Charlotte Chess Center Ventures into Online Realm with Fair Play Open Series

As the 2019 US Chess Club of the Year, the Charlotte Chess Center and Scholastic Academy (CCCSA) believes in its duty to protect honest chess players.  

The CCCSA is a brick-and-mortar club in North Carolina known for its GM/IM invitationals, which have produced 43 norms and 21 titles. Our two recent OTB norm invitationals, held this fall, produced GM norms for Craig Hilby and Hans Niemann; IM norms for Robert Shlyakhtenko, Jason Liang, Balaji Daggupati, Yuriy Krykun, Josiah Stearman; and the FM title for Richard Francisco.  

The chess world has shown its adaptability in this time of Zoom schooling and work from home, and many organizers have moved the bulk of their events to the online realm. Since March, the CCCSA’s online offerings have been extensive, including chess camps with over 40 Grandmasters, such as Veselin Topalov, Judit Polgar, Peter Svidler, Leinier Dominguez, Michael Adams, Jacob Aagaard, Hou Yifan, Vidit Gujrathi and Sam Shankland; as well as free TwitchTV content and US Chess online rated events.   

CCCSA’s foray into online cash-prize tournaments began in September with the Fair Play Open, a series of events featuring a high TD-to-player ratio and an organizing team that takes cheating seriously. Sincere efforts are taken to catch cheaters in every event, including preventative measures to deter and serious action taken against fair-play infractions.   

In the absence of most OTB play, honest players still deserve to play chess in a serious environment for cash prizes without fear of cheating. As the name suggests, the Fair Play Open series puts a premium on fair play, combining lichess’ detection methodologies with proactive tournament directors and Zoom monitoring. Our tournament staff includes well-credentialed directors and arbiters who have thorough experience with online events. For a 100-player event, players can expect to have at least eight tournament directors at the US Chess Senior TD and FIDE National Arbiter level or higher, along with additional lichess moderators.    

Catching fair play violations requires an experienced human touch in addition to industry-leading server detection algorithms – adjusting the post-event standings is often too late for help, after a cheater has already ruined an entire crosstable. The CCCSA also employs directors whose sole job is to scan live Zoom, review and analyze games for anything out of the ordinary. We seek to be proactive in catching cheaters red-handed during the event, instead of waiting for days to payout prizes and submit for US Chess online ratings.     

Fair Play Open 1    

The first event of the Fair Play Open series was held on Sept. 20 and drew 206 players across 6 sections. IM Praveen Balakrishnan and IM Justin Sarkar topped the championship section, both scoring 3.5/4 and earning $300 each. While Sarkar scored a nice “Swiss Gambit” after being nicked for a draw in the first round, Balakrishnan scored this critical win in round 3 against FM Jason Liang, who was fresh off his second IM norm.     

[pgn][Event "CCCSA Fair Play Open 1"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.09.20"] [Round "3"] [White "Balakrishnan, IM Praveen"] [Black "Liang, FM Jason"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B15"] [WhiteElo "2612"] [BlackElo "2403"] [PlyCount "129"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ exf6 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. Ne2 Re8 9. Qc2 h5 10. Be3 Nd7 11. Ng3 Nb6 12. O-O Qc7 13. Rfe1 Be6 14. c4 h4 15. Nf1 Nd7 16. Bd2 Nf8 17. Re4 Ng6 18. Rae1 Qd7 19. Rxe6 Rxe6 20. Bf5 Ne7 21. Bxe6 fxe6 22. Qe4 Nf5 23. Qxe6+ Qxe6 24. Rxe6 Rd8 25. Bc3 Bc7 26. Re4 Kf7 27. Ne3 Nxe3 28. Rxe3 Bb6 29. Rd3 Ke6 30. Kf1 Bc7 31. Re3+ Kf7 32. h3 Rd7 33. Ke2 Bb6 34. Rd3 Ke6 35. Kf3 Kf5 36. d5 Bc7 37. Rd2 cxd5 38. Rxd5+ Rxd5 39. cxd5 Bd6 40. g4+ hxg3 41. fxg3 Kg6 42. g4 Kf7 43. Ke4 g6 44. Bd2 Ke7 45. Bf4 Bb4 46. Bg3 Bc5 47. h4 a6 48. Be1 Bd6 49. Bc3 Kf7 50. Bd4 Be7 51. Bf2 Bd6 52. Kf3 Be5 53. b3 Bd6 54. Bg3 Bf8 55. Ke4 Ba3 56. Kf3 Bb4 57. h5 f5 58. h6 Bd2 59. Bf4 fxg4+ 60. Kxg4 Bc3 61. d6 Ke6 62. Kg5 Kf7 63. d7 Bf6+ 64. Kg4 Ke6 65. Bg5 1-0 [/pgn]
     

Other section winners:    

U2000 – Grayson Cooke, Georgia: 4/4, $300     

U1700 – Paul Bumblauskas, Georgia; Ronan Spelman, Texas: 4/4, $200     

U1400 – Felix Zhang, Missouri: 4/4, $250    

U1200 K-12 Scholastic – Harvey Hanke, Indiana; Nikhil Vellanki, Georgia: 4/4     

U600 K-12 Scholastic – Rishab Aravindan, Virginia: 4/4   

Fair Play G/25    

The Fair Play G/25 Championship on Oct. 10 was won by IM Christopher Yoo who earned the $300 first prize with wins against three GMs Alex Lenderman, Daniel Fridman, and Gadir Guseinov.    

Yoo, who was treating the Fair Play event as a warmup for the 2020 U.S. Juniors (where he finished in fifth place) defeated 2020 U.S. Championship contender Lenderman in this exciting king hunt, after black makes the dubious decision to sacrifice his bishop for a passed pawn, in hopes of perpetual:   

[pgn][Event "CCCSA Fair Play G/25"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.10"] [Round "2"] [White "Yoo, IM Christopher"] [Black "Lenderman, GM Alex"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2540"] [BlackElo "2717"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bf4 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. e3 O-O 9. Be2 Nc6 10. O-O d4 11. exd4 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Bxd4 13. Bf3 Qb6 14. Na4 Qb4 15. a3 Bxf2+ 16. Rxf2 Qxf4 17. Bxb7 Qb8 18. Rxf6 Bxb7 19. Rb6 Rd8 20. Qe1 Re8 21. Qf2 Qc7 22. Rd1 Rad8 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. Nc3 h6 25. Rb4 Bc8 26. Rd4 Be6 27. Rxd8+ Qxd8 28. Qe3 a5 29. b4 axb4 30. axb4 Bc4 31. b5 Bxb5 32. Nxb5 Qd1+ 33. Kf2 Qc2+ 34. Qe2 Qf5+ 35. Kg1 Qc5+ 36. Kf1 Qf5+ 37. Ke1 Qb1+ 38. Kf2 Qf5+ 39. Ke3 Qe5+ 40. Kd2 Qb2+ 41. Ke3 Qe5+ 42. Kf3 Qxh2 43. Qe8+ Kh7 44. Qxf7 Qe5 45. Qc4 Qf5+ 46. Ke2 Qh5+ 47. Kf2 Qf5+ 48. Kg1 Qb1+ 49. Kh2 Qf5 50. Nc3 Qe5+ 51. g3 g6 52. Kg2 h5 53. Nd5 Qb2+ 54. Kf3 Qb1 55. Qc7+ Kh6 56. Qf4+ Kg7 57. Qf6+ Kh7 58. Qf7+ Kh6 59. Qf8+ Kg5 60. Qf4# 1-0 [/pgn]
     

The U2000 section was won by Rohan Nair of California ($200). The U1600 was won in a tie between Nahum and Isaac Gonzalez of Illinois ($150).   

Fair Play G/10   

The Fair Play G/10 Championship on Oct. 11 featured a dominant 5.5/6 win by Azeri GM Gadir Guseinov. Besides staying up until 4:00am to finish the event, the Azerbaijani GM did not have an easy road to his $250 prize, facing all GMs Elshan Moradiabadi, Brandon Jacobson and Kamil Dragun in the final three rounds. Here is the final-round miniature between GMs Guseinov and Dragun, who were both on 4.5/5.   

[pgn][Event "CCCSA Fair Play G/10"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.11"] [Round "6"] [White "Guseinov, GM Gadir"] [Black "Dragun, GM Kamil"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C43"] [WhiteElo "2738"] [BlackElo "2605"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 Nxe4 4. Bd3 d5 5. Nxe5 Nd7 6. Nxd7 Bxd7 7. O-O Bd6 8. c4 c6 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 O-O 11. cxd5 cxd5 12. Qh5 g6 13. Qxd5 Qc7 14. g3 Be6 15. Qf3 Qxc3 16. Rb1 Bxa2 17. Rxb7 Bc4 18. Rd1 Bxd3 19. Bh6 Rae8 20. Rxd3 Qa1+ 21. Kg2 Qa6 22. Qf6 Qxb7+ 23. Rf3 1-0 [/pgn]
  

Zach Traynor of Washington D.C. won the U1700 section with 5/6 ($150).   

Fair Play Open 2    

Following the success of the first event, the CCCSA increased the prize fund and section limits for the Fair Play Open 2 on October 24, a rated four-round event with a G/45+5 time control. This led to an extremely strong turnout, including 10 GMs and 6 IMs competing for a $3000 prize fund across 4 sections.    

Despite the Championship section having 29 players rated 2000 or higher, several IMs were paired against GMs in the first round, and GM vs GM battles began as early as round 2 -- highlighting the strength of the event, one would assume accelerated pairings were being used! After the dust settled, tying for first place with 3.5/4 was 16-year-old Jacobson, who earned his third GM norm at the 2020 Charlotte Open last January, and Paraguayan IM Guillermo Vazquez with a 2527 FIDE rating.   

Jacobson and Vazquez each earned $375 after taking similar paths to the podium, both scoring 1.5 in two games against GMs in the final rounds. In round three, Jacobson scored this nice win against Abdusattorov, which he annotates below. The game was a true battle of teenage record-breakers: Jacobson is currently America’s youngest GM, while Abdusattorov is the fifth-youngest GM of all time (13 years, 1 month; only 4 months behind GM Karjakin’s world record).   

[pgn][Event "CCCSA Fair Play Open 2"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.24"] [Round "3"] [White "Jacobson, GM Brandon"] [Black "Abdusattorov, GM Nodirbek"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D11"] [WhiteElo "2567"] [BlackElo "2677"] [Annotator "Jacobson, B"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] {Notes by Brandon Jacobson} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Bd3 Nbd7 6. b3 Ne4 $5 {A rare but interesting line, creating imbalances out of the opening. Black is attempting to play a stonewall setup as white has already comitted to e3.} 7. O-O f5 8. Bb2 Bd6 9. Nc3 (9. Ne5 {was perhaps more prudent, for example} O-O 10. f3 Nec5 {with chances for both sides, but white is clearly in no danger of a quick attack with the knight on e5}) 9... Qf6 10. Ne2 g5 {we reach this position where it's not clear that black has any serious threats, but at the same time is hard to think of a concrete plan for white} 11. Qc1 (11. Rc1 h5 12. Rc2) ({something like} 11. a4 Rg8 12. Ba3 Bc7 13. b4 { could be considered as well}) 11... Rg8 12. c5 $6 {felt logical during the game, however it is not clear how to proceed after b4 b5 and his attack becomes much faster} (12. a4 {was a better try, as b4 b5 here would blast open the queenside}) 12... Bc7 13. b4 a6 14. a4 h5 15. b5 g4 16. Ne1 h4 17. bxc6 ({ keeping black's pieces stuck with} 17. b6 {was more accurate, but extremely difficult to play as it kills my counterplay}) 17... bxc6 18. Nf4 Qh6 19. f3 Ng3 20. Rf2 Nf6 (20... Nh5 {was safer, and clearly white is suffering here, for example} 21. fxg4 (21. Nxh5 Bxh2+ $1) 21... fxg4 22. Rf1 Ng3 23. Rf2 Ne4 24. Rf1 Ndf6 $17) 21. hxg3 {risky, but white's only serious try} hxg3 22. Rc2 gxf3 (22... Bxf4 23. exf4 Qh2+ (23... Nh5 {must be considered as well, where after} 24. Qe3 Nxf4 25. Bc1 {which was my intention,} Ne2+ $3 {continues the attack, which I had actually spotted during the game. Now after} (25... Rh8 26. Kf1 Qh1+ 27. Qg1 Nxd3 28. Nxd3 gxf3 29. Bf4 $8 {I had spotted this resource as well, which is the only saving move.} f2 30. Nxf2 gxf2 31. Kxf2 $14 {After trying to calculate all these lines, I figured I should just go for it and grab the piece although I was not certain I was not walking into mate..}) 26. Kf1 f4 27. Qe5 gxf3 28. Nxf3 Qh1+ 29. Kxe2 Qxg2+ 30. Ke1 Qxf3 {as this was calculated from before hg3, the position was becoming fuzzy in my brain but I assumed after something like} 31. Bf1 {white seems to survive. an example line is} g2 32. Rxg2 Rxg2 33. Bxg2 Qxg2 34. Bxf4 Ra7 $1 {only move} (34... Qh1+ 35. Kd2 Qxa1 36. Qh5+ Ke7 37. Bg5+ Kf8 38. Bh6+ Ke7 39. Qg5+ {and mate ensues}) 35. Qh8+ Kd7 36. Be5 Rb7 37. Qg7+ Qxg7 38. Bxg7 {which leads to a drawn ending}) 24. Kf1 gxf3 25. Nxf3 Qh1+ 26. Ng1 Ng4 27. Qe1 $8 {is the first line I saw, where my king seems to escape. The computer notes that black can simply increase the pressure with} Rb8 {with the threat of Nh2 and rxb2, and after} 28. Bc3 Kf7 {and the attack continues, however this is very hard to understand during a game. For example:} 29. Ke2 e5 $1 30. dxe5 Qxg2+ 31. Kd1 Nf2+ 32. Ke2 a5 $1 {and white is in trouble}) (22... a5 $5 {is another insane move which I did not consider. Simply improving the position and it is not clear how white should proceed, for example} 23. Kf1 (23. Bc3 {is perhaps a better try}) 23... Bxf4 24. exf4 gxf3 25. Nxf3 Qh1+ 26. Ng1 Ng4 27. Qe1 Rb8 28. Bc3 Rb3 $1 { with the idea of simply e5 de5 d4!} 29. Qe2 Ke7 $19 {the computer gives, just improving the positon and white has no way of untangling}) 23. Nxf3 Bxf4 24. exf4 Ng4 {logical as well} 25. Ng5 (25. Qe1 {was another try, but after} Ra7 $1 {bringing the other rook into the attack} 26. Qxg3 (26. Bxf5 Rh8 27. Kf1 { for the sake of my sanity, I will not analyze this position further :)}) 26... Rh7 27. Qh3 Qg7 28. Nh4 Qh8 $1 29. g3 Ne5 30. dxe5 Rxh4 31. Qg2 Rh3 32. Kf2 Rh2 $15) 25... Qh2+ 26. Kf1 Rh8 $2 (26... e5 $1 {seems to lead to a draw} 27. dxe5 Rxg5 $5 {the idea is as follows:} ({if} 27... Qh1+ {immediately, then after} 28. Ke2 Qxg2+ 29. Ke1 Qg1+ 30. Kd2 Qe3+ 31. Kc3 d4+ 32. Kc4 $3 {with rxg5 already included, Nxe5 here would lead to mate. In this version white barely survives after} Rxg5 33. Bxd4 Be6+ 34. Kc3 Qxc1 35. Raxc1 Rh5 {where black is still pressing, but seems holdable}) 28. fxg5 Qh1+ 29. Ke2 Qxg2+ 30. Ke1 Qg1+ 31. Bf1 $8 {I will leave the following line for enterainment purposes only..} ( 31. Kd2 Qe3+ 32. Kc3 d4+ $19 {As explained above, this is now unplayable}) 31... Ne3 32. Kd2 Qf2+ 33. Be2 Nxc2 34. Qh1 Qe3+ 35. Kd1 Nxa1 36. Qh8+ Kd7 37. e6+ Qxe6 38. Bf6 Kc7 39. Qd8+ Kb8 40. Qb6+ Bb7 41. Qd8+ $11) 27. Ke1 {now black is in serious trouble, as white is still a piece up and the king is escaping} Rb8 28. Kd2 Nf2 (28... e5 {was the last chance for counterplay, but very difficult to spot. The idea is after} 29. fxe5 $2 (29. Kc3 $14 {is better. Black is still worse. however there is still counterplay and anything can happen as we're both low on the clock as well}) 29... Rb3 30. Qf1 Nf2 31. Ra3 Rxa3 32. Bxa3 {compared to the line without e5 fe5, black now has} Qh6 $1 { picking up the knight}) 29. Kc3 a5 30. Qe3 Nxd3 31. Qxd3 Rb4 32. Re1 Qh6 33. Rce2 1-0 [/pgn]
   

GM Jacobson had the only perfect score after three rounds, meaning that a final round draw would guarantee him at least a share of first place. Vazquez scored his win against Belarusian GM Kirill Stupak in the fourth round, catching Jacobson after this draw against GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan. Jacobson annotates here.    

[pgn][Event "CCCSA Fair Play Open 2"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.24"] [Round "4"] [White "Ter-Sahakyan, GM Samvel"] [Black "Jacobson, GM Brandon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2690"] [BlackElo "2567"] [Annotator "Jacobson, B"] [PlyCount "31"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] {Notes by Brandon Jacobson} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 h6 $5 { Fedoseev and Caruana have experimented with this new line lately} 5. g3 Bd6 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O Nc6 8. b3 dxc4 9. bxc4 e5 {the idea of black's setup} 10. d5 ( 10. Bb2 {is a better try for an advantage. The game could continue} exd4 11. Nxd4 Nxd4 (11... Na5 $5) 12. Qxd4 c6 {where we reach an unbalanced position with chances for both sides}) 10... Na5 11. Nd2 (11. c5 {looks tempting, but runs into} Bxc5 12. Nxe5 Re8 13. Nd3 Bb6 {where white's pieces are awkward, as} 14. Bb2 {fails to} Nc4) 11... b6 12. Qc2 Nd7 {is logical, trying to control the squares on the queenside} ({simply} 12... Bg4 {is perhaps a cleaner way to equalize, for example} 13. Bb2 Re8 14. Rfe1 Qd7 $11 {and it is not clear how white should proceed}) 13. Nb5 Nc5 14. Nb3 Nab7 15. Be3 (15. Nxd6 cxd6 16. f4 $1 {was white's chance to play for the initiative} Bd7 17. fxe5 dxe5 18. Nxc5 Nxc5 {this position arises where black is more or less alright, but must be extremely careful as white has 2 bishops and the semi-open f file}) 15... Bd7 16. Rab1 {draw agreed. A logical finish to the game would be} (16. Rab1 f5 17. Nxd6 cxd6 18. Nxc5 Nxc5 19. Bxc5 bxc5 20. Rb7 Bc8 21. Rb3 Bd7 22. Rb7 $11 { with a repetition}) 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
     

Other section winners:   

U2100 – Daniel Lin, California: 4/4, $300    

U1800 – Paul Bumblauskas, Georgia; Joshua Meng, Texas: 3.5/4, $225 each   

U1500 – Krishna Rallabandi, North Carolina; Daniel Videna, California: 4/4, $225 each     

U1200 K-12 Scholastic – Arjun Joshi, North Carolina: 4/4   

U600 K-12 Scholastic – Arri Restelli, North Carolina: 3.5/4   

The next Fair Play Open will be held online on Saturday, Nov. 14, offering $3000 in guaranteed prizes up for grabs in several sections. The CCCSA also has other online and OTB events, you may see the upcoming events schedule here. We expect a strong turnout in terms of quality and quantity of players! 

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