The Dog Ate My Prize and Other Happenings at the George Washington Open

Having directed tournaments for over 35 years, there is a tendency to believe I’ve seen just about everything that could occur at a tournament.  Every once in a while I am proved wrong!  After round five at the George Washington Open, I wrote prize check to the various winners.  Carissa Zheng tied for first Under 1600 in the Under 1800 section and won $300.  Having claimed her check, I was surprised to see her a few hours later as I was packing up.  It seems she set her check on a table at home and her dog jumped up and started eating the check.  I might be skeptical, but she produced the remains of her original check.  I replaced it and recommended that she use part of her winnings to buy some dog treats!

It seems a lot of the stories come out of the Under 1800 section.  A repeat story was Vernon McNeil.  Jamaal Abdul-Alim chronicled McNeil’s previous win in a Washington Chess Congress where he needed the money for tires for his car.  This year at registration Mr. McNeil told me he was delayed by car trouble.  I did remember him from the Washington Chess Congress, but didn’t think too much more of it until he claimed his clear second place prize of $500.  I had to ask about this car.  Vernon told me it is a 1973 Grand Am with many miles on it.  He drives it from North Carolina to Virginia to play in these tournaments.  He said he needs about $3000 to get it fixed up to where he wants it.  It seems to me if he keeps playing in CCA events, he will be there in no time!

GM Sergey Erenburg at the 2016 Chesapeake Open

This year’s George Washington Open drew 214 players in five sections, which was a bit of a disappointment.  Some speculation was that the unseasonably warm weather might have led to players opting for other pursuits instead of playing in the tournament.  The Open section had only 24 players, but it was quite strong.  There were 3 GMs, a brand new IM, 3 FMs, 1 WIM, and a total of 13 players over 2200.  GMs Sergey Erenburg and Alexander Shabalov were the clear favorites, and that is exactly the way it turned out.  They drew each other in round four and beat everybody else to share first place.  The two played each other in round four when they were both a full point ahead of the field.  The TDs thought the over/under on the length of the game was 15 minutes, but the players had other thoughts.  They played for several hours before agreeing to a draw just before the first time control.  I mentioned to Erenburg that we all thought they would draw quickly and he explained that he had white and when he has white against anybody, he may play for an advantage rather than just take a short draw.  Also, it not being the last round and he would likely have black against a 2500+ player in the last round factored into the equation.  Erenburg thought he achieved an advantage (though not a winning one).  Take a look at the game to see for yourself.

Erenburg did in fact face third seeded Prav Balikrishnan who was just recently awarded the IM title in the last round.  He did bring home the full point, but as befits a game between two strong players, it was a struggle.

Alexander Shabalov at the 2016 US Championships. Photo: Spectrum Studios

Shabalov also played Balkrishnan in round two (at the accelerated 2 day time control).  He also defeated GM Larry Kauffman in the last round to take clear first.  Here are two of Shabalov’s critical wins from the tournament.

One thing I noticed as I was entering games is that there were a couple players who played every game they lost to checkmate.  I’ve noticed in the last several Master sections that there were multiple games being played to checkmate where the player playing on was down lots of material and was playing a Master or even Grandmaster.  Invariably, it seems the players doing this are juniors who are playing up a section.  While I am used to seeing this in lower sections, this seems to be out of place in a Grand Prix tournament labeled as a “Master” section.  Sometimes it seems that the players doing this are unintentionally making a strong argument that they do not belong in that section, and, while I am generally not in favor of restricting one’s ability to play up, my attitude on that may be softening after seeing games like that.

Speaking of things that seem out of place in a Master section, here is a miniature from the top section.  Black, who clearly does belong in this section, plays in a somewhat unorthodox manner.  While this often works at taking one’s opponent out of book, in this case black missed a tactic and gets swiftly punished.  In spite of the miniature, he showed he does belong, and at least he didn’t play until checkmate!

The Under 2100 section saw Jason Morefield win with a 5-0 score and finish a point ahead of the field.  Second place was shared by two players playing the ultimate Swiss gambit.  Paul Yavari and Stephen Jablon both lost in round one of the three day schedule to lower rated players.  Neither one re-entered. They both won their next four games to finish 4-1 and share 2nd and 3rd.  Many other players had a chance to finish with 4 points, but there were a lot of draws on the top boards which created a nine way tie for 4th place.  There was also an eight way tie for second Under 1900.  These ties mean 21 of the 53 players in the section won money.   Morefield could have drawn the last round and still take clear 1st.  His game ended early, but it was not a draw.  He is already winning in this position. Can you find the crushing blow to end the game quickly?

Garrett Heller vs. Jason Morefield

Black to move.

Morefield counts his best game as his fourth round win over Aasa Dommalapati who is currently the number 5 girl in the country for her age (13 years old).

The section winners were:

Under 2100

Jason Morefield, 5-0, $1000

Under 1800

Jason Zipfel, 5-0, $1000

Under 1500

Laszlo Offertaler, 4 ½ – ½, $800

Under 1200

Shubo Zhang, Diya Deepak, & Arjun Suryawanshi, 4 ½ –  ½, $300

Mixed Doubles

Jason Zipfel/Zoe Bredesen & Georgina Chin/Rahul Ponugati, 7-3 each team won $450

Blitz Tournament

Mohammed Dilshad, 8-0, $70

            NTD David Hater directed for CCA assisted by Andy Rea and Anand Dommalapati.

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  1. Thanks for pointing out that more players are failing to resign in hopeless positions (against strong opponents) these days. I encountered that ugly trend several times in a recent tournament, with reasonably strong juniors playing many moves – all the way to mate – after being a rook or queen down in an ending.

    Junior coaches: one of your lessons should be about respect.

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