The 2019 Amateur West Championship was held at the Tucson Woman’s Club in Tucson, Arizona, over Memorial Day Weekend, and was sponsored by the Southern Arizona Chess Association. The tournament was directed by Chief Tournament Director Robby Adamson, Pairing Chief Michelle Martinez, and tournament directors Renee Lamphear and Jonathan Martinez.
While the Amateur West is one of the longest-running tournaments in Tucson, exactly when it was first held is somewhat in dispute. Steve Ostapuk, a local player and coach, believes that the Amateur West Championship came to Tucson in the ‘70s, and may have initially been called the Desert Open. Robby Adamson maintains that the tournament was first held in Tucson in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Regardless of when the Amateur West Championship first came to Tucson, it has carved out its place in Arizona’s chess history and is a favorite among locals.
The 2019 edition of the Amateur West featured 67 players in total, including three players over 2000 and nine players over 1800. The six-round tournament was played over three days and was divided into 3 main sections, Championship, Reserve, and Booster. Players from five states made the journey to participate.
The scholastic side event, for players in grades K-6 and rated under 1000, ran two separate events on Saturday and Sunday. Many of the 15 scholastic players chose to compete both days and played eight rounds of chess over the weekend!
One of the highlights of the Amateur West Championship is the upset prize, awarded before play begins in rounds two through six. Winners receive a SACA gift certificate that can be used at the chess store or towards a future tournament. Upset winners are highly revered during the tournament, and when an upset prizewinner is announced, a full round of applause could be heard throughout the room. Jenny Qiang upset a 1600 rated player in the fifth round, with the gap in rating being nearly 600 points!
Tyler Forrester stayed on the first board of the Booster Section for the entire tournament. Despite losing in the last round, Forrester attained first place with 5/6 points. Forrester and his college team came from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania to play in the tournament, stopping to visit the Grand Canyon on the way. Forrester found his 5th round game against Gregory Allen to be the most interesting, because it was full of tactical ideas and active play.
In the last round of the Reserve section, Annie Allen played against a player who was around 300 points higher rated. Winning the last round meant tying for first place with her brother, Spencer Allen, and losing meant getting nothing. Allen had already drawn her brother, who outrates her by 200 points, in the 5th round. Allen sacrificed a knight in this magnificent finish, beating her opponent and securing the second place title, losing only on tiebreaks to her brother.
After the final round Allen remarked with a smirk, “I know I still had a better tournament than my brother.” Sure enough, after the rating report was published, she jumped almost 150 points!
Of couse the most coveted title at the Amateur West is victory in the Championship section, with free entry to the 2019 National Open on the line. Top seed Carlos Boteo had a full point lead going into the last round, and was paired with the talented junior Jayden Xu.
Boteo knew that his opponent played the Queen’s Gambit Declined, so he prepared well before the game started. But Boteo took an early draw, explaining that he did not want to lose and wanted to secure the first place title. His round six game against twelve-year-old Xu, with accurate opening and middlegame play from both sides, is shown below:
The Amateur West Championship is one of Boteo’s only tournaments each year. Even though first place earned him a free entry to the National Open (in addition to a plaque and a clock), he’s still unsure if he can go, as he may not be able to afford the trip. He’s still overjoyed because the Amateur West is what Boteo calls “the event of the year.” His goal is to become a National Master, but he says that money is a hindrance to his dreams.
Xu found the Amateur West Championship because his mother was looking for a strong tournament that he could play in. Xu also struggles with time pressure, so they wanted to try a tournament that featured a 30 second increment. The Amateur West Championship seemed like a good fit due to its time control, so Jayden and his mom came to Tucson from Sunnyvale, California to compete for the first place title.
Xu also dyed his hair blue before the event to “intimidate [his] opponents.” It must have worked, because he had five upsets (four wins, one draw) in six rounds! Jayden’s goal is to reach 2000 by the end of the year.
The Amateur West Championship brought players from all around the country to participate, as well as many locals. While the origins of the Amateur West may be a mystery, this year’s tournament produced many interesting and stunning games, and certainly added to the Amateur West’s rich history!
Final results here: https://sazchess.blogspot.com/2019/05/2019-amateur-west-championship-final.html
Rating report here: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201905279412
Scholastic rating report here: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201905268792
All photos courtesy Michelle Martinez