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Winter Open a success


In case you missed it in this month's Check This! newsletter, last month's Winter Open was a resounding success. Read about all the action here, and stay tuned for more tournament updates.

After finishing 2009 with two strong tournaments, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis was geared up for 2010. The newest addition to the CCSCSL staff, Grandmaster Ben Finegold, was slated to participate in the inaugural event to kick off the 2010 tournament schedule.

The Winter Open brought other changes as well, as annual members were required to pre-register to receive the typical discount. This change had an immediate impact with 26 players registered before the day of the event. One might have expected another 10-15 players, which would have been considered a successful Winter event, but what happened on the morning of January 16 was pretty spectacular. Despite the cold Saint Louis weather, 31 more players came out to compete and meet the newest chess celebrity in Saint Louis! The 57-player field represented the second largest ever for the CCSCSL and continued the successful trend of 40-plus player tournaments the club has been enjoying.


Round one got started with a bang, as two players in the eight-player Master/Expert section were upset by class C players, prompting their immediate withdrawal from the event. William Little scored one of the biggest upsets of the event when he hung a loss on Nick Karlow. Not to be outdone, Alex Vergilesov, who entered the event as an underrated 1593, was able to notch a victory against rising superstar Jialin Ding, who came into the event as a 2095! Don Harper, who has seen a sharp rating increase in the past few month, was able to maintain his impressive performance with an upset victory over Kevin Dale Johnson. This meant that after the thrid round, three of the eight players in M/X were already out of the running for first place as a perfect performance was going to be necessary with GM Finegold at the top board and a field of 57 players.

Round two was equally hard on the top players as expert Josh Frank succumbed to Troy Krimminger, prompting his withdrawl from the event as well. Expert Drew Hollinberger also suffered a suspect loss to Tim Nesham, leaving only three of the eight players in the M/X section with perfect scores after round two. Most of the class A players were rolling along, except for Al "Debo" Howlett who ran into the buzzsaw that was Vergilesov as he notched his second upset of the day.

[imagefield_assist|fid=2520|preset=fullsize|lightbox=true|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=211|height=375]Round three definitely separated the men from the boys, as the contenders made themselves known in this round. While everyone was watching GM Finegold, having just demonstrated his superiority by outplaying John Boyer in an opposite-colored bishops endgame, his son Spencer was putting on an equally impressive performance. His third-round victory over Tim Nesham left him as one of only four players with a perfect record at the end of the third round. Along with Ben and Spencer, Paul "Peaches" Mechem and Dan Roberts were sitting at the elusive 3.0/3.0 mark. The final round pairings found Spencer playing Mechem while Ben squared off against Roberts.

Round four had a lot of drama with plenty of prize money on the line. With GM Finegold the only undefeated player in the M/X section, most people were expecting a victory and outright win for the club's resident GM. Meanwhile, the other marquee matchup had major implications for the A class. A decisive victory would mean an outright win, while a draw would really throw a wrench into things. As the last round of an open Swiss tends to do, the drama proved to be high, as GM Finegold quickly found himself in a slightly worse position versus Roberts. Reaching back on his experience though, he was able to outplay his opponent and turn the one positive aspect of his position, a lowly passed a-file pawn, into the difference maker. Meanwhile, on board two, neither Spencer nor Mechem were able to push for a victory, and a draw became the final result. They both finished the event with 3.5/4.0 points and a tie for first in A class. Selden Trimble, utilizing the under-appreciated Swiss Gambit, managed a fourth round victory to catch Mechem and Spencer, creating a three-way tie and $42 for each participant. GM Finegold's victory on board one assured him outright first place in the tournament, and Gordon Ruan finished with 3.5/4.0 to take clear second in the M/X section.

In class B, Bob Howe, editor of the Missouri Chess Association Bulletin, managed another impressive CCSCSL performance and took class B outright with a 3.0/4.0 performance. Troy Krimminger and Dennis Taylor were able to split second place with equally respectable 2.5/4.0 results. In class C, Vergilesov parlayed his monster start into a 3.0/4.0 finish, which was more than enough to capture first place in class C all by himself. Class D continued the trend of uncontested winners, with Nathan Phan's 2.0/4.0 performance proving strong enough to win class D by himself. Amazingly, while a 2.0/4.0 performance was enough to win class D outright, it yielded a five-way tie in the U1200 section with James Elliott, Scott Anderson, Clark Rogers, Anthony Ford, and Jon Strand all walking away with $25 for their efforts.

The tournament was a huge success, not only for the CCSCSL, but also for the Finegolds as they settle in to their new home in Saint Louis. We will undoubtedly be seeing more of Ben and Spencer in our events in the future. Kudos to all the club members that got paired agaisnt him and gave him a run for his money. The club's next event with be the 2nd annual Metro Saint Louis Class Championship. The event will take place on February 13, so make sure to pre-register if you are an annual member of the club to receive your tournament discount. As always, you can register right from the home page at, or you can check the events section for more details on any and all upcoming events. We hope to see you in February!