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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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