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.
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.
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.
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.
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: www.youtube.com/mechanicschess.
The winners of the 2019 CalChess Rapid Championship
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: