Mantis Downtown Chess Fest

Posted in News on April 28th, 2014 by Tom Brownscombe

On the weekend of April 25-27, 48 chess players came to the Learning Village, located at the corner of Fremont Street and 8th Street in downtown Las Vegas, to compete in the Mantis Downtown Chess Fest. This five round swiss system chess tournament was named in honor of the fire breathing preying mantis sculpture located next door at the entrance to Container Park. The tournament had four rating based sections and featured four chess masters playing in the open section: Tom Brownscombe, Ronald Gross, Rockwell Shah, and Mike Zaloznyy.

After two rounds, the masters were leading the tournament. So in round three they started playing each other. The board one game between Rockwell Shah and Mike Zaloznyy was a very close affair that turned into a rook and pawn ending that featured competing passed pawns on opposite sides of the board. Shah was able to stop Zaloznyy’s passer, but an inaccurate king move by Zaloznyy allowed Shah’s passed pawn duo to go all the way for the win. On board two, the game between Brownscombe and Gross was even closer. Brownscombe pressed on the kingside, but he was not able to break through. Gross had some space on the queen side, but he was not able to create a breakthrough. So the board two game ended in a draw, leaving Shah in clear first place after three rounds. And then this confrontation occurred on board one in the fourth round:

FM Brownscombe,Tom (2221) – Shah,Rockwell (2344) [B01]
Mantis Open (4.1), 27.04.2014
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Be2 Nf6 5.0–0 Nbd7 6.h3 Bh5 7.d4 Qd6 8.c4 c6 9.Nc3 a6 10.a4 e6 11.Be3 Qb4 12.d5 exd5 13.cxd5 Bc5 14.dxc6 bxc6 15.Nd4 15…Qxb2 16.Bxh5 Qxc3 17.Rc1 Qa3 18.Nc2 Qxa4 19.Bxc5 Nxc5 20.Re1+ Nce4 21.Qd6 Rd8 22.Qe6+ Kf8 23.Qxf7# 1–0

In the fifth round, Brownscombe sacrificed a bishop on h2 against Hugo Santiago. But he was only able to get a perpetual check. The draw on board one gave the players on boards two and three an opportunity to compete for first place. On board three, Earl Salazar developed a powerful attack against the exposed king of Ron Gross. Salazar was on the verge of achieving a checkmate or winning Ron’s queen. But Gross generated enough counter play to stave off defeat and turn the tide in his favor. When the dust settled, Gross had an extra bishop and an easily won endgame. On board two, Shah won a pawn and converted his extra material into an endgame victory. This left a four way tie for first place in the open section with Tom Brownscombe, Ronald Gross, Hugo Santiago, and Rockwell Shah sharing first place with 3.5 points each and splitting the prize money equally. Juan Jauregui and Jonathan Mikolic split the prize for the top scoring player rated under 2000 in the open section with 2 points each.

The Mantis Downtown Chess Fest was the second tournament in the southern Nevada state championship qualifier series. The first tournament was the Presidents’ Day Open, and the final tournament will be held in the summer. Players who play in the open section of two or more of these tournaments can combine their scores to create a qualifying score. The two players with the top qualifying scores will be invited to represent southern Nevada in the 2014 Nevada State Chess Championship. After two tournaments, Tom Brownscombe and Hugo Santiago have the top two qualifying scores with 6.5 points each. But with another qualifying tournament still to be played, any player who has scored at least two points in either of the first two qualifying tournaments has a chance to surpass Brownscombe and Santiago. Here is the list of players who are in contention (with their best score from either of the first two qualifying tournaments):

Elliot Liu 5; Patrick Lacey 4; Virgilio Reyes, Rockwell Shah, Ronald Gross 3.5; Mike Zaloznyy, Joshua Quint, Barry Lazarus 3; Damir Trtanj, Juan Jauregui, Glenn Bidari, Earl Salazar, Ryan Phillips 2.5; Scott Raymond, John Trivett, Jeffery Gallegos, Alejandrino Baluran, Jonathan Mikolic 2.

In the under 1900 section, Edgar Khachatryan had a strong start with four straight victories. This was enough for Edgar to secure clear first place, even though Jason Cruz defeated Khachatryan in the final round. Cruz tied for second place in the under 1900 section with Alan Losoff, who is best known in the chess world as the lead organizer of the Las Vegas International Chess Festival. Losoff had a rough day on Saturday, drawing with Cruz and losing to Khachatryan. He was so discouraged by these results that he almost withdrew from the tournament. But Losoff’s perseverance led to fourth and fifth round wins against John Currell and Todd Imada and an equal share of the second and third place prize money with 3.5 points.

In the under 1600 section, the ladies showed their mettle. Vivian Liu started the tournament with a half point bye in the Friday night round. She then proceeded to win four straight games to secure first place in the under 1600 section. Audrey Grigore continued to demonstrate the ladies’ superiority in the under 1600 section by scoring 3.5 points to take second place. Antonio Artuz rounded out the list of prize winners in the under 1600 section by taking third place with 3 points. Jonathan Luong won the under 1300 section with 4 points. Max Jackel took second place in the under 1300 section with 3.5 points, and Rhomer Johnson was third with 3 points.

All of the players would like to thank the Las Vegas Downtown Project for supporting this event. Juan and Sabrina Jauregui organized the tournament on behalf of the Las Vegas Chess Center. Tom Brownscombe and Juan Jauregui directed the tournament. For complete tournament results for all players, including all rating changes, please visit the member services area of the US Chess Federation website. And for more information about other Las Vegas Chess Center events, please browse the Las Vegas Chess Center website.

A Weekend of Chess in Las Vegas

Posted in News on December 10th, 2013 by Tom Brownscombe

tandem simul

Jonathan Zavala v Timur Gareev

Tom Brownscombe and Timur Gareev

Tom Brownscombe and Jaan Ehlvest

On Friday, December 6th, 2013 not just one, but two grandmasters came to visit the Las Vegas Chess Center at the corner of Fremont Street and 8th Street in downtown Las Vegas. GM Timur Gareev is number 3 on the most recent list of top USA players with a USCF rating of 2769 and 102 in the world with a current FIDE rating of 2650. GM Jaan Ehlvest is number 16 on the most recent list of USA players with a USCF rating of 2627 and 297 in the world with a current FIDE rating of 2577. And both of these players demonstrated their abilities at the Las Vegas Chess Center on Friday night.
The evening began with a presentation by Timur on how to play the white pieces against the dragon variation of the Sicilian defense. Then the two grandmasters teamed up against 20 club members in a tandem simultaneous chess exhibition. Many chess aficionados have seen a simultaneous chess exhibition, in which a strong player plays against many opponents simultaneously. But a tandem simultaneous exhibition is even more impressive. The two grandmasters moved from board to board, taking turns making moves without ever speaking to each other. This is much more difficult than a normal simultaneous exhibition, because the two grandmasters had to manage to play a coherent game of chess on every board without ever communicating with each other in any way (other than making the best moves they could on the chess boards). The grandmasters’ task was made even more difficult by the strength of the field, which included three masters. So it was hardly a surprise that one of the masters managed to achieve a victory.
J. Ehlvest/T. Gareev – FM Brownscombe,Tom (2226) [B82]
tandem simul, 06.12.2013
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.f4 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Bd3 0–0 9.0–0 a6 [Active play with 9…Nxd4 10.Bxd4 e5 is the right way.] 10.Kh1 Qc7 11.Qf3 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 e5 13.fxe5 dxe5 14.Be3 [White misses an opportunity to gain an advantage with 14.Qg3 Bd6 15.Be3±] 14…Be6= 15.Nd5 Bxd5 16.exd5 Rad8 17.Rad1 [17.c4 e4 18.Bxe4 Qxc4=] 17…Rxd5 18.Bxh7+ Kxh7 19.Rxd5 Nxd5 20.Qxd5 Qxc2 21.Qxb7 Qe2 22.Qe4+ [My engine says that 22.Rg1 is the move that holds this position together, but it is not easy to find such a counterintuitive move when playing a simul.] 22…Kg8 23.Qf3 Qxb2 24.Qg3 f5 25.Bc1 Qb5 26.Rd1 Rd8 27.Rxd8+ Bxd8 28.Qb3+ Qxb3 29.axb3 Kf7 30.Kg1 Bb6+ 31.Kf1 Ke6 32.Ke2 Bd4 33.h3 f4 34.Ba3 e4 35.Bf8 Kf5 36.Bd6 g5 37.Bb4 g4 38.hxg4+ Kxg4 39.Bd6 f3+ 40.Kf1? [40.gxf3+ is the only way to keep fighting.] 40…e3 41.gxf3+ Kxf3 0–1

The big surprise of the night occurred in Rhomer Johnson’s game. Rhomer holds a current USCF rating of just 1113. He has not even played against a master level opponent in USCF rated tournament competition in over 20 years. And in the opening and early middlegame, he appeared to be completely outclassed by his grandmaster opponents. Rhomer traded off his good bishop. Then he lost a center pawn. Then his opponents gained space and generated play on the queenside and in the center. But Rhomer didn’t give up. Despite having an objectively lost position, he kept on fighting. Rhomer played for a kingside attack and generated threats against black’s castled king. And those threats led to a blunder by one of the grandmasters, followed by resignation.
Johnson,Rhomer (1113) – J. Ehlvest/T. Gareev [A46]
tandem simul, 06.12.2013
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 d5 5.Bb5+ Bd7 6.Qa4 Nc6 7.Ne5 Nxe5 8.dxe5 a6 9.Bxd7+ Nxd7 10.0–0 b5 11.Qc2 [11. Qf4 Qc7 does not hold the e-pawn] 11…Nxe5 12.b3 Bd6 13.Nd2 0–0 14.Qd1 c4 15.Bb2 Nd3 16.Qc2 f5 17.f4? The weak pawn on e3 will quickly become a serious problem. 17…Rc8 18.b4 Qb6 19.Rf3 Bxb4 [19…Bxf4 would be crushing.] 20.cxb4 Nxb2 21.Qc3 [21.Qxb2 c3 is objectively better, but black is still winning.] 21…Na4 22.Qe5 Rfe8 23.Rg3 Rc7 24.Nf3 Rd7 25.Nd4 [Black has an easy win with 25…Qc7, but…] 25…Qd6?? 26.Rxg7+ Now black must choose between losing the queen with 26…Rxg7 27.Qxd6, losing a rook to 26…Kh8 27.Rxd7+, getting mated after 26…Kf8 27.Qf6+, or resigning. 1–0

Congratulations Rhomer Johnson, bane of the grandmasters.

Thirty-eight chess players came to the Venetian®|The Palazzo® Congress Center on Saturday, December 7th and Sunday, December 8th to compete in the Second Las Vegas Mind Sports Open Chess Tournament. This tournament was part of the second Las Vegas Mind Sports Festival. The Festival included competitions in chess, scrabble, go, the trading card game Magic the Gathering, and other strategy games. Grandmasters Timur Gareev and Jaan Ehlvest were the pre-tournament favorites in the open section of the chess tournament, and they demonstrated their skills by drawing against each other and defeating all others to tie for first place in the open section with 4.5 out of a possible 5 points. Timur won the first place medal on tie-breaks, but the two grandmasters shared the first and second place prize money equally. FM Nachum Salman, NM Ronald Gross, Glenn Bidari, Virgilio Reyes, Juan Jauregui, Daniel Dease, William Wijaya, and Jonathan Zavala all tied for third through tenth place in the open section with 3 points each. They split the remaining prize money equally. But young Jonathan Zavala earned the third place medal due to his excellent tie-break score, even though he was the lowest rated player in this massive tie. Here are two of the key games, with notes by GM Gareev:

GM Gareev, Timur (2739)- GM Ehlvest, Jaan (2624) [D61]
MSI 2013, 07.12.2013
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 0–0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Qc2 h6 8.Bh4 c5 9.Rd1 Qa5 [9…cxd4 10.Rxd4] 10.Nd2 [10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Bxe7 Nxe7 12.Be2 cxd4 13.Rxd4 Nc6 14.Rd1 Nf6 15.0–0 Bd7 16.Rd6 Rfd8 17.Rfd1 Be8] 10…cxd4 11.Nb3 Qc7 [11…Qb6 12.Rxd4] 12.Rxd4 a6 13.Bg3 Qc6 14.cxd5 Nxd5 15.Rc4 Qb6 16.Be2 Nxc3 17.Qxc3 Nf6 18.0–0 [18.Qd4 Qxd4 19.Nxd4 Bd7 20.Rc7] 18…Bd7 19.Qd4 Qxd4 20.Nxd4 Rac8 21.Rfc1 Rxc4 22.Rxc4 Rc8 23.Rxc8+ Bxc8 24.Bf3 Nd5 25.Bxd5 exd5 26.Be5 Bd7 27.Ne2 f6 28.Bc3 Bd6 29.f3 h5 30.h4 ½–½

Zavala, Jonathan (1830)– GM Gareev, Timur (2739) [C63]
MSI 2013, 08.12.2013
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 f5 4.d3 fxe4 5.dxe4 Nf6 6.Bxc6 bxc6 7.0–0 d6 8.Nc3 [8.Qe2! a5 9.Rd1 Ba6 10.c4 Qc8 11.Nc3 Be7 12.Nh4 Qg4] 8…Be7 9.h3 a5 10.Be3 0–0 11.Re1 Qe8 12.Nd2 Qg6 13.Kh1 d5 [13…Be6!] 14.exd5 [14.Nf3 Qh5 (14…Bd6 15.exd5 cxd5 16.Nxd5 Bb7 17.Nxf6+ Rxf6 18.Nh4 Qf7 19.Qg4 Rf8) 15.exd5 Bg4 16.Kg1 Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Qxf3 18.gxf3 Nxd5³] 14…cxd5 15.Bf4 Bb7 [15…d4 16.Nb5 Nh5 17.Bxe5 Rxf2; 15…Ng4 16.hxg4 Bxg4 17.Nf3 d4 18.Nd5 Qh5+ 19.Bh2 Bd6] 16.Rxe5 d4 17.Rg5 Qf7 [17…Qh6 18.Ne2 Bd6] 18.Ne2 Nd5 19.Re5 Nxf4 20.Nxf4 Qxf4 21.Rxe7 Qg5 [21…Qh4] 0–1

Daniel Quinones won the under 1800 section with 4.5 points, and Michelangelo Barozzi took clear second place with 4 points. Jason Cruz and Eric Leung tied for third place in the under 1800 section with 3 points each, with Jason Cruz winning the third place medal on tie-break points. Matthew Kursar won the under 1400 section with 4.5 points, and David Sletten, Jr. took clear second place with 4 points. Kevin Yarwood and Richard Zhou tied for third place in the under 1800 section with 2.5 points each, with Richard Zhou winning the third place medal on tie-break points.

The next Las Vegas Mind Sports Festival will be held on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus on the weekend of January 25th and 26th. The chess tournament was organized and directed by Juan Jauregui and Tom Brownscombe on behalf of the Las Vegas Chess Center in cooperation with Mind Sports International. To see the full tournament results, please visit For more information about the Las Vegas Chess Center, please visit For more information about Mind Sports International, please visit

Upcoming Meeting

Posted in News on November 27th, 2013 by Tom Brownscombe

There will be a meeting of the Nevada Chess Board of Directors on Sunday, December 8th in the Galileo Ballroom, located on the 2nd Level of The Venetian®| The Palazzo® Congress Center, immediately after the conclusion of the Mind Sports International Chess Tournament (approximately 6PM). This will be an open meeting. Anybody who wishes to express their opinion(s) about Nevada chess is welcome to attend. The main item on the agenda will be planning for the 2014 Nevada Scholastic Chess Championship.