Gareyev and Bryant Win Western Class

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

Class A

Justin Cha, 4 ½ – ½, $1500

Class B

Suren Mikoyan, 4 ½ – ½ , $1500

Class C

David Koller, 4 ½ – ½, $1200

Class D

Sergio Hernandez & Heber Sarmiento, 4 ½ – ½, $750

Class E

Ashwin Damaraju, 4 ½ – ½ , $600

Mixed Doubles

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.

Full tournament details can be found at

Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at


  1. Thanks for the report. The event was indeed exceptionally strong and quite top heavy. Was very glad to make it, after almost being unable to go last minute.

    Shlyakhtenko-Bryant game in the 4th round… what a crazy game… thanks for supplying. I was actually playing right next to their board, yet for like the whole game had no clue who’s better! Very interesting game. According to the database this game followed the game Black-Zenyuk, Vegas 2012 up to move 17. As for the opening: I have vague knowledge of this Nge2-Ng3 line against the Benoni (including the idea of meeting an early …h5 with Bg5), from a book by Lars Schandorff many years ago. According to Lars, white gets “an improved version of the Sämisch King’s Indian”. Well later in the game it looks like a critical point came on move 25 when instead of Nc1 white should just take on d6 and sac the exchange. And then on move 33, instead of Rb4 white should go for 33.Nc5 b2 34.Rxg6 with ideas of sacking the exchange to capture the b2-pawn and at least not be worse.

    I have a brother who lives in LA, in fact super close to Van Nuys where the tournament was held. I unfortunately ended up not seeing him that weekend, but oh well. And despite my bittersweet end to a good tournament result, I was very glad to have played such a nice event, just before what one can call a long break from tournaments for all of us.

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