Saturday, October 11 was 2014 National Chess Day, and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis celebrated the holiday with two tournaments: an afternoon rated-beginner’s event, limited to players rated below 1300; and an evening of blitz chess, in a nine-round tournament open to everyone.
Twenty-four players, including seven unrated United States Chess Federation-newcomers, showed for NCD’s rated-beginner tournament. The four-round event featured a prize fund of $150 for an entry fee of just $5 -- though it was free for all new USCF signups.
Despite a special $25 awarded to the best unrated player of the afternoon, Kannan Sundarresan decided to grab even more in his USCF kickoff. In his first tournament, Sundarresan went undefeated through four games, taking first place across the entire tournament as well as the additional $50 top prize.
“This was my first tournament, and it feels great to win!” said Sundarresan, who now sports a provisional rating of 2021. Following Sundarresan, seven players tied for second place with a 3/4 score: Thomas Amar, Azim Aziz, Adam Eubanks, Jared Howard, Tania Perez, Eliot Blackmoor and Daniel Bartz.
Some -- like former world champion Bobby Fischer -- are impervious to the charm of blitz chess. But those who came down to the Saint Louis Chess Club on National Chess Day agreed: Nine rounds of blitz equals nine times the fun.
The evening NCD Blitz tournament featured 23 players, a field headlined by the titles of GM Ben Finegold, NM Matt Larson and WIM Sue Maroroa. As the only player bearing the elite title, world-class Grandmaster and commentator Finegold entered the event as the clear favorite -- and did not disappoint.
“He [Finegold] played my opening against me!” said James Ivy, a familiar face around the Chess Club and a strong proponent of Sokolsky’s 1. b4. Ivy, however, wasn’t the only one shocked by the Grandmaster’s bag of tricks. Finegold swept all nine rounds of the tournament, casually alternating between capturing his opponent’s pieces and punching the clock, all the while taking sips of Perrier.
NM Matt Larsen held his own on board two, taking second place with 8/9 and only losing against his mentor Finegold. Senad Smajlagic, a strong Club Class A player, scored 7/9 to finish third.