(The fpawn poses with student Suraj Nair after both won 1st place. To my disappointment, these trophies did not come filled with wine or candy.)
The final chess tournament of the year in Sacramento is the annual Weekend Swiss held at the Learning Exchange on Howe Avenue. About 40 players, their parents and a few enthusiastic observers came despite the cold weather. Many of the longtime regulars at the Sacramento Chess Club played, including three of the five masters: James MacFarland, Zoran Lazetich (first photo at bottom) and Michael Aigner. Thanks to longtime club TD John McCumiskey (second photo at bottom) for hosting yet another fine tournament.
The first round saw a tsunami of upsets in the top section that significantly changed course of the competition. At one point, all three masters appeared to be facing defeat. I managed to win after five hours of play against 2007 club champion Alonzo McCaulley, but both of my fellow masters lost. Kudos go to Jamshid Alamehzadeh (1854) for swindling Lazetich in an endgame and Ricardo Salazar (1839) for defeating MacFarland.
The main consequence of these upsets was that I would cruise through the entire four round tournament without being paired with anyone rated over 1900. (Sigh!) After working hard against McCaulley, I secured a comfortable advantage by move 25 in two games and won the third in merely 13 moves with black! I took clear 1st at 4-0, a full point ahead of NM Lazetich, Michael Da-Cruz, Nicholas Karas and Alamehzadeh.
Congratulations also to two of my students for winning money and achieving small milestones. Nicholas Karas (third photo at bottom) broke 1900 USCF by winning his first three games, defeating an expert along the way, before losing to his teacher. (Ahem!) Fresh off his victory in the 9th grade section at the CalChess Grade Levels in Stockton, Suraj Nair scored 2.5 out of 3 against B players to take clear 1st in the U1800 section. He broke 1600 USCF, gaining nearly 200 rating points in the past month and 400 points since the summer. After the final round, I asked Suraj what he did to improve so fast; he credited many hours of solving tactics puzzles on CT-ART. (Students: hint, hint!)