CalChess State Rapid & Blitz Champions Crowned

On the weekend of October 26-27th, 2019, all eyes in the Bay Area chess community were on the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club as we hosted the inaugural 2019 State Championship event for Rapid and Blitz. Five Grandmasters, 10 International Masters, and more than 10 national masters came to compete to be the first-ever champion in these categories. The action was fast and abundant, the drama intense and plentiful, and we crowned IM Prasanna Rao as the CalChess State Rapid Champion and GM Daniel Naroditsky as the CalChess State Blitz Champion. The event was broadcast live on our Twitch channel and live commentary was provided by FM Paul Whitehead.
CalChess Rapid Championship – Saturday, October 26
The rapid championship was held on Saturday, bringing in 80 players to contest seven rounds of G/15+2 across three sections.  GM Daniel Naroditsky was the favorite coming in, as his speed-chess accomplishments and reputation are very well documented. But there was one lesser-known player lurking very close behind. IM Prasanna Rao was a member of the University of Texas, Dallas chess team and holds five (!) GM norms. At 24 years of age, he has the youth, vigor, and stamina to maintain composure under fast time controls, and he showed that in full force in winning his first five rounds and leading the field by a full point heading into round 6. GM Naroditsky was in second place with 4/5, and the two leaders would meet in round 6.

[Event "2019 CalChess Rapid Championship"]
[Date "2019.10.26"]
[Round "6.1"]
[White "Naroditsky, Daniel"]
[Black "Rao, Prasanna"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A11"]
[Annotator "DeFirmian"]
[PlyCount "122"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]
[EventType "rapid"]
[WhiteClock "0:00:07"]
[BlackClock "0:00:24"]

{This was Rapid Championship. Naroditsky was highest rated, but Prasanna Rao
was in great form.} 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 c6 4. O-O Nd7 5. d3 Ngf6 6. c4
dxc4 7. dxc4 Bxf3 8. exf3 (8. Bxf3 Ne5 9. Qb3 Nxf3+) 8... e6 {Black has gotten
a solid position from the opening. The two white bishops don't mean much here.}
9. Nc3 Nb6 10. Qc2 $5 Nxc4 11. Rd1 Nd5 12. b3 Ncb6 13. Bb2 Qc7 14. Nxd5 Nxd5
15. f4 {Naroditsky has sacrificed a pawn to open up the bishops and gain
active play. Rao chooses not to be materialistic and plays for activity
himself.} O-O-O $1 16. Be5 Bd6 17. Bxg7 Rhg8 18. Bd4 Kb8 19. Qxh7 Bxf4 20. Qe4
({Of course not} 20. gxf4 $2 Nxf4) 20... Bd6 21. Rac1 Qa5 22. Qe2 Rge8 23. a4
e5 $1 24. Bb2 e4 {The e-pawn is immune from capture and spearheads Black's
central play. White needs to be careful to maintain the balance now.} 25. Bd4
f5 26. Qe1 $2 (26. Qh5 f4 27. Bf6 f3 $5 28. Bxd8 Qxd8 {would be a sharp
continuation with chances for both sides. Naroditsky instead plays passively
and lands in trouble.}) 26... Bb4 27. Qf1 f4 28. Qc4 {Diagram [#]} e3 29. fxe3
Nxe3 30. Bxe3 fxe3 31. Qe2 $6 (31. Rxd8+ Rxd8 32. Bf3 {would ease the defense.}
) 31... Qe5 32. Bf3 Rd2 $1 33. Rxd2 exd2 34. Qxe5+ Rxe5 35. Rd1 Re3 {Now Black
wins a pawn in the endgame. He also has the advanced pawn on d2 as a plus, but
White has two passed kingside pawns that can become dangerous.} 36. Kg2 Rxb3
37. h4 Rd3 38. h5 Bf8 39. Be4 Rd4 40. Kf3 $6 c5 $6 ({Here} 40... Bh6 $1 41. Bc2
Rc4 42. Bf5 Rxa4 {would give Black a winning position. In rapid chess it is
hard to have perfect technique.}) 41. Bc2 c4 42. g4 Bh6 43. Rg1 Bg5 44. Rh1 Rd6
45. Ke4 Rf6 $6 (45... Re6+ $1 46. Kf5 Re1 47. Rh2 Rc1 $1 {would still do the
trick.}) 46. Ke5 c3 47. Kd4 Rc6 48. Ke5 Rf6 49. Kd4 Rf3 $6 50. h6 Bxh6 51. Rxh6
Rf1 52. Rh8+ Kc7 53. Rh7+ Kb6 54. Kxc3 d1=Q 55. Bxd1 Rxd1 {White has escaped
to a drawn rook ending thanks to the active play of his king!} 56. Rg7 Rg1 57.
g5 Ka5 58. Rxb7 Rxg5 59. Rxa7+ Kb6 60. Rh7 Ka5 61. Rh4 Rg3+ {A good escape
from Naroditsky, but Rao remained in first place in the tournament.} 1/2-1/2

Rao held the draw with Black, ensuring that he would only need to draw the final round to secure clear first. But Rao would not have an easy time of it after being paired with Mechanics’ Institute Grandmaster in Residence and 3-time U.S. champion, GM Nick de Firmian. Naroditsky would have to defeat GM Steven Zierk in the final round and hope for Rao to lose. While Naroditsky did pull off the victory, Rao drew his game, and locked up sole first and became the first state rapid champion.
courtesy Mechanics CC
IM Prasanna Rao (white) on board 1 faces off against GM Nick de Firmian in the final round of the rapid championship. GM Steven Zierk and GM Daniel Naroditsky play on board 2
CalChess Blitz Championship – Sunday, October 27
The blitz championship brought 60 players on Sunday, but the strength of the open section increased even more, as GM Zviad Izoria, GM Conrad Holt, and IM Christopher Yoo joined the fray, along with many of the other titled players returning from the rapid championship the previous day. This event was a 9-round, G/3 +2 single game format tournament. Anything can happen in a blitz tournament, and no title can save a player from the chaos of blitz time controls. The surprises started right out of the gate, as the newly crowned State Rapid Champion IM Prasanna Rao missed a mate in one, leading to his defeat in round 1 against expert Jamal El-Chamieh. In this position, El Chamieh played 34. …c5. Rao blitzed out 35. Qf4, completely missing 35. …Qxg2 mate. The most exciting round came in round 6, where GM Daniel Naroditsky and GM Conrad Holt met on the top board. It was a tough, technical game in which GM Holt came out on top.

[Event "2019 Calchess State Blitz Championship"]
[Date "2019.10.27"]
[Round "6.1"]
[White "Naroditsky, Daniel"]
[Black "Holt, Conrad"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A11"]
[Annotator "DeFirmian"]
[PlyCount "176"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]
[EventType "blitz"]
[WhiteClock "0:00:17"]
[BlackClock "0:00:41"]

{The battle of the two highest rated players of the Blitz Championship.} 1. Nf3
d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 Nd7 4. O-O e6 5. d3 Bd6 6. c4 c6 7. cxd5 exd5 8. Nc3 Ne7 9.
Qc2 O-O {Black has easily equalized.} 10. e4 Rc8 11. b3 Nc5 12. Bb2 Ne6 13. Ne2
c5 14. exd5 Nc7 15. Ne5 Bxe5 16. Bxe5 Ncxd5 {Black has given away the two
bishops but has good play due to the isolated white d-pawn and well developed
pieces.} 17. a3 Nc6 18. Bb2 Re8 19. Rfe1 Nd4 $1 20. Nxd4 cxd4 21. Qd2 Nc3 22.
Bxb7 $2 {This is greedy and will be punished. Safer is to guard some kingside
squares with} (22. h3) 22... Ne2+ 23. Kg2 {Diagram [#]} Qd7 $1 24. Be4 (24.
Bxc8 Bh3+ 25. Kh1 Qd5+ 26. f3 Qxf3#) 24... f5 25. f3 $6 (25. h3) 25... Bh3+ $1
26. Kh1 (26. Kxh3 fxe4+ 27. Kg2 exf3+ 28. Kxf3 Qd5+ 29. Kf2 Rf8+ 30. Kxe2 Qh5+)
26... Nc3 {Now Black wins a piece.} 27. Rac1 fxe4 28. dxe4 Qf7 29. Qd3 Qxb3 {
Black is completely winning, but since this is blitz there can always be a
turnaround.} 30. Rc2 Be6 31. Rec1 Red8 32. f4 Qb7 33. Bxc3 dxc3 34. Qe3 Bf5 35.
Kg1 Bxe4 36. Rxc3 Rxc3 37. Qxc3 Bg6 38. Qe3 Bf7 39. f5 Re8 40. Qf2 h6 41. f6
Qe4 42. h4 Bd5 43. Kh2 Rf8 44. Re1 Qg6 45. Qd4 Qc2+ 46. Kh3 Qg2+ 47. Kg4 Qf3+
48. Kh3 Rxf6 49. Qxa7 Be6+ 50. Kh2 Qf2+ 51. Qxf2 Rxf2+ 52. Kg1 Rf6 53. a4 Bc4
54. Re4 Bd5 55. Rd4 Bb7 56. Rb4 Ba6 57. Rd4 Kf7 58. Rd7+ Kg6 59. Ra7 h5 60. a5
Bc4 61. Rc7 Bb5 62. Rc5 Ba6 63. Rg5+ Kh6 64. Rc5 g6 65. Rc7 Rf5 66. Ra7 Rxa5
67. Kf2 Ra2+ 68. Kg1 Bc4 69. Rc7 Bd5 70. Rd7 Bf3 71. Rf7 Bg4 72. Rc7 Re2 73.
Kf1 Rd2 74. Kg1 Rd7 75. Rc5 Kg7 76. Kf2 Kf6 77. Rc6+ Kf7 78. Rc5 Re7 79. Ra5
Re2+ 80. Kf1 Rb2 81. Rc5 Kf6 82. Ra5 Be6 83. Kg1 Rd2 84. Rc5 Bd5 85. Kf1 Ke5
86. Rc7 Kd4 87. Rg7 Be4 88. Ke1 Rg2 {It took a while, but White never had a
chance to get back in the game.} 0-1

In round 8, things took a turn for Holt, who seemed poised to win the blitz championship. Paired against GM Steven Zierk. Holt seemed to lose track of time in an inoccuous middlegame and flagged. This opened the door for Naroditsky, who won his game and took a half point lead into the final round.
courtesy Mechanics CC
Aerial view of the inaugural CalChess Blitz state championship In round 9, GM Holt defeated IM Christopher Yoo, but GM Naroditsky defeated NM Beilin Li to secure first place and earn the title of 2019 CalChess Blitz State Champion.
Live Broadcast & Commentary of the state championships
The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club has been leading the way in the San Francisco Bay Area to provide live broadcast and commentary of chess events that are exciting and engaging the chess community. We began with our historic Tuesday Night Marathon back in March 2019 with lead commentator FM Paul Whitehead giving fun and entertaining broadcasts. Since then, we have expanded this to major events and began to use our DGT boards to capture those exciting games on the top boards, which would not have been possible otherwise due to no notation requirements with these fast time controls. Broadcasting the games would not have been possible without the diligent work of Juan Cendejas. His fast update in pairings and player’s names make it possible for FM Whitehead and viewers around the nation to follow all the action. While these fast-paced tournaments did not give too many opportunities for guest interviews, we did have a chance to talk to IM Rao, IM Yoo, and others for a few minutes between rounds. You can re-watch these and other broadcasts via our YouTube channel:
courtesy Mechanics CC
The winners of the 2019 CalChess Rapid Championship
courtesy Mechanics CC
The winners of the 2019 CalChess Blitz Championship Congratulations to all the winners and participants in this inaugural CalChess Rapid and Blitz state championship of Northern California. Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club and Chess Director, Chief TD, STD, FA Abel Talamantez is grateful for the support of the community in our efforts to establish new and exciting ways to spice up the chess life around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Final standings are on Mechanics’ website: Rapid: Blitz: