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Winter Open Round 1 - We're Back

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Fei Yue Yang (left) in his win over Steven Niles.
Fei Yue Yang (left) in his win over Steven Niles.
The Winter Open got underway this past Monday as 38 hardy souls put away holiday decorations and dusted off their chess sets to bring in the New Year with plenty of wood pushing. The end of 2012 saw Romeo Reario (1999) win the Oak Tree Open tournament in November and Michael Cooper (2089) clean up in the Richard Morris Memorial in December, a result made more significant for Cooper as it pushed him over 2100 for the first time.

The Winter Open was strengthened in round 1 by the participation of Fei Yue Yang (2138), who can usually be found beating up on lower rated players in Pasadena on Friday nights. Being the highest rated player in the tournament, Yang was immediately instated on board 1 where he faced off against Steven Niles (1677). Niles has seen a near 200 point rating increase in the last several months and he had the white pieces, so the result was not necessarily a foregone conclusion. However, black was able to win a pawn and white's position started to crumble allowing Yang to pick up the full point and get off to a good start in his second tournament in Arcadia, having played in 2009's Bill Smith Memorial.

On board 2, Mike Carlson (2130) had white against Edward Wu (1654). As the second highest rated player in the tournament, Carlson is bound to be in the mix and contending for first prize by the end. However, Wu put up a good fight and the game lasted some time before Carlson was able to close it out.

Michael Cooper (now 2101), fresh off his win in the Richard Morris Memorial last month, had black against Michael Bond (1647) on board 3. The game was one of the quicker ones of the evening, with the rating difference proving too much for Bond to overcome.

On board 4, Gregg Fritchle (2058) took on Tim Deng (1607) in another one of the night's quicker games. Tim and his sister Queena are both rapidly improving youngsters, having both picked up a number of high class A and expert scalps last year, so Fritchle had to be on his guard. There was to be no upset this time, though, and black (Deng) was forced to resign.

There were three big upsets in round 1, starting with Ryan Chen's (1595) sensational win over expert Dave Matson (2006). Matson, who had black, didn't get much out of the opening and the game eventually transitioned into an interesting endgame where Chen was simply up a pawn. Black's king was forced to defend to prevent the pawn from queening, allowing white to start mopping up the other pawns and leading to a resignation. The result is Chen's biggest win in Arcadia in terms of his opponent's rating.

The evening's other two upsets came courtesy of Johan Akesson (1562) who defeated John Anderson (1879) and Tom Zapanta (nr) who beat Jeffrey Chou (1501). The fact that Zapanta is unrated may be masking his true strength but beating a 1500 rated player is no mean feat in his first tournament!

Round 2 of the Winter Open will take place Monday, January 14.