Labor Day Weekend Round-Up: From New York to California

GM Stripunsky Wins New Jersey Open on Tiebreaks

by Al Lawrence


Murderer’s Row at the NJ Open: GMs Fishbein, Stripunsky and Benjamin

Winning a chess tournament in the Garden State is no picnic, even for a grandmaster.

GM Stripunsky brought a big enough basket of good moves to take the title but had to share the cash with GMs Joel Benjamin, Alex Fishbein and Sergey Kudrin. All scored 5-1, drawing two games.

GMs Fishbein and Benjamin kindly annotated a victory each for US Chess.

GM Alex Fishbein always plays interesting chess. In a key game in Round 4, he demonstrates the sparkle that attracts spectators.

GM Joel Benjamin has an eye-opening new book “Liquidation on the Chess Board.” In his game against Brandon Jacobson, he shows off the idea.

IM Yaacov Norowitz, GM Mackenzie Molner, NM Runya Xu, and Expert Sandi Hutama tied for 5th-8th. Hutama earned Top Expert. Thoshan Omprakash won the Class A prize with 3½. The 79-player open section was a tough crowd.

Katherene Qi, pre-ranked seventh and 150 rating points under number-one Serge Adelson, took clear first in the 60-player Under-2000 section with 5½ points, drawing Adelson in the final round. Adelson, Taran Idnani, Jason Lu, and George Chachkes tied for 2nd-5th, a full point behind Qi. Chachkes won Best Class B. Lisa Jin took Best Class C with 3½

Alexander Vekker, entering with a rating of 1457, topped 30 players in the Under-1600 section with 5½-½. Pranav Shah was second. Theodore Covey, Alexander Hu, and John Gonzalez tied for 3rd-5th with 4½ . Jaron Bernard won Class D with 4 points. Sudyut Sinha took Class E with 2½. Ellexis Cook scored 2 points to win the Class F prize.

On Saturday 78 juniors competed in a scholastic event in separate rooms at the Hyatt. Charles Lin won the Under-1200 section. Dhriti Iyer won the Under-900 prize, and Sofia Macaspac won the Under-600 section. Any of the participants could then enter the two-day schedule of the main event. New Jersey stalwart Aaron Kiedes directed the junior event, with help from Jim Mullanaphy.

The New Jersey Open, a three-day event held annually on the Labor Day weekend, checks all the boxes in my personal five-category tournament ranking system.

  • It attracts a pride of GM lions of American chess. This year: Stripunsky, Benjamin, Fishbein, Kudrin, Arun Subramanian, Molner, and John Fedorowicz, plus a number of IMs. In all there were 18 chess masters.
  • It’s well-run and comfortable. TD Noreen Davisson handles everything with an even hand and a lot of charm. There’s room to play without feeling as if you can’t scratch your ear without elbowing the player on the next board into a touch-move blunder.
  • It’s in an excellent hotel. The Hyatt Regency Morristown is up-to-date, offers a coffee bar, a sports bar, and a restaurant, plus free wifi, all at a good room rate.
  • It gives players a bookstore to browse. Fred Wilson, Bibliognost Emeritus of American chess, handles it and always has a chess tip or anecdote worth listening to.

Fred Wilson and his book store

The playing site is close to other diversions. This one is getting to be a hard box to fill for otherwise excellent events. But the New Jersey Open aces this category. The Hyatt is in the heart of historic Morristown. In minutes, you can walk to dozens of shops and restaurants, one of George Washington’s important Revolutionary War headquarters, even a farmers’ market and a beautiful town-square park.


Chess for all ages!

Just don’t think winning is a walk in the park.

Tennessee Open


The Tennessee Open was won by Alex King, who is originally from Nashville. He now lives in Memphis and works for a new statewide chess in schools program based at the University of Mississippi. Alex annotates his favorite victory from the tournament.

Find the MSA Crosstable here.


Alex Ostrovskiy

New York State Championship

By David Hater

IM Alexandr Ostrovskiy successfully defended his title as New York State Chess Champion, but he had to come from behind to do it.  Ostrovskiy lost in round two to FM Ben Dean-Kawamura and had to win the rest of his games to tie for first and take the title on tiebreaks over FM David Brodsky.

This is Ostrovskiy’s third title as New York Champion.  He won in 2010, 2015, and now this year at the 138th Championship.  At the time he won in 2010, he was the youngest ever winner at 14 years old (since eclipsed by Nicolas Checa in 2013).  Winning the event three times places Ostrovskiy in some pretty elite company.  Only five people have won it more than three times:   GM Joel Benjamin 9 times (1985-87, 1990, 1995, 2000-2002), GM Michael Rohde 5 times (1988, 1993-94, 1996, 2002), Eugene Delmar 4 times (1887, 1890-91, 1897), Erich Marchand 4 times (1960, 1967, 1969-70) and Anthony Santasiere (1928, 1930, 1946 and 1956).  Four others have won it three times:  IM Jay Bonin (1982, 1997, 1999), Jacob Bernstein 1920-1922, Julius Finn 1901, 1907, 1908, and Albert Hodges 1891-1893.

A critical game was round five.  FM Anthony Renna was 4-0 and was a full point ahead of the field.  Six players were at 3-1:  Ostrovskiy, FMs David Brodsky & Ben Dean-Kawamura and NMs Lev Paciorkowski, Zachary Tannenbaum and Joseph Zeltsan.  Renna had white versus Ostrovskiy.  He would be quite content to draw and he kept the game very balanced for a long time, bus Ostrovskiy figured out a way to win.

Brodsky defeated Zeltsan and Paciorkowski defeated Tannenbaum.  Dean-Kawamura was paired “down” to GM Rohde and drew.  This setup a 4 way tie going to the last round with Ostrovskiy, Brodsky, Paciorkowski and Renna all at 4-1.  In the last round Ostrovskiy defeated Paciorkowski and Brodsky defeated Renna to finish in a tie for first.

Ostrovskiy’s mixed doubles team finished 1 ½ point ahead of all other teams as Ostrovskiy’s partner Charlie Reeder won the Under 1800 section with a score of 5 ½ – ½.   This is the first time the State Champion also won first mixed doubles.

IM Jay Bonin finished in clear third place with 4 ½ – 1 ½.  Bonin defeated GM Michael Rohde in the last round.

Bonin got off to a rough start.  He was scheduled to play in the three day schedule, but ran into a traffic jam and had to take a half point bye in round one.  He was paired significantly down in round two and won and then drew with Paciorkowski and Dean-Kawamura in rounds 3 and 4.  He won his two games on Monday to finish third.

One player who did not win money but had a great tournament is FM Ben Dean-Kawamura.  He defeated Ostrovskiy and drew with Bonin and Rohde.  Only a last round loss to FM Olivier Chiku-Ratte  kept him from cashing.

This tournament has a 4 day, 3 day, and 2 day schedule (except no two day schedule for the Open).  By far the most popular schedule is the three day option.  Not a single master opted for the 4 day schedule!

On Sunday night there was  a blitz tournament which GM Max Dlugy won scoring 9 ½ – ½ giving up only a draw to GM Michael Rohde and going 2-0 against everyone else including Ostrovskiy and WIM Megan Lee.  Since Dlugy is now from New Jersey, Yefrim Treger is the New York State Blitz Champion.  He tied for 2nd place with WIM Megan Lee from Washington.

The Under 2100 section had a familiar face atop the standings – Harold Scott started 4-0 and then drew both games Monday to tie for first with Webster Kehoe.  Scott and Kehoe drew their final round game.  I have to apologize to Mr. Kehoe.  It is my fault he didn’t come in clear first.  After a couple mediocre performances in “Under” sections, Harold Scott recently told me if he ever tried to enter an Under section again I was to stop him.  Unfortunately, I was not in Albany to direct or play so I was not able to stop Harold from winning the tournament!

Harold and Tony Renna were roommates at this tournament and both started 4-0.

This tactic occurred in the Under 2100 section.  Can you find white’s move?

Craig, Peter A-Geiger, Alan E

Here is a miniature from the Under 2100 section featuring a king hunt and mate in the middle of the board.

The section winners were:

Under 2100

Harold Scott & Webster Kehoe 4-2, $750

Under 1800

Charlie Reeder, 5 ½ – ½ $1000

Under 1500

Dmitry Agron 6-0 $700

Under 1200

Ashwin Vutha 5 ½ – ½ $400

Mixed Doubles

IM Alexandr Ostrovskiy & Charlie Reeder 9 ½ – 1 ½ $300 each

Blitz Tournament

GM Max Dlugy 9 ½ – ½ $300

14212568_10154623234536454_9143093351606152718_nThe New York Chess Association holds its annual meeting at this event.  As part of the meetings, they induct players or organizers into the New York Chess Hall of Fame.  This year the players were GMs Robert J. Fischer, Sammy Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, Gata Kamsky and Carrie Goldstein.  The organizer this year was Sophia Rohde.  A few highlights of Sophia’s accomplishments are from the induction ceremony are:

A Chess Tournament Director since the age of 11, Sophia Rohde was the youngest person in the world to earn the FIDE International Arbiter title at age 19.  She is also a FIDE International Organizer and a USCF National Tournament Director.  She has long been active in chess organization at the City, State, National and International levels, and her contributions have been immense.

Sophia has been among the Top 100 US women as a player.  She served as the Manager of the Manhattan Chess Club.  As an organizer, Sophia is always seeking the highest standards for the players.  As a teacher, Sophia instills her love of the game in her students. She has been a teacher and true aficionado of the Royal Game for almost her entire life.  She has a special mission to bring its enjoyment and challenges to the disadvantaged.  Sophia makes people’s lives better through Chess.

Congratulations to all on a well deserved honor.

NTD Steve Immitt directed for Continental Chess Association assisted by Bill Goichberg, Brother John McManus & William Townsend.  William Townsend also edits many of the games from the tournament for this article and for Empire Chess.

Full tournament details including some games can be found at

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

Record-Breaking Attendance at the Southern California Open

By Vanessa West

The Southern California Open, one of the strongest open tournaments in California, took place in the ever-sunny city of San Diego for the 6th year in a row. Wandering across the tournament location, the extensive grounds of the Town and Country Resort, you pass the convention center hosting a wide range of events, including the TICA Cat Show, which boasts “America’s finest felines”, and Hidden Valley Feis, a huge Irish dance competition, on the way to the ballroom where a record-breaking 208 players, including some of the top players in the state, battle it out for the coveted title of “Southern California Open Champion.”

GM Timur Gareyev. Photo: Irina Nizmutdinova

Top Seed, GM Timur Gareyev. Photo: Irina Nizmutdinova

This year’s top seed, GM Timur Gareyev, shared first place with IM John Bryant. While both ended undefeated with 5 points out of 6, each achieved the score in different ways. Gareyev competed in the 2-Day Schedule and emerged from the three 50-minute games with a perfect 3-0, including victories over two former Southern California Open Champions, IM Dionisio Aldama and IM Andranik Matikozyan. The final two rounds, he accepted draws against two of his closest competitors, Bryant and IM Keaton Kiewra. Bryant, on the other hand, played the 3-Day Schedule with the longer time control throughout and was a half point behind Gareyev going into the final round, when he won a critical game to tie for first. 

IM John Bryant. Photo: Irina Nizmutdinova

IM John Bryant. Photo: Irina Nizmutdinova

In addition to the Open, there were five competitive class sections. Here are the winners for each:


Rick Sun and Bryan Leano


Andrey Malkhasyan


Andy Johnson


Vladyslav Shevkunov, Eusy Ancheta, and Ariadne Dodd


Alejandro Lucero

The Southern California Open is one of the few opens that offers three “Best Game Prizes”, including one reserved for a class section. Last year, the 1st place Best Game Prize went to FM Michael Casella for his hard-fought victory against IM Dionisio Aldama.

Stay tuned for the announcement of this year’s Best Game Prize winners in a few days!

For standings and more information, visit the Southern California Chess Federation and San Diego Chess Club websites. 

New England Open by Alex Relyea

On Sunday of Labor Day weekend IM Denys Shmelov faced his two top competitors with Black and emerged with a 1 1/2 result en route to becoming the first player since 2011 to be declared sole New England Champion.  114 players came to Burlington, Massachusetts for the 76th New England Open.  GM Alexander Ivanov was declared Blitz Champion with 7/8.

Eight-Time Champ in Florida 


GM Julio Becerra won his eighth (!) Florida State title at the Arnold Denker FL State Championship in Tampa, Florida. Congrats to Becerra, who won every Florida Championship he played in so far, and this time took clear first by a full point. (MSA crosstable).

Have a Labor Day memory to share? Please share with us on facebook and twitter. And don’t forget to solve GM Pal Benko’s “Back to School” puzzles.



  1. Oregon Open in Portland, Oregon had 179 players in three sections and a $10,000.00 prize fund. Look up the US chess crosstable for more info.

  2. The CalChess State Championship saw 280 players in 6 sections plus 143 kids in the 1-day scholastic side event. Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi and Zviad Izoria shared first place with 5.5 out of 6. Bay Area Chess organized the tournament at the Santa Clara Convention Center, across the street from Levi’s Stadium.

    208 players in San Diego, 280 in Santa Clara and 179 in Portland. Not too shabby.

  3. Over Labor Day weekend, the Alabama State Chess Championship was won by Master Bill Melvin. Melvin has set the record for winning the state title eight times. The last time was 15 years ago. Despite many very talented younger, ambitious masters and experts, Melvin, 51-years-old, went undefeated to take clear first. The event was organized by the Madison City Chess League and held at the University of Alabama Huntsville campus. Here is my column on the Championship and annotated critical last round game that clinched the title for Bill Melvin.

  4. Over Labor Day weekend, Master Bill Melvin won the Alabama State Championship. He set a new record by winning the title eight times. His last title win was 15 years ago. The tournament was organized by Madison City Chess League and the Alabama Chess Federation and held at the University of Alabama Huntsville campus. 51-year-old Bill Melvin played impressive chess and won convincingly ahead of many younger, ambitious chess experts and masters.

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