The Winter Open at the Portland Chess Club (PCC) is a grueling two-day event with five rounds. Why “grueling”? The time controls are so long that players can play up to 12 hours per day! This is a serious event for strong, seasoned players. As with most PCC events, a majority of the participants event were adults, but a number of Oregon scholastic players joined in as well, including Alexandra Botez, Calvin Parnon, Erik Skalnes, David Wen, Matt Dalthorp, Dhruva Chatterjee, Venkat Doddapaneni, Takuma Sato-Duncan, Pranav Sharan, and Maxwell Sun.
Players rated above 1800 USCF (Alexandra) had to play in the Open section, but Calvin, Erik, David, and Matt all chose to play up even though they all had ratings below 1800. It takes guts to volunteer to play in a tougher section than required. Kudos for your courage, guys!
Alexandra (10th grade, Clackamas High School), won it all, scoring 4/5. In the final round, she beat National Master Steven Breckenridge. Congratulations, Alexandra!
Matt (9th grade, Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis) finished with an even score (2.5/5, including a half-point bye). Although at USCF 1507, he was the lowest rated player in the section by nearly 200 points, he ended up notching some impressive performances. In the first round, he toppled Jerry Sherrard for a 400 point upset. Matt played an English attack against Jerry’s Najdorf Sicilian. Jerry sac’d his b-pawn for initiative, but Matt coolly defended. In a sharp, complicated position, Jerry neglected his a-pawn, which Matt promptly scooped up and gained the initiative. Soon he won a third pawn. From there, it was, as they say, “a matter of technique.” Matt picked up nearly 100 rating points and made a strong case that he belongs in the Open section regarless of what Mr. Elo says.
David (8th grade, Cheldelin Middle School in Corvallis) finished at 2/5. David was on the winning end of an intriguing matchup in the second round — Oregon’s #1 eighth grader (David, USCF 1744) against the #2 eighth grader (Erik, USCF 1680). Erik played a Najdorf, inviting complications and a sharp struggle. David gladly accepted the challenge, launching into an English attack with 6. Be3. David weathered the storm better and won in a R + B endgame. In the last round, David faced the powerful Paul Motta (1912). Paul played the dubious Elephant Gambit. Black sacrifices his important d-pawn with virtually no compensation beyond sending a message to his lower-rated, younger opponent: “I’m so much better than you, I can play a garbage opening and beat you!” David crushed him. Nice job!
Calvin (9th grade, Crescent Valley High School and homeschool in Corvallis) also scored 2/5, beating Austin Chang (WA) and Sean O’Connell (OR) — both are great wins. Austin is an up-and-coming scholastic player from Washington. He struggles against players rated over 1800 but tends to play very well against 1700s like Calvin. But at the PCC Winter Open this year, Calvin flat-out outplayed him. In his other win, Calvin face an opponent (Sean O’Connell) who likes to play aggressive attacking games. So does Calvin. When the dust cleared today, Calvin emerged the winner.
Erik (8th grade, Eugene) is a real fighter. He locks horns with the toughest opponents he can find and often comes out on top. Over the past year, his rating has averaged around 1600, but against opponents rated over 2000, he’s scored 2.5/5. Fantastic work, Erik! Unfortunately, most of his opponents at the PCC Winter Open this year were rated in the 1900s rather than above 2000, and it was rough tournament for him. He did manage a draw against Jerry Sherrard, who was over 200 points higher rated. Well done.
In the reserve section (U1800) there were also five Oregon scholastic players. Maxwell Sun (5th grade, Hoover Elementary School in Corvallis) scored the highest (3/5) among all juniors in the reserve section. It all came down to the last round game against Dhruva Chatterjee (7th grade, Athey Creek Middle School in Wilsonville): the winner would be the the top scorer. Druva played the Catalan, a difficult opening that’s popular among recent world class players. Garry Kasparov, Victor Korchnoi, Vladimir Kramnik, and Viswanathan Anand all played it in world championship matches or semi-finals. It’s been an effective weapon for the likes of world champions Anand and Kramnik to beat number one contenter Veselin Topalov, but it’s a difficult tool for lower-rated players to wield. If you don’t believe me, try playing it against Max sometime.
Dhruva was the second highest-scoring junior in the reserve section at 2.5/5, tied with his dad, Sandip. Also tied with Dhruva was Pranav Sharan (7th grade, Lake Oswego). In a tough-fought battle against Jerrold Richards, Pranav had only his king left to face Jerrold’s king + pawn. However, Pranav was able to show off a little of his endgame skill. He took the opposition for a draw (if you don’t know what “take the opposition” means, please read about it in an endgame book or ask your friendly neighborhood chess whiz about it. You’ll be glad you did.). Takuma Sato-Duncan (8th grade, Mt. Tabor Middle School) is relatively new to competitive chess. He played his first USCF-rated tournament this summer, but he is already one of the top eighth graders in the state. It won’t be long before he is battling David and Erik for the top spot. Venkat Doddapeneni (6th grade, Stoller Middle School) is another of those tough players that always seems to “play up”. It’s hard when the average rating of your opponents with established ratings is nearly 300 points higher than yours, but Venkat keeps battling them at every opportunity. He shows great courage and great heart. Keep up the good work, Venkat, and soon there won’t be any higher sections for you to play in because you’ll be at the top!