Bortnyk and Preotu Take Down 2023 Charlotte Open

January is the first opportunity to get a head start on your New Year’s chess resolutions by entering a tournament. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, 456 players decided to kick the year off right by registering for the 2023 Charlotte Open, organized by the Charlotte Chess Center (CCC) at the beautiful UNCC Marriott Hotel.


playing hall
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One of the huge new ballrooms needed for such a large event (courtesy CCC/Daniel Schipper)


The Charlotte Open has a storied past featuring different formats and dates. In 2018, North Carolina’s first “grandmaster-in-residence,” GM Elshan Moradiabadi, won the 202-player Charlotte Open. At that time, the seven-rounder boasted the largest prize fund for an open tournament held in the Southeast.

13 months later, then-IM Brandon Jacobson won the 288-player 2020 Charlotte Open, earning his final GM norm. Oh how time flies: this was the first norm Super Swiss event held in Charlotte, preceding the US Masters’ migration to the 2018 US Chess City of the Year.

2021 featured two Charlotte Opens, starting with a pandemic-induced online version on Lichess.  Emerging victorious from the 291-player field was a quartet of European grandmasters. In December 2021, the Charlotte Open returned in a big way, with a 337-player over-the-board event. Five grandmasters tied for the title alongside then-IM Christopher Yoo, who earned a GM norm.

With the attendance numbers growing in each successive Charlotte Open, the CCC events team was excited to see what 2023 would bring, especially at a new venue not far from downtown Charlotte. In total, a huge crowd of over 450 players rated from 0 to 2711 turned out, representing 24 states and many countries.


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My favorite picture from the event: FM John Fawole Oyeyemi, originally from Nigeria (courtesy Daniel Schipper/CCC)


While “main event” players competed across seven sections, an important part of every CCC festival are the various side events and engagement activities. This year featured scholastic and blitz tournaments each with over 100 players, while special guest IM Eric Rosen conducted open game analysis, lectures, and “play the master” blitz sessions.



Chess streamers came en masse to fight for their share of the $15,000 prize fund and yes, the content! In total, nine GMs and 13 IMs played, including titled streamers GM Olexandr Bortnyk, GM Daniel Naroditsky, GM Brandon Jacobson, GM Andrew Tang, IM Eric Rosen, IM Kostya Kavutskiy, WGM Dina Belenkaya, FM James Canty, NM James Chirilov, and NM Mark Biernacki.


Biernacki Belenkaya Rosen
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Many streamers faced off during the weekend, including Mark Biernacki and Dina Belenkaya in the blitz (courtesy Daniel Schipper/CCC)


With 20 players rated 2400+, the Championship section was competitive to the last game.  After six rounds of fierce and internationally-rated competition, GMs Olexandr Bortnyk and Razvan Preotu tied for first place with a score of 5/6 after splitting their head-to-head matchup in the final round. They each earned $1200 for the tournament victory, with the plaque and title officially going to Bortnyk on tiebreaks.

After having acquiesced to a draw in round 2, GM Bortnyk rebounded with three critical wins, highlighted by a memorable attacking game in round 4 against a strong IM.



Bortnyk had many interesting games and decided to recap all of them for his YouTube channel while his thoughts were fresh. Check out his own analysis of Bortnyk-Grabinsky here.



GM Razvan Preotu similarly started off slow with a draw in round one against WIM Michelle Catherina, but then won four games in a row, including this upset victory which he annotates for us.



In a tie for third place were GM Daniel Naroditsky, GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista, GM Brandon Jacobson, GM David Brodsky, GM Alonso Zapata, IM Evan Park, and Nicholas Ladan. Ladan is sure to be happy with his results, as he defeated two GMs and an IM on his way to 4½/6, clinching the Under 2400 prize as well as a pile of US Chess and FIDE rating points.

One of the upsides of running such strong events is seeing local players succeed against titled opposition. North Carolina’s own Benjamin Yan had a breakout performance, defeating two IMs and drawing against two other IMs plus GM Alonso Zapata. For his undefeated 4/6, Yan earned the Under 2200 prize, although he will not be eligible for this prize in the foreseeable future, as he smashed the 2200 rating barrier by gaining 72 points.


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Newly minted national master Benjamin Yan had a breakout performance (courtesy Daniel Schipper/CCC)


With so many competitive matchups and strong players in the event, there were many interesting games, tactics, and attacks on the top boards. Here is a selection of some of the most memorable gems.







Charlotte Open section winners:



Championship: GM Olexandr Bortnyk (plaque winner on tiebreaks) and GM Razvan Preotu – 5/6, $1200 each.

Under 2100: Juan Miguel Cadavid (plaque winner on tiebreaks), Kevin Yang, Danil McQuillin, Nirav Natha – 4½/6, $500 each.

Under 1900: David Schmitz –6/6, $1000.

Under 1700: Tanay Sanghani (plaque winner on tiebreaks), Brian Zhang, Sridattha Kukkadapu – 5/6, $500 each.

Under 1500: Tyler Xia – 5/6, $800.

Under 1300: Diksha Jaikumar – 5½/6, $800.

Under 1100: Dylan Masi and Matias Zapata Sanchez – 5½/6, $500 each.


Sunday evening was our traditional $1,000 prize fund blitz tournament which is free for players in the main event and scholastics. 168 players decided to enter the speed chess fray and enjoyed a free US Chess and FIDE blitz-rated event after their evening classical round.



Many heavy-hitting matchups were recorded on video and are being uploaded to CCC social media. Check out the playlist here, and see an interesting round one battle between NM Aiden Reiss and GM Naroditsky:



GM Bortnyk scored an extra $250 for his 6/6 blitz triumph, all the more impressive as he faced grandmasters in the final three rounds. In the Under 1600 blitz, Kritarth Mishra was also “Mr. Perfect,” as he won his blitz section for a cool $120.

Final standings from all sections can be found here. 16 boards were broadcasted online each round, and all the games are available for replay here.

The CCC’s next major event is the ALTO (Adults Only) tournament in March. Then, in June, CCC will host the annual Carolinas Chess Festival in June, headlined by the 2023 Carolinas Classic and Charlotte Elite Camp featuring top GM instructors Boris Gelfand, Sam Shankland, Jacob Aagaard, and Daniel Naroditsky.

The 2023 Charlotte Open would not have been so successful without our wonderful event staff: Dr. Walter High, Karen High, Chief TD Maya Myers, Rudy Abate, Jon Haskel, Rob Getty, Gene Nix, Keith Hooker, Ali Thompson, Chacha Nugroho, Thad Rogers, Daniel Schipper, Corey Shaya, Peter Giannatos, and Grant Oen.

Further thanks to our partners and sponsors at the UNCC Marriott, Chessable, North American Corporate Chess League, Chessstream, and Lichess. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to those who played, followed, or otherwise supported the Charlotte Open. We’ll be back next year and, if history is any indication, bigger than ever!