The Western Class Championships were held in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys from March 6-8. In today’s environment, that seems like a lifetime ago, and the tournament was negatively affected by COVID-19 concerns, drawing 191 players as opposed to the usual 260+ historical average.
This event was the last event before COVID-19 dramatically affected operations. It was the last CCA event with a guaranteed prize fund until the situation stabilizes, and it was our last event played before CCA suspended operations in March and April.
Interestingly, the section that seemed least affected was the Master section. It featured 6 GMs, 5 IMs and 4 FMs, with 31 players in all. There were several examples of GM versus GM games and the tournament was highly competitive throughout.
The first GM to pull away from the pack was GM Steven Zierk. He defeated top seeded GM Vladimir Akopian in round two and IM Robby Kevlishvili in round three to be the only player to get to 3-0 going into Sunday’s money rounds. There were five players with scores of 2 ½ – ½ chasing Zierk: GM Timur Gareyev & Francisco Rambaldi, IMs John Bryant & Justin Sarkar and FM Robert Shlyakhtenko.
In round four Gareyev defeated Zierk on board one to emerge as a new tournament leader. Gareyev was kind enough to annotate this game for CLO.
Board two ended in a draw between GM Rambaldi and IM Sarkar. However, on board three, IM Bryant, who had drawn with Gareyev in round three, defeated FM Shlyakhtenko to keep pace with Gareyev as the tournament leader.
Heading into the last round, there were two leaders at 3 ½ – ½: Gareyev and Bryant. They were being chased by six players at 3-1: GMs Vladimir Akopian, Vladimir Belous, Steven Zierk & Francesco Rambaldi and IMs Justin Sarkar & Robby Kevlishvili.
Since Bryant and Gareyev had already played, they were paired down to the next scoregroup. Both players won as Gareyev defeated Akopian on board one and Bryant defeated Belous on board two. Zierk and Rambaldi drew on board three, but Kevlishvili defeated Sarkar to get to 4 – 1 and finish in clear third place. Again, Gareyev annotates the key game with Akopian.
The section winners were:
Eduard Hakobyan, 5-0, $1500
Justin Cha, 4 ½ – ½, $1500
Suren Mikoyan, 4 ½ – ½ , $1500
David Koller, 4 ½ – ½, $1200
Sergio Hernandez & Heber Sarmiento, 4 ½ – ½, $750
Ashwin Damaraju, 4 ½ – ½ , $600
IM Annie Wang and Leo Wang, 6 ½ – 3 ½. $250 to each player
GM Timur Gareyev, 8-0, $120
NTD David Hater directed for Continental Chess assisted by Tom Brownscombe and Randy Hough.