By Ken West
MCA Bulletin Editor
The 19th Annual Mid America Open returned to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton for three days in mid-March. The popular event again drew a large field and Missouri chess players scored well, racking up rating points.
Players affiliated with Missouri took three of the top four spots in the Open section and the chess connection with universities in the Saint Louis area played a role. GM Illia Nyzhnk, 2748, scored 4.5 out of the five games to take first and $2100. He plays for the Webster University team. IM Pryadarshan Kannapan, 2559, took second with four points. He has played for Lindenwood University. GM-elect and IM Ashwin Jayawaran, 2561, placed fourth with 3.5 points. He plays for the Webster University team and is playing in the U.S. Chess Championships now underway at the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
Alex Marler, assistant manager of the Saint Louis chess club, not only tied for first to pocket $1050 but also broke the 2100 mark, a goal he said he set in January.
“I had no byes and no plan to win any money,” Marler, the 2010 Missouri Amateur champion said, “so I just showed up to play and have fun.”
In his last round game he beat the young Aden Turget to tie for the top spot. But it did not look so promising at the start.
“I felt like I was losing,” he said. “I was able to force an ending and outplay him in the endgame.”
The wins boosted his rating to 2116. It also was the most money he has won in a tournament.
Thalia Cervantes, a sixth grader in the Affton School District, took first in the Under 1900 section with 4.5 points to win $1400. She moved with her family from Cuba to the Saint Louis area last summer and spoke little English. She has since picked up the language and has been a constant at the Saint Louis chess club. She said this was not her best tournament result but she was happy about the prize money she pocketed.
Missourians Behrooz Vakil placed third in that section and Serdar Aykent took fourth.
In the Under 1700 section, Missouri resident Jonathan Orsay scored 4.5 to tie for first and nabbed a check for $1050. Luke Majeske of Missouri had four points to tie for third, good for $300.
Nathan Summerville tied for first in the Under 1500 section with four points, winning $460. Missourian Peter Immer finished in sixth just out of the money with 3.5 points. Scott Anderson came in 13th and did not win any money with his three points but said he was pleased with his result.
“This was the first time I was playing where I had to make time control,” Anderson said. “Overall I was pleased with my performance.”
Anderson played the French defense with three games as black and against it once.
Five Missouri players tied for second through sixth in the Under 1300 section. Those players were Jeffrey Ying, Todd Lifka, Kyle Neese, Nigina Aripova and Nathan Mittenzwey. Each pocketed $200 for their efforts.
Neese credited a change in his opening repertoire as black from the French to the Pirc.
“I think a lot of players were not familiar with it, D6 against E4. I think they were not as prepared as they are against the French.”
He also credited Jeremy Silman’s endgame book. “In one game I got my opponent into zugzwang. I learned that from his book.”
Nigina Aripova, 11, also had a strong performance in that rating section, scoring four points with two draws and no losses.
“I studied tactics, some endings and some openings,” she said. She stuck with E4 as white and E5 as black.
In one game she said she was up a pawn but gave up the draw because she misplaced her rook in front of her pawns and her opponent’s rook captured a pawn “and my king was helpless.”
In the Under 1000 section Sushen Kolakaletti took first, winning $500. Lucas Alvarez of Missouri came in second to win $120 along with Andrew Voelker, son of long-time chess player Jim Voelker. Voelker also took first in the Under 800 group that was part of the Under 1000 section. Voelker, 10, is a member of the Clark School chess team in the Webster Groves School District. His father is the coach.
“I did read some books and played a lot of chess on-line,” the young Voelker said.
When asked about any chess goals, he said, “I don’t know, maybe to become a grandmaster. My goal is now to get to 2000 and to beat my dad.”
His father carries a 2100 rating.
When asked what advice he would give young players, Andrew said, “I like playing a lot of chess games against people who are better than me. I don’t like losing unless I learn something. It also depends if it’s a rated game or a practice game. Dad always says to do a lot of puzzles and play a lot on line.