Attendance at the Missouri Novice and Class Championship broke the century mark for the first time this year as 124 players competed for the chance to become a state champion between the two events. The winner of each class was awarded a plaque and earned the right to call themselves a Missouri State Champion. The extra participants meant exciting chess, a blitz playoff, and a controversial last round ruling in the Class E section.
The Missouri Novice Championship, a four round tournament, took place on Saturday, June 7. Two players tied for first with a perfect 4/4 score and there was a remarkable nine way tie for third. Owen Hill (unrated) and Austin Roth (950) were the only two to win all of their games and a blitz tiebreaker was used to determine who would go home with a plaque and the title of Missouri Novice Champion.
Roth won the coin toss and selected the White pieces for the five minute blitz game. It was the first time either player had ever sat down to play an over-the-board blitz game and they were both anxious and excited. The game was an up and down affair that could have gone either way until White hung mate in one and Hill became the 2015 Missouri Novice Champion.
“That was pretty intense,” Hill said after the game.
Hill played a nice attacking game in the third round as seen below:
The Missouri Class Championship took place over the same weekend as the Novice Championship but was a five round two day affair with longer time control.
Only two players that qualified for the Master section attended the tournament – NM Iskandar Aripov (2326) and FM Doug Eckert (2294) – so the section was combined with ten players in the Expert section.
Master/Expert Class Winner, Tomislav Juricic // photo: Austin Fuller
Ultimately, it was an expert that took first place in the Master / Expert section. Tomislav Juricic (2144) scored an impressive 4.5/5 points in his first standard rated game since 1999. Juricic had good results against the tournament’s top players, recording a draw against Aripov and a win against Eckert.
Juricic was losing for most his game against Eckert, but he accomplished the surprising idea of trapping the White queen in the center of the board with 44. … Rd5. Eckert assumed he was losing at that point but was stunned to learn after the game that White should still be playing for a win; Eckert’s coordination of his pieces and very strong passed pawn trumped his huge material deficiency.
In Class A, Steven Bange (1910) took first place with a 4/5 score. Bange took down the top two highest rated players in the section with his typical solid style of play. In second place was Kaleb Gosdin (1916), who drove up from Georgia to play at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the first time. Gosdin enjoyed his stay and promises to return to the chess club in the future.
Class B Winner, Darian Turner // photo: Austin Fuller
In Class B, Darian Turner (1719) had an exceptionally strong performance and won the section with 4.5/5 points. Turner didn’t seem to make any mistakes in any of his games and he made winning his section look easy. His was the first game to finish in the last round due to an unfortunate opening blunder by his opponent.
Eric Hoffner (1523) won the Class C section with 4/5 points followed by a three way tie for second. In round four, Hoffner played the very unorthodox rook maneuver Rh8-h5-h8-h5. The peculiar rook moves turned out to be a game winner after 24. … Nxe3 as the White queen was unable to take the knight in view of 25. Qxe3 Re5, making sense of the position of the rook on h5.
Class D was won by the section’s highest rated player, Sacchin Milli (1357). Milli scored 4.5/5 points with his only draw coming in the last round to the second place winner David Dong (853). Dong had a phenomenally strong performance as the section’s second lowest rated player by scoring 4/5 points and winning clear second. Dong received an impressive 246 rating point boost for his effort.
In Class E, a very controversial ruling in the final round may have determined the winner of the section. Aaradhya Diwan (1165) had the White pieces against Brandon Stanfield (1050) in round 5 and both players had a chance to compete for first place.
Early in the game, Diwan reported to the tournament directors that Stanfield had touched his queen. Stanfield claimed that he only brushed the piece and never intended to move it, but a witness confirmed that the Black queen was grasped with his fingers and Stanfield was forced to make an undesirable queen move.
Stanfield was on the back foot for the remainder of the game but managed to draw a king and pawn verses king endgame. The draw meant Diwan and Stanfield were guaranteed second place. Kevin Powell (1189) won the section with a score of 4/5.
Join us next month on July 18 as the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis celebrates their seventh anniversary with the Saint Louis Premiere and Amateur – a one day, four round tournament with a prize fund of $1,600 unconditionally guaranteed. Select items will be on sale throughout the Club and members will be treated to free cupcakes.