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2017 Montana Closed – MCA Championship

By on October 21, 2017

Raelund and Duke Share 2017 Championship Title

September 23-24, Helena:   Antonius Raelund rolled to 3 wins during the Saturday go-round and convincingly inserted himself into front-runner status at the MCA Closed….and future MCA events.   His 5th round victory earned him a 4-1 result and a share of the Montana Championship.

Meanwhile, David Duke put 2-point bookends around a single 3rd round loss and also finished at 4-1 with a share of the Championship title.

The SwissSys pairing program had to cipher out to the 3rd tie-break in calculating which player would earn the top seed in the 2018 closed.  That honor goes to Antonius by a single tie-break point.  Although coming second on tie-breaks, David still added a 7th championship trophy to an illustrious run over the past 12 years.  Congratulations to both players!

The event began inauspiciously with only eight of the expected 10 participants.  However, players quickly settled into a friendly but “winner take all” mode.   No quarter asked….No quarter given.  None of the 20 games ended in a draw.  The biggest distraction at the playing site was a low-level “upset” vibration noticeable both days of the event.  Underdogs frequently carried the day.

Round 1 recorded two upsets…..Raelund coming in at 175 points and Dan Mattson at 281 points.  Also in Round 1, Duke’s defense wore down Sherwood Moore’s queen pawn opening and Wilton Strickland’s 1.  f4  prevailed over Michael Muller.

2nd round play saw Raelund still locked into upset mode and winning with a surprising tactical shot against Strickland’s Budapest for win number 2.    Moore’s French game got him back on track as he overtook Darren Stacey in a matchup of endgame sharpies.    Duke’s English opening overpowered Mattson’s defense making use of a nice tactic while Scott Caldwell outlasted Muller with a Sicilian setup.

Only Raelund and Duke arrived for the evening round with two wins.  The Goddess, Cassia, smiled on young Antonius.  He took the white pieces against David’s trusty King’s Indian and scored with some strong tactics in a rook and bishop pair ending.

Strickland-Mattson (also Rd 3) featured surprising turns and skids.  Black, Mattson, achieved a position he liked but a knight sac for two castle pawns didn’t bring sufficient juice and Strickland’s middle-game prowess began to weigh in heavily.  White likely would have gone on to win but for a vision of checkmate which ended like Black’s short-of-the-goal knight sac—-just short.  A series of rook checks drove the Black king in front of his own castle pawns but the maneuvers had afforded Black time enough to plant two rooks on the 7th rank with the Black King, driven from his comfort zone, helping with a mating net.   A white goose was cooked and the 286 point differential gave Mattson the biggest upset of the weekend.   In the moment, Mattson was lowest rated – a number corrected considerably after USCF rating machinery digested the weekend’s results.

In other 3rd round play, Moore parlayed a Slav Defense into an upset win over Caldwell while Stacey’s endgame got the best of Muller on move 70.

Sunday play continued along the same unpredictable bent.   Raelund’s streak was real but the path to 1st place was not without a bump and a bruise.   1st board in round 4 paired Moore vs. Raelund — a game in which White’s Torre Attack rolled up the kingside even as pieces came off the board.  Sherwood’s endgame savvy picked up the point extending his own win streak to three games and pulling him even with the front-runners.

Stacey-Strickland featured a good White attack against the Owen’s Defense.   The upper hand seemed to be with Darren but Wilton judiciously acquired a passed pawn which, combined with dogged defense and White’s time troubles, brought home the point.

Meanwhile, Duke and Mattson also scored fourth round victories pulling them even with Raelund and Moore going into the finale.

The 5th round games were all entertaining, even intriguing for chess buff onlookers.  Raelund worked up to a material and positional advantage against Mattson then survived a tactical blunder as Mattson returned the oversight.  The game ground down to Raelund technique wresting the point.

Meanwhile, Moore’s win streak derailed much the same as did Raelund’s.  Mike Muller’s kingside attack arrived with too much punch for Sherwood’s French defense.  For Mike, the point salvaged a hard-luck tournament and, for Sherwood, it was “close, but no cigar” for an otherwise 1st rate showing.

The Caldwell-Stacey game didn’t affect standings but played out in the spirit of the event ending only after a white miscalculation on move 40.

The Strickland-Duke matchup in round five may have been the most entertaining game of the weekend.  Strickland, playing White, arrived at the middle-game with the position of desire.  Safe king and minor pieces well posted.  That the rooks were slightly left behind might have been the “missing nail that lost the horse that cost the rider……..etc.”  White’s well-aimed pieces blew up the kingside—at a price–leaving the Black position seriously challenged to avoid collapse.  The investment of a rook and two bishops for a Queen and two pawns came as close as a single tempo to winning.  Black’s skillful reorganization of his defense maintained that margin of safety.  The weight of two rooks, a knight, and a deadly light-squared bishop proved too much for the White queen and rook to hold back and the David Duke patented tactical crunch won the point and a share of 1st place.   (notes from danmcc)