DCC 2024 Denver Open report

12:48pm Wednesday, June 19th, 2024

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... this game that has lasted through the centuries and is only becoming more popular. 

Once again, we had a great registration for the Denver Chess Club 2024 Denver Open. The 180 player registration included GM Bryan Smith, and FIDE Master, Hersh Singh. Both of whom were coming of their own volition. Unfortunately, Mr. Singh missed the connecting flight to Denver and had to withdraw from the tournament. These things happen but hopefully, both players will consider returning for the 2025 Denver Open, along with GM Jesse Kraai, who would have come this year if not for a scheduling conflict. I believe having players of this strength at the premier DCC tournament is beneficial for Colorado chess. In that, it gives strong local players a chance to directly experience chess at a higher level. 

I couldn't resist another room shot. Ken Doykos (center) and Jeff Baffo on the right. Duwayne Langseth is recording his move.

Another thing that set this tournament apart is the DGT board games were broadcast live on lichess.org , thanks to the DCC President, Earle Wikle, making that arrangement. Therefore, there was a worldwide audience for the 2024 DCC Denver Open top boards. Just a fantastic advertisement and promotion for the DCC. In addition, NM Chris Peterson was in a separate room doing in person analysis of the DGT board games and others for an audience. His choice for and commentary on the Denver Open Best Game is given below. Without question, it is well worth your time to peruse. 

Chris Peterson is on the job. Helping players improve their game. The Games Section below leads off with NM Peterson's selection of the Best Game from the 2024 Denver Open. You don't want to miss his astute commentary and analysis.

Let me start the Who Won What summary by highlighting the 8100 dollar prize fund that was up for grabs. I am not making that up. 38 prize money checks totaling up to Eight Thousand and One Hundred Dollars, were written by the DCC Treasurer, Luis Jimenez, and paid out to the winners in each section immediately after the last round if they were in attendance. Prize winners who had left will receive their prize check by mail. I don't think there has ever been a local Colorado tournament with this much prize money at stake. Also, a note on the John Brezina pictures used in this report. They are not necessarily related to the text. They are mainly selected to show the expressions of chess players, and the fact that more women and kids are getting into this game that has lasted through the centuries and is only becoming more popular. 

Richard Shtivelband took 1st place in the Open Section with a perfect 5-0 score, and he looks quite happy about that.

In the Championship section, LM (Life Master) Richard Shtivelband went on a tear and won all five of his games, to finish alone in 1st place. Richard won against higher rated NM (National Master) Eamon Montgomery and NM Brian Leano in Rounds 4 and 5 to cap off an excellent performance and put 1000 dollars in his pocket. Try to tell me that ain't significant prize money.

GM Bryan Smith (2471) surprisingly lost to Joshua Meng (2101) in Round 2. Thus, ending up in a tie for 2nd and 3rd place with Suhaas Narayanan, who had allowed two draws to also finish with 4 points. Bryan and Suhass each won 525 dollars. Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Leano, NM Daniel Herman, and CM (Candidate Master) Rhett Langseth all ended up with 3.5 points and they share the 4th place prize of 300 dollars. 

DCC Treasurer, Luis Jimenez, is pleased to be a prize money winner, as well as being pleased to write the prize checks for 37 other DCC 2024 Denver Open prize money winners. 

The 300 dollar U2000 prize was shared by Brandon Stoyanovich, Luis Jimenez, Kylie Zhang, and Rocco Degeest, who all finished with 3 points and each player won 75 dollars. Sai Dasari (1739) also ended up with 3 points but won the higher value 100 dollar Championship Upset Prize for his win against Jorge Rubio (2117) in Round 4. I have always been in favor of having Upset Prizes - as we have for DCC Tuesday and Thursday night tournaments - so I was glad to see Mr. Wikle adding an Upset prize for each section for this DCC weekend tournament. Speaking of Upset wins, let me mention that Mr. Jimenez (1965) won against both Mr. Herman (2182) and Brian Wall (2208). I'm sure Mr. Wall was disappointed to finish out of the money. Especially since, over the years, Mr. Colorado Chess, has taken 1st place at the DCC Denver Open eight times. 

Brian Wall is not happy with all those Black pieces on his side of the board.

Presumably, we'll now add Upset prizes for our other yearly weekend tournaments - The DCC Tribute to Martin Luther King, the DCC Spring Classic, and the DCC Fall Classic. - When you win against a higher rated player, you had to have played a good game.  Or you got lucky when the better player overlooked that his Queen was hanging :-) Still, it's only right that you get a reward along with the USCF rating points for the win. 

Either this player is in trouble, or he is seeing a winning combination :-)

In the U2000 section, Jarod Heap only allowed a draw in the last round to finish with 4.5 points. Taking 1st place and winning 600 dollars. Cabla Pena, William Wolf, and Benjamin Simberg all finished with 4 points. Tying for the combined 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place prize of 800 dollars and 1 cent. The odd penny is so each player would win 266 dollars and 67 cents. The DCC would not want any player to feel they got shorted :-)  Leif McFadden won the 100 dollar U2000 Upset Prize for his win against Kenzie Moore (1873) in Round 4. Mr. McFadden (1597) had a final score of 3 points, and to indicate how well he played, 2.5 of those points came from upsetting much higher rated players. The rating point difference totaled up to almost 500 points.


Intense focus is showing on this youngster's face...

...and this lad is figuring things out on the Queenside....

... and here "Rhino" boy may be thinking of charging across the Queenside :-)

In the U1700 section, Mark Brandao won 550 dollars by only giving up a half point to Ragul Thiyagarajan in Round 3. Ragul, along with Darshan Satishkumar, and Ashwin Mathimaran ended up with 4 points and they share the combined 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place prize of 699 dollars and 99 cents. Alexander Hoover (1128) won the 100 dollar Upset Prize for his win over Chris Burkhardt (1582) in Round 3. 

The fact that more women...

...and young girls are getting into chess can only be a good thing. 

In the U1400 section once again 1st place was taken with a score of four wins and a draw, but this time by two players playing that well. Karthikeya Kannan (1303) was held to a draw in Round 1 by Thomas Wellborn (1070). Then four straight wins. All of Jason Wuu's (1121) points were from upsetting higher rated players. The biggest was his Round 1 win over Cody Achilles (1356) Jason was only held to a draw in the last round by John Treuth (1349) Jason and Karthikeya each win 400 dollars. 

Black has tipped his King and congratulates his young opponent with a handshake. 

Unrated James Hood won the 3rd place prize of 200 dollars with 4 points. Mr. Treuth, Brendan Well, and Luis Rivera share the 4rd place prize of 99 dollars and 99 cents. Petra Lambert-Gorwyn (904) won the 100 dollar Upset prize for her win over yes, the same Cody Achilles. We all have rough tournaments, Cody. As they say, we learn more from our losses than from our wins. 

 TD Tom Nelson might be wondering what other sport can have such an age difference between opponents.

In the U1100 section Incredibly, once again 1st place was won by two players who both scored 4.5 points. I guess like they say, if something can happen, it will happen. Tarun Karthikeyan and Jason King each player won  400 dollars. Tarun gave up a last round draw to Tanishka Tagare. Jason's half point was a Round 3 bye. The 200 dollar 3rd place prize was shared by Ms. Tagare, Edward Hefferman, Nick Hvizda, Garret Vasquez, and Daniel Hunninghake who all scored 4 points. Lynn Nesbitt won the 100 dollar 4th place prize.  The 100 dollar Upset Prize was won by Mihika Tagare (614) for her Round 3 win over Bruce Autry (1082)

Youngsters, teenagers, and adults are all on an equal basis when at the board. 

All pro TD Tom Nelson, and assistant TD Peter Barlay getting the pairings right. 

The following defines the character of Tom Nelson: A 50 move draw rule question arose in the Eamon Montgomery vs. Henry Kovacs game. Quoting Eamon Montgomery, "... an endgame was reached on move 65. I had two bishops and an f-pawn, versus my opponent's knight and light square bishop. I thought this endgame was probably drawn with best play, but that defending it would be difficult and I would have a few chances to trick my opponent. We were both playing off the increment, and my opponent stopped keeping score, but I continued keeping score. At some point a large crowd began to watch, as we had already passed the next round start time at 7 p.m. Around move 116, TD Tom Nelson stopped the clock and asked when the last pawn move had been played. I informed him it was the move 71. f4. We then resumed the game. After move 121... Bc2 Tom stopped the clock again and claimed the 50 move rule. I briefly protested because my position was now winning, but I knew the 50 move rule, so I agreed to the draw. As I stood up, Todd Bardwick told me that the TD can only claim a draw after 75 moves. As my opponent hadn't been keeping score for most of the endgame, he was unable to claim it himself. I went to ask Tom about the 75 move rule. He agreed to check the rule book. He confirmed that the 75 move was correct, and we resumed the game. I played 122. Bf8 and went on to win the game." With prize money and rating points on the line, the extra half point can make a big difference.

Again Quoting Mr. Montgomery: "Firstly, I want to commend everyone involved on how they handled the situation. TD Tom Nelson initially incorrectly stopped the game, but then went and checked the rule book to make sure he got the decision correct. I can only compare this to my experiences playing and watching other sports. I've almost never seen a referee reverse a decision, especially if the reversal would involve admitting they were wrong." 

Integrity means being willing to admit you were wrong. Note that Eamon is calling chess a sport. It most certainly is not just some pastime game. There is an intensity to playing tournament chess that is equal to getting in the ring and putting on the gloves. 

See Mr. Mongomery's YouTube video  of his Denver Open games. 

Row after row of chess players at the DCC Denver Open. 

As always a big THANK YOU to all the players who played in the tournament on a Father's Day weekend. I'm pleased you all had your priorities straight :-) Thanks to Tom Nelson and Peter Barlay for directing the tournament. Thanks again to Mr. Wikle for having the DGT boards broadcast worldwide by lichess.org. Thanks to Chris Peterson for donating his time to analyzing the DGT board games and selecting a Best Game prize winner. Thanks to John Brezina for the Round 2  and Round 5 photographs. Here is a selection of his black and white photos. Followed by a selection of Shirley Herman photos from the tournament. 

Do I have anything to worry about here?

No Smoking!! Wait, that's a pencil :-)

Brad Lundstrom, a long time Colorado chess tournament organizer, and player.

Jeff Baffo in some kind of cool chessboard shirt

A youngster in his thinking position

Earle Wikle did a great job setting up the DGT boards and arranging for the live lichess.org broadcast. This photo and the following are by Shirley Herman

 Richard Shtivelband (w) vs. Eamon Montgomery (b) Rhett Langseth on the other board. 

Ms. Herman noticed this young lad's cool headwear also.

Go ahead, take my picture. 

The lady appears to have the gentleman on the ropes...

... and here this guy doesn't look happy with his position.

Shirley snuck up on me :-)

One last room shot. Tournament after tournament, it's good to see the DCC filling the room with chess players. 

Games Section. See all the  DGT Boards  Games. 

Also, see Eamon Mongomery's YouTube video   of his Denver Open games.

Best Game 

by NM Christofer Peterson

There were two interesting phenomena I observed while analyze games at this year's Denver Open.  

First was the volume of opening knowledge that players in the lower sections knew. Two players in the U1100 section played nearly 20 moves of theory in a complex Queen's Gambit line and were citing online references to me in the discussion. Players focusing on studying and memorizing opening lines do themselves a disservice, particularly when it is early in their chess career. While knowing the ins-and-outs of a particular opening can score some early advantages, as soon as the opponent deviates, knows the opening better, or avoids that line completely, the player will be on their own. Without a solid foundation in the ideas of the opening, opening principles, and general tactical and strategic play, they are going to flounder once their memory bank is empty. That is why I strongly recommend players focus on tactics and endgames in their study and general principles when it comes to openings and middle games. Having that foundation will vastly improve opening play and prevent the confusion, plan quality, and confidence. 

The second phenomenon was the over reliance on the computer evaluation to tell whether or not a player's moves were good or not. Some moves elicit a visceral reaction from me as bad but the computer will say it is 0.00 or even slightly better. It was impossible to persuade someone that the move was poor even though the computer could not provide a move that improved the evaluation. Chess engines are excellent at two things: providing a numerical reference for positional evaluation and calculating tactics. The computer generally struggles with the intangible aspects of the game. The two primary chess concepts that engines struggle with are ease of play and winning chances. The engine will always suggest the move that provides the greatest improvement in the evaluation. Evaluation, ease of play, and winning chances are loosely correlated. In fact, the lower the rating of the players, the more correlated winning chances and ease of play get. The more complex the position, the less likely the lower rated player will find the right ideas. This is probably the primary factor behind why so many lower rated players like to trade pieces off the board. 

For the best game of the 2024 Denver Open, I chose a game that has aspects of both of these concepts. NM Richard Shtivelband won the tournament with a perfect score and his first round game against Rocco Degeest really illustrates why it is important to understand opening principles and why computer evaluations cannot be trusted. These two and the excellently executed attack are why it is the my choice for the best game of the 2024 Denver Open.
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Round ? of Round 1: ROCCO DEGEEST 1888 - LM RICHARD [ 2024.??.?? ]


1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 d5 4. fxe5 Nxe4 5. Qf3 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Be7 7. d4 Be6 8. Bd3 Nd7 9. Ne2 Nb6 10. O-O Qd7 11. Nf4 O-O-OThe computer already gives white a solid +1.25 in this position. While the objective nature of the position evaluated by the computer may in fact be +1.25, from a human perspective, this position is much easier to play from the black side. As we play through the moves, I will demonstrate why. 12. Bd2 Kb8 13. Rfb1?Two seemingly natural looking moves later and black has lost all of the advantage. Black has a very strong pawn break with f7-f6. White missed the opportunity to prevent the break by forcing fxe6 after Nxe6. Now the light-squared bishop will survive and the kingside will soon be littered with opening lines after f7-f6.( 13. Qg3It is important for white to realize black's plan and that the counter attack on the b-file is too slow. White must maintain a presence on the kingside to repel the attack. The long term plan of shifting to the queenside is too slow. White must use his space advantage to manage black's attack. A lot of times pawn chains, such as white's c3-e5 chain, will point to where the player with the chain should play. Here it is pointing to the queenside therefore white must play there. The half open file in front of the black king was just too enticing for the white player. 13... f6( 13... Bf8The computer's best suggestion is to retreat. White must be better. ) 14. Rae1 fxe5 15. Nxe6 Qxe6 16. Rxe5 Qd6 17. Qxg7White is too active on the queenside for black's attack to be successful. White does not need to cede the initiative just because his king will have some open lines in front of it. ) 13... Bg4 14. Qf1 g5 15. Ne2 Rdf8 16. Qc1 h6 17. a4 a5The computer evaluates this position to be even. I would argue that black is already much better. Not because of anything concrete, the computer debunks that notion with its impressive 0.00 eval. No, this is better for black because of the ease in which black can formulate and execute a winning plan. White's plan is slow and cumbersome and not necessarily winning. Meanwhile black is going to create lines on the kingside and win the initiative on the f-file culminating in a winning attack. Black's moves and pieces flow while white's are clunky and awkward. The computer cannot evaluate flow and clunkiness. Instead it finds the perfect set of moves that protect its king and create counterplay. Good luck finding all of those moves as a human in an OTB tournament with a time limit. 18. Rb5( 18. Qb2 f6 19. c4 dxc4 20. Bxc4 Bb4 21. Bb5 c6 22. Bxb4 axb4 23. h3 Bh5 24. Bd3 Nd5 25. Ng3 fxe5 26. Nxh5 g4 27. hxg4 Qxg4 28. c4 Nc3 29. Qxb4 Qxd4+ 30. Kh2 Nxb1 31. Rxb1 Qh4+ 32. Kg1 Qf2+28 ply worth of perfect moves and black has a perpetual. Every step included complex tactical shots that each requires analysis. I don't think even the best players in world would have found this sequence of moves for one very important reason: it is not practical. It is important to incorporate practicality into how you study and play chess. Do not decide to play complex computer lines or complex opening lines because they are technically the best. Choose them because they are practical for you to play. ) 18... f6( 18... f5This is an interesting alternative way to open lines. It is a little slower than f6 but it has more venom behind it. 19. h3 f4! 20. hxg4 h5!White's major pieces are disconnected from the action. This sacrifice to open lines for black's major pieces really emphasizes that weakness. 21. Rab1 f3! 22. gxf3 hxg4This line is an extraordinary in its methodical breakdown of the white kingside. It is unnecessarily complex, though. Remember the lesson is to be practical. This line is not as practical as the one the black player used. ) 19. exf6 Rxf6 20. Qb2 Rhf8Black has flawlessly executed a powerful plan: break with f6, double rooks on the f-file. White's play on the b-file and threat on the a-file were note important to the position. Now, despite the computer's 0.00 evaluation just 5 ply prior, the computer is giving -.3.5. All due to the impracticality and complexity required to maintain white's position. 21. Nc1??The black kin is being completely abandoned. 21... Bd6Nice and simple. There is no need for the computer's complications:( 21... Bh3 22. Ne2 Rf2With g2 collapsing, white's king is cooked. ) 22. Nb3 Qf7Technically Bh3 checkmates faster but this is simply practical. 23. Nxa5 Rf2Now white is checkmated. 24. Be3 Rxg2+! 25. Kh1( 25. Kxg2 Qf3+ 26. Kg1 Qxe3+ 27. Kh1( 27. Kg2 Qf2+ 28. Kh1 Bf3# ) 27... Bf3# ) 25... Rxh2+ 26. Kg1 Rh1+ 27. Kxh1 Qf3+ 28. Kg1 Qg3+ 29. Kh1 Bf3#0-1

An excellent game showcasing the importance of practical play and how the computer can find unnecessarily complex wins. The computer is not wrong in its evaluations, it is just not practical for humans to play like computers. Except maybe Magnus Carlsen. If you are Magnus Carlsen, why are you reading this??? Anyway, congratulations to Richard Shtivelband on an excellent, dominant performance at the 2024 Denver Open and being awarded my choice for the best game of the tournament.

r1b1Rkn1/ppP2p2/2P5/8/2q5/2N3p1/PPPQ2Nb/2KR4 b - - 23 45
1) Brian Wall vs. Gary Warmerdam 2024 DCC Denver Open. Round 5. Final position. Black can not escape the mating net. NM Wall's, amusing comments. At move 11. " More greed, more nondevelopment".  At move 14. "Warmerdam's position is from Bizarro World".  At move 16.  "...while his Queen, KB and g-pawns went chasing butterflies." 

2kr1b1r/1b3p2/p5p1/q1B1pnPp/1p2P2N/1P6/P1P2QBP/R4RK1 w - - 20 40

2) Brian Wall vs. Caleb Koeller. 2024 DCC Denver Open. Round 1. Black has just played 20. Ne7xf5. I guess hoping NM Wall will play ...exf5 and lose his Queen. That didn't happen :-)

1r6/pp1q2k1/2nP1rnp/4pp1P/3p4/BR1P2P1/5PB1/1RQ3K1 b - - 28 55

3) Brian Wall vs. Samuel Mehlhaff. 2024 DCC Denver Open. Round 3. After 24. Qg5-c1 Brian says "Game Over. I am attacking both Knights." Yet the game goes on for another 33 moves. Prompting at one point for Daniel Herman to tell Mr. Wall to "Stop playing with your food", as he is prone to doing :-)  

r2r2k1/pq3pp1/p3pn1p/4N3/2PBb3/bP2QN1P/P4PP1/2RR2K1 w - - 29 58

4) Kylie Zhang vs. Eamon Montgomery  2024 DCC Denver Open. Round 1. Final Position. A hard fought game has ended in a threefold repetition

8/5P2/6BB/3bk1K1/8/8/8/8 b - - 128 255
5) Eamon Montgomery vs. Henry Kovacs. 2024 DCC Denver Open. Round 2. The story of this game is in the text above. Henry is a youngster who I am sure was disappointed to have the draw ruling reversed. But he played a great game against a much higher rated player and nearly held his own in a complex minor piece ending. Hold your head high Henry. I don't think Eamon makes a single wrong move to mate with the two Bishops after Henry is forced to give up his Bishop at move 128.

6k1/1p3ppp/p7/2P1K3/1r6/7P/5PP1/8 b - - 41 81
6) Brandon Stoyanovich vs. Eamon Montgomery 2024 Denver Open. Round 3. After 41. Kf4-e5 the computer says "Checkmate is now unavoidable." Apparently, not considering that Mr. Montgomery could blunder a Rook and a couple of pawns, and then allow the c5 pawn to Queen. Eamon did not do any of that :-) But he did checkmate the White King only 9 moves later. 

8/2p5/4n1K1/5NpP/5kP1/4N3/8/8 b - - 85 169
7) Richard Shtivelband vs. Eamon Montgomery. 2024 Denver Open. Round 4. Final position. At move 50...Bf7xd5 Mr. Montgomery had sacrificed a piece for 2 pawns, but things didn't go as planned :-) 

8/8/7p/5R2/2kP2P1/3n1NK1/5r2/8 w - - 52 104
8) Eamon Montgomery vs. Alexander Steger 2024 Denver Open. Round 5. Mr. Steger has just played 52...Nf4-d3. How does Eamon win an exchange and go on to win the game?

8/p7/2p1p3/1k1p1p2/3P1P2/K7/8/3B4 w - - 50 100

9) Mark Brandao vs. Rugal Thiagarajan 2024 Denver Open. Round 4. After 50 Ka6-b5 If it were Brian Wall - Pawn Wave Guy - with the pawns, I'd think Black somehow wins. But here the Bishop is up to the task of not allowing any pawn to promote.

r5k1/5p2/6pp/p7/bp1R4/3N4/1Pr2PPP/4R1K1 w - - 29 58

10) John. Schoenke vs. Mark Brandao. 2024 Denver Open. Round 5. In this position, Mr. Schoenke gives up a Knight for 2 pawns with 30. Nd3xb4. Probably it's always better to keep the piece when already a pawn down

8/7p/5pp1/p2kp3/N2b4/3K1P1P/6P1/8 w - - 45 90

11) Brad Johnson vs. Mark Brandao. 2024 Denver Open. Round 3. Final Position. Mr. Johnson had dropped a couple of pawns, had his Knight trapped by the Bishop, and didn't want to suffer any longer. I think we all would have had a this is hopeless feeling and resigned, as Brad did. 

Thanks again to all, 

J.C. MacNeil

Edit Log

  • 7/1/2024 9:39 AM -- Fixed some minor formatting issues.

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