FM Resika on US Senior: Yuri Barnakov Wins

Nathan Resika, pictured with the other second place finishers: L to R: NM Nels Truelson, LA state Champ Rene Phillips, FM David Gertler, Resika, NM Constantine Xanthos, and FM Brian Hulse. (missing FM Lester Van Meter)

FM Nathan Resika is a former US Senior Champion, an opera singer who recently performed at Carnegie Hall, and a father of twins. He writes about his participation in the US Senior in New Orleans, from June 21-24, which with the first annual National Senior Tournament of Champions (July 28-31) highlights an exciting summer of National Senior’s competition.

I was honored to be asked by Jennifer Shahade to write both a pre- and post-tournament report for US Chess about the 2018 US Senior Open (please see my first article, “FM Resika on US Senior: Singing and Chess Are Icing on Cake”).  The tournament has changed locations every year, to give seniors from different regions a chance to play locally. This year it was held In New Orleans, the legendary home to Jazz and of Paul Morphy. My old friend, Brian Hulse (1978 Marshall Chess club Champion), who recently relocated from NYC to Texas, helped convince me to make the trip from Valhalla, and provided much camaraderie while there.

The tournament was held at the New Orleans Airport Hilton. It was one of the best hotels I’ve ever played chess at. The breakfast buffet featured fresh grits, tailor made omelets, a wide selection of southern breakfast meats, amazing oatmeal, and incredible southern hospitality. During the brutal 95% humid weather, the outdoor pool was a superb stress reliever.  I should say that the hotel was almost too cool.  I often ran through the hallway near my room to avoid shivering. I dubbed this area the “North Pole”.  I also needed to wear a jacket, jeans, and a hat during my games, but this is better than roasting without A/C.

The large, well-lit ballroom had well stocked, very clean bathrooms right next to it, another boon for seniors. The six round event drew five FIDE masters, and five national masters, and over half of the 66 players were class A or above.

To kick off the event, I sang the national anthem, after which many local players introduced themselves and mentioned how much they appreciated the performance.  It was a great feeling to meet so many friendly chessplayers.

2018 U.S. Senior Open Champion Yuri Anatolievich Barnakov

The new US senior Champion is Yuri Anatolievich Barnakov, who at 2258 was the second ranked player in the event.  The 51-year-old won with a score of 5 ½ points.  He had to defeat three FIDE masters in a row, of which your author was the last. After sewing up a 5-0 score, Yuri had a grandmaster draw with veteran Florida master Constantine Xanthos (who tied for 2nd), thus ensuring clear first place.

Yuri is a research scientist and PhD who does research in a local university in his adopted hometown of Nashville, TN. Originally from Russia, he has lived in Japan and Europe as well. Since coming to the U.S. in 2002, he has won state championships in Louisiana, Virginia, and Tennessee, as well as finishing second in Ohio.

His father taught him the game when he was 5, and his wife and college age son are chess lovers as well. After playing his first “senior” event, he expressed to me that he appreciated the “gentlemanly attitude and fighting spirit of the players, whose physical age qualifies them as seniors, but whose minds are young, active, energetic, and, most importantly, creative!” In addition, he added ” Whichever places we’ve lived and worked, this noble game always accompanies us, and indeed it helps us to make great friends and meet interesting people.”

David Gertler

Here is his tension filled 4th round encounter with resourceful Delaware FM David Gertler, who tied for second with 4 ½ points. When Black sacs a pawn for activity, but misses a chance to sac an exchange with 15.. Bh3!?, White finds a pretty exchange sac to get loads of play.

Barnakov’s first prize check was just over $1000. Seven players tied for 2nd-4th prizes as well as two Under 2300 prizes thrown in. This amounted to $284.oo each to:

FM Nathan Resika

FM David Gertler

FM Lester Van Meter

FM Brian Hulse

NM Constantine Xanthos

NM Nels Truelson

Expert Rene Phillips

I’d expected and hoped that local master and New Orleans “legend” Jude Acers would play in our event to defend his turf, but it was not to be.

Twenty-one states were represented, and the top 8 finishers all hailed from different states, with your author representing New York.

I greatly enjoyed trying out some new variations in my recently adopted Sicilian Defense for this full bodied time control of G/120 with a 30 second increment.

When I used to play e4 every game, I had a great record against the Sicilian. However, I always felt that it was Black’s best defense and that I often won because Black overlooked some sacrifice.  Indeed, I now feel that if Black can only be aware of sacrifices on d5, f5, e6, b5 as well as watch out for kingside pawn-rollers (is that asking too much?), Black has all the long lasting advantages in the position: two center pawns against one as well as huge play on the c file.

I had to win this game to share second place.  Here we see a typical sacrifice on the e6 square. Fortunately, I had seen it coming.

I should mention a few interesting stats and stories. Local player Leila D’Aquin, the only woman in the event, and an active member of the US Chess Women’s Initiative, was the lowest rated player at 1184. However she managed to score the tournament’s biggest upset in round 3 by defeating a player over 600 points above her at 1802!

Leila promoting women in chess in Nashville L to R: US Chess ED Carol Meyer, D’Aquin, US Women’s Champ Nazi Paikdize, Kimberly Doo McVay and WIM Carolina Blanco

The only player in the top finishers below 2200 was the very likeable Rene Phillips. He is the 2017 Louisiana State Champion as well as a police officer. We became fast friends as both of us are huge boxing fans.

Rene Phillips

My story was: In round 4 during a 5 hour game, I was pressing my opponent for a long time while retaining a tremendous advantage. Finally, I let him back in the game a bit, and we were playing on increment. After making a move, he suddenly stood up in front of the spectators and pumped his fist and said, “Yes!” Apparently, he thought I was getting mated and that I had to resign. I was slightly rattled but answered with a counter check and softly pumped my fist while seated. In the complications that followed, my opponent resigned about 7 moves later. Several spectators said they would never forget that moment. My fellow players, it might be good to remember a very famous New Yorker’s wise saying Yogi Berra’s most famous aphorism, “It aint over till its over!”

Brian and I ventered into the city (20 minutes via Lyft or Uber) a few times for dinner. We sampled amazing soul food on Frenchman street and heard some great street jazz. Hearing a twenty horn instrumental rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual healing” was a surreal experience.

We wanted to get into Paul Morphy’s house, but it was only open during our games and closed at 3 pm every day. Next time.

I look forward to playing more senior events in the future, and I’ll be seeing you there, as you all will qualify… eventually!

Kudos to TD Korey Kormick for running a great event! For info on more New Orleans tournaments, visit

Find out more about the first annual National Tournament of Seniors of Champions (July 28-31) here.


  1. The 2018 U S Senior Open was a FIDE-rated event. Did anyone besides recent Connecticut-turned Florida player Gary Cote turn in a FIDE-ratable performance?

  2. Thanks for the great article Nathan! We played at the West Suburban Winter Grand Prix in Framingham, MA in Feb. 1985 and you managed a draw against me after I had been up 2 pawns. Your rating has risen a bit faster than mine in the intervening years 🙂

  3. How do we (TDs) check for players that are suspended? I use the Supplement File. Are suspended players flagged?

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