Le and Stukopin win Bay Area International

by Klaus Besenthal
1/9/2019 – The early defeat of GM Le Quang Liem (pictured) against 12-year-old Christopher Yoo at the Bay Area International Open, January 1st to 7th, in California caused a stir, but the Vietnamese grandmaster recovered with a winning streak which saw him score 5½ points from the last six rounds, and finally manage to win the tournament jointly with the Russian GM Andrey Stukopin, who also reached 7 points. Christopher Yoo, slipped to 37th place but with the consolation of earning his third IM norm, which makes him the youngest American IM ever. | Photo: David Llada

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Bay Area International 2019 

Burlingame is a small city on the San Francisco Bay, south of San Franciso itself, which was founded after the devastating 1906 earthquake. It is known as the "City of Trees" thanks to its more than 18,000 public trees — they had the foresight to prohibit cutting them down back when the city was incorporated. Over a hundred players, most of them titled, took part in this year's Bay Area International tournament. Among the highly-rated grandmasters was top see Le Quang Liem (#32 in the world on the January list). The Vietnamese grandmaster resides in St. Louis (formerly a student at Webster University) as do a host of foreign grandmasters in the USA.

Thanks to a late surge, Le was able to pull even with GM Andrey Stukopin, a student at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, to tie for first with 7.0/9. Both earned USD $4,000 for their efforts. Seven players trailed by half a point including GMs Lazaro Bruzon, Dariusz Swiercz, Emilio Cordova, Alejandro Ramirez, Karthik Venkataraman and Bartlomiej Macieja who each took home $500.

tournament logo

Yoo who?

The sensation of the tournament's first half, however, was Christopher Woojin Yoo. The 12-year-old American with Korean roots started as No. 46 with an Elo rating of 2388, and yet after five rounds he was in shared first with 4 points, neck and neck with a pack of ten players — eight grandmasters, one international master and Yoo.

Three of his four points came against grandmasters! In the second round, however, he needed a little luck to secure the draw, because in the following position GM Tanguy Ringoir missed a chance to win:


The surprise of the week followed in the third round as Yoo defeated the top-seeded GM Le. Against Le's the Caro-Kann defence, he chose an obscure variation which resulted in an isolani structure. In the middlegame, Yoo sacrificed a piece in a slightly worse position and was ultimately rewarded for it. It turns out that even very strong players make mistakes when they are put under pressure and have to defend.


Christopher Woojin Yoo | Foto: David Llada/American Chess Magazine

In the fourth round, You followed up with another victory against a grandmaster. The victim this time was Peter Prohaszka. The 27-year-old Hungarian avoided theory by playing a double-fianchetto with White, then sacrificed an exchange right out of the opening, but did not get much compensation for it. Gradually Yoo developed a winning position, but Prohaszka found a very tricky second exchange sac that actually got him set up for perpetual check. But in a truly confusing position, a few inaccuracies from White let Yoo's king escape.

The fifth round was a hard-fought draw against Alejandro Ramirez, who is known to many readers of this site for his various video series for ChessBase. In a Ruy Lopez, Ramirez quickly lured his young opponent into new theoretical territory and Yoo made a mistake with a premature pawn push in the centre. Ramirez could have besieged the white e4 pawn, but after one or two inaccuracies, the game leveled out to a draw.


Click or tap the second game in the list to switch

It is obvious that Yoo, who is accompanied by his father to tournaments, has a great future ahead of him. His coaches include the strong grandmasters Boris Avrukh and Zviad Izoria. He is one of a number of young American talents who regularly attend classes at the Kasparov Chess Foundation and get to learn from Garry himself. In the world rankings, Yoo is the #2 of his year (2006) behind Gukesh D (India), who just before Christmas at the Sunway Sitges Open just missed out on becoming the youngest grandmaster of all time.

Young-Kyu Yoo watches over his son on tournaments | Photo: David Llada / American Chess Magazine

Right now Yoo is extremely active with more than 100 games in the Mega Database over the last two years. He basically plays a tournament every month. In 2019, he plans to play tournaments in Europe. Those who want to follow his progress more closely should take a look at his Facebook page, which his father has created for him. It's clear that Yoo has a lot of fun doing what he does.

Speaking of fun, here was one photographer David Llada's favourite photos:

The final round

Before the last round, the Peruvian GM Emilio Cordova led the standings. He was paired against Stukopin and took risks to try to win. That ultimately backfired and brought Stukopin on top.


Andrey Stukopin

Andrey Stukopin

With his fourth win in a row, Vietnamese Le Quang Liem was still able to reach the top spot in the table on the final day of the tournament, together with Stukopin. His game against the Armenian Gabuzyan was unusual at an early stage: 


Final standings (top 25)

# Name Rtng Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6 Rd 7 Rd 8 Rd 9 Tot
1 GM Le Quang Liem 2714 W47 D70 L37 W41 D30 W71 W31 W19 W15 7.0
2 GM Andrey Stukopin 2565 W63 W46 D3 D12 D32 W70 D16 W13 W5 7.0
3 GM Lazaro Bruzon 2664 W48 W24 D2 W21 D5 D19 D18 W32 D8 6.5
4 GM Dariusz Swiercz 2649 W49 W44 W69 D5 D19 W37 D15 D8 D7 6.5
5 GM Emilio Cordova 2597 W51 W45 W57 D4 D3 W10 W12 D15 L2 6.5
6 GM Alejandro Ramirez 2567 H--- W85 W101 D10 D37 W45 D19 D18 W32 6.5
7 GM Karthik Venkataraman 2515 D54 D64 W38 W35 L9 W39 W37 W14 D4 6.5
8 GM Bartlomiej Macieja 2509 W55 D101 W84 L19 W89 W11 W10 D4 D3 6.5
9 IM Felix Ynojosa 2368 W100 L69 W98 W24 W7 L15 D17 W21 W18 6.5
10 GM Jeffery Xiong 2672 W102 W30 D16 D6 W28 L5 L8 W34 W27 6.0
11 GM Parimarjan Negi 2656 W103 W31 D26 L16 W33 L8 W46 W30 D17 6.0
12 GM Samuel Sevian 2647 W50 D60 W17 D2 D70 W29 L5 W45 D16 6.0
13 GM Yuniesky Quesada 2642 D85 W91 D70 W29 D17 D32 W36 L2 W40 6.0
14 GM Peter Prohaszka 2613 W62 W32 D29 L37 D31 W34 W51 L7 W36 6.0
15 GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan 2605 D90 W41 W60 W27 D16 W9 D4 D5 L1 6.0
16 GM Jinshi Bai 2572 W52 W34 D10 W11 D15 D18 D2 D20 D12 6.0
17 IM Brian Escalante Ramirez 2446 W98 W78 L12 W51 D13 D26 D9 W35 D11 6.0
18 GM Daniel Naroditsky 2616 W106 D33 W68 D26 W46 D16 D3 D6 L9 5.5
19 GM Kamil Dragun 2578 W42 D35 W33 W8 D4 D3 D6 L1 D24 5.5
20 IM Michael Brown 2524 D64 W90 D35 D34 D40 D46 W38 D16 D25 5.5
21 GM Akshat Chandra 2492 W56 D38 W54 L3 D34 D40 W41 L9 W45 5.5
22 IM Joshua Ruiz 2459 D72 L54 W80 W102 D50 L51 W85 D25 W48 5.5
23 IM Kassa Korley 2450 D58 D72 L42 D81 W64 D52 D63 W54 W46 5.5
24 IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy 2439 W74 L3 W64 L9 W63 D50 W42 D40 D19 5.5
25 NM Siddharth Banik 2276 L26 W93 D31 L30 W87 W88 W70 D22 D20 5.5

Select annotated games


All games


Correction, January 10 — Le Quang Liem was previously a student at Webster University but finished his degree. Since there is no tiebreak used to determine first place, Le and Stukopin are joint winners. Le is listed first in the standings only due to rating.

The University of Texas at Brownsville changed its name to University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

Georgios Souleidis contributed to this story
Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


Klaus Besenthal is computer scientist, has followed and still follows the chess scene avidly since 1972 and since then has also regularly played in tournaments.


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