GM Conrad Holt Continues Winning Ways with Thanksgiving Class Warfare Championship

Winning BayAreaChess tournaments has become a hard habit for GM Conrad Holt to break in 2017, much to his opponents’ dismay. The young American topped this Thanksgiving weekend’s California Class Warfare Championship over a field that included 5 other GMs and IMs, and 3 NMs. Despite just playing “decently,” the modest Google software engineer was a dominant 5.5 out of 6, defeating GM Atanas Ivan Kolev in Round 3, GM Zviad Izoria in Round 4, and National Master Jack Zhu in Round 5, which the 24-year-old called his “most exciting” clash. “I came up with a knight sacrifice which allowed me to at least force a repetition,” said Holt. “Eventually I decided to avoid the repetition and hope for more, although I was low on time. The gamble paid off as Jack erred a few moves later (with Bg2), allowing me to win a Queen.” Zhu has his own thoughts. Read his in-depth analysis of this dramatic battle.
[pgn][Event "Class Warfare 2017"]
[Site "Santa Clara"]
[Date "2017.11.24"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Jack Zhu"]
[Black "Conrad Holt"]
[Result "0-1"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2017.11.26"]

{The critical game of the (6-round) tournament. My opponent and I were both at
4/4, with the rest of the field lagging behind at 3/4 or fewer. The time
control was 40 moves in 2 hours, sudden death 30, with 5 second delay
throughout.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. a3 $5 {A rare line. I strongly
dislike the typical Winawer positions; it's too closed, and often I find my
supposedly strong DSB blocked in by my own central pawn chain.} Bxc3+ {2
minutes (spent on the move). This is a pretty reliable sign that someone is
out of book, especially here, because my opponent usually plays the opening
quite quickly.} 5. bxc3 Ne7 $1 (5... dxe4 6. Qg4 Nf6 7. Qxg7 Rg8 8. Qh6 $13 {
It's usually a good idea to avoid messy lines like this if you are already out
of book.}) 6. Bd3 c5 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. exd5 exd5 9. O-O O-O 10. a4 (10. dxc5 Nxc5
11. Re1 Re8 12. Bf4 Nxd3 13. cxd3 {with roughly equal chances. A rather
unsatisfactory position to have out of the opening as White.}) 10... c4 11. Be2
$15 {Here I began to dislike my position. Compared to a "normal" Winawer, the
pawns on e5/e6 are gone. This means I have no attacking chances on the
kingside, and Black's normally bad LSB is quite good here. In exchange for
this, I get the b8-h2 diagonal for my DSB, and d5 is a little weaker than
usual, but this hardly seems worth it.} Nf6 12. Ne5 Ne4 13. Qe1 Nd6 14. Ba3 Re8
15. Bf3 $1 {I have to try and "play with my pieces", since there's not much
else to do.} Be6 16. Qb1 Nef5 17. Re1 Nh4 {(16 minutes spent. 43 remaining.)} (
17... f6 18. Bxd6 (18. Ng4 $2 Nh4 $17) 18... Qxd6 19. Ng4 Bf7 $1 20. Rxe8+ Rxe8
21. Qxb7 h5 22. Ne3 Nxe3 23. fxe3 Rxe3 24. Qa8+ Re8 25. Qxa7 g5 $1 $17 {- My
engine. White's king is in danger.}) 18. Be2 {13 minutes spent, 58 remaining.}
(18. Qb4 Nxf3+ 19. Nxf3 Ne4 20. Qxb7 Nxc3 {I did not like this position at all,
but my computer suggests} 21. Ne5 $1 Qb6 (21... Nxa4 22. Qb4 Nb6 23. Nc6 Qd7
24. Qd6 $10) 22. Qxb6 axb6 23. Re3 Nxa4 24. Nc6 Kh8 25. Rae1 {In both cases,
White gives up a pawn for sufficient piece activity.}) 18... Nxg2 $1 {25
minutes spent, down to 18 minutes. I think my opponent made the right choice
here.} (18... Ne4 19. Qxb7 Qf6 (19... Nxg2 20. Kxg2 Qg5+ 21. Bg4 Rab8 22. Qxa7
Ra8 $10) (19... Qg5 20. Bf1 Nxg2 $2 21. Bxg2 Bh3 22. Qxf7+ Kh8 23. Qxe8+ $1 $18
) 20. f3 Qg5 21. Bf1 Nd2 22. Re2 Nhxf3+ 23. Nxf3 Nxf3+ 24. Kh1 Nh4 25. Rae1 $13
) 19. Kxg2 Qg5+ 20. Kh1 (20. Bg4 $2 {loses:} Bxg4 21. f4 (21. Bxd6 Be2+ 22. Kh1
Rxe5 $1 {is a nice win.}) 21... Qxf4 22. Bxd6 Rxe5 $1 23. Rxe5 Qf3+ 24. Kg1 Bh3
25. Rg5 Qe3+ 26. Kh1 Qxg5 $19 {I don't think either of us saw this during the
game. Chess sure is easy when you have a computer.}) 20... Ne4 21. Rf1 Bh3 22.
Bf3 Rxe5 $1 23. dxe5 Qf5 $1 {Only here did I realize the trouble I was in. My
intended defence, Qd1, simply does not work.} 24. Be2 (24. Qd1 Nxc3 25. Bxd5 {
I had thought this was check when I played 20.Kh1? Since it's not, I obviously
can't play this.}) (24. Bg2 Bxg2+ 25. Kxg2 Qg4+ 26. Kh1 Qf3+ 27. Kg1 Ng5 28. h3
Nxh3+ 29. Kh2 Nf4 30. Rg1 Qh3#) (24. Bxe4 Qxe4+ 25. f3 Qe2 $19) 24... Qg5 25.
Bf3 Qf5 26. Be2 Qg6 $2 {Letting me back in the game.} (26... Nxc3 27. Qe1 Qe4+
28. f3 Qxe2 29. Qxe2 Nxe2 $17 {with a better endgame.}) 27. Bf3 Re8 $2 (27...
Qf5 {I'm not sure if I would be allowed to claim a repetition here(I think I
have to make a move first?), but I don't think he wanted to risk it.}) 28. Qb5
$2 {Played in 3 minutes. I barely considered my other options.} (28. Qe1 $1
Rxe5 29. Rg1 Qf5 30. Bxe4 Rxe4 31. Qd1 $1 Qxf2 32. Rg3 $1 $18 {Again, chess is
a lot easier when you have a computer, but I'm sure I could have found this -
if I had actually bothered to look.}) 28... Rd8 (28... Rxe5 29. Qxb7 $18 {
Since Qb8+ is threatened, White should have enough time to organize a defence.}
) 29. Be7 Qf5 30. Bg2 $4 {Inexcusable. I played this instantly, thinking I had
everything covered. At this point, with the time control quickly approaching,
my opponent was down to 5 minutes while I still had 32. There was no excuse
for not taking my time here.} (30. Be2 Nxf2+ (30... Qg6 31. Bf3 Qf5 32. Be2 $10
) (30... Rd7 31. Ba3 Qg6 32. Bf3 Qf5 33. Be2 $10) 31. Kg1 Bxf1 32. Rxf1 Nh3+
33. Kg2 Qxe5 34. Bd1 Nf4+ 35. Rxf4 Qxf4 36. Bxd8 Qd2+ {with a perpetual.})
30... Bxg2+ 31. Kxg2 Qg4+ 32. Kh1 Qf3+ 33. Kg1 {The bishop on e7 covers g5, so
it's a draw, right?} Qg4+ 34. Kh1 Qf3+ 35. Kg1 Nxc3 {Oops. I'm not happy with
the way I played this game, especially towards the end. I played too quickly,
too sloppily, and missed too many variations. My opponent played significantly
better than I did and deservedly won the game and the tournament.} 0-1[/pgn]
In the final round, Holt safely drew with visiting Romanian IM Teodor Anton, ensuring a full point lead over the second-place Anton. Zhu, Kolev, GM Enrico Sevillano, and 10-year-old expert Vyom Vidyarthi shared 3rd with 4 points.
Fifth round clash between NM Jack Zhu and GM Conrad Holt (right) on first board, which Holt won to go 5-0 into the final round. View and share our Facebook album and also share your own pictures, tagging @BayAreaChess on Twitter and Facebook.
Second-place finisher, IM Teodor Anton
Holt has been on a local tear this summer, winning 4 other major Bay Area tournaments in the past 6 months, including the Bay Area Chess Championships in June, the People’s Tournament and the Walter Browne Memorial Championship in July, and the CalChess State Championship in September. Holt, who also tied for second at the U.S. Open in July, is rated in the top 20 in the US with a rating of 2688 after winning the Class Warfare tournament. With a 50-year history in the Silicon Valley, the Class Warfare Championship has long been one of the premier Thanksgiving tournaments on the West Coast (the American Open in Los Angeles being the other). Its distinctive, odd-sectioned format mixes Experts and A players, A and B players, B and C players, etc., creating exciting matchups and upsets. Since 2013, the BAC-organized tournament has been reinvigorated with an infusion of youthful talent. This year’s edition boasted a $9,000 prize fund, 350 players total, with nearly half competing in the one-day Kids Thanksgiving Championship.
GM Enrico Sevillano
In the Under 2100 (Expert and A section), a new player from Mexico City, Gutierrez Garcia Vicente, won clear first with 5.5 out of 6, drawing with second place Shawnak Shivakumar in the final round. Rui Yang Yan tied for 2nd with 5 points with Shivakumar, while Sathvi Singireddy and Evan Ai tied for 4th with 4.5 points.
Round 4 game in the Expert-A section between Sathvi Singireddy and Gutierrez Garcia Vicente, with a nerve-wracking endgame resulting in Black’s win.
In the Under 1900 (AB) section, there was a 3-way tie between Pranav Sairam (winner on tiebreak), Sos Hakobyan, and Cailen Melville at 4.5 points. 4th through 7th was shared by Arun Dixit, Jayden Xu, Nicholas Wang and Juan Carl Ventosa, all with 4 points. In the Under 1700 (BC), Chelsea Zhou won clear first with 5.5 and garnering a huge rating increase reflecting her current strength (she is coached by BAC coach, IM Faik Aleskerov). She drew second place Tim Erwin in the 5th round. 3rd-5th at 4.5 points was shared by Jeff Andersen, Anshul Govindu, and Venkatag Acharya. In the Under 1500 (CD), 4 players tied for first with 4.5: Nghia Ung, Yashnil Saha, Yesun Lee, and Swetha Aluri, while Vivek Somani and Anish Korlimarla tied for 5th with 4 points. Finally, the Under 1300 (DE and Unrated) also boasted a tie at 5.0 between Boyang Li and Mateusz Zielinski, while there was an 8-way tie for 3rd (4 points) with Archish Risha Ray, Anish Dara, Abha Dharnidharka, Sanya Badhe, Ethan Chen, Benjamin Zhang, Jashan Mahajan, and John Edwards. Full results and ratings here. In the aforementioned Kids Class Championship restricted to Under 1300 youth players, Bryce Yeh and Justin Leung tied for first with 4.5 out of 5 in the top section. 3rd-6th (4 points) were Michael Hao Chang, Brian Fong, Mihir Achyuta and Jacob Levin, while 7th-10th (3.5) included Winston Yeh, Adam Feng, Prescott Yu and Advay Bansal. View our Facebook album, see the full results and ratings, and also share your own pictures, tagging @BayAreaChess on Twitter and Facebook.
Under 900 Results

1st (5 points): Eshaan Billing

2nd-6th (4 points): Abhi Govindarasu, Ron Tal, Punj Agrawal, Abhinav Sinha, Alex Chou

7th (3.5) - Claire Wang

8-18th (3) - Aaditya Bhat, Jessica Wang, Derek Chen, Kaustub Kodihalli, Anthony Beiche Hu, Andrew Cheng, Jonathan Cheng, Alexander Braun, Ken Okuzumi, Rupal Nimaiyar, and Tanishi Varma

Under 600

1st (5 points): Ronak Suri

2nd-7th (4 points): Akshath Arunkumar, Lola Korlimarla, Max Haubold, Vian Yang, Mukundh Venkat and Jason Nishio

8th (3.5): Arvi Senthilkumar

9th (3): Aaron Tian, Aniket Tyagi, Aravind Acharya, Pra Radhakrishnan, Vivaan Parhar, Vedant Talwalkar, Kendra Pang, Suriya Gnanasundar, Lucas Lum, Kevin Liu, Charu Gowdru, Adhya Mahesh

Under 300

1st (5): Ananya Acharya

2nd-6th (4): Edison Yang, Rushil Yadavalli, Josiah Jaskkula, Daniel Yao, Sarat Chandrapaty

7th (3): Jorge Carillo, Patrick Fang, Laura Yeh, Jeffrey Xu, Yali Sampathkumar, Cole Mans Garratt, Arjun Kamath and Vyasraj Raja Vignesh

School teams

1st-2nd: Lowell HS (San Francisco) and Foster City Elementary School (Lowell winner on tiebreak)

3rd-5th: Tom Matsumoto School, Harker School and Almaden Country Day School (all of San Jose)

Club teams

1st: Bay Area Chess

2nd: Evergreen Chess Club

3rd-4th: Studygascar and Liu Chess Club

5th: Norcal House of Chess

BayAreaChess winning 1st place club team
Thanks to tournament directors Tom Langland, Jordan Langland, Richard Koepcke, Michael Joseph D’Alfonsi, and co-organizer Abel Talamantez, for another successful tournament! The next upcoming tournaments are the last BayAreaChess Championship of 2017 on December 15-17 in Milpitas (, and the 2018 New Year Tournament during the first weekend of 2018: Jan 5-8 in Santa Clara ( Hope to see many of the players returning for a great start of the year!
Eric Lai is a Bay Area-based journalist, tech marketing consultant, and head coach of the Fallon Middle School chess team.       Judit Sztaray, Ph.D., is the US Chess 2017 Organizer of the Year.