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On Chess: Fighting Chess And Winning Streaks At The St. Louis Chess Club’s Fall Classic

Ray Robson, from St. Louis, won the 2019 tournament with one round to spare.
Austin and Crystal Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club
Ray Robson, from St. Louis, won the entire tournament in 2019 with one round to spare.

The 2019 Fall Chess Classic was held Sept. 10-18 at the St. Louis Chess Club, and St. Louisan Ray Robson won it with a round to spare.

The A Group featured legendary chess veteran Ilya Smirin from Israel and young ambitious players like Daro Swiercz, Jorden Van Foreest, Hrant Melkumyan, Vasif Durarbayli (the 2018 champion) and Ray Robson.

Before the event, the big favorite was Var Akobian, who tied for first with Vasif Durarbayli in the 2018 Winter Classic. But this year, it went down in the final tiebreaker. He had a slow but solid start to the tournament, but unlike Akobian, Vasif Durarbayli came out strong, starting with a blistering 2.5 out of 3.

The Azerbaijani player dominated the field until he slipped up against grandmaster Olexandr Bortnyk in a favorable position. Then, from Round 4, there was a new leader in Group A: American grandmaster Ray Robson. He had a slow start as well, just like Var Akobian. He even lost to Daro Swiercz in Round 2 in a complicated Sveshnikov game. Robson started anew from Round 3 and produced something spectacular that is rarely seen in high-level chess; he scored five consecutive wins in a row, clinching the Fall Chess Classic with one round to spare.

Now Robson can look forward with confidence to the upcoming Candidates tournanment, held in Isle of Man.

The B Group also had a fairly even field, led by the Armenian talent Manuel Petrosyan. Notably, he was the second of super grandmaster Levon Aronian at Sinqufield Cup and the Chess 960 LX respectively. He did start well with some early wins, but then Ukrainian Jack Shtembuliak, who came off hot from winning some recent tournaments, started with three wins in a row. Shtembuliak eventually slowed down, and he was taken over by young Cuban grandmaster Yasser Quesada Perez, who managed to put some wins together and take the lead from him.

Quesada Perez, the younger brother of former A Group champion Yuniesky Quesada, could not celebrate for long, as he lost the big match against Shtembuliak. Meanwhile, the other players of the B Group were also building momentum, as both Manuel Petrosyan and Aram Hakobyan sneaked up the leaderboard until they were only a half-point behind the two leaders. In Round 8, however, disaster struck for Shtembuliak, as he went down against an inspired Denis Kadric. This was an important moment for Quesada Perez, as he faced some difficult moments against Hakobyan, but he managed to survive, and he took the lead in Round 8. Quesada Perez also took clear first place in front of his direct rivals with a fine win over Steven Zierk. 

Denes Boros placed third at age 14 at the Hungarian Junior Championship and became U16 Olympic Champion in Denizli. He scored his first grandmaster norm with 10 out of 11 points. He was a grandmaster journalist at the Carlsen-Karjakin Match, providing expert grandmaster commentary for the New York Times during the match.