GM Bryan Smith Clear First at the National Chess Congress

GM Bryan Smith scored 5 ½ out of 6 to take clear first at the 48th National Chess Congress held at the Philadelphia Sheraton from November 24-26.   Smith won $3000 along with the $200 first place bonus.

Smith was seeded 11th in the 102 player Premier section.  Certainly, he had to be regarded as one of the contenders for a top prize, but given that he was over 200 points lower rated than the top few seeds, winning clear first has to be regarded as a bit of a surprise and a significant accomplishment.  The tournament was very strong with 8 GMs, 10 IMs, 14 FMs and a total of 57 players rated over 2200 in the top section.  All told there were 661 players in 10 sections.

There were significant upsets of the top players, including GMs in every round.  In round one, GM Ruifeng Li was the highest rated player in the three day schedule and surrendered a draw to NM Alex Wang.  Here is that game.

Also in round one, GM Alex Fishbein drew with Abhimany Banerjee, IM Christian Pedersen drew with Alan Zhang and IM Thomas Bartell drew with WFM Martha Samadashvili.

Round two continued the trend.  In the two day schedule, GM Aleksandr Lenderman lost to SM Srivatsav Rahul, GM Fishbein drew with FM Nico Chasin, GM Alexander Ivanov drew with Stanislav Busygin, IM Pedersen lost to WFM Samadashvili and IM Alexander Katz drew with FM Dov Gorman

In round three, the tournament’s overall top seed GM Alexey Dreev lost to IM Kassa Korley and GM Elshan Moradiabadi drew with IM Rohan Ahuja.  At that point, of the top 10 players, only two had won all their games and were at 3-0!

The number of 3-0 players stood at four:  GM Alexander Shabalov and Bryan Smith and IMs Praveen Balakrishnan and Kassa Korley.

In round four, on both top boards, the lower rated player won.  On board one, Smith would face Shabalov.  A very sharp position ensued, and Smith pulled off the upset.  Meanwhile, on board two, Korley defeated Balakrishnan.

Heading into the final day, there were only two perfect scores: Smith and Korley.  In round 5 on board one, Smith defeated Korley to emerge as the only 5-0.  Smith was a full point ahead of the field and guaranteed himself at least a tie for first.

There were eleven players at 4-1 who could all tie for first with a win if Smith lost.  The eleven were: GMs Alexey Dreev, Ruifeng Li, Alexander Shabalov, Elshan Moradiabadi, Alexander Ivanov, IMs David Brodsky, Kassa Korley, Alexander Katz, Justin Sarkar, Thomas Bartell and FM Hans Niemann.

Amazingly, the first game to finish was board one.  Even though GM Alexey Dreev had black, one had to assume that he would go all out for a win since he was over 200 points higher rated and had to win to tie for first.  However, GM Smith obtained a very comfortable position with white, and Dreev offered a draw.  Li beat Korley in a very exciting dynamic game:

Ivanov defeated Sarker, and Moradiabadi defeated Katz to join the tie for second.  Li, Ivanov, and Moradiabadi each won $866.67.

Shabalov and Katz drew as did Niemann and Bartell.  FM Brandon Jacobsen had 3 ½ and defeated FM Maggie Feng to also finish in the tie for 5th.  The big winner in the 5th place tie was Niemann as he took clear first under 2400 and won $1600.

There were several interesting stories in the mixed doubles competition.  There were a total of 69 mixed doubles teams in the tournament.  The top team was Gabriella Sorrentinio and Mark DiCostanzo II.  They finished with a combined 10 ½ out of 12 and each won $1000.  Soerentinio was only rated 213 and was playing in the Under 600 trophy section!  Sorrentinio scored 5-1 and tied for second taking the 4th place trophy on tiebreaks, but the mixed double prize was a lot more valuable.

GM Smith paired with Christina Jin, and together they scored 10 out of 12 to take clear second place in the mixed doubles competition and each win $500.

There was a two way tie for the third mixed doubles prize.  The teams of Rachel Li & Alexander Shabalov and Kamelia Sharuda & Donald Battle Jr.  each scored 9 ½ out of 12 and each player won $250.

When I saw the mixed doubles team, I wondered why Rachel Li was not teamed with her brother GM Ruifeng Li.  The answer is they were too high rated!  Teams have to have an average rating of under 2200 and the Li/Li team would have been 2201.  In an article last year, I predicted Rachel Li would become too good for her brother, and that is exactly what happened!

In the Under 2200 section, there were two swiss gambits.  Bilgin Sazci drew in round one and then went 5-0 to finish 5 ½ and win clear first and $2000.  He played a very nice last round game.  Can you find the tactical shot to end the game?

Sazci – Polyakin

White to move.

Pieter Heesters could not play the last round and signed up in advance for a last round bye.  He started with 4 ½ out of 5 and, with the last round bye, tied for second.  Missaka Warusawitharana started at 4-1, but then took a zero point bye in the last round and finished out of the money!

DiCostanzo took clear first in the Under 2000 section and added $2000 to the $1000 mixed double prize.

The only 6-0 in the money sections was scored in the Under 1400 section where Kunwar Mehra finished a full point ahead of the field and won $1600.

In the trophy sections, Evan Newmiller went 6-0 in the Under 600 section, and Anand Idris went 6-0 in the Under 800 section.

This tournament awards trophies to scholastic teams where members are current students or alumni of a college, high school or pre-high school.  The top four scores make up a team.  Christian Brothers Academy from New Jersey won first place with a team score of 20 ½ points.

The section winners were:

Under 2200

Bilgen Sazci, 5 ½ – ½. $2000

Under 2000

Mark DiCostanzo II, 5 ½ – ½, $2000

Under 1800

Kameliia Sharuda, 5 ½ – ½. $2000

Under 1600

Clayton Ostroff, Tha Dun, Camden Wagner, Abishek Kannappan, 5-1, $950

Under 1400

Kunwar Mehra, 6-0, $1600

Under 1200

Arad Badidee & John Weigand, 5 ½ – ½. $1200

Under 1000

Ben Nemeth, 5 ½ – ½

Under 800

Anand Idris, 6-0,

Scholastic Under 600

Evan Newmiller, 6-0

Mixed Doubles

Mark Dicostanzo II, & Gabriella Sorrentinio, 10-2, $1000 each  

Blitz Tournament

FM Hans Niemann, 8-0, $250

              NTD Bill Goichberg directed for CCA assisted by Boyd Reed, David Hater, Harold Stenzel, Jabari McGreen, and Andy Rea.

Full tournament details can be found at

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


Leave a Comment

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Announcements

  • US Chess Press