IM Burke Outdistances GMs to Win the Eastern Congress

John Burke, here pictured at the Match of Millennials at the Saint Louis Chess Club, Photo Lennart Ootes

IM John Burke scored 4 ½ out of 5 to take clear first in the 21st Eastern Chess Congress held from October 27-29th in Princeton, New Jersey.  This year’s Eastern Congress had record breaking attendance with 402 players competing in seven sections.  The number of players far surpassed last year’s total of 270 players.  The Premier section was especially strong as it drew seven GMs, four IMs, ten FMs and a total of 34 players over 2200 in the 71 player section.

GM Sergey Erenburg at the 2016 Chesapeake Open

The first round of the tournament started off with some surprises.   On board one, GM Sergey Erenburg surrendered a draw to Yi Song.  Erenburg worked his way back into contention and was on board one in the last round.  He could have won clear first if he had won his last round game against Burke, but he drew the game and finished tied for second. Of course, pairings would have been different had he won, but this half point would clearly come back to haunt Erenburg.  Some other players were not as fortunate.

The nature of the Swiss system pretty much requires the higher rated players to play for a win, especially in the early rounds when the rating differences are the greatest.  Two of the masters pressed very hard for a win and may have even over-pressed.  The following two games were the last games to end and featured players trying to win, perhaps when it was not there.

FM Max Lu was playing Angelica Chen on board 13.  One move before time control, the following position is reached:

Three boards away Evan Park was playing NM Kennedy Onokpite.  They reached this pawn ending:

While the three day schedule on Friday produced those minor surprises, many of the titled players chose the two day schedule. This year, five of the seven GMs were in the two day schedule which also had a lesser number of players overall.  This created round two pairings in the two day schedule where several of the top players were playing each other at the G/60 time control.  One notable result was GM Giorgi Kacheishvili defeating IM Victor Shen.  Meanwhile, GM Elshan Moradiabadi surrendered a draw to FM Brandon Jacobsen.

Playing black against Shen, GM Kacheishvili builds up a winning advantage. Can you find the move that decisively ends the game in the GM’s favor?

Victor Shen vs. Giorgi Kacheishvili

Black to move and win.

When the merge occurred, there were nine perfect scores, and GMs would start playing each other.  There were a number of draws as GM Irina Krush drew with GM Alex Lenderman.  Also, GM Alex Fishbein drew with FM Gabriel Petesch.  The decisive games of the round were GM Kacheishvili defeating FM Kapil Chandran and IM Burke defeating FM Jennifer Yu.

This setup a 4th round pairing of Burke versus Kacheishvili as the only two perfect scores.  However, there were seven players who trailed by ½ point and 20 players at 2-1.  Burke defeated Kacheishvili to emerge as the only 4-0 score.

In round 5, Burke would have the black pieces versus Erenburg on board one.  If Erenburg wins, he gets at least a tie for first while Burke only needed a draw.

GMs Lenderman and Moradiabadi were also at 3 ½ points and could join the tie for if one of them could win and if first if Erenburg won or drew.  Moradiabadi versus Lenderman was the first top board to finish, but ended in a draw ensuring that there would be a clear winner at 4 ½ – either Burke or Erenburg.  Erenburg pressed for the win and was up a pawn for a time, but Burke defended well and held the draw.

There was a seven way tie for second.  GMs Kacheishvili, Lenderman, Erenburg, Moradiabadi, IM Shen and FMs Yu and Chandran all scored 4-1 to take $257.14.  The tie for the master prize was even more crowded as ten players Under 2300 scored 3-2 and each won $120.

GM Irina Krush

GM Irina Krush did not cash in the premier section, but her half of the mixed doubles prize was worth more than the second place tie!  Krush commented that this was the first time she has won a mixed doubles prize.  That is shocking news for the highest rated female player in the country.  Krush attributes her newfound mixed doubles success to picking a good partner.  Her partner, Joshua Kerr, obtained the only perfect score in the tournament.  He scored 5-0 winning clear first in the under 1500 section taking home $1200 and picking up 160 rating points in the process.

The Under 1700 section had a three way tie for first and had several interesting storylines.  Dmitry Argon was one of the players in the tie.  Three weeks earlier, Dmitry won the Under 1700 section of the Washington Chess Congress with 6 ½ out of 7.  In those two tournaments, he finished with 10 wins, 2 draws and no losses and picked up a total of 163 rating points and $2500.

Another player in the tie is Jack Silver.  Jack normally plays up a section, but in this tournament there was enough distance between his rating and the upper limit that he opted for his assigned section.  Jack won the 2015 Junior Grand Prix and is obviously rapidly improving.

The final player is new to US tournaments. Alexander Vekker is playing in only his third US tournament.  However, he has won them all in convincing fashion giving up only a last round draw each time.  He was 6 ½ – ½ in the Under 1100 section of the Philadelphia Open, 5 ½ – ½ in the Under 1600 section of the New Jersey Open, and now 4 ½ – ½ at the Eastern Chess Congress.  He moves up sections each time!  Next time, he will have to move up again!

The top blitz prizes were won in somewhat unusual fashion.  Yerim Treger and Isaac Chiu both had long round 3 games.  They had to enter the blitz tournament with a first round bye.  Treger then went 6-0 in the rest of his games to finish at 7-1 and win clear first.  Chiu went 5 ½ – ½ in his games and finished 6 ½ – 1 ½ in clear second!  Sometimes it pays to be late!

The section winners were:

Under 2100

Leon Deng, Joseph Mucerino, Alexander Ilnytsky, David Zhurbinsky, Tanishq Iyer, & Joseph Prentice, 4-1, $450

Under 1900

Marc Dicostanzo & Henry Li, 4 ½ – ½. $1050

Under 1700

Dmitry Agron, Alexander Vekker, & Jack Silver, 4 ½ – ½. $800

Under 1500

Joshua Kerr, 5-0, $1200

Under 1300

Paul Stricker, Vaibhavi Borra, & Wenyong Chen, 4 ½ – ½. $600

Under 1100

Joseph Baca, Max McGougan, & Keegan Herron, 4 ½ – ½. $333.34

Mixed Doubles

GM Irina Krush & Johua Kerr, 8-2, $400 each

Blitz Tournament

Yefrim Treger, 7-1, $140

            NTD Steve Immitt directed for CCA assisted by David Hater, Jabari McGren, and Harold Stenzel.

Full tournament details can be found at

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


  1. I made a mistake in the TD credits of this tournament. CCA TD Harold Scott directed at the Eastern Chess Congress. CCA TD Harold Stenzel directs at other events, but was not on staff at this event. I apologize to both Harold Scott and Harold Stenzel for my error.
    Dave Hater

  2. How about mentioning the players who turned in FIDE-ratable performances or the players who completed the requirements for becoming FIDE-rated? This was a FIDE-rated tournament.

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