2019 Denver Open Report

12:19pm Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

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... what a great idea it was for the CSCA to organize a Girls tournament and hold it in conjunction with the Denver Open.

Without question, the 2019 Denver Open was the biggest and best Denver Open ever. The Denver Chess Club, in co-operation with the Colorado State Chess Association, intended to make this tournament special for Colorado and surrounding states chess players and our efforts were rewarded with a fantastic tournament. Incredibly nearly 50% of the 160 registered players were from outside the Denver Area. We can boast that it was truly a national event as we had players from all over the United States at this tournament. Players of all levels of ability came to Denver, Colorado to mix, mingle, and perhaps play against the GM and IM's we had invited to the 2019 Denver Open.

There is an amusing story behind the heading photo. All the girls were assembled for the photo session, then told OK, we're all done, and as kids do, they started running towards the playing room. Suddenly they're told to Stop, Wait. They had forgotten to include  WGM Tatev Abrahamyan in the photo :-) So they all assembled again and...


... now you see Ms. Abrahamyan standing left of center in the picture :-)

International Master Danny Rensch kicked things off Friday night with an entertaining off the cuff lecture for a nice crowd before he played a great 26 board simul. Mr. Rensch had to resign against Dean Clow and Dwight Sehler and gave up a draw to another player, whose name I'm sorry to say I failed to get. Otherwise, the founder and driving force behind the best online playing site - Chess.com - had no trouble winning all his other games. 


Dwight Sehler in the blue hat. Paul Kullback to his right and Jason McEwen to his left.


It can probably be said that Expert Dean Clow outplayed the International Master. 


Mr. Rensch was kind, courteous, and entertaining throughout the evening.  

In the meantime, the 1st round of the 50 player Championship section was up and running. What a thrill it must have been for the young Sheena Zeng, from Kansas, to be paired against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan. Or how about Colorado native and rising star, Daniel Herman, being paired against GM Jesse Kraai. Now imagine having such a good position that you could turn down a draw offer from the GrandMaster. That turned out to be tugging on Superman's cape, but I sure admire Daniel's nerve. 


In the foreground Daniel Herman has the Black pieces against GM Jesse Kraai. 

Maybe the surprise of the round was recent CU student, Eamon Montgomery, upsetting the internationally respected chess coach and instructor, Sunil Weeramantry. If you ever wonder why the current U.S. Champion, GM Hikaru Nakamura is so good, it could be because Mr. Weeramantry is his stepfather. Earle Wikle, a strong Colorado Springs Expert, gave GM Andrey Gorovets a great game. Sara Herman played the well known, and previous from Colorado, IM John Watson. The young Neil Bhavikatti had the pleasure of losing to the only a few years older GM Andrew Tang, a teenage genius from Minnesota.


GM Andrew Tang at the board. 

Just a sampling of what this tournament meant for Colorado players. The DCC fully intends to expand on the precedent set by his tournament. We will be actively looking to find a sponsor. To that end, It will surely help that CBS news interviewed and filmed players at this tournament.


CBS News filming the start of a Championship round. 

In addition to the TV news coverage, we had DGT boards running for the top three games of the championship section. Chris Peterson provided excellent commentary on those game for rounds 1, 3 and 5. Even better was rounds 3 and 5 were broadcast on the Chess.com twitch channel. I am pleased that Mr. Peterson has agreed to fill us in on how that came about and his interaction with the GM/IM's and other players who joined him on Twitch. Quoting Chris Peterson:

Prior engagements prevented me from playing in the tournament. Instead, I was volunteered to do commentary. Initially it was just going to be to a live audience on site. Once Danny Rensch got involved, I was broadcasting to viewers around the world. Nick Barton, the program manager with Chess.com helped get the stream set up for round 3. Initially I was broadcasting on the chesscomevents channel. A secondary channel Chess.com is using to help promote smaller, locally run tournaments. A replay of the round 3 broadcast can be seen here.  For round 5, I was broadcasting on the main channel getting hundreds of concurrent viewers and thousands of unique visitors. A replay of the round 5 broadcast can be seen here. Playing these long time control events over a weekend is exhausting but so is doing commentary! It was especially fun doing analysis of the games with IM Danny Rensch, GM Fidel Corrales-Jimenez, and GM Jesse Kraai. If nothing else, at least fast forward the replays to the point where they are analyzing their games. There is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned.


Chris is smiling, so all 3 DGT boards must be working at the moment :-)

Some players not on the top boards were brave enough to hop on the stream and show their games. U1800 section winner, Stephen Marquez, showed one of the games that led to his 5-0 win of the section. Nikolas Theiss from the east coast showed us a couple of games from his 5-0 performance in the U2200 section. Local stars Gunnar Andersen and Josh Bloomer also hopped on to go through a couple of their favorite games. Particularly interesting was Bloomer’s wins over two IMs. Make sure to check those out!


Josh Bloomer playing White against IM john Watson.

The only negatives about the stream was the difficulty with the technology. The DGT boards used by the CSCA to relay the moves are old. Also, the way the moves are relayed are not ideal so I had to manually transfer the games to analysis boards for the broadcast. Donations to the stream will help go toward purchasing some new equipment. If the DCC intends to broadcast more tournaments and commentary, an investment in quality equipment will be a must. If you like the idea, like the streams, or want to support chess in Denver, consider donating to the club. Any audio/video advice or equipment would go a long way.


IM Danny Rensch about to make his first move. 

I imagine that IM Danny Rensch, after taking a first-round bye to do the lecture and simul, was quite pleased to tie for 1st place with GM Jesse Kraai. They each finished with 4.5 points and share the combined 1st and 2nd place prize of 1750 dollars. I am absolutely sure that Josh Bloomer and Sullivan McConnell are pleased to share the combined 3rd place and U2400 prize with GM Jimenez and GM Gorovets. Everybody knows Mr. Bloomer can hang with GM/IM's across the board and here is the young Sullivan sharing the prize with them. They each won 187 dollars and 50 cents.


GM Jesse Kraai is awaiting his opponents move. 


 Sullivan McConnell will long remember playing along side of WGM Tatev Abrahamyan.

Maybe soon in the future, chess tournament results will be reported as sports in newspapers and on TV. If you don't think chess is a sport then you have never felt your heart pounding, or had your fist clenched, while waiting for your opponent's next move. You have never held your breath waiting for your opponent to step into the trap you have set. You have never experienced the thrill of winning against a better player. Tournament chess is not some pass time game at all. It is a one on one blood sport.

Before getting to the results of the Denver Open Under sections, let me say what a great idea it was for the CSCA to organize a Girls tournament and hold it in conjunction with the Denver Open. Quoting Todd Bardwick: 

"45 Girls from 1st -12th grade played in the tournament. Woman Grandmaster, Tatev Abrahamyan, spoke to the excited girls before the tournament, signed autographs, took pictures with the girls, and answered questions about what it is like being a Woman’s Chess Champion." Real nice trophies were awarded to the top scoring player for each school grade 1 thru 12.


Maybe this young lady won one of those trophies.

What chess needs the most is more women players, and if these young girls were inspired by WGM Abrahamyan, then that cannot be anything but good. They can also look to the current U.S. Women's Champion, 17-year-old Jennifer Yu, for inspiration. Maybe within a few years, there will be a female contender that challenges a man for the undisputed, undivided, World Chess Championship title. How cool would it be if one of the girls at this tournament is the one to do that. See the tournament results and the name of a possible future World Champion here. 


I don't know this young woman but clearly she enjoys playing tournament chess.


... as does Kelsey Hoffman.

Ann Davies and Alayne Wilinsky have very interesting comments on this topic. Quoting Ann Davies: 

"My personal view is it will take time for women/girls to catch up in the world of chess, politics, corporate America, etc. This is because women have been held back for so long by society. Even in this modern world, there are many countries and cultures that have negative attitudes about women and their abilities. Bottom line, things are changing for the better for women. It will just take time. The Colorado State Chess Association as well as other organizations, should do as much as they can to promote women playing chess. If it means having special tournaments just for girls, then so be it." Ann also provides this link . Saying, "I find myself in agreement with the opposite points made by Shankland and Shahade. I see truth in both of their opinions."


Alayne Wilinsky contemplating her move.

Quoting Alayne Wilinsky: Ms. Wilinsky prepared a google document with her thoughts. Please take the time to click this link and read what she has to say. I found the Chess.com blog post link, and also the studies link, within the document to be illuminating.

So now on to the main tournament report. In addition to the 50 players in the Championship section, we had 110 players in the 3 Under sections. Thus, counting the CSCA Girls tournament players, there were over 200 chess players wondering around the Embassy Suites hotel lobby on Saturday morning. Was just great. Speaking of the Embassy Suites hotel, it is an understatement to say it's awesome. The rooms are terrific, the staff is friendly and courteous, the free help yourself to the all you can eat, or the made to order, breakfast is a hungry man's dream. I took full advantage of that :-)


Nikolas Theiss had no trouble winning the U2200 section.

In the U2200 section the top seed, Nikolas Theiss from Maryland, took the clear 1st prize of 400 dollars with a perfect 5- 0 score. His fine performance included a last round win against the hard to beat, Haroun Mueller-Omar. Michel Doyon and Joshua Blanchfield share the combined 2nd and 3rd place prize of 270 dollars. Earning their prize money with 4 point scores.


Joshua Blanchfield is pleased to be winning some money.

I played in the U1800 section and this was like the first time I didn't know and hadn't ever played before any of the players that I was paired against. How refreshing. If only I could have played like Stephen Marquez from New Mexico who won all his games and took the clear 1st place of 400 dollars. Alexander Freeman won the 220 dollar 2nd place prize with a nice 4.5 score. Only giving up a draw to Charles Schwartz. Who, aside from his 1st round win, scored all his 3.5 points from upset wins and draws. Sharing 3rd place and winning 75 dollars each with 4 point scores, was and Jeff Baffo and Ryan Blackman from Arizona. Due to a large number of players in this section, we added a 100 dollar U1600 prize. Which was shared by Somnath Mukherjee, Jacob Ornelas from Nevada, Charles Schwartz, Roberto Popa, and Ann Davies.


On the left, from front to back, Stephen Marquez,  Alex Freeman and Jeff Baffo. 

We had a 3-way tie for 1st place in the U1400 section. Danny Hunter, Alayne Wilinsky and Sean Simpson all finished with 4 points and they share the combined 1st, 2nd, and U1200 prize of 360 dollars. The prize fund for this section seemed low to me since there was nearly the same number of entries as the U2200 section. The TD's explained to me that the higher section traditionally gets a bigger slice of the pie. The disparity of the prize money between the U2200 and U1400 sections is another reason to get better at chess :)


Danny Hunter with the white pieces in the foreground. Sean Simpson is playing White against Amitai Sebba in the background

The winners of each section received a classy trophy. I watched GM Kraai's Twitch stream where he is reviewing his games from this tournament for the next couple of Wednesdays. https://www.twitch.tv/jessekraai  There in plain sight is a still photo of him and Danny Rensch arm in arm holding the trophy. During his commentary, GM Kraai mentions that even though he won the trophy on tiebreaks he gave it to his friend, since Danny's kids would appreciate it more than his 3-year-old daughter. How cool was that? Was funny that in the chat "chessgremlin" asked if they were going to time share the trophy :-) For the 3 way tie in the U1400 section, we decided to award the trophy to Alayne Wilinsky even though Danny Hunter was 1st on tiebreaks. Due to the fact that Alayne had 2 upset wins and she drew her last round game against the higher rated Mr. Hunter. Hopefully Mr. Hunter will not hold this against us, 


GM Kraai won the Championship trophy with a last round win against GM Tang. 

There are so many people to thank for making the 2019 Denver Open the success that it was I don't know where to begin. Let's start with the Vice President of the CSCA, Kevin McConnell. First, he personally donated a large sum of money to assure the presence of the special guests we had at the tournament. Then he worked tirelessly  to promote the tournament and arranged the closing pizza party at his own expense. 15 boxes of pizza were devoured in like 15 minutes. I am not making that up. 15 boxes of Pizza Hut pizza gone in 15 minutes. 


TD's Todd Bardwick and Dean Clow dealing within last minute registrations. 

We could not have had this tournament without tournament directors. Todd Bardwick and Dean Clow did a great job. Mr. Clow's CaissaChess software is a great convenience in the writing of these reports. 


Griffin McConnell, along with his brother Sullivan, made sure the Girls tournament happened

To make the Girls tournament happen the CSCA needed to have a guaranteed registration of 60 players. Mr. McConnell's sons, Griffin and Sullivan, stepped up and said they would cover any shortfall with their own allowance and tournament winning money. The boys ended up donating around 300 dollars.


CSCA President, Buck Buchanan.

The CSCA President, Buck Buchanan, was all for this tournament from the start. Without his support, the tournament would not have happened. Mr. Buchanan also assisted the FIDE tournament director, Tom Nelson, free of charge. The DCC president, Brian Wall, has been dreaming of a tournament like this in Denver for years. He also donated a considerable amount of his inheritance money and was responsible for promoting and bringing in the special guests. See an interesting "Lessons Learned" written by Mr. Nelson after the tournament.  There is way more to directing a tournament than just getting the pairings right. Especially when FIDE rules are involved. 


 DCC Treasurer, Meint Olthof.

Without the approval of Meint Olthof for us to risk losing several thousand dollars of DCC funds, the 2019 Denver Open would have been just another weekend tournament. Mr. Olthof also handled all the myriad hotel and special guest details with equanimity.

Chris Peterson donated his time to provide commentary on the top three boards of the Championship section. Mr. Peterson also arranged with Danny Rensch to have the games streamed to the Chess.com Twitch channel. Tournament Directors, Todd Bardwick, and tech wizard, Dean Clow, ran the Under sections with efficiency. Ann Davies had the great idea of giving away door prizes and took care of all the details involved with that. John Brezina's photography is just awesome and makes these reports so much better.


110 players in this room, and 50 more in the Championship room. It was a great tournament.

I would most like to thank the 160 players who registered to play in the 2019 Denver Open and the 45 young ladies who played in the inaugural CSCA Girls tournament. The fantastic attendance is the true reason why we will be aiming for bigger and better next year. Thank you all very much. 

Finally, I must not fail to mention all the photos in this report were taken by John Brezina. Picture this report without pictures, and we'd have a wall of text that nobody would read. See all of Mr. Brezina's pictures with these links: the Danny Rensch simul  and CSCA Girls tournament  and the Championship section  and the Under sections  

Also I must thank Richard Shtivelband for uploading most of the Championship section games to the DCC site. 2019 Denver Open Championship games and search games dated 4/26/2019 thru 4/28/2019. Or enter a name into one of the search boxes and check "ignore colors". Or now you can play over the games here: ChessBase 2019 Denver Open Games

Ann Davies has pointed out to me that I failed to mention several other people who made this tournament a success. My bad.  Paraphrasing Ann;  "In addition, Alayne Wilinsky, Brian Wall, Lior Lapid, myself, and I know many others facilitated picking up guests from the airport, etc.  I believe John Brezina hosted Sunil Weeramantry and Lior hosted  Tatev Abrahamyan and  Fidel Corrales Jimenez.  Also, Lior and I both contributed  to meet the $500 stipend for Fidel."

I should also mention that DCC board members Alayne Wilinsky and Vibi Varghese promoted the tournament with email blasts, that may have well been why we had so many players from outside the Denver area. 

Thanks again to all the players, and to all who made the biggest and best Denver Open ever happen. 

J.C. MacNeil




Last Modified: 5/11/2019 at 2:11pm Views: 853