Youth Dominate at the 8th Southwest Class Championship

Sam Sevian at the 2015 U.S. Championships. Photo: Austin Fuller

The 8th Southwest Class Championship (February 16-20) ended in a 5 way tie for 1st and produced one GM and three IM norms where the average age was 22 years old!  Only one “old man” in each group prevented the average age from being even lower.

The top section is a nine round swiss, which offers $8800 of the $30,000 guaranteed prize fund and offers GM and IM norm opportunities.  This year’s event drew 13 GMs, 14 IMs, 9 FMs, and 2 WIMs.

Four GMs and two IMs scored 6 ½ to each earn $1,083,33.  GM Sam Sevian, who is currently ranked #12 in the world among players age 20 and below, had the highest tiebreak totals and earned a $200 bonus.  Sevian played three of the other four players tied for 1st.  The tenth grade student from Massachusetts counts his 3rd round victory over GM Carlos Alejano as his best game of the event.

Ruifeng Li at the 2016 U.S. Junior Closed. Photo: Austin Fuller

Sevian edged out IM Ruifeng Li by half a tiebreak point.  Li, who is currently ranked as the number 19 Junior in the world, achieved a GM norm, but this is actually his 4th norm, and his GM was subsequently approved in March by the FIDE Presidential Board.  Congratulations to the USA’s newest GM!  Here is Li’s 6th round win over GM Denes Boros.

Li drew in the last round with GM Vladimir Belous who also shared 1st.  Their game was no GM draw—it went 60 moves to a drawn king and pawn ending.  Belous had the lowest tiebreaks of the winners because he won on forfeit in round one and lost in round two to FM Alexander Kalikshteyn, who achieved an IM norm in the event.  Belous then won four out of the next five games before drawing Sevian and Li in the last two rounds.  Here is his 4th round win over FM Levy Rozman.

GM Holden Hernandez is currently a student at UT Dallas.  He started the tournament 3-0 and won more games than anyone else in the tournament, six. He also had the fewest draws of any of the co-champions, only one.  Hernandez is the “old man” of the champions at 33 years old!  Here is an example of his fighting style.  He defeats Advait Patel, who earned an IM norm, in an attacking game with kings castled on opposite sides.

GM Gil Polpilski is a teammate of Hernandez and is currently studying Computer Science at UT Dallas.  In the last round, Popilski defeated IM Sergei Matsenko to join the winner’s circle.

The last co-champion is IM Pavlo Vorontsov.  He achieved a GM performance, but did not get a norm because he did not play the required number of foreign players.  Here is his 7th round victory over GM Alexander Shabalov.

As noted, Li made his 4th GM norm in this event.  IM norms were made by Craig Hilby, Advait Patel and Alexander Kalikshteyn.  Hilby achieved the norm with a round to spare by surpassing the norm requirement with a score of 6-3.  This is Hilby’s third IM norm and his IM title application is now pending before FIDE.  Hilby is currently the number 7 player in the USA age 16 or younger.  Here is his 8th round norm clinching victory over FM Alexander Kalikshteyn.

Kalikshteyn also achieved an IM norm.  He is the “old man” of the norm earners at 41 years old.  In round two, he defeated GM Belous.

The final norm was earned by Advait Patel.  He played five GMs and scored 50%.  Here is his round six victory versus GM Kayden Troff.

In addition to Ruifeng Li, Akshat Chandra had his GM title confirmed at the same time. Congratulations to another of USA’s newest GMs!  Akshat did not have his best result scoring “only” 5 ½ points.  He did, however, play one of the tournament’s most exciting games, even though he came out on the wrong end. He played the last 20 or so moves in an incredibly complicated position in severe time pressure.  When I started watching the game, he had less than two minutes left to make it to move 40.  He made many best moves, but it appears he needed a bit more time to analyze all these complications.

Every tournament has its fair share of stories, and this one is no exception.  In one of the class sections, one of the players had a mild heart attack in round three.  I have had instances where players had medical emergencies and have had players have a heart attack at the board.  I have never had a player continue playing.  This player not only continued playing but won that game.  He later went to the hospital and learned he had a mild heart attack.  He kept playing in the tournament and even won a prize!

One thing I noticed as I entered games is that two games in the norm section were played to checkmate, one to stalemate, and one to king versus king.  In class sections, it is not unusual to see such occurrences, but this is unusual in a norm event!

Another interesting tidbit is that a perfect score was not enough to win the blitz tournament (at least outright).  GM Vladimir Belous scored 8-0 including two last round victories over IM Felix Aponte, but Gopal Menon also scored 8-0 to tie for 1st.  Belous commented that this was the first time he won all his games and still had to share 1st place!

Strategic last round half point byes (requested in advance of course) led to prize money in the Class A section.  Austin Yan scored 5 ½ out of 6, and the last round half point bye gave him clear first and $2000.  Yue Chu scored 5 out of 6 and the last round bye was worth 5 ½ points, a tie for second, and $750.

In the Class D section, David Barry scored 6 ½ and was a point ahead of the field.  However, this was his first tournament and as an unrated he was prize limited to $300.

The only perfect score was Clarence Whitworth in Class E.  The 7-0 score was a point and a half ahead of the field and was worth $800.

The section winners were:


Leo Creger V, Rohith Kaliyur, Arish Virani, Shelev Oberoi, 5  ½ –  1 ½ $950

Class A

Austin Yan, 6-1, $2000

Class B

Rajesh Shanmukam, 6-1, $2000

Class C

Danial Smith, 6 ½ –  1 ½, $1700

Class D

David Barry, 6 ½ – 1 ½,  $300

Class E

Clarence Whitworth, 7-0 $800

Mixed Doubles

Yue Chu & Adarsh Hullahalli, 10-2, $500 each

Blitz Tournament

GM Vladimir Belous & Gopal Menon, 8-0, $101.50

NTD Steve Immitt directed for CCA assisted by David Hater, Al Losoff, Tom Brownscombe, and Rob Jones.

For more information, including over 200 games from the tournament, visit:


  1. Fantastic Texas coverage by Mr. Hater and truly an unexpected breath of fresh air at the normally lifeless oh- isn’t- that- cute USCF website……SERIOUS for real, fiercely fought and timely chess games back go back..the hits just keep on coming! He presumably had absolutely no time to add annotative notes but in the future will be able to brief- note them using instant with words computer programs that give all level fly by page readers a few fun basics in each employed at major Chessbase covered events. Wait ..scratch that! ..after eyeballing Hater’s great.nifty article every future Texas player will rush up to him to help in any way. All he has to do is ask in a whisper! Jude Acers/ New Orleans PS MESSAGE FOR MR. Hater..the favorite all time absolutely true story from American legendary , titantic Chess Review publisher I.A. HOROWITZ and preserved through time by both KOLTANOWSKI amd Bruce Pandolfini in an electrifying recap called THE LAST RIDE .. A Vermont man, a fervent life time chess player was in a terrific last round 1955 chess tournament battle .. while making quite literally his last move .. he was suddenly struck with a certain death heart attack.. on the floor, he knew it was all over and said so.. but was still completely conscious as he was being rushed hopelessly to the hospital . The tourney director (was that you Mr. Hater?) as a last courtesy naturally rode with the player in the last ride ambulance and dutifully bent his head to hear the whispering dying man’s final words.He got right down to business, the real deal nitty gritty.. “THIS MEANS I GET A DRAW..DON’T I?”

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