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On Chess: Players from around the world come to St. Louis for chess tournament

Grandmaster Georg Meier from Germany eventually won the 2017 Fall Chess Classic, but not without a difficult battle.
Austin Fuller | Saint Louis Chess Club
Grandmaster Georg Meier from Germany eventually won the 2017 Fall Chess Classic A-section, but not without a difficult battle.

The 2017 Fall Chess Classic brought together strong grandmasters from all over the world. The tournament, which has the goal of providing experience and training opportunities to collegiate students, as well as for the American women’s team, was a huge success. Despite the ongoing FIDE World Cup, which just finished in Tbilisi, Georgia, the event attracted a serious amount of attention from around the globe.

The B-section of the event was a hotly contested battle, in which — full disclosure — I competed. Despite a 3-0 start, I was unable to keep pace in the event. In invitational tournaments, the maxim of “slow and steady wins the race” is certainly applicable.

Both Alexander Shabalov and Tatev Abrahamyan trounced me in tactical flurries and extinguished my possibilities to win. The eventual winner of the event played in a complete opposite style of me. Instead of heavy risks with wins and losses, he chose a much more sedate style, playing quiet, positional chess and trying to convert his advantages. Josh Friedel crowned himself convincingly as the winner of the 2017 Fall Classic B-group with an outstanding score of +4, or 6.5/9, not losing a single game. This was the key difference between his tournament win and the second place finishers: reigning Greek champion Antonis Pavlidis, and Alan Pichot, an outstanding junior grandmaster from Argentina who finished with a great 6.0/9 with four wins.

Worthy of highlight were the performances by the female players. Between Ni Shiqun and Tatev Abrahamyan, 27 rating points were won. A nice feat for both as they continue climbing the world rankings.

The A-section saw a fair amount of action as well. Throughout the entire tournament, the margin between the leaders and the main group of players was never more than half a point. Again, it was slow and steady that won the section. Several players were able to score two wins in the event. This includes Georg Meier, a member of the German team that took the European Team Championship a few years ago, as well as Yaroslav Zherebukh and Dariusz Swiercz, both Saint Louis University students; Alexander Shimanov, who attends Webster University; visiting grandmaster from Belarus, Vladislav Kovalev; and Ju Wenjun, the second-strongest active female player on the planet. Some players were more solid than others. Kovalev lost to Meier and Swiercz, while Ju Wenjun dropped full points to Ruifeng Li and Tigran Petrosian. Shimanov also lost two games, to Meier and Ju Wenjun, while one of his wins was against Swiercz.

With Meier and Zherebukh undefeated through the tournament, they finished tied for first at 5.5/9. For the first time in one of these classic series tournaments, a playoff was necessary. The first round of tiebreaks, with 10 minutes per player plus increment, still resulted in a tie after each player won one game apiece. A thrilling blitz battle ensued and ultimately, the German player won in the tournament. An exciting way to finish the event.

The Classic Series of tournaments will take a small break this winter and resume early next year. Make sure to follow all of the events live or at www.uschesschamps.com, where you can find all the games played in the 2017 Fall Chess Classic.

Alejandro Ramirez earned his grand master title by the age of 15. That achievement set Ramirez as the first Centro-American to earn the elite GM title. Ramirez is the new coach of the Saint Louis University Chess Team and a regular live broadcast commentator, in both English and Spanish, for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.