IMs on the West Coast, GMs on the East Coast

From August 19th – 21st, CCA held two tournaments – one in the West and one in the East.  Both had relatively small but strong open sections.  In the West the Open section had several IMs in attendance, while the East had several GMs.

The Central California Open

The Central California Open is co-sponsored by the Fresno Chess Club.  Without their generous support this tournament would not exist.  Within the CCA hierarchy, it is a smaller tournament with only $10,000 in guaranteed prizes and four sections.  This year’s tournament was dedicated to the memory of Vannes French III.  He was a dedicated member of the club and assisted in directing the tournament last year.  Among his other contributions, he coached scholastic chess including coaching teams that have won at USCF National Scholastics.

IM John Bryant. Photo: Irina Nizmutdinova

IM John Bryant at the recent Southern California Open. Photo: Irina Nizmutdinova

This format did not draw any GMs, but there were three IMs, a WIM, and an FM in the 22 player open section.  There was a lot of depth to this section as nearly half of the players were over 2200.  IMs John Bryant and Ray Kaufman each scored 4-1 to tie for first.  Each won $1000 with Bryant earning an extra $100 for his better tiebreaks.  The two IMs drew with each other in round 3.  Each also drew his last round game against a master.  Bryant drew with Ivan Ke who won the U2250 prize while Kauffman drew with Gabriel James Bick who was among those who tied for third.  Along the way each of the IMs dispatched some of his competition.  Here is Bryant’s round 4 win over FM Ildar Salakhutdinov:

In the same round, Kaufman defeated Kyle Haining to keep pace.

There was only one perfect score in any of the sections.  Russell Bik scored 5-0 in the U2050 section to earn $1000.

There were two unrateds who did very well and won or tied for first in their sections.  However, they did not win the full prize as CCA limits the amount that unrated players can win in most “Under” sections.  In the Under 1650 section, Jonathan Dodson was playing in his first tournament. He lost his first round, but won the next four to tie for first.  He was limited to $500 by the unrated rule.  His two co-champions, Bilgehan Yilmaz and Devery Sturges also scored 4-1 and won $600.  In the Under 1250 section Ronald M. Cusi Jr, son of FM Ronald Cusi, was playing in his first tournament.  He scored 4 ½ to win clear first, though as an unrated he could only win $200.  The second place winner was benefitted by this as he also tied with an unrated playing in his first tournament.  Supunay Nagpal lost only to Cusi.  He still won $500 which was the entire first prize because the unrated ahead of him and the unrated he tied with were both prize limited.  This sort of prize distribution seems to strike a balance between unrated players in their first tournament who may not be true beginners and the rated players who do fall under the rating limit.

The mixed doubles prize this year had a repeat customer.  Last year Ashleann Chen was rated 1322 and scored 4 points in the Under 1650 section tying for second and winning in the mixed doubles category.  Within the last year her rating has improved 300 points to 1622!  She could have entered the under 1650 section where she surely would have been a favorite to win the section.  However, she opted to play up in the Under 2050 section.  She took a half point bye and then scored 2-2 even though she was paired up every round.  Her 2 ½ coupled with her partner’s 3 ½ won the mixed doubles prize.  She also picked up 25 rating points in the process.  One has to wonder how she will do in next year’s tournament and in what section.

The section winners were:

Under 2050

Russel Bik, 5-0, $1000

Under 1650

Bilgehan Yilmaz, Devery Sturges, & Jonathan R Dodson 4-1, $600, $600, & $500

Under 1250

Ronald M. Cusi Jr, 4 ½ – ½ $200

Mixed Doubles

Ashleann Chen & Ivan Ke, 6-4, $100 each

Blitz Tournament

Brendyn A Estolas, 7-1, $90

NTD Steve Immitt directed for CCA assisted by Dr. Robert Roberts.

Full tournament details are at  

The Southern Congress

On the other side of the country the tournament was twice as large both in terms of prize fund and number of entries.  The Southern Congress had 218 players in 7 sections competing for the $20,000 prize fund.

The Open section can best be described as small, but powerful.  While California was dominated by IMs, Georgia was dominated by GMs.  There were only 17 players in the Open section.  However, more than 1/3 were over 2500 and FIDE titled – there were 5 GMs and 1 IM. Ten of the 17 players were over 2200!

Round one started with unusual occurrences.  IM Awonder Liang had entered in advance but did not show up for round one.  This is highly unusual as CCA directors could not recall him ever forfeiting.  It turns out that Awonder had sent an email before the tournament cancelling the entry, but the email was sent when Awonder was overseas and due to poor connectivity was never received.

Another forfeit was narrowly avoided.  GM Alonso Zapata went to the wrong board and started his opponent’s clock.  After getting the round started and checking for clocks and no shows, the TDs noticed that Zapata was sitting at the wrong board.  We directed him to the correct board, but he had already lost more than 20 minutes.  Perhaps because of this, in the largest upset of the tournament, Zapata lost to Wesley Sharpe.

The next morning in the two day schedule, there were more odd occurrences.  There were only three players in the open section!  The top two had to play. GM Andrey Stukopin played senior master Deepak Aaron and Aaron pulled off the upset!

The other player (an expert playing up) got the bye. There was an even number of players with the bye, so at least in theory we could get everybody a game.  However, the only player left was an Open player and an Under 1100 player.  I figured neither would want to play each other given an over 1000 point rating difference.  The Under 1100 player was insistent on getting a game and the open player graciously agreed.

Round two was really bizarre.  The only player in the open section with zero points was Stukopin.  He got a full point bye as the lowest rated (only) player in the bottom scoregroup.  I don’t think I have ever seen a 2700 GM get a bye as the lowest rated player!  This sounds like a trivia question.

While all this was going on, there were some significant pairings on the top boards.  In round 2, Gata Kamsky on board one was facing IM Kaiqi Yang.  They drew while GM Julio Sadorra defeated NM Chao Zheng on board two to emerge from the three day schedule as the only perfect score.

Deepak Aaron emerged from the two day schedule as the only perfect score.  They played in round three with Sadorra coming out on top.

So going into the Sunday “money” rounds, Sadorra was the only 3-0.  Kamsky was the only 2 ½.  They would play in round four with Sadorra having white.  Kamsky had a bit of bad luck as his blacks were against the titled players and his whites were when he was paired significantly down (though this would change in the last round).  Sadorra and Kamsky drew.  This setup some interesting last round pairings.  GM Ben Finegold signed up for half point byes in rounds 3 and 4 when he entered.  He started 2-0 and had three points along with Kamsky and Stukopin and Deepak Aaron.  Sadorra was alone with 3 ½.  The last round pairings had Sadorra white against Stukopin.  The earlier bye messed up Stukopin’s colors and Stukopin got white in rounds 3 and 4 and was now a forced black.  Sadorra benefitted as he now got two whites in a row (versus the top two seeds Kamsky and Stukopin).   Meanwhile on board 2, Kamsky finally got white against a titled player as he faced Finegold. On board 3, the tournament wildcard Deepak Aaron was paired “down” (by points not rating) to IM Kaiqi Yang.

Sadorra defeated Stukopin to finish in clear first and take the $2000 prize plus $100 bonus.  Kamsky defeated Finegold to finish 4-1 in clear second and win $1000.  Aaron drew Yang and finished in clear third with 3 ½ points winning $500.  Stukopin, Finegold, and Yang finished with 3 points and split 4th place.  The other players with 3 points were Arthur Guo, Carter Peatman, and Sijing Wu who split the Under 2250 class prizes and won $400 each.  Nine of the 17 players in the section won money.  Everybody in the Open section who finished with a plus score won money!

The section winners were:

Under 2200

Nicholas Williams, 4  ½ – ½ $1400

Under 2000

Darrell Bourne III, 4 ½ – ½ $1400

Under 1800

Grant Bomar 4 ½ – ½ $1400

Under 1600

Ethan Smith, 5-0, $1200

Under 1400

Thomas Harris, 4 ½ – ½ $800

Under 1100

Khyathi Chava & Bhavin Shah 4 ½ – ½ $400

Mixed Doubles

Vaishnavi Tammali  & Tanish Potula 7-3, $400 each

Blitz Tournament

Troy Daly, 6 ½ – 1 ½ $50

            NTD Boyd Reed directed for CCA assisted by David Hater and Scott Parker.

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



  1. I hardly ever comment on uschess articles, but someone had to say something about the annotations by Weston Sharpe of his game against GM Zapata. This was the most condescending, offensive, and disrespectful piece of chess writing I have ever read. Beating a GM is a great accomplishment, but this guy clearly let it go to his head. The annotations are also filled with chess errors and other assorted ignorance, but that pales in comparison to the whole tone. It would be good to have a bit of editorial review of game annotations submitted for tournament reports. This is the online public face of the USCF, and things like this reflect poorly on chess players and the federation in general.

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