Crowded at the Top: Six-way Tie at the Mid-America Open

GM Elshan Moradiabadi
The 21st annual Mid-America Open was held in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Missouri during the weekend of March 24-26th.  It drew 314 players in seven sections, which is a strong turnout.  The turnout was so strong that we were actually overcapacity---the site capacity is 292 players.  Fortunately, with withdrawals, half point byes, multiple schedules, and some creative re-arranging, the tournament was able to accommodate the large turnout. The 62-player Open section was quite strong, which should be no surprise given the St Louis location. Many Webster students played as well as students from some of the other top college programs around the country.  Ultimately, there were three GMs, three IMs, seven FMs, two WIMs, and a total of 28 players over 2200.  The top players mostly finished in the tie for 1st as all 3 GMs, two IMs, and an FM scored 4 points to each win $633.34. The top seeded GM did it the hard way.  GM Elshan Moradiabadi lost the first round to National Master Ron Luther and then had to go 4-0 in his remaining games to win the event.
[pgn][Event "Mid-America Class"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.03.24"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Luther, Ron"]
[Black "GM Moradiabadi, Elshan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B26"]
[WhiteElo "2204"]
[BlackElo "2633"]
[Annotator "David Hater"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 g6 5. d3 Bg7 6. Be3 d6 7. Qd2 Nd4 8. Nge2
Ne7 9. O-O Rb8 10. Nd1 Nxe2+ 11. Qxe2 O-O 12. Qd2 Re8 13. c3 b6 14. Bh6 Bh8 15.
Ne3 Bb7 16. f4 d5 17. f5 dxe4 18. fxe6 fxe6 19. g4 Bg7 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Qf2
Rf8 22. Qg3 Qd7 23. dxe4 Nc6 24. g5 Rbd8 25. Qh4 Ne5 26. Qg3 Nd3 27. Rxf8 Rxf8
28. Rd1 Ba6 29. c4 Kg8 30. Bf1 Bxc4 31. Nxc4 Qd4+ 32. Qe3 Qxc4 33. Qxd3 Qxa2
34. Qc3 Qa4 35. Qd3 Qa2 {White went on to win} 1-0[/pgn]
In the last round, Moradiabadi defeated Webster student FM Justus Williams on board two.  Leading into the round, Williams had chances to win the event.
[pgn][Event "Mid-America Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.03.26"]
[Round "5.2"]
[White "FM Williams, Justus"]
[Black "GM Moradiabadi, Elshan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D07"]
[WhiteElo "2423"]
[BlackElo "2633"]
[PlyCount "116"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]1. Nf3 Nc6 2. d4 d5 3. c4 Bg4 4. cxd5 Bxf3 5. gxf3 Qxd5 6. e3 e5 7. Nc3 Bb4 8.
Bd2 Bxc3 9. bxc3 Nge7 10. e4 Qd6 11. d5 Nd8 12. Qa4+ c6 13. c4 O-O 14. c5 Qf6
15. d6 Ng6 16. O-O-O Qxf3 17. Bc4 Qxf2 18. Qa3 Qd4 19. Bb3 Qxe4 20. Rde1 Qd4
21. Qb4 Ne6 22. Bxe6 Qxb4 23. Bxf7+ Kxf7 24. Bxb4 Ke6 25. h4 Nf4 26. Kc2 Nd5
27. Ba3 Rf5 28. Rhg1 g6 29. Rg5 Nf6 30. Kd3 Nd7 31. Rg4 b6 32. Ra4 bxc5 33. Ke3
Nb6 34. Ra6 Kxd6 35. Rc1 Nd7 36. Ra5 Rf4 37. h5 gxh5 38. Bxc5+ Nxc5 39. Rcxc5
Re8 40. Rc1 Re7 41. Rd1+ Rd4 42. Rxd4+ exd4+ 43. Kxd4 c5+ 44. Kc4 Rc7 45. Ra6+
Ke5 46. Rh6 Kf5 47. Rxh5+ Kg4 48. Rh6 Kg5 49. Rd6 h5 50. Rd8 h4 51. Rh8 Kg4 52.
a4 h3 53. a5 Rg7 54. Kxc5 Rg5+ 55. Kb4 Kg3 56. Rc8 h2 57. Rc1 Kh3 58. Rc8 h1=Q
0-1[/pgn]
GM Akshat Chandra at the 2016 U.S. Championship. Photo: Lennart Ootes
Williams had 3 ½ points and was tied for first with GM Akshat Chandra and IM Awonder Liang, who were paired against each other on board one.   Because Williams also had 3 ½, Chandra and Liang were not inclined to play a quick draw and potentially have Williams pass them for first place.  The game on board one did eventually end in a draw, but there was some chess to be played before that would happen.
[pgn][Event "Mid-America Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.03.26"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "IM Liang, Awonder"]
[Black "GM Chandra, Akshat"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E52"]
[WhiteElo "2575"]
[BlackElo "2609"]
[Annotator "David Hater"]
[PlyCount "66"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. e3 O-O 6. Bd3 d5 7. O-O Bb7 8. cxd5
exd5 9. a3 Bd6 10. b4 a6 11. Qb3 Qe7 12. Rb1 Nbd7 13. a4 Rfe8 14. Bd2 c6 15.
Nh4 g6 16. g3 Rab8 17. b5 axb5 18. axb5 c5 19. Be2 Rbc8 20. Bf3 c4 21. Qc2 Ne4
22. Be1 Nxc3 23. Bxc3 Ra8 24. Ng2 Ra3 25. Ra1 Rea8 26. Rxa3 Rxa3 27. Ra1 Rxa1+
28. Bxa1 f5 29. Bc3 Qe8 30. Ne1 (30. Nf4 Nf6 31. Qb1 Kf7 32. h4 Qa8 33. Bb4
Bxf4 34. exf4 Qe8 35. Bd2 Ne4 36. Bxe4 fxe4 37. Qb4 Qf8 38. Qa4 Qa8 39. Qb4 Qf8
40. Qa4 Qa8 41. Qb4 Qf8) 30... Nf6 31. Qb1 Kf7 32. h4 Qa8 33. Bb4 Bf4 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
Setting up to the final round was interesting.  Going into round three, there were ten perfect scores at 2-0.  The top four boards all drew:  GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez drew FM Zhaozhi Li on board one, FM Josua Colas drew Chandra on board two, Liang drew FM Matthew Larson on board three, and Williams drew IM Irene Sukandar on board four.  The only decisive game was Advait Patel defeating Gopal Menon on board 5. Round four was the exact opposite.  Patel was the only perfect score at 3-0, but there were 10 players following at 2 ½.  All games, except one, were decisive: Chandra beat Patel on board one, Jimenez drew FM Aaron Grabinsky on board two, Liang beat FM Tansel Turgut on board three, Sukandar drew FM David Peng on board three, Larson defeated Colas on board four, and William defeated Li on board 5. Larson had signed up for a last round half point bye and would finish the tournament with 4 points.  This left the three players (Chandra, Liang, Williams) followed by nine players at 3-0.  As noted, Chandra and Liang drew to get to 1st place while Moradiabadi caught them by winning. On board three, Jimenez defeated Jacob Furfine to join the champions.
[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.03.26"]
[Round "5.3"]
[White "GM Jimenez, Fidel"]
[Black "Furfine, Jacob"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C45"]
[WhiteElo "2628"]
[BlackElo "2295"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8.
c4 Nb6 9. Nc3 Qe6 10. Bd2 d6 11. exd6 cxd6 12. O-O-O Qxe2 13. Bxe2 Be6 14. b3
d5 15. cxd5 Nxd5 16. Nxd5 Bxd5 17. Bf3 Ba3+ 18. Kc2 O-O-O 19. Bc3 Bxf3 20. gxf3
f6 21. b4 c5 22. b5 Rhe8 23. Rxd8+ Kxd8 24. Re1 Rxe1 25. Bxe1 Kc7 26. Kb3 Bc1
27. Kc4 Kd6 28. Bc3 h5 29. a4 Bf4 30. h3 Bc1 31. a5 Bf4 32. a6 Kc7 33. Kxc5 h4
34. Bd4 1-0[/pgn]
On board four, Sukandar defeated Grabinsky to also join the tie for 1st.  Board five had a chance to add another player, but Peng and Patel drew.  On board six, the lowest rated of the 3-1 players was Marissa Li, who was playing up a section!  She had a chance to win the tournament.  All she had to do was beat Colas when she had the black pieces.  Even though she lost, she tied for 1st Under 2300 and gained nearly 50 rating points!
IM Awonder Liang
Liang had the best tiebreaks and won the $100 bonus to go with the $633.34 while Moradiabadi, Jimenez, Sukandar, and Larson had to be content with just the $633.34 There are not a lot of blind players playing rated over-the-board chess.  This year’s US Blind Championship had only six players.  However, two of those six played in the Mid-America Open.  US Blind Champion James Thoune played in the Under 1700 section while CCA regular Henry Olynik played in the Under 1000 section.  While neither one won their section, it is nice to see both competing and demonstrating that chess is a game for players of all ages, abilities, and skills regardless of ones’s physical abilities! There was only one perfect score in any of the sections.  David Heinig started out as 23rd seed of the 47 players in the Under 1000 section.  He was paired up all 5 rounds, won them all, and picked up over 300 rating points and $500. Gopal Menon won the blitz tournament with a perfect 8-0 score.  FM Zhaozhi Li gave up only a draw to GM Jimenez and finished in 2nd with 7 ½. CCA tournament director Brian Yang tied for third in the blitz with 6-2, losing only two games to GM Jimenez but still coming away empty-handed as there were only two prizes.  Brian played up a section in the main tournament and finished with two points, gaining rating points.  Now, I am sure he will return to directing. The section winner’s were:
Under 2100

Jason Zhou & Devon Puckett, 4 ½ - ½, $1050

Under 1900

Vlad-Bognan Ghita, 4 ½ - ½, $1400

Under 1700

Aaron Lin, Si Li, & Ryan Amburgy, 4 ½ - ½, $833.34

Under 1500

Braydon Povanelli & Matthew Pratt, 4 ½ - ½. $900

Under 1300

Xueyi Chen & Rowan Riney, 4 ½ - ½, $750

Under 1000

David Heinig, 5-0, $500

Mixed Doubles

Sheena Zheng/Xuei Chen & Nandhita Anand/Joshua Gallapudi, 7 ½ - 2 ½, each team $600

Blitz Tournament

Gopal Menon, 8-0, $155

            NTD Steve Immitt directed for CCA assisted by Harold Scott, Jeff Smith, and Bill Buklis. For more information, visit:

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