Liem and Stukopin Win Bay Area International; Yoo Becomes America’s Youngest IM

2019 kicked off with one of the strongest open tournaments taking place on U.S. soil in 2019: the Bay Area International, a nine round super-swiss which featured over 20 grandmasters, dozens of titled players, and plenty of notoriously underrated Bay Area juniors! Top seed GM Le Quang Liem, won the tournament thanks to a resilient comeback, sharing first place with GM Andrey Stukopin, who also scored 7/9.

NM Arun Sharma and Dr. Judit Sztaray organized the event from January 1-7 in the Hyatt Regency hotel outside of San Francisco, California.

While the tournament was designed to attract high ranking players, the field was especially strong thanks to the recently concluded Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships, where many of the top players also participated, held in the same Hyatt at the tail end of 2018.

Tied for 3rd place with a final score of 6.5/9 were GMs Lazaro Bruzon, Dariusz Swiercz, Emilio Cordova, Alejandro Ramirez, Karthik Venkataraman, Bartlomiej Macieja and IM Felix Ynojosa, who earned a GM norm for his efforts. Felix also took down the U2450 prize, while NM Alex Costello secured Top U2250 with 5.0/9.

IM Felix Ynojosa

Two Bay Area locals, FM Christopher Yoo and NM Siddharth Banik, earned IM norms. It was Christopher’s final IM norm, and he already crossed the 2400 rating barrier, so he will soon become America’s youngest ever International Master.

The first sensation of the tournament occurred in Round 3, when now IM-elect Christopher Yoo took down the top seed, GM Le Quang Liem himself!

In Round 4 Christopher then defeated another GM, this time Peter Prohaszka of Hungary:

Christopher’s run continued with a draw against GM Alejandro Ramirez, but was then stopped short with two straight losses. In round 8, Christopher drew with IM Craig Hilby to clinch his final IM norm, along with the title.

IM-elect Christopher Yoo, Photo David Llada

For Liem, having drawn in Round 2 and upset in Round 3, it seemed like his tournament was going quite poorly, but he managed to recover like a true professional, scoring 5.5/6 to eventually share first place. His final round game against GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan seemed quite tense, as he showed a lot of restraint in a chaotic middlegame but eventually brought it home:

On the top board, Stukopin tried to achieve a small advantage in the Rossolimo Sicilian against Cordova, who was the leader after eight rounds with 6.5 points. Cordova then sacrificed a pawn to gain some activity but Black’s initiative was stopped short when Stukopin gave up his queen for two rooks, achieving a technically won position which he smoothly converted:

Compared to Liem, Stukopin’s tournament was much more stable, winning five games and drawing four to reach 7.0/9.

IM Felix Ynojosa, who plays for UT Rio Grande Valley had a rockier event, losing in rounds two and six, but managed to finish strong, defeating GMs Akshat Chandra and Daniel Naroditsky in the final two rounds. His last round game against Naroditsky was a nice Sicilian win as Black:

In round seven, NM Siddharth Banik swindled a win against GM Denes Boros, finding some creative tactics against Black’s weakened back rank.

NM Siddharth Banik

This game eventually helped Banik secure his own IM norm:

With over 100 players participating, and most of them over 2200, the tournament proved to be quite successful.

Chief Arbiter Tom Langland and John McCumiskey ensured that everything ran quite smoothly. Full standings, games, and photos from the event can be found here. Follow Bay Area Chess for future announcements of upcoming tournaments.

IM Kostya Kavutskiy is a professional chess player, coach, and writer, and can be found active on Twitter. Also make sure to check out his Patreon page for instructive chess analysis and advice for improvement.


  1. It was exciting to have such an amazingly strong event on the West Coast. Well-covered Kostya!

    Christopher Yoo’s endgame intuition seems to be right on par with his tactics/attacking proficiency. Impressive.

    Congrats to all the players (good to see some white hair among the participants), and to the organizers. Another great event by Bay Area Chess.

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