U.S. Open Chess Events: Masked and Spirited

by Alexey Root
8/1/2021 – Cherry Hill, New Jersey is the temporary gathering place of U.S. chess players. Already completed are the Third International Koltanowski Conference on Chess in Education, the Second Annual FM Sunil Weeramantry National Blitz Tournament of State Champions, and the first round of the tournaments of state champions and the traditional schedule of the U.S. Open. | Pictured: The playing hall during the Weeramantry National Blitz Tournament of State Champions

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Koltanowski Conference

The Third International Koltanowski Conference on Chess in Education was previewed in this ChessBase article. Technical difficulties hampered live streaming of the presentations, but each presentation was recorded. Those presentations will be uploaded; check the U.S. Chess Trust website and the Trust’s YouTube channel later for updates.

This third Koltanowski conference was held in honor of Dr. Tim Redman. I co-organized the first two Koltanowski conferences with Redman. Redman’s book of the first conference, held in 2001, is available here and the presentations from the second conference, held in 2011, are available here.

For this year’s third conference, I was not involved as a speaker or as an organizer. However, I attended most of the second day of presentations, starting with a presentation by FIDE Master Sunil Weeramantry. I met Dora L. Martinez, part of the conference organizing team. She generously lent me her chess clock, for my husband International Master Doug Root to use in the FM Sunil Weeramantry Blitz tournament the following day. The clock he had brought from Texas, a 20+ year old Chronos, did not have the required increment setting.

Weeramantry Blitz

The top seed in the FM Sunil Weeramantry National Blitz Tournament of State Champions, Grandmaster Awonder Liang of Wisconsin (US Chess rating of 2674), won the 2200+ section with 7 game points out of 8 games played. Each round had two games, one with each color, against the same opponent. Only participants in the state champions tournaments were allowed to register and the blitz was optional for them. Second place in the 2200+ section was FIDE Master Nico Chasin of New York (US Chess 2411), who is also the top seed in the Dewain Barber National Tournament of Middle School State Champions.

Although the Weeramantry Blitz does not count toward the best state competition, described in my previous article, Texans did well in the top two sections of the Weeramantry Blitz. John T. Irwin National Senior Tournament of Champions top seed Root (US Chess 2556) took third place in the 2200+ section and Woman Candidate Master Ambica Yellamraju (US Chess 2097) won the 1800-2199 section on tiebreaks.

Mask update

Chess Life Online shared the updated mask policy now in effect at the U.S. Open:

In view of the recent CDC guidance on use of masks, the Executive Board decrees that masks must be worn in all public spaces related to the US Open's competitive and governance functions.

Under a previous policy, the governance area had a mask-free option. The U.S. Open’s tournament floor is closed to spectators until the tournaments of state champions end on Tuesday, August 3.

US Chess Open 2021

Irwin: Opening Ceremony and Games

The opening ceremony of the John T. Irwin National Senior Tournament of Champions featured individual and group photos, speeches, and pizza and sodas. Grandmaster John Fedorowicz of New York heartily applauded the speakers and told fellow seniors they hadn’t aged a bit since the last time he saw them, which in many cases was over 20 years ago. During the lunch, several seniors approached Grandmaster Benjamin Finegold of Georgia, to thank him for improving their chess skills with his Twitch channel and YouTube videos. Fedorowicz and Finegold are the only two grandmasters in the Irwin, as Grandmaster Sergey Kudrin has been replaced as Connecticut representative by Mikhail Koganov (2203).

US Chess Open 2021

Irwin Senior group photo

Finegold (US Chess 2538) won a challenging endgame in round 1, featuring his bishop and four kingside pawns versus Timothy Sage’s knight and three kingside pawns. Sage’s US Chess rating is 2125 and he represents Massachusetts. Fedorowicz (US Chess 2445) drew against Wyoming’s Dan Joelson (US Chess 2082).


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

US Chess Open 2021

Kevin Cotreau vs Doug Root and Ben Finegold vs Timothy Sage

Root’s win over of New Hampshire’s Kevin Cotreau (US Chess 2132) caught the attention of US Chess commentators International Master Kostya Kavutskiy and Woman Grandmaster Kateřina Němcová as the most exciting game of the first round. The top three boards of the Irwin were broadcast, via DGT boards, along with top boards from the other invitationals and the traditional schedule of the U.S. Open. The commentators switched among those games in their coverage. Doug Root and I annotated his first-round game for this article and the other DGT games from round 1 are also included here.



Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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