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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 21, 2011

Taylor wins Empire State Open

By Peter Henner

Steve Taylor, who has been one of the strongest players in the Capital District for 20 years, won the Empire State Open, which was held in Saratoga from April 16 to 17.

Taylor scored 4-1, losing only to top-rated David Carter, the only master in the tournament. Carter took second with 3 1⁄2 - 1 1⁄2.

Another local player, Alan LeCours, a Class A player from Saratoga, started out very strong, defeating an expert and Carter to lead the field with a 3-0 score, before losing his last two games, to Taylor and to Schenectady champion Patrick Chi. Nevertheless, he did raise his rating by 38 points.

Going into the last round, Taylor, Carter and LeCours were tied at 3-1; Taylor defeated Expert Al Lawrence, while Carter was held to a draw by Darwin Nyberg, a Class A player who won last year’s Saratoga Open ahead of several higher rated players.

Local players were well represented in the tournament: Four of 11 players in the Open section, four of 14 in the Under-1910 section, four of 11 in the Under-1610 section, and one player in the Under-1310 section were from the Capital District. Carlos Varela raised his rating 70 points, to 1731, to place third in the under 1910 section with 3 1⁄2 - 1 1⁄2. In the Under-1610 section, Corey Northrup finished in a three-way tie for first, with a score of 4-1, and Jason Denham won the prize for best score under 1500, with a score of  3-2.

In the Open section, Patrick Chi and myself had disappointing results: Expert Chi scored 2 ½ - 2 ½, losing to Nyberg and drawing me, another Class A player, who scored 2-3, (including a loss to a Class B player).

In the Under-1910 section, Dave Finnerman and Dilip Aaron finished with 2 ½ - 2 ½,  and Kavana Mallana finished with 2-3. Mallana, who tied for first in the Under-1800 section of last year’s Saratoga Open, has been living in the Capital District for more than two years, but was unaware of local chess activities until I spoke to her at the tournament. She will be playing for the Albany B team in the Capital District Chess League, which is very happy to have an additional Class A player.

In the Under-1610  Section, a middle-school girl, Jane Zhang, won her first four games, before losing the last round to finish with 4-1. Northrup won his last game by forfeit, when his opponent did not show up. Fortunately, forfeit wins are relatively rare; Northrup would rather have played the game, but nevertheless was able to share in the prize money for first through third places

Matt Clough scored 2-3 and David Connors scored 1 1⁄2 in three games before withdrawing.  Only two local players— Samantha Giknis and her son Phillip Anderson — played in the Under-1310 section, both scoring 1-4.  

Rating floors

Chess ratings fluctuate, and many players, especially as they get older, do not play at the same level. The USCF rating system has established rating floors; a player’s rating cannot fall below the number ending in 00 that is more than 200 points lower than his highest rating: i.e. a player who was once rated over 2000 but less than 2100, has a rating floor of 1800. The section levels in this tournament were calculated so that players who have rating floors of 1900, 1600 and 1300, meaning that they were once much stronger players, but now may not be as strong as their rating, could still play in the lower sections.

The Continental Chess Association

The tournament was organized by the Continental Chess Association, the premier organizer of chess tournament in the United States, which has organized over 2,000 chess tournaments since it was first established in 1964 by Bill Goichberg, the Nathan Detroit of the chess community. (I hope to devote a future column to Mr. Goichberg and the CCA.)

The CCA sets the standard for United States tournaments and has been the single largest promoter of chess in the last 45 years. One of the leading directors for the CCA, Steve Immitt, who directed the Empire State Open, is originally from Saratoga; perhaps that is why we have been fortunate enough to have CCA tournaments in Saratoga, as well as the annual New York State Open, which will be held in Lake George next month.

This week’s problem: Zugzwang

Zugzwang is a German word that, for chess players, is roughly translated as “must move”: A situation where any move that a player can make leads to a loss. In the problem below, Black is far ahead in material, but White can nevertheless win by forcing zugzwang.

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