DCC 2023 Tribute to Martin Luther King

10:51am Friday, January 20th, 2023

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Colorado doesn't see players of this caliber often...

As always it is an honor for the Denver Chess Club to have a chess tournament as a tribute to Martin Luther King on his national holiday weekend. In cooperation with the Aurora Library system - and in particular, with Librarian Corina Iannaggi. 


Super organizer Richard Shtivelband on the left, three super Grandmasters from Texas in the center, and super librarian Corina  Iannaggi on the right. made a super DCC tournament :-)

Tournament organizer, Richard Shtivelband in an interview with Channel 9 News had this to say: "Although it's not certain if he ever played chess or not, the weight and thought with which MLK chose his words in his powerful and moving speeches is something a chess player could definitely relate to.  No doubt, MLK thought deeply and with intense focus about how he could most effectively achieve his goals of social change and greater racial equality for all of us.  Perhaps, similarly, a chess player uses deep thought, intense focus, and plays the game move by move to achieve the goal of checkmate on the chessboard.  So, even if MLK never got a chance to play a game of chess in his life, we as chess players can see in him someone who would probably have enjoyed the game a great deal if he wasn't otherwise occupied doing the great things he did with his life."


Chess is important to all of us, but let's admit that other things are more important. 

Reflecting on what Mr. Shtivelband said, I would guess Mr. King perhaps played casual chess to relax, when he was not too busy at his work to put an end to segregation, degradation, and blatant racism. Achieving that goal is similar to how a chess player goes about winning a serious game. By overcoming strong opposition, with deep thought and perseverance, voting and civil rights for so many African American citizens came primarily from Mr. King's efforts. Martin Luther King may have been inspired to begin his crusade when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of a Montgomery Alabama bus.


Rosa Parks was awarded the Presidental Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton.

In addition, “This collaboration with Denver Chess Club speaks to the purpose of the library to improve lives with learning opportunities for all,” said Midori Clark, director of Library and Cultural Services. “As a source of self-improvement, Chess not only fosters intellectual and creative abilities but also creates connections among community members, values that align perfectly with those at Aurora Public Library" Let me just say that in general all libraries are great, but with this attitude towards chess the Aurora library system is special. Thank you kindly, Ms. Clark. Also, I can't thank John Brezina enough for the following photos.


Tournament organizer Richard Shtivelband - on the left - is playing GM Khanin in round 2...


and here he is being interviewed by Channel 9 News...


and thanks to NM Shtivelband we had another DCC record attendance tournament. A DCC tournament that was talked about on Channel 9 News!!


Thanks are also due to CSCA President, Earle Wikle, for setting up the DGT boards, so move by move on the top boards could be displayed throughout the tournament on the big screen, as seen in the above photo.

Aside from a record MLK attendance of 110 players, this year's tournament was also special in that we had the Texas Tech University Knight Riders chess team in attendance. Much credit is due to Mr. Shtivelband for bringing the team to Colorado. Richard was contacted by Ryan McCrea expressing interest in coming up to play in the MLK in January. Mr. Shtivelband got to talking with Ryan and, "Out of curiosity I asked him if he had any ideas about how we could attract more players to come up to Denver from Texas for the club's events and that's when I learned he was president of the TTU Knight Raiders Chess Team." 


Texas Tech University Knight Riders President, Ryan McCrea.

"From there I asked if they had any titled players on his college chess team and it turned out they had 3 super strong GMs!  And by good fortune they were all interested in coming up to play in Denver for the MLK!" And lo and behold they appeared here in Denver for the 2023 Tribute to Martin Luther King tournament.


Three GMs with a combined rating of 7950 points playing in a DCC Tournament. Wow!! ...


GM Semen Khanin (2668) ...


GM Alexsey Sorokin (2656) ...


and GM Viktor Matviishen (2626)

GM Semen Khanin , GM Alexsey Sorokin , and GM Viktor Matviishen added prestige and class to this DCC event.  Colorado doesn't see players of this caliber often, and we certainly hope they'll be back for the 2024 MLK tournament. We were also pleased to have the other members of the team in attendance: Mr. McCrea, Jackson Greener, Noah Phillips, and Santiago Henderson. Thank you all very much!!

So then, on to who won a share of the huge 5575 dollar prize fund. In the Championship section, surprisingly the three GMs did not take the top three place prizes. GM Viktor Matviishen had the swiss system pairing misfortune of being forced to play against his GM teammates in rounds 4 and 5 and lost both games. Leaving newly minted USCF Master, Neil Bhavikatti, to take 3rd place with 4 points and win 250 dollars. 


 Neil Bhavikatti's 3rd place finish shares prize money with two Grand Masters!!

Neil only lost to Earle Wikle, in Round 1. Which was a big upset win for Mr. Wikle. GM Semen Khanin and his teammate GM Alexsey Sorokin played to a draw in their round 3 game and won all their other games, to finish with 4.5 points and they share the combined 1st and 2nd place of 1500 dollars.


A crowd has gathered for the end of the fascinating Neil Bhavikatti vs. Mattew Wofford game. See John Brezina's videos. 

USCF Experts Matthew Wofford, and Vedanth Sampath ended up with 3 points and they share the combined 1st and 2nd U2200 prize of 800 dollars. Former CSCA President, Brad Lundstrom, Earle Wilke, Sara Herman, and way underrated William Wolf all win 150 dollars for the combined 1st and 2nd U2000 prize. Mr. Wolf can be most pleased since his 2.5 points were all upsets against much higher rated players. 


Will Wolf thinking things over...


Sara Herman playing alongside of GM Sorokin...


Sara's brother and Colorado's newest USCF master, Daniel Herman only lost to GM Khanin, and Neil Bhavikatti to end up with 3 points. See diagrams #1 thru #5

The U1800 section was won by Nate Getz with a 4.5 point score. Mr. Getz only gave up a round 3 draw to the strong Caleb Koellar. His fine performance won 450 dollars. The combined 2nd and 3rd place prize was shared by Amitai Shebba and Alec Newport. Each player won 275 dollars. Amitai won his last round game against DCC Treasurer, Luis Jimenez. Who I know from personal experience is a really strong player. Notable upset points in this section were Nolan Ottele, 3.5 points. Sai Dasari, 3 points. Kaavya Sakthisaravanan, 3 points. Aysuh Vispute 3 points. Abhijay Balamurugan, 3 points. These players' games were all big rating difference wins and one upset draw. I don't know Nolan, but the others are youngsters that I'm guessing are all under 12 years old. I think :-)


Players mentioned above may be in this photo somewhere. 

The U1600 section was won by Jon Sealander with a perfect 5-0 score This can't do better than that performance won 350 dollars. 2nd place was taken by Brian Miller who finished with 3.5 points and won 225 dollars. Eli Cohrs had to work for his 3 point 3rd place finish by upsetting 3 players who were a total of over 600 points higher rated!! Certainly a hard earned 150 dollars. Darshan Satishkumar also had notable upset games. 


and again, players mentioned above may be in this photo somewhere. 

In the U1400 section Ari Wang also had a can't do better than a 5 point final score, and thus won the 1st place prize of 250 dollars. The combined 2nd and 3rd place prize of 250 dollars was shared by Gnaneswar Doppalapudi and Andrew Bueche with both players ending up with 4 points. Tom Needham's 3 points were all big upset wins. The U1200 and Unrated section was won by Emmet Lignell with 4.5 points that included a big upset win against the strong Karthika Sakthisaravanan (Kaavya's mom) Mr. Lignell takes home 200 dollars for his 4.5 final score. The combined 2nd and 3rd place prize was won by Ms. Sakthisaravanan, Aaroh Anaspure, and Ryan Bliven. They each finished with 4 points, and each player won 66 dollars and 67 cents. Isodore Grotewiel and Sofiia Gainullina each had two big upset wins in their final 3 point final score.


 Karthika Sakthisaravanan organizes and directs tournaments at her Kings of Chess club . 

So, when all was said and done 22 players won prize money. I must say I'd like the DCC in future tournaments to shave a little prize money off the top and apply it to the lower rated players. I know it's traditional for the higher rated players to get the lion's share of the pot, but maybe not such a bigger chunk. Just saying. Anyway, congratulations to all 22 players that won money by playing chess well against players who were often much higher rated. 

I do like to point out upset wins and draws because that is what garners the most USCF rating points. I believe most players are playing for the rating points, and maybe not so much for the prize money. After all, to go from one rating class to the next higher level is difficult to do and is a real accomplishment when done. It might be said that the resulting sense of pride has more meaning than winning prize money. 

It is regretful that NM Brian Wall, the president of the Denver Chess Club, was unable to play in this event due to serious medical issues that required immediate hospitalization the day before the tournament began. Currently, he is out of the Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph's hospital and hopefully will be home within a few days. I, and the DCC, along with I'm sure all his friends everywhere, hope for a complete and total recovery. 


FIDE National Arbiter Tom Nelson - in the red shirt- was ably assisted by Peter Barlay. 

I would be negligent if I didn't mention what an outstanding Tournament Director Tom Nelson is. His tournament rounds always start on time, results are entered correctly, and submitted to the USCF promptly. Any disputes are always resolved quickly, quietly, and fairly. And again, thanks to John Brezina for all the tournament photos used in the report. See all of his excellent photography of the tournament with these links: 

Round 1 
Round 2
Round 5


Games Section: Thanks to CSCA President, Earle Wikle, all of the games played on the top 4 boards in the Championship section can be found here  In the upper right corner, click "Round" and then select the game you wish to view. Do not miss John Brezina's video of several Championship games. In addition, Sara Herman's games and interesting commentary can be found here:  Youtube channel: youtube.com/@zefcatt or here; Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/zefcatt  and here: MLK video: https://youtu.be/iE2JYvCI7_Y  - Sara has thousands of followers across these channels. Don't miss strong Expert Nick Petersen's games. #7 thru #10 or a Shirley Herman's game from a DCC Thursday night tournament. #6. 

To start this section, Daniel Herman gives an excellent summary of what it's like to play against a Grandmaster. See all of his games from the MLK tournament. #1 thru #5.

Quoting Daniel Herman: "Playing my 3rd GM in classical otb I perform better than the first 2 against Jesse Kraii and Conrad Holt. Though I did have a winning position in the game with Kraii, poor calculation and terrible endgame play seeped in and the veteran came back to win, so I think overall I played better in this game. After White's 24th move Ng1! my mind is blown. White's plan is to squeeze me to death like a boa constrictor with his space advantage and I have to just shuffle and sort and wait and see what his plan to breakthrough will be. This is a very long and arduous task, especially for a human playing an opponent 450 points above them. With my time already dwindling, I start to already feel the pressure and make a snap decision with 24...h6." 

"Yes, I see that the pawn can be taken, but after 25. Bxh6 my plan is to reply with ...25. Nf4+. If 26. gxf4 black is already better after 26...Bxh6 as the dark squares have collapsed. (see diagram #1) But of course, my GM opponent plays the correct 26. Bxf4 and comes ahead 2 pawns. If I were to play the resulting position against anyone below 2000 USCF I think I would still have decent chances as my strong bishop can become a lot to handle if White is not precise."

"My GM opponent snuffs out the fire breathing dragon Bishop in short order and drives through e5. Soon all my pieces, not just my Bishop, suffocate under the weight of White's center. One could argue that I resigned prematurely, but I felt I would be disrespecting my opponent to play on any more against someone of his caliber. Overall, I enjoyed playing my 3rd and highest-rated GM in classical and I think I can take a lot from this experience. 24...h6 is my only objectively bad move and against many other players I would stand a chance after making the error, but these guys give you no chances. The 2023 DCC MLK was a fun event and I think I learned a lot about chess."


Daniel Herman with the black pieces, sharing the same table with three GM's. Photo by Shirley Herman. (see diagram #6) All other tournament photography is by John Brezina. 


r1b1r1k1/2q2pb1/p2p1npp/P1pPp1Bn/1pP1P3/6PP/1PBQ1PKN/R3R1N1 w - - 24 48

1) GM Seman Khanin vs. Daniel Herman. Round 5. After 24...h6. Again quoting Mr. Herman. "I start to already feel the pressure and make a snap decision with 24...h6?. Yes, I see that the pawn can be taken, but after 25. Bxh6 my plan is to reply with ...25. Nf4+. If 26. gxf4 black is already better after 26...Bxh6 as the dark squares have collapsed. But of course, my GM opponent plays the correct 26. Bxf4 and comes ahead 2 pawns."


5rk1/pQp1qpb1/2nr3p/8/4Ppb1/1BP2N2/PP1N1PP1/R4RK1 b - - 20 39

2) Duwayne Langseth vs. Daniel Herman Round 1. After 20. Qb5xb7 Daniel says, "White has just greedily grabbed a pawn and left his Queen far flung and vulnerable to tempos. On top of this his King is also dreadfully weak with h and g pawns being traded and the g file opening for a Rook lift. Having said all of this, what is the strongest sequence to win the game? The continuation I played also wins although not nearly as convincingly" See answers to #2, #4, and #5 below after the last diagram.


6k1/5pp1/p6p/8/1pN1Qp2/1Pb5/P4KPP/3q4 b - - 33 65

3) Daniel Herman vs. Neil Bhavikatti. Round 2. Daniel credits his opponent by saying, "Neil smoothly and cleanly equalizes and then outplays me with the black pieces, I completely overlooked his final move, but I had already kind of mentally resigned." What is the final move in this position?


r1bq1rk1/ppp1nppp/3p4/3P2N1/2B1R3/8/PP3PPP/R2Q2K1 b - - 13 26

4) Chris Motley vs. Daniel Herman. Round 3. Daniel says, "Chris plays a sharp gambit and I make a slight inaccuracy with 13...0-0. In this position what is the way for White to force a draw?" Perhaps implying that Mr. Motley should have been thinking about a draw :-)


r2qk2r/1p1b1p2/p1n1p1p1/2PpPn1p/NP1P1Q2/3B1N2/2PB1PPP/R5K1 b kq - 16 31

5) Daniel Herman vs. Richard Shtivelband. Round 4. Here Daniel's comment is, "Richard never really makes it out of the opening after trying a risky French. He told me he missed 20. Nh7 although I think other moves win. Due to an inaccurate 16. Na4 I do give him a chance to get a playable position. In this position, instead of 16...g6-g5 as played, what would have been a better move for Black?"


2r2rk1/1pq1bppp/2n5/1B1pP3/4pP2/2B1Q3/PPP3PP/R3K2R b KQ - 17 33

6) Glen Holguin vs. Shirley Herman - from a DCC Thursday night tournament game - It could be the reason Daniel and Sara Herman are such good chess players is because their mom has encouraged them to play since they were toddlers. Ms. Herman herself doesn't play a bad game. In this position after 17. Bd2-c3, find the move that Shirley missed during the game and which she says,"...causes White to decide which piece to lose." Hint, think of the John Nunn adage, "Loose Pieces Drop Off" See answer below after her son Daniel's answers. 

As always, strong Expert Nick Petersen's annotations to his games are highly informative, 
and well worth your time to play through.

r4rk1/pp1nbppp/4pn2/2Pp1b2/3P1P2/1PN2B2/1P1N2PP/R1B1R1K1 b - - 15 29
7) Nick Petersen vs. Brad Blake.  Round 1. In this position Mr. Blake played 15... Bxc5. Mr. Petersen's explanation of why this is a bad move is enlightening. 

7R/3k4/4p2p/4P1p1/2PK1pP1/7P/3r4/8 w - - 48 96
8) Vedanth Sampath vs. Nick Petersen. Round 2. An interesting Rook and passed pawn ending has arisen. In this position the players had repeated moves a couple of times with ...Re2 - Kd4 - Rd2 - Ke4 but despite being in severe time trouble, Vedanth boldly elected to try to win and played on with 49. Kc5. Who wins the passed pawn race?

r7/pp1R4/4r1pk/4b3/Q3p2q/4P1N1/PP3PPP/5RK1 w - - 25 50
9) Neil Bhavikatti vs. Nick Petersen. Round 5. In this position after 25... Kg7-h6 find the move the Mr. Petersen says is "A beautiful use of the pin to prevent en passant."

6k1/p4p1p/5Qp1/8/4P3/8/q2r1bPP/3B1R1K b - - 24 47
10) Nick Petersen vs. GM Alexsey Sorokin Round 5. Mr. Petersen says 23. Bf3-d1 was "the final mistake." Find the move that that "nails in the coffin."


Daniel Herman's answers to diagrams #2, #4, and #5 


2) 20...Rb8 21 Qa6 Nd4! 22 Qxa7 Ne2+ 23Kh1 Rb5! 24e5 Rxe5! 0-1. The continuation I played also wins although not nearly as convincingly.

4) 14. Nxh7 Kxh7 15. Rh4+ Kg8 16. Qh5 f5 and now 17. Qh7+! (not 17. Qh8+?? as played in the game Kf7 18. Qh5+ Ng6 and White's attack gets repelled) Kf7 18. Rh6!! (the only move, white now threatens Be2-h5) ...Rg8! (the only move) 19. Re1 Qf8 20. Bb5 (setting up Ree6) ...Rh8! 21. Qxh8 gxh6 22. Rxe7 Qxe7 23. Qxh6+ and White gives a perpetual as seen in Bednarski - Estrin, 1/2-1/2, Balshiha, 1977.

5) 16... Ncxd4 (is a much better version of the game continuation) 17. Nxd4 g5 18. Qxg5 Qxg5 19. Bxg5 Nxd4 (when White can still claim an edge in the resulting queenless middlegame, but black is alive)

Shirley Herman's answer to diagram #6

6) 17...d4 and 18. Bxd4 is not possible due to ...Nxd4 and if 19. Qxd4 then ...Qa5+ wins the Bb5. 


Thanks again to all,

J. C. MacNeil


Last Modified: 1/25/2023 at 9:43am Views: 454