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Sklenka, Steve

Southern Alberta Open

The 2019 edition of the Southern Alberta Open took place in Calgary on the weekend of November 23-24 with a record 42 participants. Ten players made the trek from out of town, including Gordon McCall who came all the way from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Pairings for the first round of the event were mailed out to players the day before, made possible because all but four pre-registered online. That allowed your Tournament Director to start play well on time, since the last minute entries had to settle for inferior pairings amongst themselves. Next time, perhaps, they too will take advantage of online registration!

Top seed was FM Ian Findlay, but the field also included a number of rapidly improving juniors like Maxim Vasic, Paul Wang, Anand Rishi Chandra and Hemant Srinivasan. All of them have already passed the 2000 Elo marker! Veteran Donna Bird and vastly improving Helen Chen were the two ladies participating.

Only Nerio Sibulo was able to hold to a draw his vastly higher rated opponent Itohan Gold in the first round. The remaining games went almost exclusively the way player ratings predicted. Top seed FM Ian Findlay stumbled in the second round by allowing a draw against promising junior Victor Han, who travelled from Brooks, Alberta.

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In round three Ian Findlay resumed his winning ways, but in the battle of top juniors, Anand Rishi Chandra lost his game against Paul Wang, who has been on fire recently. Meanwhile newcomer Avery Michalchuk, a junior rated only 1044, made his mark by scoring 2/3 points and defeating higher rated Helen Chen and Jacob Collins.

After three rounds the surprise leader was young Hemant Srinivasan, who posted the sole perfect score of the event so far. But in the next round Georgi Kostadinov put an end to Hemant's winning streak, and himself took over the lead. Ian Findlay conceded yet another draw, this time against Behrooz Ebrahim Shirazi, which effectively ended his chances to win the tournament.

Elsewhere unrated Rex Yumen defeated the experienced Michael Decaire, and thus put himself near the leaders with two wins, a draw, and a half point bye. Paul Wang and Maxim Vasic won their games, which put them in a share of the lead at 3.5/4 with Georgi Kostadinov. Seven others, among them Rex Yumen, shared 3rd through 10th spot at 3/4 with a single round to play. In the final round anything could happen!

At the finish Georgi Kostadinov lost a complicated struggle against Paul Wang on top board, while Maxim Vasic prevailed over Damon MacLeod. That left the two juniors in a first place tie at 4.5/5 with Maxim taking the title on tiebreak. Ian Findlay, Behrooz Ebrahim Shirazi and Rex Yumen tied for 3rd at 4/5. Top U2000 was Bhavik Dave, while John Anthony Clapham and Avery Michalchuk both scored an astounding 3/5 to collect some prize money in spite of their unremarkable pre-event ratings. Well done and congratulations to both!

Overall the event set a very high standard. Online pre-registrations are now the norm at our events, which significantly expedites tournament preparation and first round pairings to the benefit of all participants. The 42 players on the event start list set an attendance record going back some 40 years or so, and having two of our most talented juniors emerge as winners in an exciting final round bodes well for our club and future growth also.

As always, the organizer went to great lengths providing plenty of free snacks and refreshments for all players. The adjacent skittles room was constantly busy with post-mortem analysis, friendly chatter, or simply relaxing with a few YouTube videos on the television. Most popular proved to be episodes of Mr. Bean and old Charlie Chaplin reels!

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