Quesada and Andriasian succeed in Saint Louis Winter Chess Classic

by Eugene Perelshteyn
12/21/2018 – Each season the Saint Louis Chess Club organises two ten-player strong round robins that include players from all around the globe mixed with young American talents. This year's winter edition was won by Cuban Yuniesky Quesada and Armenian Zaven Andriasian. The mix of ambitious players and excellent playing conditions generated many interesting battles over the board. GM EUGENE PERELSHTEYN participated in the B group and sent us a report with highlights and analyses. | Photos: Austin Fuller / Saint Louis Chess Club

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Instant classics

Saint Louis is now synonymous with great chess in the United States. This past November, top GMs and IMs arrived in the famous Saint Louis Chess Club to match wits in the two round robin tournaments known as the Winter Classic.  The Classics are the brainchild of Tony Rich, the Executive Director of CCSCSL. The 2018 winter edition featured two groups — the A Group, with an average rating of 2648, and the B group, with an average rating of 2538. The combined prize fund of over $30,000 and a relaxed pace of one-game-a-day make these tournaments a definite outlier in the American landscape of open tournaments.

Tony Rich, on the right, is the chief arbiter in most of these tournaments | Photo: Austin Fuller

Group A

The surprise winner of the A group was ninth seed GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez from Cuba, who scored an impressive 7 out of 9 with a 2870 rating performance!  The talented Cuban is also a freshman at Webster University, clearly a strong addition to the powerhouse team.

Yuniesky Quesada dominated the A Group | Photo: Austin Fuller

Sharing second to fifth were GM Sasikirian of India, GM Melkumian of Armenia and two American youngsters, Jeffery Xiong and Sam Sevian, who all finished on 5/9 points. Despite their young age, Jeffery, who recently turned 18, and Sam, turning 18 in December, are already very experienced GMs and the bright future of American chess.  I believe they will follow in the footsteps of Sam Shankland and will cross the 2700 rating barrier in the near future!

Former Junior World Champion Jeffery Xiong | Photo: Austin Fuller

Sam Sevian, an imminent talent | Photo: Austin Fuller

Some important highlights from the A Group:


Final standings - Group A


All games - Group A


Group B

Group B was a nice mix of youth and experience.  Three-time US Champion and Hall of Famer Joel Benjamin, aged 54, was the veteran in the field, while the Dutch duo of IM Lucas van Foreest and IM Robby Kevlishvili are only 17 — a 37 years age difference! In what other sport is this impressive blend possible?

Joel Benjamin playing Black against Robby Kevlishvili | Photo: Austin Fuller

The tournament unsurprisingly was won by the top seed, 29-year-old Armenian Zaven Andriasian, who showed solid chess and strong nerves as he had to battle it out in Armageddon against 46-year-old Israeli GM Viktor Mikhalevski.  The dramatic rapid playoff saw Viktor win game one and lose the return match — the action can be replayed with excellent commentary by GM Jesse Kraai and Ben Simon:

GM Jesse Kraai and Ben Simon

Zaven Andriasian won the B Group on play-offs | Photo: Austin Fuller

As for myself, I had a good run and was tied for second with 4/7 in a very tight race to the finish.  However, playing a risky Pirc Defense versus Lucas vsn Foreest in round 8 perhaps was not a wise decision, as the youngster showed excellent positional understanding and duly outplayed me from a better position.  See full game in the highlight section.

Lucas van Foreest | Photo: Austin Fuller

Perhaps the most exciting GM in the field was blindfold king Timur Gareyev, who did not have a good tournament as he was late for his round one game.  The speculation was that he was too busy skydiving, as seen in his famous YouTube video.  However, we later found out that the simple explanation was that he had a game in Saint Petersburg the day before and missed his plane.

Who said chess players are boring?

Some important highlights from the B Group:


Final standings - Group B

All games - Group B



Eugene Perelshteyn is a GM from Boston, MA, who works as a chess coach, author, Twitch streamer and popular online video lecturer. He co-wrote the best-selling repertoire books "Chess Openings Explained" with GMs Alburt and Dzindzichashvili, now available on his website ChessOpeningsExplained.com.


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