The Clark Street Capital Grandmaster Invitational was a 20-player tournament held from April 12-16 and sponsored by chess aficionado Jon Winick of Clark Street Capital. The tournament was organized by the Chicago Chess Center with the aim of providing the local Chicago players with an opportunity to compete for and, potentially, earn norms. Despite not falling under the norm-seeker category, I was still attracted to the tournament because of its format. Even though it was a “Swiss,” the small field of players made the tournament akin to a Round-Robin, and almost certainly ensured I would face most of the top players in the event.
The list of players was as follows:
GM Ilya Smirin (Israel, 2671)
IM Sergei Matsenko (Russia, 2533)
GM Vladimir Georgiev (Macedonia, 2530)
GM Kannappan Priyadharshan (India, 2530)
IM Pavlo Vorontsov (Ukraine, 2499)
GM Akshat Chandra (USA, 2489)
GM Alexander Fishbein (USA, 2481)
GM Nikola Mitkov (Macedonia, 2444)
FM Zhaozhi Li (USA, 2359)
FM Aaron Grabinsky (USA, 2345)
FM Joshua Colas (USA, 2323)
Robert M. Perez (USA, 2310)
IM Angelo Young (Philippines, 2294)
FM David Peng (USA, 2270)
Gopal Menon (USA, 2216)
CM Jacob Furfine (USA, 2163)
FM Albert Chow (USA, 2152)
WFM Rachel Ulrich (USA, 2081)
Matthew Stevens (USA, 2049)
Aakaash Meduri (USA, 2042)
When I arrived in Chicago, driving around LaSalle and Randolph Avenues, I experienced a peculiar sense of déjà vu, as the buildings and scenery felt vaguely familiar to me even though I had not been to this section of Chicago before. Then suddenly, it occurred to me that this was where some scenes from “The Dark Knight” had been filmed! This was Batman’s home.
The first 5 rounds of the tournament were played on the 17th floor of Avant, a financial services company overlooking the Chicago Riverwalk, in an impressive 2-floor high hall flanked by conference rooms. The organizer, Bill Brock of Chicago Chess Center, set the ball rolling in his jovial and relaxed manner, inviting each of the 20 players to introduce themselves. Thereafter, the players were seated in the conference rooms on either side of the hall, with the top six boards having their own private room. The glass walls allowed the Arbiters and spectators to monitor the proceedings.
The tournament got off to a rough start for me as I lost to fellow youngster Jacob Furfine. His play was quite creative and impressive considering his rating, and, after I missed my chance to seize the advantage, he convincingly converted his initiative. Clearly, Jacob is an underrated player, and, in hindsight, I wish he had attained his real level before my game, so I wouldn’t have lost as many rating points! The other major upset of the 1st round was Ukranian IM Pavlo Vorontsov losing to Gopal Menon, who played a strong game with the Black pieces to win handily.
Fortunately, I didn’t let the 1st round loss snowball and was able to immediately recuperate by winning my next 3 games. The 4th round win against GM Georgiev was quite interesting.
Consequently, I found myself behind the Black pieces on Board 1 against the renowned top seed, GM Ilya Smirin.
At this stage, Ilya was 4/4 and seemed to be running away with the tournament. The game went wrong for me from the start as Ilya played a move which I forgot to analyze in my preparation. I didn’t adjust to the circumstances very well and failed to offer stiff resistance, losing quite quickly. It was frustrating to have wasted an opportunity against a player of Ilya’s caliber.
The venue changed for the final 4 rounds, which were played at a nearby location on Randolph Avenue, overlooking the Lake Shore parks and the Monroe Harbor. I was able to close out the home stretch positively, scoring 3 out of 4. My 8th round victory over Pavlo featured an intricate and complex rook endgame, which I encourage the readers to analyze and evaluate!
Robert Perez vs. GM Ilya Smirin
The last round left a slightly bitter taste, however, as I failed to convert a much better endgame against the solid Macedonian GM Nikola Mitkov. As a result, I ended up tying for 2nd with GM Mitkov and Robert Perez, who somehow swindled Pavlo in the last round, much to the shock and bewilderment of other players, and most likely Robert himself!
Josh Colas at the 2015 North American Open, where he earned a GM Norm. Photo: Alan Losoff
This allowed Robert to cap off a great tournament for himself by securing his 1st IM norm. Well done! Also, Joshua Colas earned his final IM norm with a scintillating final round victory over GM Georgiev. Congrats, Josh! He now needs to increase his FIDE rating to 2400, in order to officially become an IM.
The tournament was deservedly won by Ilya, who scored a convincing 7.5/9 and was the only player to not lose a game.
Overall, I had a great experience. Thanks to arbiters Daniel Parmet and Glenn Panner for overseeing a smoothly run tournament, and putting the pairings out on time! Also, much thanks to Bill Brock for organizing the tournament, sending PGN updates of the finished rounds during the tournament, and keeping me entertained with his humorous remarks!
And, of course, big thanks once again to Jon for graciously sponsoring the event and putting all the players at ease with his amiable personality. Chess needs more benefactors like him. You rock, Jon!
A blitz game between Jon Winick and Akshat Chandra.
Dmitry Gurevich, Bill Brock, and Alex Fishbein. Photo: Chicago Chess Center
Akshat Chandra with the official guest for the ceremonial first move