin each won $400 in Under 2300 prizes.

Former Empire Chess scholastic columnist Andrew Ardito was seeded sixth among the 60 entries in the Under 2100 Section.  But after he defeated his first five opponents, his pre-declared last-round bye gave him sole possession of first place and $1,000.  Marijan Procyk, Brett Kildahl and Daniel Johnston shared the 2nd-4th prizes, winning $333.34 apiece. Joseph G Jones won the $400 Under1900 prize with 4 points.

Rated just 47th in the 51-player Under 1800 Section, Alan Geiger gave himself a bit of challenge by playing "up" one section.  He convincingly demonstrated that he was up for the task as well:  his pre-tournament rating of 1485 skyrocket nearly 300 points over the weekend after he racked up 5½ points to take the $1,000 first prize!  The five players Alan left in the dust a whole point back, Scott B Gorman, Anthony Levin, Duane Smith, Ella Papanek and Alan Stolyarov had to settle for $200 each by tying for second.  Michael Ny Cheng scored 4 points to win the $400 Under 1600 prize. 

Mingrui Liu started the tournament seeded sixth from the bottom of the 29 entries in the Under 1500 Section.  For him, that meant that there was nowhere to go but up, and his rating climbed up 177 points after he scored 5 points to land at the very top, winning the $800 first prize.  Four players scored 4½ points to tie for 2nd:  Larry Fredette, Mike Miller and Jeffrey A Young each won $233.34; John Cordisco also finished with 4½ but did not play round 6.   Joshua Bowman won the $300 prize for the top-scoring player rated Under 1300.

Nippun Makkar played chess in college in India, the game's birthplace.  He must have studied well as he posted the sole 6-0 sweep of the weekend, winning the First Place trophy in the 41-player Under 1200 Section, although he was limited to winning $200 as an unrated player.  Ahston Keith and Jacqueline Martin won the lion's share of the prize money as a result, $400 each, with Ashton also winning the Second Place trophy on tiebreaks while Jacqueline won the trophy for Third Place. 

Christopher Bouchard, Meghal Jani and Kandy Lynch won $33.34 each for tying for 3rd, with Meghal also qualifying for the Top Under 1000 trophy.  Keith Hetman's 4 points earned him the Top Unrated trophy. Viru Raparthi scored 3½ points to take home the Under 800 trophy, and ten-year-old Catalina Varela's 2½ points gave her the trophy for Top Under 600.

The veteran mother/son Mixed Doubles Duo of Jacqueline Martin and Zachary Martin scored a combined total of 9 points, the most of any of the 18 Mixed Doubles Teams in Albany, to win the $500 First Place Prize.  Another intra-family duo, Melodie and Blaise Loya, racked up a total of 8 points to win the $300 Second Place Mixed Doubles Team prize.  Three teams each won $66.67 for tying for Third Place with a total of 7 points:  Elizabeth Spiegel and Matan Prilleltensky; Katherine Du and Max Dlugy; along with the team of Ella Papanek and Juan Tica.

Two side events preceded the main event this year.  On Friday night, New York State High School Champion IM Alex Ostrovskiy also added another notch in his title belt:  that of New York State Blitz Champion.  The Edward R Murrow High School in Brooklyn (2014 New York State High School Team Champions) alumnus scored 9 points in the 5-double-round, Game/5 minute (no delay) Swiss to take the $200 First Prize, and New Jersey junior Aravind Kumar scored half a point less to clinch the $100 Second Prize.  Sam Sloan and Pra Senthil Kumar scored 3 points less than Aravind, but still received $100 anyway, as Top 1700-1999 and Top Under 1700, respectively.  Alan Lasser, Timothy Wright and Cory Northrup each received $16.67 for scoring 5 points to tie for 2nd-4th, Under 1900, while Daniel Yassky's 3½ points gave him sole possession of 2nd Prize, Under 1500.

On Sunday night, Sayan Mondal scored 7 points in a 4-double-round Blitz tournament, tying for First with one of New York State's longest-serving tournament directors, NTD and IA Harold Stenzel. They each won $60. David Finnerman's 6 points earned him $38, while Mark DeDona, who won the Top Under 1800 prize with 4½ points, received $38 as well.  Andrei Stefanov and Ankit Raparthi each scored 4 points to win a $15 share of the Under 1500 prize. 

Steve Immitt and Bill Goichberg, assisted by Brenda Goichberg, directed this year's New York State Championship, the 136th edition of America's longest-running tournament.  The main event's turnout of 220 entries (plus 2 more re-entries) was the largest in 16 years.

The final standings of the 2014 New York State Championship are posted at

A listing of the New York State Chess Champions is also posted at 

The 68th Annual New Jersey Open
By Pete Tamburro

The NJ Open held in Morristown this past Labor Day weekend with perhaps the strongest field ever—7 grandmasters and 5 international masters. It was a joy for many of our up and coming young experts and masters because they, for invaluable experience, got to face titled players.

Three GMs tied for first place, each getting $800, with 5-1 scores: Joel Benjamin, Alex Stripunsky and Sergey Kudrin. Joel and Alex as New Jersey residents will share state champion honors.

Half a point behind were GM Alex Fishbein of Summit, GM Mikheil Kekelidze, IM Tom Bartell and Karl Dehmelt. While GM Fishbein was sharing a $150 quarter share of 4th place, his young son Mitch Fishbein was winning the under 1600 prize and $500!

GM Stripunsky told us that he had won the NJ Open three times before, but was never a New Jersey resident and could not be state champion. He also won the New York Open three times, but was a NJ resident each time he did that!


GM Alex Stripunsky, co-NJ state champ

The top expert award was shared by Aaron Jacobson and Michael Yen. Jeremy Glassman won the top A prize.  Praveen Balakrishnan (who was thrilled at the opportunity to play 2 GMs and 2IMs) won the top under 13 prize. For these young people to get plus scores in this strong a field is quite remarkable. Kudos!

Yaofeng Dong won the Under 1900 section with 5.5/6 and went home with the $500 prize for that section. The Under 1300 section prize was shared by Long Hua and Brian Cige.

All total there were 149 players in the Open tournament and 42 youngsters playing in the one day scholastic tournament on Saturday. The tournament was directed by Noreen Davisson and assisted by Jim Mullanaphy and Richard Davisson.

Our game below was won by the NJ Open champ over the Modern Defense by straightforward development and taking over more and more space. Benjamin’s 29.e5 was the key shot as he went from a good advantage to a decisive advantage. Zlotnikov bravely tried to hold on, but to no avail.


A happy GM, Joel Benjamin—NJ Open Champion 

One of the benefits of this year’s NJ Open, with its seven grandmasters and five international masters, is that our younger players, many of them already talented experts or masters, got a chance to play them.

Praveen Balakrishnan is a very young master who has a great future ahead of him. He was doing very well in the tournament, and, as a result, met former US champ and future NJ Open champ Joel Benjamin in the fourth round.

One thing you have to say about Praveen is that he went into the game to slug it out with the GM. He kept the center fluid in the opening, which could also be achieved by 5.h3 or 5.Bd3.

He showed a bit of circumspection with 8.c3 rather than 8.Be3 Nf6 9.0–0 0–0 (9...Nd5 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bd2) 10.c4. Then, he opted for a very double-edged 12.0-0-0. 

Benjamin didn’t need an invitation and pushed his a pawn all the way down to a3. Praveen returned the compliment with an h5 push and both sides were seeing who would get to whom first.

With the White attack pouncing on the Black castled position at h6, Benjamin, as one might expect of a GM, came up with the proper 18…exd4 rather than 18...Bxh6+ 19.Rxh6 Kg7 20.Qd2 Rg8 (20...Rh8 21.Nf5+ gxf5 22.Qg5+) 21.Rh4 Kf8 22.dxe5 where White has the upper hand.

Considering the outcome (the refuge for all of us Monday morning quarterbacks), it might have been better for White to go with: 19.Rxd4 Bxh6+ 20.Rxh6 Nc5 21.Rdh4 Qd7 22.b4 Nd3+ 23.Kb1 Ne1 24.Ne4 Nxe4 25.Qxe4 Rfe8 26.Qc4 Qd3+ 27.Qxd3 Nxd3 28.Kc2, which is equal, and White might have a shot at that a3-pawn.

Benjamin, by that time, had seized the initiative and made the most of it. Balakrishnan could have tried to repeat the position with 22.Rhd1 Nc5 23.Nf1 Ne6 24.Rb4 Nc5 25.Rbd4, but we’re not confident that the GM would have gone along with that. He would have made the young man work.

White made it a little easier for Black with 26.Qc1 where 26.Rc4 would have been a bit better, although Black would still have the advantage.

Despite the result, the young master left the field with honor and will no doubt give these GMs and even harder time next year.


IM Michael Brooks Wins 60th Iowa Open
By Mark Capron

The 60th Iowa Open Chess Festival held August 15-17 was attended by 198 players from eight different states.  The Event has been held the past four years in the Coralville/Iowa City area after traveling around the state in its long history.  As word gets out, its growth over those four years has been amazing.  We started from around 50 players.  The 2014 attendance sets a new high mark for the State of Iowa.  The Festival consists of a Quick event, an Open section, an U1600 section and an U1200 section. 

The Open section (USCF and FIDE rated) had 66 entrants.  The starting 4 highest rated players were IM Brooks from Missouri, IM Angelo Young from Illinois, U10 World Champion Awonder Liang from Wisconsin, and the highest active rated Iowan, Valeriy Kosokin.  The top fourth of players were all rated over 2000.

Accelerated pairings influenced the tournament right off and there were several upsets. Brooks got off to a rough start by drawing Wisconsin's Wesley Ferguson (477 rating point difference).  A popular feature of the Open section has been the "Pain Index" chart, posted next to the wall chart, where it lists the top upsets of each round.  The largest upset of each round wins a book.  Other first round upsets of note were Hyung Nam's victory over Brent Walker (218), Jiahua Zhang's win over James Neal (203), and Ken Fee's draw with NM Mariano Acosta (299 points).  Avoiding the first round upset blues were IM Young, FM Awonder Liang and Kosokin.

The second round saw current Iowa State Champion, NM Tim McEntee, joining the tournament after having a first round bye due to working at a food pantry Saturday morning.  Tim arrived late and had lost 45 min off of his clock.  Luckily we had announced that we were following the USCF 1 hour forfeit time and were not using the "no tolerance" FIDE rule.  Karma was on Tim's side and he was able to win his first game despite the loss of so much time (thank goodness for the 30 second increment).  Hyung Nam again pulled an upset, this time over Ivan Wijetunge (259). Jiahua Zhang was not going to let Nam be on the "Pain Index" board by himself and provided 2011 Iowa State Champion Robert Keating (335) his only defeat of the tournament.  Expert Jeremy Madison from Wisconsin won on time versus Valeriy Kosokin (215) in a worse position.  At the end of the accelerated pairings there still remained six perfect scores:  Nam, Zhang, Young, Awonder Liang, Experts Dan Brashaw and Jeremy Madison. 

Round three had match-ups at the top of Young-Madison, Zhang-Liang, Nam-Brashaw.  Young, Liang and Brashaw all stayed perfect.  The "Pain Index" board claimed another victim when Marissa Li (1769) of Illinois defeated Kosokin, a 541 rating point difference!  The 2.5 point group included Brooks, McEntee and Ferguson.  

This is when the pairings really started to get interesting.  There seemed to be two distinct possibilities for the pairings on Boards 2-3.  One fixed all the color issues, but did not move the highest rated 2.5 up to play the 3.0.  The other put the highest 2.5 up to play the 3, but no colors worked (I preferred this one). Just to be sure I wasn't missing something in the FIDE rules I consulted with Special Referee International Arbiter Randy Hough over the phone.  We both agreed that only the pairing where the highest 2.5 goes up made sense. 

One of the most important factors was the rating difference between Brooks, McEntee and Ferguson.  So the fourth round pairings were set:  Liang-Young, Brashaw-Brooks, and McEntee-Ferguson.  The board 1 game had some fireworks with Liang turning down two draw offers before falling to Young.  Awonder was not too happy with what had transpired.  The tournament hall chatter was that they wouldn't want to be Awonder's next opponent :)

Under 10 World Champion FM Awonder Liang as white vs. IM Angelo Young

Brooks then went to work on Iowa's Dan Brashaw and found victory 46 moves later. 


McEntee defeated Ferguson to reach 3.5 points.  This left Young with 4, McEntee and Brooks each with 3.5. Kosokin got back on the winning side of things, but this was not to be his tournament. 

The left the Round 5 pairings as Brooks-Young and Liang-McEntee on the top two.  If Young won or drew he won the tournament.  Brooks could go for the win and win the tournament outright, draw and probably share a small amount with several other players, or lose and probably get nothing.  A real battle ensued.  Michael who usually gets up a few times per game did not leave his seat during this game.  Full on concentration dominated.  After the dust had settled Angelo had to resign in a mate in three position.  Brooks was named the 60th Iowa Open Champion, a title he has won the last three straight years and a small handful of times previously. 


On Board two as the Tournament Hall chatter had predicted Liang defeated his opponent. 


Robert Keating, Expert Arshaq Saleem tied with Liang and Young for second/third/U2200 with 4 points each.  The Under 2000 prizes went to Wesley Ferguson (WI) and Adream Liang (WI).  The Under 1800 prizes went to Kaustubh Nimkar (KS) and Marissa Li (IL).  The Under 1600 prizes went to Leonard Koziol (IL) and Archy Coolidge (IA).  Marissa Li (IL) led the tournament in the largest upset a 514 pointer!  It is worth noting that Jiahua Zhang had another upset in the last round of 478 points. 

The Friday night Quick Chess was won by IM Angelo Young. Expert Dan Brashaw was the highest scoring Iowan.

The 39 player Reserve (U1600) was won by Bill Qian (KS) with a perfect score.  Austin Scharosch (IA) and Daniel Deyoung (IA) tied for 2nd. The Under 1200 prize was shared by Joshua Grabau (MN) and Kevin Lu (IA).

The 63 player Rated Beginner's section (U1200) was won by Rishabh Swamy with a perfect 5-0 performance.  Second with 4.5 was Nathan Wei.

The tournament director team consisted of Bill Feldman (IL), Bill Broich, Eric Vigil and Mark Capron.  The event was organized by Mark Capron and supported by the Hawkeye Chess Club and the Iowa State Chess Association.
Tournament director Mark Capron presenting IM Brooks the Iowa Open trophy.

Find the Iowa Open crosstable on MSA.

Cal State Chess Masters
GMs Christian Chirila and Oliver Barbosa tied for first at the Cal State Chess Championships held over Labor Day weekend at the Santa Clara Convention center.

2, 2014

 GM Chirila, who recently relocated to the Bay Area wrote about the event on his website:

Living in a new state, I also wanted to avoid making a fool of myself among quite a big and new chess crowd and be labeled as the weak GM that just came into town....So motivation, there was plenty, now I had to deliver. Luckily, I sensed that I'm in good shape from the first round of the tournament, my calculation was sharp and I was able to demolish my opponent, who was not a weak one ( qualified once for the US Champ), in only 20 something moves.

See full standings on MSA.