The 11th Annual Southwest Class Championship was held at the Dallas Fort Worth Marriott from February 13-17. The event drew 399 players across seven sections. This year’s event was the second largest ever, trailing last year’s attendance that drew 417. The top section was by far the largest section at 88 players, drawing 9 GMs, 16 IMs, 13 FMs, 1 WGM and 1 WIM. All told, there were 59 players above 2200 FIDE!
The tournament was truly international with players from 18 different federations. The 21 foreign players would have been enough for a “Superswiss,” but two foreigners did not play all nine rounds. FM Ian Zhao earned an IM norm with a round to spare! There were several other players on course for a norm, but they could not score the needed points in the last round and fell just short.
The tournament winner, IM Zurab Javakhadze, finished at 7-2, which is the typical score required to win the event. This year was a bit different:
Usually there is a tie for first – this year 7-2 was good for clear 1st.
Normally an IM that ties for first makes a GM norm – this year that was not the case for Javakhadze.
Frequently the winner is undefeated and the path is 5 wins and 4 draws – this year Javakhadze finished with 6 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss.
Typically the winner faces many GMs – this year IMs were scoring very well and Javakhadze only played one GM.
The master section starts earlier than all other sections because of the 9 rounds needed to make norms possible – all other sections are 7 rounds, which enables the event to fit into the holiday weekend. With the master section starting on Thursday evening and having the entire ballroom to themselves the playing conditions were optimal. In round one, some of the GMs were playing FMs, but there were no upsets on the top boards and only one upset overall. There were however numerous draws even some on the top boards.
Because of the draws and half point byes, round two pairings were much more competitive with numerous surprises. On board one FM Zhao drew with top seeded GM Kamil Dragun to start his march toward the IM norm. GM Andrey Gorovets surrendered a draw to Eric Li on board three. There were several significant upsets as IM Arthur Gao defeated GM Carlos Hevia Alejano or board 5 and eventual tournament winner IM Javakhadze lost to FM Jacob Furfine on board seven. In all nine players got to 2-0: GMs Joshua Ruiz and David Berczes; IMs Brandon Jacobson, Annie Wang, Michael Lee, Yannick Kambrath, Arthur Guo, and Bryce Tiglon, and FM Jacob Furfine.
The fighting chess continued in round three as three of the four boards between perfect scores were decisive. Those advancing to 3-0 were IM Jacobson defeating IM Tiglon; GM Berczes defeating IM Kambrath and, in another upset, as FM Furfine defeated IM Wang. IM Javakhadze got back on track with a win over FM Gus Huston that featured a nice mate to end the game.
Round four saw the number of perfect scores dwindle to one as IM Jacobson defeated FM Furfine on board one while GM Berczes was paired down to GM Macieja on board two and Macieja won. This left IM Jacobson in clear first place at 4-0 as the tournament was approaching the halfway point.
The last game to finish in round five was the top board where GM Macieja defeated IM Jacobson in a very long ending where Macieja ground out a win in a Q + P vs Q ending. Macieja thus got to 4 ½ out of 5 to hold clear first place after 5 rounds. Macieja was being chased by 6 players at 4-1 and they were all IMs: Brandon Jacobson, Irakli Beradze, Kassa Korley, Aaron Grabinsky, Zurab Javakhadze, and Brian Escalante. FM Zhao continued to play strong chess with a win over WGM Jennifer Yu.
Perhaps because of the long ending that they played in round 5, both Macieja and Jacobson lost in round six on boards one and two. Maciej lost to IM Javakhadze while Jacobson lost to IM Grabinsky. This produced a new set of leaders as IMs Javakhadze and Grabinsky were now leading the field at 5-1. Five players were half a point back at 4 ½ – 1 ½: GM Macieja and IMs Beradze, Korley, Escalante, and Tiglon.
Javakhadze and Grabinsky played to a draw in round seven to continue to lead the event. Going into the last day, Javakhadze and Grabinsky would be leading with 5 ½ – 1 ½. There was a huge crowd though a half point back: GMs Macieja & Berczes; IMs Brandon Jacobson, Irakli Beradze, Brian Escalante, Kassa Korley, Annie Wang, Bryce Tiglon & Christopher Yoo; FM Ian Zhao and NM Rubens Cezila. FM Zhao moved closer to the IM norm with a win over GM Bjarani.
The leaders separated in round 8 as IM Javakadze defeated IM Jacobson on board 2, while on board 1, IM Grabinsky would only draw with GM Macieja. This put IM Javakhadze in clear first going into the last round. There were numerous draws though so the number of players half a point back dwindled to three: IMs Beradze, Grabinsky, and Escalante.
Needing only a draw to secure a share of first Javakhadze played a quick draw with Escalante. Either Grabinsky or Beradze could have caught Javakhadze, but they drew their game on board two. This left several other players an opportunity to catch up and grab shares of second place. Two players were able to do so as GM Kamil Dragun defeated IM Cameron Wheeler on board 3 and IM Kassa Korley defeated GM Macieja on board 4. FM Zhao had already secured an IM norm and could have tied for second with a win, but he lost to GM Sergei Matsenko.
The section winners were:
Nestor Sosa, Kenneth Su, Saumik Narayanan, David Gaston, Rohun Taku, Nitin Chikkodi, 5-2 $667.67
Minh Tranh & Moses Nduonyi, 6-1, $1500
Vittal Ranganath, 6 ½ – ½ , $2000
Kayode Adeniyi & Ronald Sanders, 6-1, $1200
Brian Zhou & Mahith Namburi, 6-1, $600
Tejesh Sathyan, Aasshish Anantharaman, Pashin Ponnanna, Shivam Sood, Nguyen Tram, 5 ½ – ½ , $360
Rachael Li & Andrew Tang and Tanvi Reddy & Vittal Ranganath, 10-4, $400 to each player
FM Jacob Furfine, 7-1, $125
International Arbiter & NTD David Hater directed for Continental Chess assisted by Steve Immitt, Louis Reed, Anthony Guerra & Wendy Reed.