Friday, January 20

Shankland Takes First at NorCal International

Fifth seed GM Sam Shankland won the 2012 Northern California International with an undefeated score of 7.0 out of 9. Rounds 6 and 7 turned out to be critical, when Sam defeated the early leader, IM Greg Shahade, and the top seed, GM Georg Meier of Germany, both in under 30 moves! A trio of Americans shared second place at 6.5: GM Alejandro Ramirez, GM Josh Friedel and IM Marc Arnold.

The tournament attracted 60 competitors to Fremont on January 2-8, including 8 Grandmasters and 16 International Masters. Players arrived from around the World, representing Georgia, Mongolia, Peru, Zimbabwe, and 9 other countries. The many flags hanging from the ceiling at the playing hall underscored the international flair.
One goal of any such event is to offer GM or IM norms to players who perform above 2600 or 2450, respectively. Three norms are required to earn a title. Kudos to Azeri master Faik Aleskerov for earning an IM norm with 5.0/9! IM Arnold and IM Shahade were among the leaders, but missed GM norms in the final round. C'est la vie! Unfortunately, the number of foreign participants (18) was less than expected (at least 20) due to multiple last minute dropouts, decreasing the norm opportunities. WGM Tatev Abrahamyan and 13-year old FM Kayden Troff both played very well to finish at 5.5/9, but alas, neither faced the requisite number of foreign opponents. Tragic!
Many thanks to organizers Arun Sharma and Ted Castro for hosting the tournament. By all accounts, people enjoyed a week of chess and mild weather in the Bay Area. For local participants, this was a chance to play against strong masters without traveling far. And the nine players under the age of 16 received an invaluable face-to-face learning opportunity. Given the high level of enthusiasm, hopefully the Bay Area will host many future Internationals!

(Photos courtesy of Inga Gurevich and Ted Castro.)

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