In the heart of the night In the cool southern rain There’s a full moon in sight Shining down on the Pontchartrain
Poco’s song about New Orleans was most apt for the 2016 US Senior Open: sporadic rain and an almost full moon shining down on Lake Pontchartrain — and New Orleans and the suburb Kenner to its south.
GM Alexander Ivanov came into the tournament at the Airport Hilton as the favorite, having at least tied for first in three of the last four Seniors, and outrating his nearest competitor by 217 points. Yet it was FM Stephen Stoyko and IM Mark Ginsburg who emerged on top with 5½ of 6 and became the Senior Open co-champions.
Stephen Stoyko, Photo Brian Yang
IM Mark Ginsburg, Photo Brian Yang
Ivanov and Stoyko were the only players to begin with 3-0 (Ginsburg took a first round bye).
The grandmaster got some advantage out of the opening, but Stoyko equalized and took the advantage after Black’s erroneous rook trade on move 34. Then it was White’s turn to blunder, with 47.Bg5?? Ivanov saw the tactical idea against the undefended piece, but could have won with 47…Nf3+ when the connected advanced pawns immunize it. Instead, he gave up one of his pawns to win the bishop, and White was back on top. In the ensuing time scramble (control was Game/2 hours with a 30 second increment), 55.Nc3 was the cleanest win; Ivanov then sprung a second tactic with 57…Nxd4, when the knight is again immune. A swift advance of the h-pawn would have been White’s best remedy; and the win disappeared when he decided to go after Black’s pawns with 60.Kf5. Quite an ending!
Ginsburg caught up with the leaders with this round 4 victory:
Black’s play left some weaknesses, and after missing 18…fxe4 his position became increasingly passive.
Stoyko returned to his winning ways in Round 5, taking the initiative after FM Dehmelt’s decentralizing 19.Nh2.
Ivanov downed FM Leonid Bondar in Round 5, and Ginsburg took care of Dave Rupel with a nice combination after a good deal of “horsing around.”
Thus the three leaders remained on top. In the last round Stoyko had an easy time against WFM Sokolovskaya, who found herself playing an inferior version of a typical King’s Indian classical variation.
And it was Ginsburg’s turn to play Ivanov. White got the better of an unusual opening, though it appears that 19.d5 would have improved. The piece sac on d5 paid dividends after Black missed 23…Bd6! White was soon winning with rook and four pawns against two knights, but gave himself chances to go wrong by inviting Black’s king into his position.
And in another time scramble in a tricky ending (with even more spectators this time), White went wrong with 44.Ka1, when Black should have had an advantage with 44…Kb3, and then chances after 44…Bc1 45.Rg4 Kb3. With little left on his clock besides the increment, Ivanov missed the opportunities and White’s pawns decided the issue.
Chess is the best form of entertainment Photo Brian Yang
Thus Stoyko and Ginsburg became co-champions, with Stoyko getting the top plaque on tiebreaks (and also the plaque for best performance by a 65-69 year old). A retired programmer and math teacher from New Jersey now living in Florida, he also teaches chess, and his students have won the last two Amateur East championships. He had a memorable three-month stay in Ukraine in 1991 when it was o the verge of independence, hobnobbing with the likes of Ivanchuk and Romanishin while American stars of soccer and other sports also built cross-cultural ties.
Ginsburg, 57, of course also earned two plaques. Another transplanted Northeasterner, he’s lived in Tucson for the last 15 years, writing computer scripts and doing some chess teaching. He recounts with mixed pride and regret that his camps had two students who are now financial plutocrats rather than chessplayers.
Dehmelt, who tied with Ivanov for third at 4½, played a notable rook sac in round four.
And Dave Rupel, who won the prize for coming the greatest distance (Olympia, Washington) had a notable game with a somewhat suspect move in the Advance Caro-Kann. White grabs a pawn and both players display imagination in arguing over its fate.
11…d4 looks like an error, but when White chooses to trade queens on move 22 and then eschews 24.Rf4, the pendulum swings in Black’s favor and he wins a nice ending.
Finally, with some trepidation, we present a game from the first round. Pure open tournaments tend to lack first round upsets, and this one was sensational, both because of the 343-point rating difference and its brevity. But the jaundiced eye of the silicon chip removes some of the luster…
Looking at the other major prizewinners, the aforementioned Rupel and Doubleday (nice recovery!) scored 4½ to split Under 2300 money. Four points earned Under 2000 honors for Jace Etienne and Gregory Bailey, and Under 1800 for Finn Erik Overlie. Brock Poynter scored 2½ to take Under 1500 laurels. And Dehmelt won the Blitz.
Senior tournaments are good opportunities for reunions. In 1978, Mitchell Costanza taught Rene Phillips to play. They had met only twice in rated play since then, and the teacher, though now the lower rated, won this time. And good opportunities for, well, senior moments. One player studied the position on move seven for 25 minutes and then exclaimed, “Oh, it’s my move!”
Thanks to Jean Troendle of Cajun Chess for organizing the Senior and welcoming the players with “goody bags,” and to Corey Kormick, Eddie Rios, and Bob Ballard for keeping things running smoothly.