Mechanics' Institute Memorial Blitz Moves Online

By John Hartmann |  May 15, 2020  |   News

The Mechanics’ Institute (MI) Chess Club organized the 14th annual Ray Schutt/Steve Brandwein/Jay Whitehead Memorial Blitz Championship on May 3, 2020, online through  This event is normally held at the historic Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club in downtown San Francisco and typically attracts very strong players. GMs Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky are previous winners of this event. Due to the shelter-in-place order in San Francisco, and instead of cancelling the tournament, MI decided to host the event online. Despite only having one week to promote the event, numerous talented players showed up to compete in this free, 12-round G/3 +2 swiss tournament, where gold, silver and bronze medals (as well as the honor and glory of winning) were at stake. GM Steven Zierk played phenomenal chess to take clear first and the gold with 10.5/12. GM Rauf Mamedov, the former European Blitz Champion, won silver with 10/12 and FM Kyron Griffith took the bronze, winning on tiebreaks over Abhinav Penagalapati, both with 9/10. In all 104 players participated in this open event, which honored three important figures to the San Francisco chess community. The tournament was enhanced with a live broadcast and commentary by 3-time US Champion GM Nick de Firmian, FM Paul Whitehead, FM Jim Eade, Chess Director Abel Talamantez, and General Manager Dr. Judit Sztaray. Given the thirteen years of history of this annual event, it was important for MI to find a way to continue the tradition. MI’s online chess community has been exceptionally active since the shelter-in-place started, so a reasonable attendance could be expected. Ten titled players, including two GMs, joined many of the regular club members playing in this online event. The twelve rounds at times felt more like a marathon, where the player’s endurance and stamina would factor into who came out on top. Round 9 proved to be the round that really steered the course for the tournament, as the two GMs faced each other in a classic battle between two pieces versus rook and a pawn endgame. Zierk’s two pieces came out on top in a technical endgame battle.

[pgn] [Event "Schutt/Brandwein/J Whitehead Memorial Bl"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.05.03"] [Round "9"] [White "Muisback26"] [Black "Zkid"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C07"] [WhiteElo "3023"] [BlackElo "2805"] [PlyCount "112"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [EventType "blitz"] [WhiteClock "0:00:35"] [BlackClock "0:00:50"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd7 7. O-O Nc6 8. Nb3 Nf6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 a6 11. Re1 Bc5 12. Be3 O-O 13. Nxe6 Qxd1 14. Raxd1 Bxe6 15. Bxc5 Bxc4 16. Bxf8 Kxf8 17. b3 Be6 18. c4 Ke7 19. f3 a5 20. Re5 Nd7 21. Re3 a4 22. h4 axb3 23. axb3 Ra2 24. Rde1 Kd6 25. Rd1+ Kc6 26. h5 Rb2 27. h6 gxh6 28. Ra1 Nc5 29. Ra3 h5 30. f4 h4 31. Re5 Nxb3 32. Rh5 h3 33. gxh3 Nd4 34. Rxh7 Bxc4 35. h4 Bd5 36. Kf1 Bg2+ 37. Kg1 Nf3+ 38. Rxf3 Bxf3 39. Rxf7 Rg2+ 40. Kf1 Rh2 41. f5 Kd6 42. f6 Ke6 43. Rf8 Rxh4 44. Kf2 Rf4 45. Ke3 Rxf6 46. Rxf6+ Kxf6 47. Kxf3 Ke5 48. Ke3 Kd5 49. Kd3 Kc5 50. Kc3 Kb5 51. Kc2 Kb4 52. Kb2 b5 53. Kc2 Ka3 54. Kb1 b4 55. Ka1 b3 56. Kb1 b2 {Zkid won by resignation} 0-1 [/pgn]
While chess is a game of pure skill, winning a chess tournament like this will sometimes require a little luck. Zierk went into round 11 a full point ahead of the field, where he faced FM Jason Liang. As the match progressed, it seemed that Liang was going to pull off a spectacular upset and leave the door open for Mamedov to make a comeback to the top of the leaderboard, but Zierk persevered to win the game and keep his full point lead over Mamedov. Another favorite in this tournament was IM Christopher Yoo, who produced this nice miniature against MI club regular, IM Elliott Winslow.
[pgn] [Event "Schutt/Brandwein/J Whitehead Memorial Bl"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.05.03"] [Round "9"] [White "ecwinslow"] [Black "ChristopherYoo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B56"] [WhiteElo "2270"] [BlackElo "2688"] [PlyCount "38"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [EventType "blitz"] [WhiteClock "0:01:01"] [BlackClock "0:01:08"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. f3 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 Be6 9. Qd2 O-O 10. O-O-O a5 11. a4 Nb4 12. Kb1 d5 13. exd5 Bf5 14. Rc1 Nfxd5 15. Nxd5 Nxd5 16. Bc4 Nb4 17. Rhd1 Qc7 18. Bd5 Rfd8 19. Qe2 Rxd5 { ChristopherYoo won by resignation} 0-1 [/pgn]
While Yoo played very strongly, Mamedov and Zierk had pulled away, and they entered the final round with Zierk a full point ahead. Mamedov defeated Rohan Rajaram to do his part. Zierk needed only a draw to secure sole first and was paired against his former coach, NM Michael “fpawn” Aigner in the final round. Aigner was able to force a perpetual check with a nice combination, but the draw for Zierk was enough to secure sole first place and the gold medal. This online event was a big success, and Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club is proud to have organized it in remembrance of Ray Schutt, Steve Brandwein, and Jay Whitehead, all of whom share a special place in Mechanics’ history and who made an impact on chess in the Bay Area.

Ray Schutt was one of the founding members of the Hayward Chess Club and in 1995, won the U.S. Senior Open Championship. A write up on his passing can be found in the Mechanics’ Institute Newsletter from 2007: Steve Brandwein was the Chess Room Coordinator of the Mechanics’ Institute and a regular player at MI. He was famous in the chess community for his blitz play and playing Miguel Najdorf to a 6-game draw in a friendly blitz match at the Mechanics Institute. He roomed with Jim Buff and Bobby Fischer. John Donaldson tells great tales of those encounters in his piece for CLO after Brandwein’s passing: Jay Whitehead is the brother of current Chess Room Coordinator Paul Whitehead, and was an International Master who holds the distinction of being the only American player to ever finish ahead of Garry Kasparov in a tournament (World Cadet, 1977). Jay was a former US Junior Champion and played twice in the US Championship. Thanks to all the players and spectators for helping MI continue this memorial event and allowing the tradition to continue with such a successful virtual tournament.

For full results from our online memorial event, please visit this link: To watch the broadcast of this event with commentary, please follow this link: 7XaY3MJcrpA&t=9s"> Follow our broadcasts on our Twitch channel:


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Fantastic event, and a great tribute to these wonderful personalities.

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