2017 Saint Louis Winter Invitational

by Akshat Chandra

The Winter Norm Invitational was held at the Saint Louis Chess Club from February 16-21. The norm tournaments have become a Club highlight, for they provide an excellent opportunity for players seeking their Grand Master (GM) and International Master (IM) norms.

Once again, there were two groups – the GM norm section, and the IM norm section.  For each section, a score of 6.5/9 was required for a norm.

Here’s how the starting rank looked for each group:


GM Norm                                                     IM Norm                                                                                   

IM Andrey Gorovets                                   IM Michael A Brooks

GM Angel Arribas Lopez                            Aaron Grabinsky

IM Ali Marandi Cemil                                Joel Cholo Banawa                                 

IM John M Burke                                        IM Vitaly Neimer

IM Awonder Liang                                     FM Justus Williams

GM Ben Finegold                                       FM Lefong Hua

GM David Berczes                                      FM Joshua Colas

IM Nikhil Kumar                                         FM Gauri Shankar

IM Nicolas D Checa                                   IM Angelo Young

WGM Tatev Abrahamyan                         FM Doug D Eckert

 In the GM norm section, things started off fairly quiet, with the first round having only one decisive game – a win for Cemil over Nikhil. However, things picked up pace afterward, and each round thereafter was filled with a slew of decisive games. After 3 rounds, the top seed, Andrey, led with 2.5/3, while Angel and Awonder followed closely with 2/3. The next 4 rounds saw the standings shift dramatically, as Awonder and David both reeled off a streak of wins. Heading into the penultimate round, they both led with 4.5/7. David convincingly defeated Tatev, while Awonder was unable to convert his advantage against Ben, and was forced to settle for a draw. In the final round, David cemented his spot at the top with a draw against John, while Awonder lost after committing a tactical oversight in a better position against Nicolas, who never relinquished his advantage thereafter.

A well-deserved sole 1st place for David, who showed his resilience after a tough start. Andrey, Awonder, and Cemil all shared 2nd, while John, Ben, and Tatev tied for 3rd.  No GM norms were achieved, but all the players displayed a strong fighting spirit and produced several interesting games! Incidentally, a “spare” IM norm was achieved by Tatev, as she scored the required 4.5/9, but she already has her 3 IM norms and so needs to push her FIDE rating up to 2400 in order to become an IM.

In the IM norm section, things were blazing from the get-go, as the first 2 rounds itself saw a total of 6/10 decisive games! The tournament basically became a 2 horse race between Joel and Justus, who both relentlessly galloped past the rest of the field. Joel ended up winning their individual encounter, which helped him to clinch his IM norm with a round to spare; Justus clinched his norm in the last round after a perfunctory draw with Doug. Both finished with the magic score of 6.5/9. It was Justus’ 3rd norm and so, like Tatev, he only needs a FIDE rating of 2400 to officially become an IM! Gauri, who had a solid tournament and scored 5/9, captured sole 3rd place

The tournament arbiter was the meticulous and thorough Mike Kummer, and the organizer was the ever reliable Jonathan Schrantz. They ensured a smooth and well-run tournament. The next similar Norm event hosted by the Club is scheduled to take place in October. Be sure to check out all the round recaps on the Chess Club's YouTube channel

 Don’t forget to tune into the US Championship action later in March!