Ruifeng Li at the US Junior Closed. Photo: Austin Fuller
The 2016 Southern Open was held at the Wyndham resort in Orlando, Florida from July 25th to 27th. The $15,000 prize fund attracted 221 players including 30 in the Open section. The Open section was headlined by three GMs, two IMs, two WGMs, and three FMs. After 5 rounds, IM Ruifeng Li finished first on tiebreaks over GMs Julio Becerra and Sandro Pozo. Each won $1166.67 with Li getting the $100 bonus for best tiebreaks. All three players were undefeated winning three and drawing two. Li drew the other two co-champions while Pozo and Becerra each also ceded a draw to IM Daniel Fernandez.
Round four seemed to be the most significant round of the tournament. Becerra and Li were on boards one and two of the tournament and were leading with 2 ½ out of 3, but were joined in the scoregroup by WGM Yanira Vigoa Apecheche and NM Grant Xu. Becerra defeated Apecheche in a long maneuvering game. Between moves 45 and 57 white just “passes” by moving the same piece back and forth while black places his pieces on the ideal squares and prepares for the breakthrough.
Meanwhile on board two Li kept up the pace by defeating Xu. Li was able to launch an attack against Xu’s king that was stuck in the center. He won a couple pawns and transitioned to an ending where his two rooks and extra pawns were decisive.
Also in round four, the largest upset of the tournament occurred as FM Corey Acor defeated top seeded GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez on board four. Accor gives up a piece for three pawns and throughout the game shows his passed pawns dominate the extra piece.
In this tactic from round four, FM Girones Barrios brings home the full point against Logan Wu.
So going into the last round, Becerra and Li were leading the tournament and faced each other on board 1. They were followed by 4 players at 3-1: Pozo, Fernandez, Acor and Marraro Lopez. I expected a quick draw on board 1, but they actually played for a couple hours before eventually agreeing to a draw. Pozo then joined the winner’s circle by defeating Acor but Marraro Lopez and Fernandez drew so there would only be a three way tie. In round three, Pozo used a nice tactic to finish the game against Rafael Rodriguez. Can you spot the way to end the game?
Also in round 5 another large upset occurred at the lowest rated player in the section Steve Abrahams defeated WGM Yanira Vigoa Apecheche on board 6 to take the Under 2300 prize of $800. Abrahams had a very unusual path to winning the class prize as he only played two games! In round 1, he received the bye as the lowest rated player. He then informed us that he would take half point byes in rounds two and four. He only played the evening rounds 3 and 5. However he played an FM and WGM and scored 1 1/2 for a 2449 performance rating. In the last round, he sacs a pawn and while it may not have been completely sound, his opponent eventually succumbs to an attack.
The other section winners were:
Theodore Slade 5-0 $1500
Metin Colak 4 ½ – ½ $900
Ricardo Bottino 4 ½ – ½ $900
Philip McCully 5-0 $800
Mellissa Suarez 4-1 & GM Sandro Pozo 4-1 $150 each