Meier shows class at Fall Classic

by Ruifeng Li
9/29/2017 – German GM Georg Meier narrowly won the A-group of the latest invitational tournament hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The tournament brought together 20 GMs and IMs in two sections. In the B-group GM Josh Friedel secured tournament victory with an impressive 6½/9 score. Grandmaster Ruifeng Li was there, and sends his account of the round-by-round action. | Photos: Austin Fuller, CCSCSL

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Meier over Zherebukh in a playoff

LogoThe Fall Chess Classic was the final of four seasonal tournaments held in the past year at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Missouri, from September 6th to 14th, with an A and B section — each a ten-player round-robin.

This time in the A group, German GM Georg Meier took top honors by narrowly defeating Yaroslav Zherebukh, who lives in St. Louis, in the first ever "Classic" playoff. The top field was pretty closely packed, with just 5½/9 being the high score. Things were more clear-cut in the B group as American GM Joshua Friedel, with crucial wins in the later rounds, secured clear first with 6½/9. It was undoubtedly a very  exciting event, as most Saint Louis Chess Club events tend to be, yet this one was extra special. But before we get to that, let’s take a look back at what happened.

Playing hallIn the A group’s first round, Dariusz Swiercz and Aleksander Shimanov scored wins over Daniel Naroditsky and Tigran L. Petrosian respectively, both in lengthy endgames. Players were peacefully inclined in the three other games. The B-group saw slightly more action as only two games were drawn, but ironically, the three players who drew or lost would later grapple for first place.

Newton’s law of inertia showed up the next round, so the A-group hosted just one decisive game and the B-group four. "Yaro" [Zherebukh] joined the two leaders in the former group while, in the latter, Greek GM Antonios Pavlidis recuperated with a rollercoaster win over GM Angel Arribas, and the newly-naturalized American citizen Alejandro Ramirez took the sole lead with a perfect 2-0.

The third round featured the same level of decisiveness: Vladislav Kovalev followed in Yaro’s footsteps, dealing another blow to poor Petrosian, who was simply having a bad tournament, while everyone else drew their games. In the meantime, Ramirez looked to be unstoppable as he played great chess against IM Prasanna Rao.

 

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Prasanna Rao

IM Prasanna Rao | Photo: Austin Fuller

Things turned upside down in the fourth round, however. This time, Tigran, Yaro, and Meier scored wins, while WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, armed with purple hair clinched her first tournament victory against former U.S. champ Alexander Shabalov. Also for the first time, I played a game of interest — against Yaro — but unfortunately, the result was not positive, and it boosted him to +2. Tournament-wise, the other important game was Meier vs. Shimanov.

 

In the next round, everything went back to normal. Two games in group A were decisive, and my second loss in a row enabled Kovalev to join Zherebukh at the top. On the other hand, all games in group B produced winners (and losers). The game of the day was almost certainly Ramirez-Shabalov, in which the latter played true to his style and knocked down Alejandro from his lofty position.

Alejandro Ramirez

Alejandro "Little Peasant" Ramirez is now a U.S. citizen! | Photo: Austin Fuller

 

Alexander Shabalov

Alexander Shabalov celebrated his 50th birthday | Photo: Austin Fuller

Unfortunately for Ramirez, the sixth round saw him go down in a second game, and therefore hand over the lead position to Friedel, who collected wins and didn’t lose any games. Over in the other section, Meier defeated and replaced Kovalev at the top of the crosstable. The most hair-raising game, though certainly not the most important or the best, was probably mine against Petrosian.

 

On September 12, another festivity began: it was Chess Hall-of-Famer Alex Shabalov’s 50th birthday! Players even gathered to sing “Happy Birthday”. Chess-wise, it was a relatively peaceful day, as there were only two decisive results in the entire round. In the A group, Shimanov’s hopes of tournament victory were shattered by Ju Wenjun. Unfortunately for the Chinese grandmaster, she suffered a defeat in the eighth round; fortunately for me, I was the fellow who played her!

Josh FriedelElsewhere, Zherebukh and Meier drew their games to maintain their lead, although Meier was disappointed over chances he missed against Naroditsky. In the other section, Friedel (right) won his game against Prasanna, but that didn’t extend his lead by half a point as Pavlidis also won his game against Shabalov. 

Celebrations returned on the final day, as it was none other than my own 16th birthday! Perhaps inspired, I unleashed an innovation against Meier, one of the tournament leaders, but he played solidly and we split the point. Apparently everybody else in group A had the same idea, so they all drew as well, which meant that Zherebukh and Meier would go to the playoffs. In the B group, however, there was a clear leader, so the players fought tooth and nail; but thanks to a somewhat premature resignation by Arribas after a tactical scuffle, Friedel secured his tournament win.

The playoff between Meier and Zherebukh was a tense affair. Two rapid games weren’t enough to settle the issue, so they played another two blitz games, in which Meier scored 1½.

The playoff games as well as Friedel’s finish, with player commentary | Source: CCSCSL on YouTube

Many thanks to the Saint Louis Chess Club for hosting the event, and to chief arbiter Tony Rich for making sure that "Shaba" and I got cupcakes...and that the event went smoothly in general. Speaking of which, the Fall Classic probably "took the cake" for the highest birthday/player ratio of any chess tournament!

Cupcakes

Video playlist

Daily videos produced by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center | Source: CCSCSL on YouTube

Crosstable Group A

 

Click or tap any result to be taken directly to that game!

Crosstable Group B

 

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Sixteen-year-old GM Ruifeng Li is one of the top junior players in the world. He received his IM title in 2016 and the GM title in 2017. 2016 was one of the best years in his chess career. He won the North American Junior Championship, National Open, and Philadelphia Open, also tied for first at 26th Annual North American Open.
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GM77251 GM77251 9/29/2017 01:48
I may be wrong but I think Alexei Shirov has recorded a DVD including the variation of the Berlin that was in Meier vs Shimanov?
macauley macauley 9/29/2017 11:46
@Saguni You're right. We'll get it updated. Thanks!
saguni saguni 9/29/2017 03:41
Hi, The cross table shows Awonder Liang's title as IM while I recall reading a Chessbase article that he got the GM title a few months ago? This needs to be corrected. Thanks!
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