Super Stars A: Underdogs Take Down the Big Dogs

Most of Section A: Steven Witt, Matt Dalthorp, and Max Sun on the left. Ben Pikus and Austin Nguyen on the right.

On paper, it looked like it would be a battle between heavyweights Steven Witt (1817), Max Sun (1800), and Matt Dalthorp (1791) for the prizes. The winner would be the #2 rated scholastic player in the state if he scored 3/3. These three were over 200 points higher rated than the rest of field. Surely one of them would win, right? Not quite…

Elo isn’t very accurate to begin with, and it doesn’t take into account how fast active scholastic players improve when they are focused and motivated, as Austin Nguyen (1563) and Aaron Grabinsky (1559) showed by crushing the “big three” — both went 2/2 against their much higher-rated opponents. Austin added a second round win against Collin Goldman (1580) to score 3/3 and separate himself from Aaron, who only managed a draw against Collin to come in second overall with 2.5/3.

Austin’s first round victim was Matt. Matt is known for his aggressive, attacking style and love of sharp positions, so Austin tried to steer Matt’s Accelerated Dragon to relatively calm positional lines, beginning with an early Be2. It worked like a charm. Matt overextended, and Austin was able to break through in the center before Matt could safely castle. 1-0.

Austin Nguyen (1563) vs. Matt Dalthorp (1791)
Round 1
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3 g6
4. d4 cxd4
5. Nxd4 Bg7
6. Be3 Nf6
7. Be2 d5

In the standard Dragon, Black plays d6 before committing to the fiancetto with g6. The Accelerated Dragon is called “accelerated” because g6 comes before the d-pawn is moved. The d-pawn can later take the fast lane to d5 without pausing on d6 first like it has to in the Dragon. But the timing has to be just right. Matt moved it too early, and Austin found the best way to take advantage, winning a pawn out of the opening and creating substantial pressure in the center.

Black just played d5. White wins a pawn with Bb5!

8. Bb5! Bd7

Austin Nguyen contemplating how to take advantage of Matt's impatient Ne4 in the first round.

9. exd5 Nb4
10. Bc4 Qa5
11. Nb3 Qc7
12. Be2 Bf5
13. Rc1 Ne4

An aggressive attack on c3/b2/a2/c2, but Black still hasn’t castled, and White’s d-pawn is poised to help pry open the center files. Is the attack too early? Austin answers with a convincing “Yes!”

White to move. Black just played the aggressive Ne4. White responds with Nb5, demonstrating that Black's attack was premature.

14. Nb5! Qd8
15. Bd4 Nf6
16. c4 Bh6

Black’s queen and knight were forced back into their holes, while White’s attack gained steam. Black can’t castle now, because White could gain tempi for his attack with a3, g4, and g5 and threaten to overrun Black’s position. To gain some activity, Black plays Bh6.

White faces a critical decision…

  • Block the attack on the rook by playing Be3? Not a good solution because White would have to exchange his great bishop that is central to his attack.
  • Move the rook back to a1? Even worse! On the surface it looks passive and timid at a time when White is trying to coordinate an attack. It’s easy to see that it also would allow Black to play Nc2 to fork the king and rook. A little harder to see is that Black can win the queen with Bc2!
  • Move Rc3? On the downside this abandons the a-pawn to Black’s knight. But on the upside, the knight would be badly misplaced and in terrible danger of being trapped. In addition, the rook could then enter the battle. All-in-all, Rc3 was probably the best choice.

17. Rc3 Nxa2
18. Rf3 Be4

Black had a choice between castling to relative safety (0-0), trying to rescue his terrible knight on a2 (Nb4), or going for the active, swashbuckling attempt to win the nearly trapped rook on f3 (Be4). Matt opted for the aggressive line. Austin responded with a nasty exchange sacrifice to rip open the center while denying Black the opportunity to castle.

White to move. White responds to the attack on his rook by sacrificing the exchange on f6 and ripping open the center, while keeping the black king stuck in the middle.

19. Rxf6! exf6
20. Bc5 Bf8
21. d6 Rc8

White’s attack looks overwhelming, but to finish the job, he’ll need to bring more power into the battle. The light-squares bishop would be great on the c8-h3 diagonal. It could go there immediately, but Black could then simply block the diagonal with f5. The other option would to bring the king’s rook into the game via castling and Re1. Getting that rook to the open e-file could be devastating, but it would take a few moves to get it there and move the bishop out of the way. Even so, Black wouldn’t have time to either close the file or move his king safely off it in time. In a rare inaccuracy, Austin chose the bishop move and gave Black a chance to get off the hook.

22. Bg4?! f5
23. Bf3 a6
24. Bxe4 fxe4

White to move. In a series of strong moves, Austin gives a seminar on how to use the queen when you have control of the center.

25. Qd4 axb5 Matt wisely takes the knight rather than move his h8 rook out of the queen’s line of attack. The knight was an powerful fighter in the attack, while the rook was not useful in the defense.
26. Qxe4+ It’s tempting to grab the rook on h8, but that would be the end of White’s attack, and he’d be two pawns down. Austin’s made a better choice — to forget about material and continue the attack with Qxe4+.
Black to move. Black is up a rook in this position, but White has a withering attack.
26. … Kd7 Black’s last hope for keeping the game alive was to shed some material in exchange for closing the e-file…Be7! The black king uses the white pawn as shelter from the attack. This move is hard to find any time, but when both players are down to less than a minute on their clocks, it is easy to go astray.

Austin was able to find the right queen maneuver to finish the game with an excellent win.
27. Qxb7+ Ke8
28. O-O Bg7
29. Re1+ Kf8
30. d7+ Kg8
31. dxc8=Q Qxc8
32. Qxc8+ Bf8
33. Qxf8# 1-0


Max Sun getting ready to play the crushing Qc3+ to win Ashwin Sah's knight in the first round.

The second of the big three to fall was Steven Witt. Max Sun, who is famous for his wild gambit openings, opted for a relatively quiet, positional sideline against Steven’s Sicilian defense this time. And it paid off, as Steven lost a piece after a greedy pawn grab on move 30. From that point on, Max ruthlessly ground him down for a great second round victory.

Max Sun (1800) vs. Steven Witt (1817)
Round 2
1. e4 c5
Steven plays all kinds of openings, including the relatively quiet Caro-Kann (c6) and French (e6), as well as the typically sharper Sicilians. With 2. … c5, Steven shows he’s ready to rumble.
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5
The Rossolimo Sicilian! A somewhat surprising, quiet choice by Max, who often goes for ultra-sharp, tactical gambits in the opening. Bb5 postpones opening the center and will likely result in a trade of White’s potentially powerful attacking bishop for Black’s typically active Sicilian knight — an early indication of White’s intent to play a positional, maneuvering game. The trade gives Black a damaged pawn structure in exchange for the two bishops vs. bishop + knight. The center tends to be a bit tangled, though, so the two bishops are hard to put to good use right away.
3. … e6
4. O-O Nge7
5. c3 a6
6. Bxc6 Nxc6
7. d4 d5
8. e5
Steven tries to open the center to give his bishops some air. Max rebuffs his offer and continues with his merry maneuvering. Steven will spend the next ten or so moves trying to open lines for his pieces, and Max will go on the defensive.

Black to move. A quiet opening. Black has the two bishops, but the center is destined to remain closed.

8. … Be7
9. Be3 b6
10. Re1 O-O
11. Nbd2 Bb7
12. Nf1 cxd4
13. cxd4 f5
14. exf6 Bxf6
15. Bf4 Qd7
16. Bg3 Qf7
17. Ne3 h5
Max has stubbornly refused to let Black get any advantage and continues to test his patience with his quiet maneuvering. It looks like it is starting to pay off. With Ne3, the white knight makes its presence known, and Black doesn’t like it. h5 keeps the knight from going to g4. At the same, it creates a long-term weakness that White will later take advantage of. But for now, he’ll continue the waiting game. In the next dozen moves the knight will go from e3 to c2 back to e3, to c2 again and finally back to e3. The bishop will go from g3 to d6 and back to g3. The rook will go from e1 to f1 and back to e1.

There aren’t many weaknesses in Black’s position…long term weak pawns at e6 and h4, and a tactical weakness with an unprotected bishop on b7. Under the right circumstances, a rook on c7, protected by the bishop on g3 would win the b7 bishop via fork on bishop and queen. Max will set up the fork and wait for an opportunity to play it.

Black just played h5 to keep the e3 knight from g4. White will spend the next dozen moves shuffling his pieces back and forth, waiting for Black to make a mistake.

18. h4 Rae8
19. Nc2 Ne7
20. Ne3 Ng6
21. Bd6 Be7
22. Bg3 Rd8
23. Rf1 a5
24. Rc1 Ba6
25. Re1 Rc8
26. a3 Bf6
27. Qd2 Bb7
28. Nc2 Qe7
29. Qe2 Rce8
30. Ne3 Nxh4?
Ouch! The waiting finally pays off. Black snatches a pawn but misses the ensuing fork. Black’s light-squares bishop is lost.

Black just grabbed a pawn on h4, leaving himself open to the fork Rc7!

31. Rc7 Nxf3+
32. Qxf3 Qd8
33. Rxb7 Bxd4
34. Qxh5
Black’s weak pawn is now gone, and the open h-file will play a critical role in the final stages of the game as well.
34. … Bxb2
35. Be5 Bxe5
36. Qxe5 Re7
37. Rxe7 Qxe7
38. Nxd5 Qxa3
39. Qxe6+ Kh8
40. Nxb6 Qb2
41. Qh3+ Kg8
42. Qe6+ Kh8
43. Nd5 Qxf2+
44. Kh1 Rf5
45. Qe8+ Kh7
46. Re3 g6
47. Rh3+ Rh5
48. Rxh5+ gxh5
49. Qxh5+ Kg7
50. Qg5+ Kh7
51. Nf6+ 1-0

In the final round, Austin faced Max for the championship. Surprisingly the two had met only three times previously, with Max coming out on top 2/3. This time, though, Austin evened the score.

Austin Nguyen vs. Max Sun
Round 3
1. d4 d5
Austin demonstrates his flexibility in the opening. After playing e4 in the first round, he switched to d4 against Max to avoid Max’s favorite wild Ruy Lopez lines.
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 c5
With the Tarrasch variation of the queen’s gambit declined (QGD), Black takes on an isolated queen’s pawn (IQP) in exchange for easy development and lively piece play. Tarrasch (1862-1934) loved these kinds of positions, but his QGD variation has not been popular because Black often has an upward struggle to attain a draw.
4. Nf3 Nf6
5. g3 Nc6
6. cxd5 exd5
7. Bg2 Be7
8. O-O O-O
9. Bg5 Be6
[Comments by Austin Nguyen] White decides on the Rubinstein variation, which allows him maximum winning chances by targeting the “weak” d-pawn with the light squared bishop.
10. Rc1 cxd4
11. Nxd4 h6
12. Bf4 a6
13. Qd2 Qd7
14. Rfd1 Rfe8
15. Na4 Bb4
16. Qc2 Nxd4
Perhaps it was better to take the bishop on e6 earlier and set-up a dark squared blockade but my goal was to force an endgame with either no minor pieces or a winning good knight vs. bad bishop situation. White already risks a disadvantage here.

17. Rxd4 Qb5
18. Qb3 Ba5
19. Qxb5 axb5
20. Nc5 Bb6
21. Nxe6 fxe6
22. Rb4 e5
Here the position becomes quite muddled. On board 2, Aaron Grabinsky had a winning position over Steven Witt so to have an outright 1st place, either Max or I had to win.
Because I thought black had the advantage here but could not break down the white position, I offered a draw, which was declined almost immediately. I thus decided to go into an endgame, thinking black’s “weak d-pawn” would be just that, a weakness. How wrong I was!
23. Rxb5 exf4
24. Rxb6 fxg3
25. hxg3 Rxe2
26. a3 Re7
27. Rc5 Rd8
28. Rb4 d4
29. Rc1 d3
Too late, I realize, I do not have time to take the b-pawn and still stop the d-pawn. The isolated pawn has come running all the way down the board and still cannot be captured.
30. Rd1 d2
31. Bf3 Re1+
32. Kg2 Rd3
I was actually expecting g5-g4 here. I couldn’t find a satisfactory defense to this threat. Maxwell’s move essentially threatens the same thing except not as forcefully. It does save a tempo though.
33. Rxb7 Rxf3
34. Kxf3 Rxd1
35. Ke2 Rc1
36. Kxd2 Rc6
37. b4 Ne4+
38. Ke3 Nc3
39. Kd4 Na4
40. Ra7 Nc3
41. Ra5 Ne2+
42. Kd5 Rc3
43. a4 Kf7
In the mad rush that followed, both of us lost track of notation. Despite having 15 minutes on the clock, I wanted to rush Max, hoping for a mistake since it was definitely white with a more pleasant position playing for a win with almost no chance of losing.
44. Rc5 Rb3
45. b5 Rb4
46. a5
After losing track of notation and making many mistakes, white managed to take both kingside pawns at the cost of his far-advanced queenside pawns. This last hope was to use the time it took for the errant knight to recover back to the kingside to safely advance or promote
a pawn. A position, where white’s pawn on the seventh, forced black to sacrifice the rook for two pawns. This created a “theoretically” drawn rook vs. knight endgame. After blitzing probably 20 moves, in a stroke of luck for me, Max dropped his knight, leading to an elementary victory.
46. … Nd4
47. b6 Nb3
48. Rc8+ Ke7
49. Rc7+ Kd8
50. Rxg7 Nxa5
51. Rg6 Rb5+
52. Ke4 h5
53. f4 Nc4
54. Rh6 Nxb6
55. f5 Ke7
56. Rxh5 Kf6
57. Rh6+ Kg5
58. Rg6+ Kh5
59. g4+ Kh4
60. f6 Rb4+
61. Kf5 Rb5+
62. Ke6 Rb1
63. f7 Re1+
64. Kf6 Rf1+
65. Kg7 Nd7
66. Rd6 Ne5
67. f8=Q Rxf8
68. Kxf8 Nxg4
69. Kf7 Kg3
70. Kg6
Both players were in extreme time trouble and were no longer notating. Black soon lost his knight, and the rest was easy for White. 1-0


Aaron Grabinsky in front of the Capitol building.

Aaron Grabinsky from the amazing Coquille team has been playing a lot recently — and it shows. After drawing against Collin Goldman in the first round, he defeated two substantially higher-rated players, Matt Dalthorp and Steven Witt, in rounds 2 and 3. His 2.5/3 was good enough for clear second.

Super Stars B: Takuma Squeaks Past The Rest

Section B champion Takuma Sato-Duncan enjoying the last few moments of his first round win.

There were no clear favorites in the B section. All were rated within 50 points of 1500. Most had played in one or several tournaments during the summer. Aaron Pikus — highest-rated player in the section and 2011 state HS champion — was fresh off good results at the Oregon Open and the Denker Tournament of High School Champions in Florida and may have been a slight favorite. Long-time All-Stars Gabe Skoro, Dhruva Chatterjee, and Jonathan Yau are always dangerous. And then there’s Takuma Sato-Duncan, Clemen Deng, and Dillon Murray, who have been playing a lot lately and improving so fast that they’re bound to be quite a bit stronger than their ratings would suggest. And finally, there’s Gavin Megson, who has for years been a key player on the powerful Clackamas high school team.

With such a wide-open field, it was no surprise to see a logjam near the top. Takuma Sato-Duncan finished clear first with 2.5/3, but only a half-point behind were Clemen Deng, Gabe Skoro, and Dillon Murray, tying for 2nd-4th at 2/4.

The dramatic final round pitted Clemen Deng and Takuma Sato-Duncan in a battle for first place on board 1. At 2/3 Clemen just needed a draw to clinch first place. Takuma would need to win (and have Gabe Skoro either lose or draw). Never shying from a pitched battle, Takuma opted for the Najdorf Sicilian in his must-win game. He deftly kept increasing the pressure in the center with threat after threat until Clemen’s defense cracked. 0-1

Clemen Deng (1512) vs. Takuma Sato-Duncan (1538)
Round 3
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6
6. Bd3
A slightly unusual spot for the bishop. At first glance it looks great: it protects the pawn on d4 and will have a great diagonal after the pawn advances to e5 some point in the future. However, it leaves the knight on d4 unprotected and is susceptible to being hit by Nd7-c4. The former is what contributes to Clemen’s troubles later in the game.
6. … b5 A typical, aggressive Najdorf kingside expansion…However, in this game the force of the move is tempered by the bishop on d3. In particular, if Black plays b4 to force the knight to move, the e-pawn is still protected. In this game White didn’t want to take any chances, though, and played a3, keeping the black pawn back.
7. a3 Bb7
8. O-O Nbd7
9. b4
White really didn’t want to take any chances! The black b-pawn is definitely not going to be able to dislodge the knight on c3. Unfortunately, this moves leaves the long diagonal very weak for White. The knights on d5 and c3 are both unprotected, but they will also be virtually pinned if Black fiancettos his bishop to g7. Black starts forming a strategic plan: “Take over the long diagonal, put pressure the knights, penetrate with rook to c4 to strike at the precarious d5 knight, win the e-pawn…”
9. … g6!
10. Be3 Bg7
11. f4 O-O
12. Qd2
White is preparing the stereotypical attack versus the kingside fiancetto. Trade off the dark squares bishops and push pawns to open tear open the pawn structure in front of the black king. But he missed a strong defense: Ng4! THe knight grabs White’s dark-squares bishop before it has a chance to confront its black counterpart. After White’s bishop is gone, Black’s power on the long diagonal will increase. Black’s position is starting to look pretty good…

White's turn. Black just moved Ng4 to grab the bishop on e3 and nullify White's kingside attack. Losing the dark-squares bishop leaves the long diagonal weak for White.

12. … Ng4! The bishop is toast, and White will need to take immediate steps to shore up his weaknesses on the long diagonal.
13. Rae1 Nxe3 Uh oh…there’s no job for that rook on the e-file. Better would be Nce2 to protect the knight on d4 and prepare for evacuation of the long diagonal.
14. Qxe3 Rc8 Rc8 was a good move. The plan is to break through on the c-file, bringing rook to c4 after getting rid of the white bishop, give the boot to the d4 knight via pawn to e5, and grab the e-pawn. But perhaps even stronger would have been Qb6 to keep piling on against the knight stuck on d4.
15. Nce2 Nb6
16. f5 Nc4
17. Bxc4 Rxc4

White's turn: fxg6? The f-pawn keeps Black's e-pawn back, and there's not enough time for breaking through Black's kinside pawns before Black takes over in the center. Black is in trouble no matter what, but c3 or Rd1 would have given White better chances to survive.

18. fxg6?! There wasn’t time for breaking through on the kingside attack, and the pawn on f5 was playing the important role of holding Black’s e-pawn back. Now, there’s nothing stopping e5 and Rxe4, which will make things very uncomfortable for White.
18. … hxg6
19. c3 e5
20. Nb3 Rxe4
21. Qh3 Qb6+
White is a pawn down, and his pieces are tangled up. Black has the two bishops with a wide open position and a passed pawn in the center. Things are looking grim for White.
22. Kh1 Re3
23. Qg4 Qd8!
It looks counter-intuitive to pull the queen back from its wonderful diagonal and return her to her starting square, but it’s a great move. The threat is Bc8, trapping the White queen. If White doesn’t see the threat, it’s immediately “game over.” If White does see the threat, the only escape for the queen is to move the knight out of the way to clear a path to d1. But that gives Black the c-pawn with an attack on the b-knight.
24. Ng3 Rxc3 Black is two pawns ahead and has a menacing attack as well. Takuma relentlessly pressed forward with his attack to bring home the full point and clinch 1st place.
25. Rb1 Rc4
26. Qe2 Qc7
27. Na5 Rc2
28. Qxc2 Qxc2
29. Nxb7 d5
30. Rbe1 Qc7
31. Nc5 a5
32. Rc1 Rc8
33. Rfd1 d4
34. Nge4 f5
35. Ng5 Bf8
36. Nd3 Qd8
37. Rxc8 Qxc8
38. Nxe5 Qc2
39. Re1 axb4
40. Nxg6 bxa3
41. h4 a2
42. Kh2 Bd6+
43. Kg1 Qb1

An excellent effort by the section B champion, Takuma Sato-Duncan.

Dillon Murray had high hopes coming into the tournament. He’d been reading chess books, watching instructional chess videos, and, most importantly, playing a lot of rated games. Studying can certainly be helpful — but only if combined with an abundance of over-the-board tournament play. He played his first NWSRS rated tournament in March 2010 and got an initial provisional rating of 1146. Over the next year or so, he played in a bunch more tournaments. The whole time, his rating stayed right around 1100. He was stuck on a plateau but kept plugging away at it until he burst through last February: 1100 turned quickly to 1200 and then 1300, 1400, and now 1500. His USCF rating has gone from just 1243 in May to nearly 1600 in October, a phenomenal increase.

Strong as he looked coming in, he nearly put himself out of contention right away with a tough first round loss. He quickly recovered, though, and scored wins in his next two games to tie for second.

His game with Dhruva in round 2 was a lively affair, with Dhruva launching a scary-looking attack. Dillon kept his cool, though, and calculated one move farther than Dillon in a critical position to win a piece for a pawn. He accurately navigated the rest of the game for the win: 0-1.

Dhruva Chatterjee (1526) vs. Dillon Murray (1465)
1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 e6
Like many rapidly improving scholastic players, Dillon has relied on sharp, attacking, gambit openings to rocket up the ratings list. One of his favorites has been the Budapest gambit, playing e5 instead of e6 on move 2, giving up the e-pawn in exchange for a wild game. After a rough first-round loss, he opted for the quieter e6.
3. g3!? d5
4. Bg2
The Catalan! Dhruva shows a willingness to sac his c-pawn to open the long diagonal. The Catalan is a double-edged opening, giving chances for both sides. It’s a tricky opening that is not common among scholastic or club players.
4. … Be7
5. Nf3

Black to move. The Catalan is popular at the highest levels, but it is a tricky opening and rare among amateurs.

5. … O-O
6. Qc2 c6
7. O-O b6
8. Nbd2 Bb7
9. b3 Na6
10. a3 Rc8
11. Bb2 c5
12. e3 dxc4
13. bxc4 cxd4
14. Bxd4 Nc5
15. Ng5!?
White has all sorts of interesting threats here, including the most pressing Bxf6, winning a piece because Black cannot recapture because of the threat Qxh7#.

Black to move. White has all sorts of threats, but the most immediate is Bxf6. If Black were to recapture, White would have Qxh7#.

15. … h6 An effective defense and the simplest. Now if Bxf6, Black simply plays hxg5, eliminating the threat. But White has other options. The black knight on c5 is the only piece protecting the bishop on b7. If the knight moves or is captured, the bishop is dead.
16. Nxe6!? At first glance, this seems to win a pawn: if the black knight captures, then BxBb7 and White is a pawn up. However, Black can win the pawn back right away and wind up with better placed pieces: E.g., after 16…Nxe6 Bxb7 17. Nxd4 exd4 18 exd4 Rc7 19. Bg2 Qxd4, Black is slightly better with pressure on White’s c- and a-pawns.
On the other hand, if the pawn captures, then White removes the b7 bishop’s guard with Bxc5, which forces a series of exchanges, resulting in a even game. To wit: 16….fxe6 17. Bxc5 Bxg2 18. Bxe7 Qxe7 19. Kxg2. White is a pawn up, but Black should be able to generate enough play to compensate.

White just captured a pawn on e6, forking the black queen and rook. Should Black take the knight with his pawn or knight?

16. … Nxe6
17. Bxf6?
White apparently missed Black’s finesse 18. Rc7.
17. … Bxf6
18. Bxb7 Rc7
Attacking the bishop on b7 and the rook on a1 at the same time. The tables have quickly turned. White thought he had won a pawn, and now he’s losing an exchange?!
19. Bd5? White panics and misses that his c5 pawn was pinned.
19. … Qxd5 Black wins a piece, trades queens, and simplifies the position. From there, it is an easy win.
20. cxd5 Rxc2
21. dxe6 Rxd2
22. exf7+ Kxf7
23. Rac1 Rfd8
24. Rc7+ R2d7
25. Rfc1 Ke7
26. R1c4 Rxc7
27. Rxc7+ Rd7
28. Rc4 Rd1+
29. Kg2 Kd6
30. Ra4 a5
31. Re4 b5
32. Kf3 Ra1
33. Rf4 Rxa3
34. Rf5 b4
35. Rb5 b3
36. e4 b2+
37. Ke2 Ra1
38. e5+ Bxe5
39. Rxe5 b1=Q
40. Rd5+ Ke6
41. Rd2 Qe1+
42. Kd3 Ra3+

Eugene Wins (Sigh)

In the recent Civil War match between Eugene and Corvallis/Albany, Eugene was gloriously triumphant, with a sound drubbing of their rivals, 10-7 in the top two sections.

The win was in doubt until the very last moments. Eugene was clinging to a two point lead with two games still going on. In both games, Corvallis/Albany players seemed to have winning advantages. However, the positions were complicated and time was short. First, Jack Dale (Eugene) was able to turn the tables against Dan Rogers (Albany) and pull out a miraculous win from a losing position. Then, in a time scramble Matt Dalthorp (Albany) was unable to find the win against Rob Fisette (Eugene) and had to settle for a draw.

In the Power Section, the top three players from each team played a Scheveningen match (all-play-all from the opposing club), with Eugene winning 7-2. Nick Proudfoot (Eugene) had not played a rated game for two and a half years, but he showed little sign of rust as he ripped through his Corvallis opponents with a perfect 3/3 score. In his first USCF event, the Israeli Moshe Rachmuth (Eugene) scored 2/3 to register a healthy initial provisional rating of 1971. Between rounds Moshe showed off his encyclopedic knowledge of chess openings [loosely paraphrased]: “Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that version of the French advance before. Check out the game between Whozit and Whatsizname in 1987. And you? Your game started out like Blusterov and Strumbanjosky 1945, except instead of Nd4, Blusterov played c4 for an attack on the queenside. The line is interesting but never gained much popularity.” Bryant Brownell (Albany) hadn’t played a rated game in over four years but came out of retirement for the event. Although he played great chess 99% of the time, rust made appearances at the most inopportune 1% of the time. Matt Dalthorp (Albany) was down a piece against Moshe but found a way to sneak in a perpetual check for a draw in the first round. In the third round Matt faced Rob Fisette, who crushed him in his only loss at the Portland Chess Club’s Centennial Open in August. This time, Matt had a strong advantage but was unable to find the win and settled for a draw. David Wen (Corvallis) also scored draws against Moshe and Rob, but, like Matt and Bryant, he struggled against Nick, who was on fire.

Section B featured the next three highest-rated players from each team playing a Scheveningen match. Alex Mueller-Warrant (Corvallis) had to leave early but scored 2/2 before leaving and Harry Demarest (Corvallis) scored 2/3 to lead the Corvallis team to a 5-3 victory in the section. Also scoring 2/3 was Jason Ellis (Eugene). The lowest rated player in the section by over 200 points, Jack Dale (Eugene), scored a great win against Dan Rogers (Albany) in the final round.

Eugene had home court and was able to field a larger team than Corvallis, 10-8, and the Other Section featured four Eugenies against two Corvallis players in a three-round Swiss with team block for Corvallis. The Corvallis players were substantially higher-rated than their Eugene counterparts, but Eugene was not going to give up without a fight. Particularly impressive was Roy Toll (Eugene). He had not played a rated event in nearly ten years and even then only had a provisional rating of 1223 (P22). He came out of chess retirement in style, dismantling Dan Dalthorp (1610) in the first round and Stan Taylor (1459) in the second round. In the head-to-head matchups in the section, Corvallis/Albany came out on top 4-2. Unrated AC Scott was the highest scorer in the section with 2.5/3.

All-Stars Behind the Scenes: A Few Statistics

The 2011 All-Stars Invitational at the State Capitol was a wonderful kickoff to a new chess season. With 117 players, this year’s All-Stars tournament was the biggest and most energetic ever. Record turnout despite having about 10% fewer eligible players this year is a great sign for upcoming chess season.

Especially encouraging was the great turnout in the Rising Stars division. Several months prior to the event, we used some fancy statistical modeling to estimate how many players would participate in each section on tournament day. We were pretty close with the Super Stars and Bright Stars but WAY underestimated how many Rising Stars there’d be:
Super Stars (rating >= 1400): 22 expected, 23 actual
Bright Stars (1100-1399): 43 expected, 42 actual
Rising Stars (U1100): 41 expected, 52 actual
This is a sign that interest among new players is stronger than it has been in previous years, while interest among the more experienced players has not diminished.

In addition to unexpectedly large turnout among Rising Stars, the event was the strongest All-Stars yet. There were more players rated above 1400 than there were last year (23 vs. 19), the average rating of players was significantly higher than last year (1098 vs. 1130), and the number of players rated above 1700 was also a record.

Coquille All-Stars

By Nancy Keller

Most of the Coos County representatives at the All Stars Chess Tournament Matthew Crim, Jennifer Ross, Dane Ramirez, Lane Putas, Jessica Ross, Josiah Perkins, Kaden Johnson, Sarai Perkins, Hailey Riley, Michael Schrader, Tanner Flood, Mackenzie Collard, JJ Newman and Kyle Bowman

A four day weekend from school but the best chess players of Coquille were up at 4:30 a.m. on Friday to drive to the Capitol Building in Salem for the All Stars Invitational Chess Tournament.

Nineteen Coquille chess players, one Coos Bay and one Myrtle Point (now North Bend) players were invited. They had to place in the top ten of their grade during the last year to be invited. Room on the bus and car pools only allowed seventeen to go. An early morning leaving time followed by a delay due to the bus not starting during a rest stop left the kids as sleep deprived frazzled bundle of nerves but they arrived in the nick of time as the first round started. Experience in tournament settings allowed them to quickly settle into play despite the late arrival.

Aaron Grabinsky in front of the state capitol, where he scored two big upsets to take second place in the top section at All-Stars

Aaron Grabinsky, an eighth grade homeschooled student who plays for the Coquille Valley Middle School, placed second in the state overall, competing with the older and higher rated players in the Super Stars Section. He had previously been ranked as number 13 in the state. He started playing with the Coquille Chess Club two years ago and with his serious studying of chess, has even surpassed his coach in his skills. He now teaches other members of his team and hopes to help his K-9 team win at Nationals this year.

Lane Putas, twelth grader from Marshfield, placed second in his division of Bright Stars. In the Rising Stars, Sarai Perkins, ninth grade homeschool student for Coquille High School placed sixth while Matthew Crim, tenth grade of Coquille High School placed seventh. In a lower divion of Rising Stars, Michael Schrader (eighth grade of North Bend formally Myrtle Point) placed sixth and JJ Newman (sixth grade of Coquille) placed fifth.

It was a tough tournament and all the attendees received All Stars shirts for just being invited which was a major accomplishment. Coach Keller feels sleep deprivation had some definite contribution to her players results. Most other schools are within an hour of Salem.

“It is just one of the sacrifices to live in a gorgeous small town, to have to travel long distances and pay the costs to attend events” she says. With plans to attend Nationals this year, a hotel stay prior to the event could not be afforded as has been done in previous years.

The Coquille Chess Club is currently selling World’s Finest Candy Bars and planning another car wash at Les Schwab on October 22nd to finance their trips to state and national competitions.

All-Stars: Thank-You!

A huge thank-you to the small army of volunteers who made the 2011 Oregon All-Stars Invitational chess celebration and tournament such a success:

Lisa Still: patient, thorough, careful and cheerful registrar; forms, certificates, board numbers

Raven Winter: invitations, T-shirts, awards ceremony, chief TD for Bright Stars

Jeff Risher: facilities coordinator

Design and production of program and signs: Ellissa Parnon

TDs: Katrina Halverson, Bing Sun, Jeff Dobbins, Nick Beleiciks, Elizabeth Sheiman, Raven Winter, Luke Robson, Rustam Kocher

Safety and Decorum Team: Steve Cousineau, with help from Chris Allen, Forest Tomlinson, Galina Golant, and John Hutchinson

Check-in: Leanne Schuetze (coordinator), Siew Yau, Roza Kotlyar

T-shirt distribution: Andrea Burnett

Prize distribution: Siew Yau, April Lutz and her sister, Herma Ornes, Evgeny Semenov, Max Booth, Tia Politi

Setup: Jeff Dobbins, Matt Dalthorp, Steven Witt, Noah Schuetze, Craig Still, and others

Cleanup: Tia Politi, Jacob Moch, Luke Robson, Matt Dalthorp, Craig Still, Lisa Still, Raven Winter, Max Booth, Elizabeth Sheiman, Herma Ornes, and many others.

Parents and Coaches: What a great group of kids! Thank-you parents and coaches for all your support. Special high-fives to Nancy Keller for getting on the road with 17 kids from Coquille at 4:30 in the morning, breaking down on the way, and still managing to make it on time (barely). Also, thank-you to coaches who came to support their students: Ed Addis, Jerry Ramey, Luke Robson, Mike Terrill, and Pete Prochaska.

A special thank-you to Juliene Popinga and the rest of the capitol staff who were enormously helpful both in the days and weeks leading up to the event, in setting up the rooms according to our specifications, in patient tolerance of hordes of kids, and in putting everything back in order after our chaotic exit.

Others: There are many unnamed parents and supporters who helped with various tasks in the weeks and days before the event and throughout the day. Thank-you, thank-you!

All-Stars: Express Report

Participants in the 2011 Oregon All-Stars Invitational

The Fourth Annual Oregon All-Stars Invitational chess tournament was held at the state capitol building in Salem on October 14, 2011. The event has grown every year since the inaugural version in 2008, nearly doubling from 61 players the first year to 117 this year.

Full results are posted and games rated at
Section winners include:
Super Stars A: Austin Nguyen 3/3
Super Stars B: Takuma Sato-Duncan 2.5/3
Super Stars C: Seth Talyansky, Pranav Sharan 2.5/3
Bright Stars D: Rory Soiffer 4.5/5
Bright Stars E: Rahul Majmudar 4.5/5
Bright Stars F: Venkat Doddapaneni 5/5
Rising Stars G: Keshav Siddhartha 5/5
Rising Stars H: Simon Chow 4.5/5
Rising Stars I: Fedor Semenov, Jimmy Wang, Sean Uan-Zo-Li 4/5
Rising Stars J: Aiden Gardner O’Kearny 5/5

All-Stars Emergency Number

If you have registered for All-Stars but are running late Friday morning or have an emergency and cannot come, please call 503-871-9197 to let us know.

NOTE: This number is different from the number on the All-Stars details page. Our designated emergency phone person had to attend to an emergency and cannot make it to the event.

National Chess Day at Coquille

by Nancy Keller
In Coquille, there were knights mobilizing with musical interludes from their trusty steeds, kings running for their lives and dramatic sword fights to the death.

Tyler Overby, the white king, conquers Mason Collard who plays a black pawn.

Saturday, October 8th, the chess clubs of Coquille, Myrtle Point, Coos Bay and North Bend celebrated National Chess Day with a “living chess board.” Coquille’s Figaro Pizza kindly loaned out their parking lot for the day. The chess club members arrived several hours early to draw out a “life size” chess board with chalk.

Loaned costumes were handed out and pawns were dressed in black or white garbage bags. With permanent markers, the garbage bags were labeled “I am a pawn”, “Coos County Celebrities” Dian Courtright of the Coquille Sentinel and John Gunther of the World were given cardboard boxes decorated by the CREATE art students to represent rooks. Coquille Police Chief Janice Blue wore a black sweatsuit and was given her Dollar Tree shield and balloon sword to become a simple pawn. Tim Novotny of KCBY was assisted into his Queen of Hearts dress and wig so he could represent the white queen. He was instructed to boldly cry out “off with their heads” as pieces are captured.

The first game was between arch rivals Jessi Ross, the lead board of the Coquille Varsity team and Shawn Putas, the lead board of the Marshfield Varsity team. They were the masters to move the living pieces. Misty Huffman was the chess board traffic cop making sure the pieces moved to the appropriate square. Pawns were the first to move and take control of the center. As Chief Blue was moved opposite Johnathon Huffman and they eyed each other, announcer Nancy Keller reminded Johnathon that he would not be arrested for assaulting a police officer if he had to capture her. Rapidly pawns were put to their dramatic fight and death scenes as they fought with their balloon swords valliantly. Brendon Thrash as “Dr. Remove the Captured Pieces” rolled the captured pieces off the board in a wheelchair as the “pieces” feigned grevious injuries. Many pieces had their chance to win emmy’s for dramatic death scenes but in the end, the king, represented by Tyler Overby, was captured and all the remaining pieces ganged up on him to send him onto his royal feigned death. Shawn Putas, the master of the board accepted the defeat from Jessi Ross.

John Gunther (sports editor for The World) playing the white queen fights off vicious first grader Mackenzie Collard playing the black queen

The second game was between the two best players of Coquille, Jessi Ross and Josiah Perkins who plays second board of the Coquille Junior Varsity team. Quickly the queens were put into action and first grader Mackenzie Collard had to take down the Queen of Hearts, now represented by John Gunther. Showing size does not matter in balloon sword fights (and with a little help from John impaling himself on her sword), John was defeated, arms and legs quivering in the air. CPR was attempted but Nancy Keller refused to perform mouth to mouth. He was rolled off the board. As pieces rapidly were sent to the captured piece box, Josiah raced his pawn represented by Devin Johnson to the other end of the board. As Devin was promoted, Sarai Perkins performed ceremonial taps to his shoulders with a plastic sword and awarded him a pink tiara as he became a queen. Then the king (Samantha Huffman) and queen (Devin) boxed the black king (Mason Collard) into the corner and Mason finally succumbed with many pieces helping him with his demise. Josiah had won the game.

Many of the “pieces” are heading to the All Stars Invitational only Chess tournament at the Salem Capitol building this Friday. To be invited, players had to place in the top ten for their grade during the last year. Coquille had twenty invited, Coos Bay had two and Myrtle Point had one.

November 5th, at the Coquille High School, Coquille will host an the Byron Massey Memorial Adult and Scholastic Chess Tournament. Everyone is invited. Chess practice is also every Tuesday nights from 5 to 8 at the Downtown Studio and is open to all ages including adults.

The Coquille Chess club is selling World’s Finest Candy Bars to help finance their many state competitions. The junior varsity team also have big plans to attend the K-9 Nationals once again in April. They won fourth place two years ago and have high hopes for getting first this year!

John Gunther (sports editor for The World) playing the rook is in the midst of defeat as Kaden Johnson playing the knight whittles him down with a balloon sword.

Coquille Police Chief Janice Blue appears to be intimidating second grader Johnathon Huffman as they face off as opposite pawns.

“Playing Up” at All-Stars

At All-Stars, players may elect to play in a stronger division than the lowest one they are eligible for. Rising Stars (U1100) may choose to play with the Bright Stars (1100-1399), and Bright Stars have the option to play with the Super Stars (1400+).*

If you are just below the cutoff for a higher-rated division, playing up would mean somewhat stronger competition (around 100 rating points on average), which a lot of players prefer. It also means longer time controls. Rising Stars will play five rounds at G/30 and will finish all their games by 3:30. Bright Stars will play five rounds at G/45 and will finish at 5:30 or 6:00. Super Stars will play G/75 but will only play three rounds and will finish at 5:30 or 6:00 like the Bright Stars. However, playing up would definitely make it harder to win your section.

*NOTE: If playing up would result in odd numbers of players in both affected divisions, then the move will not be allowed. Also, because the Super Stars division is only three rounds, requests to “play up” into the Super Stars section will be denied if adding another player to the section would result in an odd number of players in the Super Stars division.