Cool New Chess Website

by admin on January 19, 2012

In every issue of Chess Life you can see dozens of upcoming tournaments. And yet for about 98 percent of them, you never find out who won. Only the big national tournaments ever get covered in the magazine.

I was reminded of this when Pablo Pena sent in a comment a couple days ago about winning the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Irvine, California last weekend. In a reasonable world, this would be really big news. How many times does someone with an expert rating finish in clear first place over a field with players like GM Melikset Khachiyan and IMs Alexander Kretchetov, Jack Peters and Timothy Taylor?

But you most likely won’t read about it in Chess Life. Even Chess Life Online reported only on the two biggest tournaments that happened last weekend: the Liberty Bell Open and the Golden State Open.

So is there any place to find out about the 98 percent of tournaments that fly under the radar? Well, of course you can look them up at the USCF website, but only if you already know the names of the tournaments. And you’d better know them exactly, or your search may not find them.

Well, now there is a better way! I discovered a nice, no-frills site called PlyCount, started in 2011, whose sole purpose is to provide information about the results of USCF tournaments and chess clubs. To find a tournament’s listing, you only need to look up the state, and then you’ll see a list of the most recent rated tournaments from that state. No more typing the name into a search engine.

So what really happened in U.S. chess last weekend? Let’s see!

Who won the Grand Prix tournaments?

  • Central Florida Class Championships (Orlando, 18 players): Alex Zelner
  • Waldo Odak Open (St. Louis, 14 players): Ben Finegold
  • Golden State Open (Concord, CA, 60 players): Justin Sarkar
  • MLK Memorial (Irvine, CA, 25 players): Pablo Pena
  • Liberty Bell Open (Philadelphia, 52 players): Victor Shen
  • Michigan Master/Expert & Class (Lansing, 20 players): Safal Bora
  • Portsmouth Open (Portsmouth, NH, 14 players): Alexander Ivanov
  • Tennessee Winter Open (Nashville, 14 players): Ron Burnett

(Number of players is for the Open or highest section in each case.)

There now, don’t you feel as if you have a better idea what happened last weekend? It isn’t just the “usual suspects” winning these tournaments. Two experts (Pablo Pena, Safal Bora) won tournaments, along with a young FIDE Master (Victor Shen) whom I had not heard of.

Who gained the most rating points?

Again for simplicity I’ll just look at the highest section in each tournament.

  •  Orlando: Jose Mendez, +238 points (from 1816 to 2054). Okay, this is obviously a provisionally rated player. Among players with established ratings, the biggest gain was Yilmer Guzman, +36 points (2033 to 2069).
  • St. Louis: Spencer Finegold, +37 (2138 to 2175) and David Askin (1805 to 1842).
  • Concord: Justin Sarkar, +49 (2448 to 2497).
  • Irvine: Pablo Pena, +66 (2174 to 2241).
  • Philadelphia: Mauricio Santana, +189 (2339 to 2528). Victor Shen, with +44 (2466 to 2510) was probably tops among established players.
  • Lansing: Safal Bora, +45 (2149 to 2194).
  • Portsmouth: Niccolo Hilgendorf, +50 (1843 to 1893).
  • Nashville: Corry Marsh, +39 (1812 to 1851).

We can see that tournament winners are often the biggest gainers, but not always! Also, this gives us an idea of how exceptional Pablo Pena’s weekend was; among players with an established rating, playing in the top sections, he had the biggest rating gain in the country.

Of course, Mendez’s and Santana’s rating gains are spectacular, too. In the case of Santana, we will probably hear more from him. He is an International Master from Costa Rica (home of Grandmaster and former US Open champion Alejandro Ramirez), and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he has come to the U.S. to try to earn some grandmaster norms.

Okay, fine. But what I really want to know is: Who won the 2012 Iowa Girls’ Championship?

That would be Bethany Carson, who scored a perfect 4 of 4 and moved her rating up to 1606. Go, Bethany!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paco Gomez February 22, 2012 at 12:51 am

Hi Dana,
thanks for the positive review. We are glad you find the site useful.
Best regards,


Bethany Carson August 6, 2015 at 3:54 am

Thanks! (Three years late, but they do say better late than never!) 😉


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