2020 Pacific Coast Open: Better Late Than Never!

Before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, the Pacific Coast Open was scheduled to be held last July in California. Unfortunately, the current situation precludes that, and the Continental Chess Association (CCA) made the decision to move most of their canceled over-the-board events online. The dates for many of those events have been different, as well as formats (time control, rounds, prize fund), but at least these events were held to continue the tournament’s tradition. In order to keep the regional flavor, entry fees were significantly discounted for those who live in the region where the OTB event would have been held. 

With that backdrop, the 2020 Pacific Coast Open was held September 26-27 and hosted on the Internet Chess Club (ICC). The event did not quite match the size of its OTB tradition, though it did have an $8,000 prize fund and drew 165 players across four sections. The top section had 29 players and drew 5 grandmasters, as well as an international master and women’s fide master. 

Upsets started occurring as early as round one, and titled players were not exempt: IM John Watson lost to Derek Chen, FM Matthew Casella lost to Thomas Li, and GM Michael Rohde surrendered a draw to Iris Zhou. Not surprisingly, the names of these players would come up again in the prize calculations! 

Round two brought even more surprises. Top-seeded GM Gusir Guseinov, playing from Azerbaijan, faced rounds at hours in the middle of the night. He attempted a nap after his first game, but unfortunately did not wake up in time for round two, forfeiting to Derek Chen.  

An even more-surprising result occurred when Donald Johnson defeated Rohde in this second-round game. On move 10, Johnson made a thematic piece sacrifice which correctly needed to be accepted. Rohde’s decision to decline the sacrifice, however, left him quickly in a losing position. 

[pgn][Event "Pacific Coast Open"] [Site "Internet Chess Club"] [Date "2020.09.26"] [Round "2"] [White "Johnson, Donald"] [Black "Rohde, Michael"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B40"] [WhiteElo "2065"] [BlackElo "2481"] [Annotator "Hater,David"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "4500+10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 b6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bb7 6. Bg2 Nf6 7. Nc3 a6 8. O-O d6 9. Re1 Qc7 {White has an advantage here and moves like f4, a4, Qe2 or g4 all maintain a plus for white. However, white has another idea that also maintains a good initiative.} 10. Nd5 {Black needs to accept the piece sacrifice, though he will be worse after moves like 10. ... exd5 11. exd5+ Kd8 12. Bg5 Nbd7} Bxd5 11. exd5 {At first glance, the position might not look so bad, but Black is losing. The lack of development and king safety are just too much.} e5 12. f4 Be7 {Moves such as Nfd7 or Nbd7 might be a little better, but white's attack is very strong.} 13. Nf5 O-O {Seems to make sense, but moves like e4 or Nfd7 (responding to the threat of fxe5 dxe5 d6) or Nbd7 are better, but then white's attack just continues with Nxg7+.} 14. fxe5 {14. ... dxe5 15. d6 Bxd6 16. Qxd6 Qxd6 17 Naxd6 Ra7 is ugly, but is actually the best continuation.} Ne8 15. Bf4 {This is a strong move, but 15. Qg4 followed by Bh6 is slightly stronger.} g6 16. exd6 Bxd6 17. Nxd6 Qc5+ 18. Be3 Qxd6 19. Qd4 { White is winning the exchange and has a winning advantage.} Nd7 20. Bh6 Qc5 21. Qxc5 Nxc5 22. Bxf8 Kxf8 23. b4 Nd7 24. c4 Rc8 {Black fights on, but white displays nice technique in bringing home the full point against his GM opponent.} 25. Bh3 f5 26. Rac1 Nd6 27. Bf1 {This is good enough, but Re6 or even g4 or c5 are stronger. If Re6 black can't play Nxc4 because of Rc6 while the alternative of 27. ... Rxc4 28. Rxc4 Nxc4 Bf1 leaves white with a comfortable win.} Kf7 28. Re6 Ne4 29. Rc6 {29. Bg2 followed by c5 is also very good.} Rd8 30. c5 bxc5 31. bxc5 Ne5 32. Rc7+ Kf6 33. d6 Rb8 34. Bg2 {Now he plays Bg2, but d7 would have been much stronger.} Nd3 35. Rd1 {Good enough, but white doesn't even need to move the rook. 35. Bxe4 followed by d7 is best.} Ndxc5 36. Bxe4 Nxe4 37. Rxh7 Ng5 38. d7 Rd8 39. Rh8 Rxh8 40. d8=Q+ Rxd8 41. Rxd8 Ne4 42. Ra8 Nc5 43. Rc8 {Black resigns} 1-0 [/pgn]

Only four perfect scores remained after two rounds: GMs Aleksej Aleksandrov, Timur Gareyev, and Jakhongir Vakhidov; as well as Chen.  Aleksandrov, playing through the night from Belarus, opted for a third-round bye, which brought Gareyev and Vakhidov to be paired on board one. Vakhidov had a nice combination to defeat Gareyev after 17. g4 -- can you spot the tactic? 

[pgn][Event "Pacific Coast Open"] [Site "Internet Chess Club"] [Date "2020.09.26"] [Round "3"] [White "Gareyev, Timur"] [Black "Vakhidov, Jakhongir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A04"] [WhiteElo "2656"] [BlackElo "2611"] [Annotator "Hater,David"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "4500+10"] 1. Nf3 c5 2. b3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. e3 Bg7 6. Bb2 Nf6 7. c4 O-O 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. Be2 d5 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. O-O Bf5 12. Rc1 Ne4 13. Bf3 Bxc3 14. Bxc3 dxc4 15. Bd4 c5 16. Be5 Qb6 17. g4 Rad8 18. Qe2 Ng5 19. gxf5 (19. e4 Be6 20. bxc4 f6 21. Bg3 Rd2 22. Qe3 Nxf3+ 23. Qxf3 Rxa2) 19... Rd2 20. Rxc4 Rxe2 21. Bxe2 gxf5 22. Rd1 Qc6 23. h4 Nf3+ 24. Bxf3 Qxf3 25. Rd7 f6 26. Bf4 Kf7 27. Rxc5 Rg8+ 28. Kf1 Qh1+ 29. Ke2 Rg1 30. Rcc7 {White resigns} 0-1 [/pgn]

Solution: 17. … Rad8 18. Qe2 Ng5 (Gareyev needs to accept that he is much worse and play 19. e4 Be6 20. bc f6 21. Bg3 Rd2 22. Qe3 Nxf3 23. Qxf3 Rxa2) 19. gf Rd2 20. Rxc4 Rxe2 21. Bxe2 

Board two also featured this exciting game between Chen and Johnson. The players castled on opposite sides, and a tactical melee ensued.  

[pgn][Event "Pacific Coast Open"] [Site "Internet Chess Club"] [Date "2020.09.26"] [Round "3"] [White "Chen, Derek"] [Black "Johnson, Donald"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2025"] [BlackElo "2065"] [Annotator "Hater,David"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "4500+10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f3 Nbd7 9. Qd2 b5 10. g4 Be7 11. g5 Nh5 12. Nd5 Bxd5 13. exd5 O-O 14. Na5 Qc7 15. Nc6 Rfe8 16. O-O-O Nb6 17. b3 f5 18. gxf6 Nxf6 19. Bxb6 Qxb6 20. Bh3 Bf8 21. Rhg1 a5 22. Rg2 Kh8 23. Rdg1 Ra6 {The last 10 moves of this game are very instructive and entertaining. This is about the point where several TDs started watching and analyzing the game. Here we have opposite side castling and both sides attacking. The position starts as relatively equal.} 24. c4 { White makes the first significant error. Opening the position should prove fatal. White could have continued the attack with Bf5 or Be6 or played Kb1 or Kb2.} Rea8 {This move is not bad, but after 24. ... bxc4 25. bxc4 Qc5, the lines to the white king are open and black's attack is much faster than white's attack and will prove decisive. Also promising, but not quite as strong is 24. ... a4.} 25. Qg5 {Black is not winning, but is better with the same plan of 25. ... bxc4 26. bxc4 Qc5. Instead of 25. Qg5, white should have opted for a wild line of 25. Rxg7 Bxg7 26. Rxg7 Rg8 (not 26. Kxg7 Qg5+ and white is winning) 27. Rxg8 Nxg8 28. f4 and the position is still equal even though it is very unbalanced.} a4 {This move allows white to keep some of the lines closed. It may look like white has the tactic of 26. Qxf6, but black has the countertactic of 26. ... Qxg1+ 27. Rxg1 gxf6 and black is winning.} 26. b4 bxc4 {This is the right move, but it was much better earlier. Now the position is still equal with both sides having chances at the opposing king.} 27. Be6 { 27. Bf5 is also good and still leads to an unbalanced equal position for both sides.} Ne8 {Now black is lost again. Black had to find a really strange move of 27. ... h6. The point is white has to play 28. Qd2 to prevent the black queen from coming in with 28. ... Qe3+ if the white queen leaves e3 undefended. } 28. Kb1 {White is still winning and this move gets the king off of the dark squares so that Qe3+ will not be possible, but Rg4 or Rg3 would have been correct. If white is going to move the kinng, he should play Kc2 so that countertactics involving Qxg1+ will not be possible as well as the white king does not want to be on the b file. .} Nc7 {This is the best move but might be hard to see. White is still winning, but the move is very hard to see,} 29. Bf7 {Now black is back in the game and the position is unbalanced and equal again. The winning plan was 29. Bg8! and black cannot defend after 29. ... Kxg8 Qf6!. Black cannot ignore the bishop because of threats like Bxh7 and white is getting to the king.} Nb5 {Now black has threats and counterplay with moves like Na3+ or Nc3+ depending ow white's plans.} 30. Qh6 {Black needs to force a repetition and white needs to acquiesce. Either Na3 or Nc3 forces Kb2 Nb5 Kb1 and the position repeats. White doesn't have time for other moves. For instance: 29. ... Na3+ 30. Ka1 Nc2+ 31. Rxc2 Qxg2 (31. Kb1 Nxb4) 29. ... Na3+ 30. Kb2 Nb5 Black as to go back to b1 because of threats of a3+ c3+ or g6.29. . ... Nc3+ 30. Ka1 Ne2 31. Rb1 Qb7 and black is winning. 29. ... Nc3+ 31. Kc1 Ne2+ 29. ... Nc3+ 31. Kc2 Nxa2} a3 31. Ne7 {Black now gets mated because of the threat of Ng6.} Nc3+ 32. Ka1 Qxg1+ 33. Rxg1 gxh6 34. Rg8# {Black checkmated } 1-0 [/pgn]

After the carnage of the first day, three of the five GMs had withdrawn! Only two perfect scores remained at the halfway point: Vakhodov and Chen, who had entered as the 24th seed. On Sunday morning the two faced off, with Vakhidov emerging victorious and the only player at 4-0. He was closely followed by Aleksandrov who stood at 3.5/4, and Li and Chen at 3/4. These four players were matched in the penultimate fifth round: Vakhidov and Aleksandrov were content playing to a six-move draw, while Li suffered a tactical oversight and dropped his game with Chen. 

Going into the last round, Vakhidov maintained clear first with 4.5/5. Only Aleksandrov and Chen were within range at 4/5 each, though Vakhidov had already played them both, and he was paired down a full point to Ethan Sheehan in the final round. Vakhidov’s win there secured him in clear first place, finishing with 5.5/6 and winning $1,200. 

Aleksandrov defeated Chen in this game to finish clear second with 5/6. Aleksandrov won $600.  

[pgn][Event "Pacific Coast Open"] [Site "Internet Chess Club"] [Date "2020.09.27"] [Round "6"] [White "Aleksandrov, Aleksej"] [Black "Chen, Derek"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E42"] [WhiteElo "2658"] [BlackElo "2065"] [Annotator "Hater,David"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "4500+10"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. Nxc3 cxd4 8. exd4 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nbd7 10. O-O Nb6 11. Ba2 h6 12. Bf4 O-O 13. Qf3 a6 14. Be5 Nbd5 15. Rac1 Ra7 16. Bb1 Bd7 17. Qg3 Bc6 18. f4 Ne8 19. f5 exf5 20. Rxf5 Ne7 21. Rf2 Ra8 22. d5 Nxd5 23. Rd1 {Black resigns} 1-0 [/pgn]

 Tommy Wen finished 4.5/6 in clear third and won $400. He squeezed out this win over Kenneth Thomas in the final round.  

[pgn][Event "Pacific Coast Open"] [Site "Internet Chess Club"] [Date "2020.09.27"] [Round "6"] [White "Thomas, Kenneth"] [Black "Wen, Tommy"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A28"] [WhiteElo "2100"] [BlackElo "2162"] [Annotator "Hater,David"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "4500+10"] 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 Bb4 5. Qc2 Bxc3 6. Qxc3 Qe7 7. a3 a5 8. d4 d6 9. d5 Nb8 10. Nd2 a4 11. Be2 O-O 12. e4 Na6 13. f3 Nc5 14. b4 axb3 15. Nxb3 Nfd7 16. O-O Nxb3 17. Qxb3 Nc5 18. Qc3 f5 19. exf5 Bxf5 20. Be3 Na4 21. Qb4 b6 22. Qd2 h6 23. Bd3 Qf6 24. Bc2 Qg6 25. Bxf5 Qxf5 26. f4 e4 27. Bd4 Kh7 28. Qe2 Rae8 29. g4 Qf7 30. f5 Nc5 31. h4 Nb3 32. Rad1 e3 33. g5 Nxd4 34. Rxd4 Qe7 35. Rg4 Qe5 {This game was the last game to end in the Premier section. The winner of the game would take clear third place. Because it was the last game (and because it was a high board that could afect prizes) , many of the TDs started watching and discussing it.} 36. Rgf4 {The position is approximately equal and this move seems pretty easy to find. At this point, I wondered how either side would win.} Kh8 {Kh8 and Kg8 lead to approximately the same evaluation. There are plenty of other moves that stll maintain the balance such as Qc3 or Re7 among others.} 37. f6 {According to Fritz, this is best but there are still several moves that maintain equality including Kg2 or gxh6.} gxf6 {Again, many moves are possible including Rf7 or g6 all of which are still keeping the balance.} 38. Qh5 {38. gxf6 is also fine, but this move could easily lead to a repetition with the checks on g6 and h6.} f5 {Black has two possibilities: 38. ... e2 will draw immediately as white will need to take the reprition. Black opts for the only other move that allows for playing for a win, even thiugh the position is still equal,} 39. Qxh6+ {Whitw had a number of moves at his disposal. He could have even played 39. ... Rxf5 or Re1 due to the tactics of the queen checks,} Kg8 40. Qg6+ {White had a number of moves in the position. One way to force a draw would be 40. Rxf5 when black may need to force the repetition with 40. ... Qg3+} Qg7 {The only move to avoid the repetition.} 41. Qxg7+ {41. Qh5 also maintains equality.} Kxg7 42. h5 Re5 43. Kg2 Ra8 {Both sides have been making "best" moves and the position is still equal.} 44. Rxf5 {Unfortunately white now blunders. White needed to play either Rh4 or Re1.} e2 {White could resign, but throws in a check first.} 45. Rf7+ Kg8 {White resigns} 0-1 [/pgn]

Derek Chen and Ryo Chen (no relation) finished at 4/6, tying for fourth place overall, as well as the top U2200 players. Both won $350. Sheehan, Li, Zoey Tang, as well as WFM Ellen Wang all finished at 3.5/6 and tied for second place U2200, with each player winning $50. 

Other section winners were Adithya Sharma, Suren Mikoyen, and Ruthvik Singireddy going 5/6 in the U2100 section and winning $433 apiece; as well as Young Cui playing to 5.5/6 in the U1700 section to win $500. Luca Fischbein and Jaswant Ambati also scored 5.5/6 in the U1300 section and won $325. 

The 2020 Pacific Coast Open was directed by NTD Steve Immitt and assisted by David Hater, Tom Brownscombe, Harold Scott, Al Losoff, Martha Underwood, Bob Messenger, Marty Grund, Ruy Mora, Charles Darnell, Terry Winchester, Bill Scott, Marvin Martzell, Daniel Bell, and Alonzo Barrow.  

Crosstables and all games for the online event can be found here. Previous CCA tournaments can be found here

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