by Caleb Denby, Senior Chess Associate
The Bill Wright Saint Louis Open always proves to be an exciting event, and the 2019 edition was no exception. From class players looking to win some serious cash in the U2000, to open section underdogs hoping to knock off the tournament favorites, chess players of all kinds gather in Saint Louis every April to compete in the event. This year, the Open section consisted of 22 players while the U2000 section had 50 competitors. All together, these 72 competitors were playing for $10,000 in total prizes.
The players in the Open section had a lot to fight for with a $1500 prize fund to split for first place, $1000 for second, $800 for third, $650 for fourth, and $350 for fifth. Battling for the top places were three favorites, GM Illya Nyzhnyk, GM Cemil Can Ali Marandi, and IM Brian Escalante, as well as the slightly unexpected contender FM Joshua Colas. Going into the final round, Nyzhnyk lead the pack by a half point with 3.5/4, and had to face Colas, who had already drawn GM Marandi in the second round. Once again, Colas held his own against a tournament favorite and drew the game. When the dust finally settled, Nyzhnyk and Marandi split first place with 4/5 and $1250 each, while Colas shared third with Escalante at 3.5/5 and each player took home $725. Julian Proleiko and Aaron Grabinsky shared the fifth place prize at 3/5 and each won $125.
The Open section also featured U2250 and U2150 prize funds in addition to the overall prizes. NM Claudio Abud scored 3/5 and walked away with $500 in a tie for first for the U2250 prize, and he did so without losing a single game along the way. Caleb Denby, the writer of this post, barely managed to tie Claudio after a tumultuous tournament of 3 wins and 2 losses. Matt Hosler took home clear first for the U2150 prize of $350 after scoring 2.5/5. Luke Ye and Benson Schexnaydre shared the second place prize with 2 points and each took home $100. Remarkably, Luke has brought home a portion of the prize fund at every Bill Wright since 2016 – the first year he competed.
The U2000 section featured a prize of $1000 for first, $600 for second, $350 for third, and $200 for fourth. The players fought tooth and nail throughout the event to stay at the top of the standings, but after four rounds, only two players remained unscathed with a perfect 4/4 score. These players, Benjamin Shoykhet and Steven Bange, would have to face each other in the final round to determine a winner. At the end of the day, neither player went down as the game ended in a draw. This left the standings with Ben and Steven sharing first place and $800 each with 4.5 points, while Ayden Huang, Robert Taras, Cole Tatro, and Aahan Sharma trailed by a half point with 4/5. Aahan performed at a level miles above his pre-tournament rating of 1493 with three wins and two draws – gaining nearly 140 rating points for his efforts. Due to Ayden and Cole qualifying for the U1800 prizes and Aahan qualifying for the U1600 prize, Robert won all $350 of the third place prize. Ayden and Cole each took home $375 after splitting first and second in the U1800 fund, and Aahan took home the sole first place prize of $400 in the U1600 fund. Four more players trailed by only one point and ended with 3.5/5. These players were Behrooz Vakil, Paul Goddard, Lillian Wu, and Brian Conti, and each walked away with a portion of the prize fund. Notably, Brian Conti overperformed by an incredible margin, with his rating leaping from 1324 to 1533. Finally, Nick Risko won $150 by taking clear second in the U1400 fund with a respectable 2.5 points.
Although the 2019 Bill Wright Saint Louis Open has come to an end, local players in May have plenty of opportunities to keep their skills sharp with upcoming events such as the May Day Open and the Show Me Classic. The chess never stops in Saint Louis.
For photos from the event, please visit our Flickr page.