After winning his first four games versus NM Toby Boas, NM Chris Mabe, GM Julio Becerra, and IM Irina Krush, GM Magesh Panchanathan offered an early draw to his last round opponent, GM Varuzhan Akobian, which was accepted. That gave clear first to Magesh, with Varuzhan a half-point back in clear second. When interviewed after the tournament, Var, as he was called by the staff, said he decided to accept because he had the black pieces, saying, “You know how big an advantage having white is. Besides, I was very tired from the camp and Magesh deserved to win the tournament.” Akobian beat NM Nicholas Rosenthal in the first round, drew with GM John Fedorowicz in round two, beat GM Alonso Zapata in the third round, and GM Julio Becerra in the fourth round, which caused the most successful player in the history of the Castle to withdraw. Four players tied for third with three and a half points, GM Zapata; IM Krush; NM Mabe; and the story of the tournament, Expert William Coe. The latter two garnered the Under 2400 prize money.
I interviewed many of the players after their games had ended. Because of the short draw I was able to conduct much longer interviews with the board one players. Everyone asked consented to an interview and all were gracious. I can tell you I enjoyed the experience immensely. I have been around chess many decades and will tell you this was one of the best chess days I have ever had, and it is all because of these wonderful people sharing some of their time and thoughts with me. I would like to thank each one of them.
This was the second year the winner, GM Panchanathan, was an instructor at the Castle Chess Camp, but this was the first year he played in the tournament. Most of the teachers who played looked tired, but not Magesh. Winning may have had something to do with that fact. He looked like he could go another round! He is originally from India, but now lives in New Jersey. He attended U.T. Dallas on a chess scholarship where he earned a Masters in computer science. He has worked at many camps and said this was the best! “It was fun, and very well organized. The campers come back, and the coaches, too.” When pressed on what makes the Castle Chess Camp the best, he said, “There is concentrated teaching, and the campers do other things, like play soccer. There were maybe seven coaches against maybe fifty students kicking the ball around, having the best time.” He has been in the US for a decade now and is a permanent resident. When asked if he would be back next year, he said he would come if invited. “I thought there was a rule that the tournament winner received an automatic invitation,” I said. He noticed my smile, and he, too, smiled, saying, “I wish that were so.”
This is the fourth year for the runner-up finisher, GM Varuzhan Akobian. He won the tournament outright in 2010. Although he does several camps each summer, he said this was his favorite. When asked why, he responded, “It is the atmosphere. It is very well organized. All of the people behind the scenes deserve all the credit because they make it easy for us to concentrate on teaching. This camp is different because it is not crowded. There are small groups of no more than twelve students.”
I enjoyed interviewing with IM Irina Krush because I have followed her career and know she has elevated her game to a much higher level recently. I would have liked to ask her some questions about those things, but she had just ended a long talk with someone else, and looked tired. She was, though, extremely gracious, smiling when seeing the name of my blog. She said the name, “Armchair Warrior,” as if she got a kick out of it, while smiling. I considered telling her how I came upon the name, but thought better of it. This is her third time here and she mentioned the last may have been 2004, so I said, “Maybe when you played LM David Vest?” I intentionally did not use the word, “lost.” She looked me in the eye and said, “Maybe so…” She told me the reason for taking the half point bye was because she was tired, as she had come here directly from another camp and “I will be sooooo glad to catch my flight home tonight.” She did say that if she had it to do over again, “I would force myself to play the Saturday night round and take the bye in the fourth round Sunday morning.” When asked about the camp Irina said it was, “Awesome.” She went on to say, “The staff is GREAT, and so are the instructors. It was an intense week.”
I talked with several other instructors and they all, each and every one, echoed the above, with some mentioning some of the staff by name. I covered some of the staff in my previous report, so I would like to acknowledge Debbie Torrance, the treasurer, participating in her sixth camp. Although she said, “I am not a chess person,” it is obvious she has made a place for her non-chess persona at the Castle. She is a charming woman. Susan Justice, whom I was not able to talk with, unfortunately, is in her first year. It is difficult to talk with someone who is always on the move.
I managed to talk with Reese Thompson, who has become a force to be reckoned with in Georgia chess. He said the instructors were, “Perfect.” You cannot get any better than that! He said, “I played up (a section) because I wanted to challenge expert level opponents, but many others also played up, so it was like I was playing in a class ‘A’ section.” When I asked him if he had profited from the week he looked puzzled, thinking I meant profit as in money, saying,“I am not sure how much I will win.” When I told him I meant profit as in benefiting from the camp, he said, “Oh yeah!” Debbie delivered his check as our interview ended and I said, “It looks like you also profited in another way.” He and his mother grinned as the talk turned to how the money would be spent.
I talked with Carter Peatman who said he has, “Grown up at the Castle Chess Camp.” He said that he had “learned a lot,” and “profited from it.” He also said it had been “tiring, but worth it.” Everyone with whom I talked said things like this, so for me to continue would only be redundant. It is obvious to me the Castle Camp deserves all the accolades it receives. Those responsible have done something very special and unique for our city and state.
I mentioned earlier that the story of the tournament was William Coe. Although he was rated as an expert for this tournament, he is a former NM. This was his first tournament in a quarter of a century! I had to interview a fellow Senior, especially one who garnered a decent prize in his return to the board in twenty five years. The first question I asked was why he had decided to come back to the arena. His response was that he told himself he would come back when his daughter was grown, as she is now, and, “My wife was out of town.” While the wife is away the husband will play…CHESS! Don’t you love it? He said he was from San Antonio I told him about my trip there in 1972 for the Church’s tournaments and he said he, too, had played in those events while in high school. Since I was twenty two then, it was obvious I am a few years older than William. I mentioned two players who put me up in the house they shared, Michael Moore and NM John Dunning, whom William said he knew well. “That Dunning was quite a character.” He did tell me that he has played speed chess in ICC, “Sometimes beating IM’s and GM’s.” He lives in Marietta and knows Justin Morrison, and has “Played in his Tuesday thing.” He said that although he enjoyed playing on the computer he missed the “Human touch.” I was amazed that he has been in Atlanta for a quarter of a century without playing. He said, “I had a great time because the tournament was so well organized. He informed me that when he decided to come back to tournament chess he had gone by the North Dekalb Mall to check out the site, going so far as to take pictures. He determined he would not play there because, “I had no desire to spend my weekend in that room.” William seemed somewhat disappointed even though he had won a chunk of change. William decried receiving a full point bye. He also mentioned the short time between the penultimate round and the final round was simply not enough. “All I had time for was some crackers. It should be one hour,” he stated. William lamented not having played the strongest possible competition. NM Michael Corallo, happened to walk up at that moment and said, “I would take the money!” He had a chance to do just that as he had three points going into the last round before losing to Irina Krush. Michael has moved here from Florida and lives near Mr. Coe in Kid Chess land.
I would like to mention one other player new to Atlanta. Her name is Elena Gratskya and I believe she tied for first in the class ‘B’ section. I do not know for sure because as I punch & poke this report the crosstables are still not up on the USCF website. After printing out a copy of the Open section for me, Jim Mundy was asked to assist the chief TD, so he said, “The tournament will be up as soon as possible because that’s the way they want it.” I decided to leave at that time without waiting for results of the lower sections. I first noticed Elena at the now infamous Atlanta Chess Championship. No one with whom I spoke seemed to know who she was or where she came from, so I decided to ask her for an interview. The pretty young woman seemed flattered, asking me to walk outside with her to ask my questions because she had become chilled in the playing hall. “That will sometimes happen when the air conditioning is turned down and the crowd begins to thin out,” I said. “It is much better than the horrible heat of the previous tournament,” she said, meaning the ACC. I learned she is from St. Petersburg, Russia, and moved to Atlanta recently because she has friends here. She played chess when much younger in Russia, “Because it is mandatory in schools.” She did not play for eight years, but enjoys playing. This was only her third tournament here and she said it was, “Well organized!” She works for Kid Chess. If a chess league ever develops Justin Morrison will be able to field a strong team!
I regret having no further details at this time, ten o’clock on the morning of the Monday following the tournament. My apologies for the delay. It was ready. All I needed was the crosstables. I received this from Scott Parker this morning in reply to my query concerning the crosstables not being posted by one am this morning:
“Fun Fong will be the one sending the report in to USCF. Jim Mundy has another camp at Pace Academy that he and Carlos Perdomo are doing that begins today (Monday) at 9:00 am and lasts all week, so he doesn’t have the time to take care of this.”
In closing I would like to say that this is the tournament Atlanta deserves. It is simply not possible for me to say enough about the strong group of wonderful people responsible for putting this event together. Atlanta is considered the capital of the South, yet the tournament conditions here have been abysmal. I would say the conditions in most tournaments have been “third world” like, except I have seen much better conditions in third world countries online. It should be known that Atlanta has a huge base of potential players, and organizers around the country should take note of that fact. Chess tournaments are held in nice hotels all over the country but not Atlanta. It is time for that to change. Atlanta should take its rightful place with other cities of comparable size. It has been, and still is, a shame that the Southern Open is not held in the capital of the South! Atlanta is a magnet for drawing Southern people, and those from other areas as well. It is way past time my home city enter a new age and the new century.