Master, 11, is state champ

Simultaneous Exhibition, Berlin 1920
White to move and win

Alexander Ivanov, a veteran Grandmaster from Massachusetts, drew his last game against fellow Grandmaster Joel Benjamin to score 5-1 (four wins and two draws) to win the $1,500 first prize in the 135th New York State chess championship, America’s longest running chess tournament.

Grandmaster Alexander Stripunsky (who lost to Ivanov in Round 5) and Benjamin tied with Nicholas Checa, Stanislav Busygin, and Igor Nikolayev for second through sixth places with scores of 4 ½ - 1 ½.

However, the New York State championship is awarded to the highest scoring New York State resident and 11-year-old Checa, the 2013 New York State Junior High School Champion, edged Nikolayev on tiebreaks for the title.

Two years ago, three New York State high school students tied for first, but chess champions are getting younger. Checa is believed to be the youngest Champion in the long history of the tournament. In 2012, he placed 10th and won the prize for best score under 2200; a year later, his rating is up to 2296.   

The under-2100 and under-1800 sections also show that chess is not a game dominated by older men: Both sections were won outright by women.

Rifeng Xia won the $1,000 first prize in the under-2100 section with a score of 5 ½ - ½. Her last-round opponent offered her a draw, and a certain share of the prize money, but she declined, and held on to win.

Sarah Ascherman won the $1,000 first prize in the under-1800 section with a score of 5-1, drawing against another woman, Xiaoyu Xu, in the last round; Xu  finished in a five-way tie for second with 4 ½ - 1 ½.

Thomas Clark, of the Albany club, scored the largest rating gain of any local player, raising his rating from 1425 to 1587 as he won the $800 first prize in the under-1500 section with a score of  5 ½ - ½.

A local scholastic player, Ronghai Gong, won the $500 first prize in the under-1200 section with a score of 5 ½  - ½.

Two-hundred-and-eleven players competed in the tournament, held over Labor Day weekend at the Albany Marriott; at least 32 were from the Capital District.

In the Open section, local high school student Patrick Chi drew Grandmaster Benjamin and had a chance to tie for first if he had prevailed against his second grandmaster opponent, Stripunsky, in the last round. Although he lost and finished in a tie for eighth-to-ninth place, with 4-2, he still gained 33 rating points (up to 2253).

Ashok Aaron, the father of soon-to-be senior master (over 2400) Deepak and fast-rising Dilip,  played in his first tournament for some time (not counting the Schenectady speed tournaments that he has dominated the last two years).

Although none of the 10 local players finished in the money in the under-2100 section, Phil Thomas and Phil Sells both finished with undefeated scores of 4-2, drawing their last-round game with each other.

Thomas raised his rating over 2000 to become the Capital District’s latest expert. Dilip Aaron’s score of 3 ½ - 2 ½ raised his rating 75 points, to 1899.

Nine year-old Martha Samadashvili from East Greenbush, who has only been playing tournament chess for a little more than a year, is now rated 1678, thirty-sixth among all United States 9-year-olds (third among girls)  and is the 2013 North American Youth Under-10 Girls’ Champion.

Her score of 2-4 is misleading: She defeated a 1900 player who made the mistake of playing the risky Morra gambit against her. She had a won game against me, and played all of her opponents very tough. (I will write a feature article about her and her chess-playing family from Georgia in the near future.)   

In the under-1800 section, junior player Michael Ny Cheng, a veteran of our local scholastic Make the Right Move tournaments,  drew two Class B players and defeated another to raise his rating, 93 points, to 1560. Richard Moody, who tied for first in this section in 2012, drew two games against much lower rated opponents before withdrawing.

Local player results



Patrick Chi             4-2

Steven Taylor        2 ½ -3 ½

Ashok Aaron         2 ½ -3 ½

Dave Finnerman    2 ½ -3 ½

Peter Henner          2-4

Carl Adamec          1 ½ -4 ½


Under 2100

Phil Thomas           4-2

Phil Sells                4-2

Dilip Aaron            3 ½ - 2 ½

Michael Mockler    3-3

John Phillips           3-3

Kenneth Evans        2 ½ -3 ½

Koushak Pernati      2 ½ -3 ½

Scott Boyce             2 ½ -3 ½

Zachery Calderon    2 ½ -3 ½

Martha Samadashvili 2-4


Under 1800

Cory Northrup           3-3

Michael Ny Cheng    3-3

Jason Denham           2 ½ -3 ½

Elihue Hill                 2-4

Arthur Alowitz          1 ½ - 4 ½

Richard Moody         1-5

Lew Millenbach        1-5


Under 1500

Thomas Clark              5 ½ - ½

Nitin Obla                   4-2

Pranav Venkataraman 3 ½ -2 ½

Nigel Kent Galia         2 ½ - 3 ½

David Connors            2-4

Nate Stevens, 4-2


Under 1200

Ronghai Gong           5 ½ - ½ 

Jankarl Galia             2-4

Blaise Loya               2-4

Melodie Loya            1-5

This week’s problem

The great Samuel Reshevsky, who represented the United States in the six-man World Championship tournament in 1948 and whose chess career spanned seven decades, was a genuine chess prodigy. He was already famous for playing simultaneous exhibitions against Europe’s strongest players before he came to the United States and played chess full-time before finally starting school at the age of 12 in 1924.

Here the 8-year-old Reshevsky finds a neat way to win.

Solution:  28 Qg2 Q:g2+ 29 N:g2.  Black resigns because if 29… R:e7, 30 R:a8 and White’s rook on e1 is protected by the Knight, and 29 Ra7 leaves Black a Knight behind after 30 R:e8.