CCA Enters the World of Online Chess

After a three month absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Continental Chess Association (CCA) made a splashy return to (virtual) action. CCA partnered with the Internet Chess Club (ICC) as the event host.  CCA sponsored an online event in three sections with a guaranteed $3000 prize fund.  This was the first online event and it certainly had a few bumps, but there were many positives as well. 

The event was held on June 14 as a G/15+10 event.  Part of the reason for the event was to “beta test” to determine how we could hold a World Open online.  There are definitely bugs to work out, but we have made a lot of progress quickly in learning how to hold an online event.

Two such “bumps in the road” were an aggressive timetable and the fact that we were perhaps too successful in our first outing.  CCA decided to hold this event only 10 days before the event date, and that was simply not enough time to work out some of the kinks.  We had no idea how many players to expect. We thought we would get about 100 players, but there were more than double that: a whopping 230 advance entries.

CCA is an OTB organization, and ICC is an online organization. The culture of each organization is different, and managing two distinct cultures takes some time.  Many questions exist in these situations: which rating to use? What’s the bye policy? How are late entries handled, and how do people register? The answer to each question can be very different, and there needed to be a bridging strategy between the companies.  We are working to improve this.

Another problem that was evident is many of the entrants were playing for the first time online, or for the first time on this platform.  Again, we expect that this will get better as more events are held.

In spite of the challenges, there were a lot of positives.  The fact that 230 players entered shows that there is a pent-up demand for chess.  There were fourteen GMs on the advance entry list and half of them were at the 2700+ (USCF) level.  This is amazing for a $3000 prize fund with a $600 first prize!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in the room – online cheating.  As with almost all online platforms, ICC has anti-cheating procedures in place.  These range from algorithms examining games, admins watching games, and titled player review of games after the fact among other procedures.   CCA also had a rule that players must have a zoom camera broadcasting their games. 

During the event, one player was ejected from the event for “fair play” violation.  And prizes are not being paid for three days after the event while the games are reviewed for any evidence of “fair play” violations.  In an unfortunate coda to this tournament, the original winners of both the U2000 and the U1600 sections were disqualified for “fair play” violations.

Without further ado, let us look at the action from the day’s event.  The Premier section was limited to players rated over 1900.  Again, this presented a challenge.  CCA prefers to use the highest of any rating.  ICC’s software is setup to look at one rating (there can be manual adjustments) and they start unrated at 750, so players were listed with some ridiculously low ratings even though ultimately accurate ratings were used for sectioning and prize purposes.  ICC is setup to display a player’s online “handle” so players were not necessarily aware who they were playing or their strength.  This will obviously be fixed in future events.  For this article, I am using player’s actual names and their OTB rating.

In round one, our biggest problems were getting everything settled and getting the event running.  One of our more significant issues was that ICC procedure requires all players to confirm their identities with their US Chess PIN.  Unfortunately, foreign GMs without current US Chess memberships don’t have PINs.  This meant several foreign GMs were not paired and had to be given full points.  Another issue is that players had to use an ICC coupon code to enter.  This system proved quite cumbersome.  Both of these shortcomings will be corrected for future events. 

Round two was better, but there were still hiccups.  We still had one foreign GM that we were unable to immediately get in the event and again we had to give him a full point.   These entry problems were further compounded because the ICC software did not allow for assigned full points.  This made these GMs scores incorrect and gave them easier pairings.  Fortunately, this problem with the interfaces has been resolved and will not occur in future events. 

After round two there were 11 perfect scores:  GMs Illia Nyzhnyk, Sam Sevian, Alex Shimanov, Hovhannes Gabuzyan, Nicolas Checa, Alex Fishbein, FM Nico Chasin, NMs Ruiyang Yan & Goran Markovic, Brian Desousa, and Pranav Sairam.  The intent was to use players’ regular OTB ratings.  However, due to human error, online quick ratings were used instead of regular OTB, and this complicated pairings as for instance Sevian was paired with a rating of 1825.  Also, because of the problem of unplayed games, Shimanov was shown as 1-1 even though he was 2-0 and Gabuzyan was shown as 1½-½ even though he was 2-0.  This did make for some strange pairings and led to the first GM vs GM pairing as Checa had white versus Sevian.  The game ended in a draw.

[pgn][Event "ICC tourney 1878 (15 10)"][Site "Internet Chess Club"][Date "2020.06.14"][Round "3"][White "Checa, Nicholas"][Black "Nyzhnyk, Illia"][Result "1/2-1/2"][ECO "D43"][WhiteElo "2644"][BlackElo "2759"][Annotator "Hater,David"][PlyCount "138"][EventDate "2020.??.??"][TimeControl "900+10"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. a3 dxc4 8. Ne5Nd7 9. Nxc4 Nb6 10. Ne5 Nd7 11. Nc4 Nb6 12. e3 Nxc4 13. Bxc4 g6 14. O-O Bg7 15.Rc1 O-O 16. Qe2 Rd8 17. f4 Qe7 18. Ne4 a5 19. Bd3 a4 20. Rc5 Bd7 21. Rfc1 b622. R5c2 Rab8 23. h3 Be8 24. Kh2 Rd5 25. Bc4 Ra5 26. Qe1 Raa8 27. Qe2 c5 28.dxc5 bxc5 29. Ba2 Bb5 30. Qf3 Bd3 31. Rxc5 Ra7 32. Rc8+ Rxc8 33. Rxc8+ Kh7 34.Nc5 Bb5 35. Qe4 Rc7 36. Rxc7 Qxc7 37. Nxa4 Bxa4 38. Qxa4 Bxb2 39. Qb3 Qc3 40.Qxc3 Bxc3 41. Kg3 Kg7 42. Kf3 Ba5 43. a4 g5 44. fxg5 hxg5 45. g3 Be1 46. Bc4Kf6 47. Kg4 Bd2 48. Kf3 Be1 49. Bb5 Ke5 50. Kg4 f6 51. Bd3 Bd2 52. e4 Kd4 53.Bb1 Ke5 54. Bc2 Ba5 55. Kh5 Be1 56. Kg4 Kd6 57. h4 gxh4 58. gxh4 f5+ 59. Kg5fxe4 60. h5 e3 61. Bd3 Bc3 62. Kg6 Kc5 63. h6 Kb4 64. Bb5 e2 65. Bxe2 Kxa4 66.h7 Kb4 67. Bg4 Kc5 68. Bxe6 Kd6 69. h8=Q Bxh8 {Game drawn because neitherplayer has mating material} 1/2-1/2[/pgn]

Because of the way scores of late joining players were displayed, we did not become aware of the issue of Shimanov and Gabuzyan’s scores being wrong until round three.  Unfortunately the corrections weren’t able to be made.  So going into the penultimate round there were five players at 3-0:  GMs Illia Nyzhnyk, Alex Shimanov, Hovhannes Gabuzyan, Alex Fishbein, and NM Ruiyang Yan.  Unfortunately, Gabuzyan was still paired as 2 ½ - ½, and Shimanov was still paired at 2-1. 

At this point, and behind the scenes, the organizers were a bit unhappy. We didn’t want a strong GM like Gabuzyan or Shimanov winning the event with “easy” pairings.  Fortunately we got a little bit lucky.  Gabuzyan was paired “up” in round 3 to the higher perfect scoregroup and he was paired “up” in round 4 to the perfect scoregroup.  We were really concerned that Shimanov would skate to 4-0 with “easy” pairings, but he was the victim of an upset in round 4.  Expert Pravav Sairam who would up tying for second is much worse against Shimanov, but Shimanov blunders (it is quick chess after all) and Sairam wins to get to 3-1.  Can you find Sairam’s winning move?

[pgn][Event "ICC tourney 1878 (15 10)"][Site "Internet Chess Club"][Date "2020.06.14"][Round "4"][White "Shimanov, Alex"][Black "Sairam, Pranav"][Result "0-1"][ECO "D00"][WhiteElo "2699"][BlackElo "2087"][Annotator "Hater,David"][SetUp "1"][FEN "1r1qrbk1/6p1/2Q4p/p2pPp2/2pP3P/P1n1BN2/5P2/1B1R1RK1 b - - 0 30"][PlyCount "49"][EventDate "2020.??.??"][TimeControl "900+10"]{[#]} 30... Rb6 31. Qxb6 Qxb6 32. Rde1 Nxb1 33. Rxb1 Qg6+ 34. Kh1 Qg4 35. Nh2Qxh4 36. f4 Bxa3 37. Rb7 Re7 38. Rb8+ Kh7 39. Rb5 Bb4 40. Rxd5 a4 41. Rb5 Be142. d5 Bg3 43. Rb2 c3 44. Rg2 Rb7 45. Bc1 Rb1 46. Kg1 a3 47. d6 a2 48. Rxa2 Rb249. Nf3 Bf2+ 50. Kg2 Qg3+ 51. Kh1 Qh3+ 52. Nh2 Rxa2 53. d7 Bg1 54. d8=Q Qxh2# {White checkmated} 0-1[/pgn]

The GM game this round was Fishbein with white versus Nyzhnyk and that game ended in a draw.

[pgn][Event "ICC tourney 1878 (15 10)"][Site "Internet Chess Club"][Date "2020.06.14"][Round "4"][White "Fishbein, Alex"][Black "Nyzhnyk, Illia"][Result "1/2-1/2"][ECO "C42"][WhiteElo "2558"][BlackElo "2759"][Annotator "Hater,David"][PlyCount "106"][EventDate "2020.??.??"][TimeControl "900+10"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d3 Nf6 6. d4 d5 7. Bg5 Be7 8. Bd3O-O 9. O-O Bg4 10. Nbd2 Ne4 11. Bxe7 Qxe7 12. Re1 f5 13. c4 dxc4 14. Nxe4 cxd315. Neg5 Qb4 16. Qxd3 Nd7 17. a3 Qa4 18. Rac1 Rfe8 19. h3 Bxf3 20. Qxf3 Nf6 21.Rxe8+ Rxe8 22. Rxc7 h6 23. Qxb7 hxg5 24. Rxg7+ Kh8 25. Rxg5 Rg8 26. Rxf5 Qxd427. Qf7 Nh7 28. Rh5 Qe4 29. g3 Rg7 30. Qf8+ Rg8 31. Qf5 Qe1+ 32. Kg2 Qe7 33.Qe5+ Qxe5 34. Rxe5 Rc8 35. Ra5 Rc7 36. Ra6 Kg7 37. g4 Nf6 38. g5 Ne4 39. h4 Rc240. Kf3 Nxf2 41. Rxa7+ Kg6 42. Ra6+ Kf5 43. Rf6+ Ke5 44. Rf8 Nd3 45. Kg3 Rxb246. g6 Rb1 47. Kh2 Nf4 48. g7 Rb2+ 49. Kh1 Rb1+ 50. Kh2 Rb2+ 51. Kh1 Rb1+ 52.Kh2 Rb2+ 53. Kh1 Rb1+ {Game drawn by repetition} 1/2-1/2[/pgn]

This meant that going into the last round there was only one perfect score: GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan at 4-0.  He was being chased by five players who were half a point back:  GMs Illia Nyznyk, Sam Sevian, Alex Fishbein, and Michael Rohde and NM Danila Poliannikov  all at 3½–½.  At this point, CCA had enough of Gabuzyan’s problematic pairings and took matters into their own hands.  We withdrew Gabuzyan and Nyzhnyk and manually paired them as a workaround. 

Gabuzyan won in round 5 to finish at 5-0 and take clear first and $600. 

[pgn][Event "ICC tourney 1878 (15 10)"][Site "?"][Date "2020.06.14"][Round "5"][White "Nyzhnyk, Illia"][Black "Gabuzyan, Hovhannes"][Result "0-1"][ECO "A59"][WhiteElo "2759"][BlackElo "2664"][PlyCount "90"][EventDate "2020.??.??"]1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 c5 4. d5 b5 5. cxb5 a6 6. bxa6 d6 7. Nc3 Bxa6 8. e4Bxf1 9. Kxf1 Bg7 10. g3 O-O 11. Kg2 Qb6 12. Qc2 Na6 13. Re1 Nb4 14. Qe2 Qa6 15.Bg5 h6 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. e5 Bg7 18. Qxa6 Rxa6 19. Re2 Nd3 20. a4 Nxe5 21. Nxe5Bxe5 22. f4 Bf6 23. Nb5 Rfa8 24. Re4 Ra5 25. Nc3 Kf8 26. Ra2 Bxc3 27. bxc3 f528. Re6 Kf7 29. Rb2 R8a7 30. g4 fxg4 31. Kg3 Rxa4 32. Kxg4 Ra2 33. Rxa2 Rxa234. h4 Rd2 35. c4 Rd4 36. h5 gxh5+ 37. Kf5 Rxc4 38. Rxh6 Rd4 39. Rh7+ Ke8 40.Ke6 Re4+ 41. Kf5 Re3 42. Rxh5 Kd7 43. Kg6 Rg3+ 44. Kf7 Rd3 45. Kf8 c4 0-1[/pgn]

Sevian defeated Rohde to finish at 4 ½ - ½ in clear second and win $400. 

[pgn][Event "ICC tourney 1878 (15 10)"][Site "Internet Chess Club"][Date "2020.06.14"][Round "5"][White "Sevian, Sam"][Black "Rohde, Michael"][Result "1-0"][ECO "B48"][WhiteElo "2733"][BlackElo "2478"][Annotator "Hater,David"][PlyCount "139"][EventDate "2020.??.??"][TimeControl "900+10"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Qf3 a6 8.O-O-O Be7 9. Kb1 h5 10. Bg5 d6 11. Nb3 Bd7 12. Qg3 O-O-O 13. f4 h4 14. Qf3 Kb815. Bd3 Ne8 16. Bxe7 Nxe7 17. Rhe1 Nf6 18. Rd2 e5 19. f5 Bc6 20. Qe3 d5 21.exd5 Nexd5 22. Qxe5 Qxe5 23. Rxe5 Ng4 24. Re1 Nxh2 25. Nd4 Nb4 26. Be4 Bxe4 27.Rxe4 Nf1 28. Rf2 Ng3 29. Rg4 Nd5 30. Nxd5 Rxd5 31. c3 Rh7 32. Kc2 Re5 33. Kd3Re1 34. Nf3 Rd1+ 35. Kc2 Rd5 36. Rxh4 Rxh4 37. Nxh4 Re5 38. Kd3 Ne4 39. Rf4 Ng340. Rf3 Ne2 41. Kd2 Re4 42. g3 Ng1 43. Re3 Rg4 44. Ke1 Nh3 45. Kf1 Ng5 46. Kg2f6 47. Nf3 Nf7 48. Re7 Nd6 49. Nd4 Rg5 50. b4 Kc8 51. a4 Nxf5 52. Nxf5 Rxf5 53.Rxg7 Rd5 54. Rf7 Rf5 55. a5 Kb8 56. g4 Rf4 57. Kh3 Rf3+ 58. Kh4 Rxc3 59. Rxf6Rc4 60. Rb6 Kc8 61. Kh5 Rc1 62. g5 Rh1+ 63. Kg6 Kc7 64. Kg7 Rg1 65. g6 Rg2 66.Kh7 Rh2+ 67. Kg8 Rg2 68. g7 Rg1 69. Kf7 Rf1+ 70. Rf6 {Black resigns} 1-0[/pgn]

GM Fishbein or NM Poliannikov could have joined the second place tie with a win, but they drew.  This left a seven-way tie for third place: GMs Shimanov & Fishbein, NMs Ruiyang Yan &  Danila Poliannikov and Pranav Sairam, Adrian Kondakov & Tejas Mahesh.  Shimanov, Fishbein, Yan & Poliannikov each win $50 for third place.  Sairam, Kondakov, and Mahesh each win $150 for sharing the U2200 prizes. 

In the Under 2000 section, a player did score 5-0.  However, he was subsequently disqualified for “fair play” violations.  His opponents received a half point for the unplayed games.  This left three players tied for first at 4½-½:  Tiger Che, Leo Lin, and William Blackman each won $183.33.

In the Under 1600 section, a player did score 5-0.  However, he too was subsequently disqualified for “fair play” violations. This left four players tied for first.  Daniel Messer, Johah Kutikov, Stepa Stepanoviv, and Jonah Kutikov tied for first at 4½-½, each winning $87.50.

The tournament was directed by David Hater & Terry Winchester assisted by Marvin Martzall & Daniel Bell ICC TDs .  CCA TDs Bill Goichberg, Steve Immitt, and Bob Messenger provided CCA administration support.

Results of this event can be found at www.ccaraid.com.

Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at  http://www.chesshistory.com.                       

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