Memorial Day Weekend Wrap-Up

Image Caption
GM Awonder Liang at the 32nd Annual Chicago Open (courtesy Daaim Shabazz)


There’s nothing like a chess tournament over a holiday weekend. More people can travel further, stay longer, and maybe not have to play a condensed schedule just to fit all their games in.

This Memorial Day weekend was no different, with major open tournaments held in Chicago, IL, and Dulles, VA. Additionally, the 1000GM group held closed tournaments on both coasts. Let’s jump straight into the highlights!


1000GM Memorial Day New York GM Scheveningen

There was no GM norm group in New York, but FM Aaron Jacobson won a six-round event with 4/6 ahead of GMs Aleksandr Lenderman (3½/6), Michael Rohde (3/6) and Raven Sturt (3/6).

The only norm of the weekend was earned by local FM Justin Chen, who finished 7/9 to tie for first in the IM B Schiller System norm tournament with GM Oliver Barbosa from the Philippines.

Chen’s head-to-head win over Barbosa was a real barn-burner, with Chen showing why he deserved the norm in the process.



Some players talk about their preferred style as if mastery can be achieved by only excelling in one area. It’s a testament to Chen’s strength, then, that the player who was able to do that in his game against a grandmaster was also able to outlast FM Alice Lee like this in a positional grind.



1000GM Bay Area Memorial Day Scheveningen

The good news for FM Anish Vivekananthan was that he scored a fantastic 8/9, yielding two draws and no losses. The bad news was that he was not on the side of the Scheveningen tournament that would allow for norms.

But the really good news was that Vivekananthan already had all three IM norms and, thanks to this fantastic result, managed to cross the 2400 FIDE rating barrier. Congrats to IM-Elect Vivekananthan! Here is a wonderful game where he managed to out-strategize his opponent and never look back in the endgame.



Cherry Blossom Classic

The 10th Cherry Blossom Classic took place in Dulles, VA, with Azeri GM Vasif Durarbayli and Mikhail Antipov (FIDE) tying for first with 6½/9. Some highlights of the winners’ games included Durarbayli’s endgame grind against GM John Burke and Antipov’s full-board attacking chess with both colors.





Nine players finished a half-point behind the leaders, including Burke and American IMs Safal Bora, Craig Hilby, and Josiah Stearman. Some highlights are included below.






Chicago Open

Three grandmasters tied for first place with a 7/9 score. Jianchao Zhou (China) and Emilio Cordova (Peru) joined local University of Chicago undergraduate Awonder Liang (USA), although they took very different paths to the podium.

Cordova’s tournament got off to a less than auspicious start, losing his first game against local high school student Avi Kaplan. The game is truly remarkable, as Kaplan took no interest in trying to out-theorize his established opponent, instead playing a creative, off-beat game reminiscent of his coach’s World Cup match against GM Alexei Shirov.



Cordova found himself in trouble again in the final round, where Liang and Zhou were also playing clearly for wins. But after some tremendous complications, he emerged on top.



Fresh off of his success in the Dominican Republic, GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez was looking for another strong finish before running into Zhou in the last round. All it took was one misstep.



Zhou’s most impressive victory came over local IM Dimitar Mardov, who himself had a fine result tying for fourth. Mardov, playing the black pieces, launched a nasty attack out of the Nimzo-Indian that would make a lesser player (such as this author) terrified. Instead, Zhou centralized his pieces and navigated through the thunderstorm with ease.



Finally, my favorite of Liang’s games can be found under the encyclopedia article for “Do Not Hurry.”



Four other players joined Mardov in the tie for fourth place with 6½/9, including IM Michael Mulyar. Here are some endgame highlights from the two IMs.




For more on the tournament, please check out Dr. Daaim Shabazz's excellent coverage on The Chess Drum.


Charlotte Chess Center Memorial Day Rapid and Blitz

Not everyone was trying to play nine rounds of classical chess over the holiday weekend, as the Charlotte Chess Center seemed to appreciate. Their “local” rapid and blitz events featured “local” players like GM Daniel Naroditsky and other regulars like GM Olexandr Bortnyk.



IM John Bartholomew also came out of retirement to play the game-in-45 tournament as well as the rapid and blitz events. Bortnyk and Bartholomew split the point in their last round encounter to finish as game-in-45 co-champions.



Bortnyk won the blitz outright with a 9/10 score, a half-point ahead of FM Vishnu Vanapalli. Vanapalli really represented Charlotte well, finishing ahead of Naroditsky and splitting his two-game match with Bortnyk in the process.



Order was restored in the rapid, with Naroditsky tying for first with Bortnyk, who split the point with his co-champion in their head-to-head encounter.

With a number of opens and invitationals coming up over the next few months, the summer chess season is officially open. If these games were any indication, there’s going to be a lot more competition to come. And some head-scratchingly difficult rook endgames, too.