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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 Tournament News: The Continental
 Nathan Smolensky
  June 2015

There is something to be said about playing chess in a familiar environment. When one has to dedicate the amount of mental energy that the game requires, it helps not to be distracted by unknown surroundings, to know where to find boards and water and whatnot. This is part of the beauty of having a regular club, after all.

So it’s nice when the major events have consistent venues, unmistakable design and display that instill a sense of comfort even if players only visit once a year.

And, fortunately, this is the case with the two Continental Chess Association tournaments that visit Massachusetts each year, January’s Boston Chess Congress near Logan International Airport and April’s Eastern Class Championships in Sturbridge. On these familiar stages, a slew of familiar faces – as well as some new ones – converged to make a pair of memorable events this year. 

The Boston Harbor Hyatt, which has hosted the Congress since the event’s debut three years ago, has a distinct class and elegance. A uniform grid of chandeliers lights the tournament hall, while coffee, water, and glasses are neatly laid out on the opposite side of the double-door entryways. The common areas of the hotel boast marvelous views of the harbor, and the hallways and corridors have a consistent flavor of elegant velvet. The clam chowder in the main hotel eatery is not to be missed.

This year, the tournament welcomed GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez, part of the chess juggernaut that is Webster University in St. Louis. Jimenez made his presence felt, dispatching two 2400+ players, locals Mika Brattain and Steven Winer, on his way to a share of 1st place in the Premier section, a draw with GM Alexander Ivanov – another local mainstay – the only blemish on his record. 

Joining Jimenez at the top was IM Steven Zierk, another new face to this tournament, though one who did not have to travel so far. Zierk, the 2010 World Under 18 champion, was then on break in the middle of his senior year at MIT. The Boston Blitz star had been an infrequent tournament player since starting university, but took the opportunity to give himself a more proper welcome to the Massachusetts tournament scene. Despite drawing LM Henry “Hal” Terrie in the first round, the IM stormed back, besting local top dogs Ivanov and IM David Vigorito en route to 4.5/5. You can read more about his climactic final round win against the GM on page 31.

For the top local players, this was not an event to be missed. FM Charles Riordan, who placed clear third with 4/5, was among a slew of 2300+ Massachusetts players, which also included FM Steven Winer, FM Christopher Chase, NM Chris Williams, and NM (and Brandeis student) Michael Vilenchuk.

Top youngsters, both local to the state and beyond, also put their talents on display in the premier section. 12-year-old NM David Brodsky of New York, who had a strong performance at the 2014 Mass Open, made his return to the great state. WFM Akshita Gorti, also 12, was the top-rated female in the field. 

A whopping seven players tied for first in the U2100 with 4/5, including Massachusetts’ Michael Mahoney, Joseph Kelly, and Andrew Trattner. MIT student Wesley Runnels, returning to sanctioned chess after close to a decade away, boasted the biggest rating gain of the weekend, spiking almost 300 points – he came in rated 1401! – to share 1st in the U1900. New York’s Daniel Gutierrez, who won the U1300, was the tournament’s only perfect score.

If class is the word that best summarizes the Boston Chess Congress site, then the atmosphere of the Eastern Class Championships might be most exemplified by serenity. Overlooking lovely Cedar Pond in central Massachusetts, the Sturbridge Host Hotel inspires calm through its wide open playing room, the bulk of which takes on a strong white motif, granting the room a sense of space through high ceilings and overhead lights. The top boards are cut off from the rest of the room into a segment with its own unique flavor, playing under the cover a large black curtain at the end of the tournament hall. Though lit well by standing lamps, the dark overhang still inspires calm and silence, giving the signal that these players are not to be disturbed.

When the dust settled at the 2015 edition of the event, it was Connecticut GM Sergey Kudrin who stood alone atop the standings with 4.5 points out of a possible 5. The veteran was given no breaks by his pairings – after facing 2300- rated rising star David Brodsky in the first round, none of the GM’s other opponents would be below 2430 - but nonetheless Kudrin kept winning and winning, only drawing to seal sole first against GM Ivanov in the final round.

Kudrin’s journey to victory went through an astounding array of the top youth in the Northeast. Beginning, of course, with a game against the 12-year-old Brodsky, Kudrin went on to face 14-year-old Nicholas Checa of New York and 18-year-old Alexander Katz of New Jersey. It was a remarkably deep field as the young players went, further featuring Massachusetts’ own NM Andrew Liu (16) and NM Carissa Yip (11), New Jersey brothers NM Aaron Jacobson (15) and NM Brandon Jacobson (11), and WFM Gorti (12). 

All this is not to suggest that the field of more experienced masters was shallow. On the contrary, they were as well represented a group as ever in this incarnation of the Sturbridge event. GM Ivanov managed a 4/5 score, good for a share of 2nd-3rd with New York’s Igor Sorkin, while Massachusetts GM Eugene Perelshteyn earned 3.5/5 to share 4th-5th with FM Katz.

The Eastern Class Championships had more than one section, of course. In the Expert Section, resurgent Massachusetts NM Evan Rabin dominated with a 5/5 score. That would mark one of only two perfect scores in the tournament, the other belonging to New Hampshire’s Meghana Kancharla, who swept the Class E section. 

The tournament featured an abnormally high number of clear section winners. Beyond Kudrin, Rabin, and Kancharla, Maine’s Dmitry Albin earned 4.5/5 for sole first for Class A, Massachusetts’ Robert Holmgren took clear first in Class B with the same score, and Vermont’s Andy Yang pulled the same feat for Class C. Only the Class D section - split by Pennsylvania’s Camden Wagner, New York’s Long Hua, Rhode Island’s Octavio Teixeira, and Vermont’s David Langlois with 4/5 apiece – was an exception. 

With both these tournaments, though the faces and the results may change, there is a beauty to the regularity of the event itself. So good luck to all who choose to compete in the 2016 Congress or Eastern Class. You know the place to be. 


All photos credit Tony Cortizas