Sunday, March 19, 2017

CCCSA Norm Invitational! March 29 - April 2, 2017

Author: Grant Oen, CCCSA Assistant Director

The Charlotte Chess Center has a history of bringing great chess events to Charlotte.  In his recent blog post, Peter Giannatos catalogued the impressive stats of our one-day events, including the Reverse Angle series and monthly scholastic tournaments.  In addition to these tournaments, CCCSA has a few annual high profile events which attract strong players to the Charlotte chess scene.

The CCCSA Norm Invitational is the most prestigious of these events.  This annual invitational allows talented players to compete for their title norms (IM, GM) in a closed, round robin format.  Unlike the uncertain fields of an open event like the World Open, in an invitational event, the organizers have full control over the playing fields, ensuring that all of FIDE’s strict norm requirements will be upheld, and each player will know their complete pairings two weeks before the event, allowing for specific preparation, a rare occurrence in normal American tournaments.

In our first invitational in 2016, FM Alex Velikanov earned his final IM norm, IM Michael Brown earned his second IM norm (and will return this year as an IM in the GM norm group), and IM Safal Bora earned a GM norm.

This year’s event is very special, as we have many notable names and 3 sections for a total of 30 players.  Most round robin events have only 1 or 2 groups, but our decision to add a third group for more norm chances seemed like a great idea, and we are glad to perhaps be the first American organizers to do this in a while.  We are also excited to offer international round robin experience to our local players from North Carolina (2 players) and Georgia (6 players), who, aside from Walter High's US Masters Tournament in Greensboro, often have to travel far for such opportunities.  Please read our player bios below!

A Group (GM Norm = 6.5/9) - Pairings

GM Tanguy Ringoir (Belgium, FIDE 2518, USCF 2575) returns to Charlotte a year after the first CCCSA GM Norm Invitational in March 2016, where he scored an undefeated 5/9 (1 win, 8 draws), perhaps in the complete opposite style of his student, Dominique Myers.  He is the captain of the UMBC Chess Team, who have scored well on the national collegiate stage.  Ringoir has competed at the highest levels of chess in his native Belgium, winning the National Championship three times and representing his country twice at the Chess Olympiad. 

GM Tanguy Ringoir, the top seed this year

GM Alex Fishbein (New Jersey USA, FIDE 2481, USCF 2544) is an American Grandmaster who has played in four US Championships, has written chess books, and had a career in finance.  He has won many American tournaments, including the inaugural Denker Tournament of High School Champions and the World Open.  Some of his notable results in his chess career include wins over Shirov, Mamedov, Gulko, and Smirin.

GM Alonso Zapata (Atlanta GA and Colombia, FIDE 2426, USCF 2518) is a 7-time Colombian Champion who now resides in Atlanta, where he coaches strong students and plays tournaments.  He is a former World Top 50 player, and finished second in the 1977 World Junior Championship behind Yusupov.  He has defeated Nakamura, Anand (in 6 moves!), Smyslov, and Ljubojevic.  In addition to playing for the Atlanta Kings in the PRO Chess League, Zapata has won many events in Georgia and North Carolina, including the 2014 and 2016 Georgia State Championships and the CCCSA Southeastern FIDE Championship in December.

GM Zapata in his game vs FM Giannatos, CCCSA Dec 2016

IM Michael Brown (California USA, FIDE 2478, USCF 2567) is an IM from California who currently studies at Brigham Young University.  He has impressive wins over strong GMs such as Yu Yangyi (2750 FIDE), Izoria, and Zherebukh.  Brown scored his second IM norm at the 2016 CCCSA Norm event, and quickly acquired the IM title later that year, and will be searching for his first GM norm at this year’s event.  Here is his interview from the 2016 event.

IM Daniel Gurevich (Atlanta GA, FIDE 2465, USCF 2541) is an IM from Atlanta currently studying at Georgia Tech under a Gold Presidential Scholarship.  He has won three national championships, and maintains a column in USCF’s Chess Life for Kids Magazine.  His best GM scalps include wins over Robson, Nyzhnyk, and Shabalov.  Fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian, Gurevich scored all of his IM norms in Spain during summer 2015, and has since increased his FIDE rating to over 2450.  A talented teenager, he has played for the Atlanta Kings PRO Chess League team, and was the 2015 Georgia State Champion.

IM John Bartholomew (Minnesota USA, FIDE 2453, USCF 2529) is well known internationally for his Youtube channel (35,000 subscribers and 7.5 million views!).  A former member of the UT Dallas chess team and a CCCSA Summer camp coach, Bartholomew’s first GM norm came from a similar Round Robin event in Saint Louis in 2013, where he won the section with 6.5/9.  He will need the same score to notch his second GM norm in this event.

The late Marnzell Hand with IM John Bartholomew, 2016

IM Aman Hambleton (Montreal CAN, FIDE 2441, USCF 2526) is a Canadian IM and one of the Chessbrahs along with GM Eric Hansen.  Although from Montreal, Hambleton is no stranger to American tournaments, having played in the World Open, SPICE Cup, Millionaire Chess, and Round Robins in Saint Louis.  He has crossed 2500 FIDE in the past and has one GM norm, meaning that he will be looking for one of his two remaining GM norms at this event. 

Cartoon IM Aman Hambleton (left) !

FM Alex Kaliksteyn (New York USA, FIDE 2453, USCF 2524) is an American FM who recently scored an IM Norm at the Southwest Class Championships in Texas.  He has defeated GMs such as Adhiban, Belous, Macieja, and Shabalov.  Kaliksteyn is eligible for both a GM (6.5/9) and IM norm (5/9) in this section.

FM Nikhil Kumar (Florida USA, FIDE 2444, USCF 2390) is the only player on this list who has a world title under his belt, having won the World Cadet U12 Championship in Batumi, Georgia in September 2016, where he defeated the similarly prodigious IM Praggnanadhaa on the way to the Gold Medal.  Kumar has bolstered his world title with other recent successes, including a first place finish at the 2016 National Chess Congress and his first IM norm at the North American Open in December, as well as strong results in the PRO Chess League.  Kumar can score both a GM (6.5/9) and/or IM norm (5/9).

World U12 Champion, FM Nikhil Kumar

FM Gauri Shankar (Chicago USA and India, FIDE 2320, USCF 2411) from India has several IM norms, including one from the 2015 US Masters, and needs to achieve a 2400 FIDE rating to earn the title.  He has draws against strong American GMs like Kamsky, Naroditsky, Kaidanov, Sevian, Xiong, and Lenderman.  He will seek to earn his first GM norm and improve his rating towards the 2400 mark.  Here is his interview from the 2016 event.

B Group (IM Norm = 6.5/9) - Pairings

IM Zurab Javakhadze (Republic of Georgia, FIDE 2470, USCF 2550) is a member of the strong UT Dallas Chess team and the owner of 4 GM norms – once he crosses 2500 FIDE, he will become a Grandmaster.  He is a strong IM who has travelled much of the American tournament circuit – he dealt GM Alex Shabalov his sole loss in the 2016 US Open, in which Shabalov scored 8/9 and qualified for the 2017 US Championship.  While Javakhadze has dominated many tournaments in Texas, this will be his first tournament in North Carolina.

IM Roberto Martin del Campo (Mexico, FIDE 2392, USCF 2451) is a IM who is ranked as the sixth highest rated player in Mexico.  Del Campo scored the necessary last round win against FM Alex Velikanov in the 2016 CCCSA IM Norm Invitational to tie for first with the latter with 6.5/9.  He played fighting chess in the 2016 event, notching 1 draw and 8 decisive results.  He returns to the IM norm group with a strong FIDE rating of 2392.  He is a strong blitz player, sporting a FIDE blitz rating over 2400.  Here is Roberto's interview from the 2016 event.

IM Roberto Martin del Campo

IM David Vigorito (Massachusetts USA, FIDE 2370, USCF 2458) is an American IM, opening theoretician, and chess author.  He has written detailed opening works on sharp lines such as the Semi-Slav, Slav, Marshall Attack, Nimzo-Indian, Dragon, and Grunfeld.  He has maintained his solid status as a strong IM, with great results in many open tournaments on the East Coast – his wins over American legends such as Browne, de Firmian, Fishbein, Ivanov, Lenderman, Kudrin, and Perelshteyn confirm the quality of Vigorito’s career.  Here is his interview from the 2016 event.

IM David Vigorito from the 2016 Invitational

John Ludwig (Florida USA, FIDE 2397, USCF 2491) is a teenager from Florida who although is technically untitled, is on the verge of crossing 2400 FIDE and 2500 USCF.  He is the #3 player in the country for age 16, while his FIDE rating puts him at #80 for junior U18 in the world.  Ludwig has had great results in tournaments in his native Florida, where he is the sixth highest rated player.  He has defeated GMs Becerra, Mitkov, and Sevillano.  Ludwig will be searching for his first IM norm at this event.

FM David Brodsky (New York USA, FIDE 2330, USCF 2450) is the third highest rated 14 year old in the country.  He tied for first at the 2016 Washington Chess Congress, earning $1800 and a GM norm, despite a FIDE rating of 2277 at the time.  His first IM norm came earlier in 2016, at the New York International.  A talented junior, Brodsky will be searching to achieve his final IM norm in Charlotte.

FM Michael Kleinman (Toronto CAN, FIDE 2289, USCF 2356) is a student at McGill University in Canada.  Kleinman plays for the Montreal Chessbrahs in the PRO Chess League, and is ranked in the top 40 players in Canada.  His last event in the United States was also in North Carolina, namely the 2014 US Masters Championship in Greensboro.  Kleinman has an IM norm from the 2013 Chicago Open, and will be playing for his second IM norm in Charlotte.

Richard Francisco (Atlanta GA, FIDE 2253, USCF 2401) has been one of the strongest players in Atlanta for many years.  He is a very strong player in team competitions – his various accolades and performance for the Atlanta Kings in the US Chess League and PRO Chess League far exceeded expectations when considering his rating.  His PRO Chess League results since January 2017 include wins over GMs Erenburg, Agrest, and Hess.  His best over-the-board scalps include Shabalov, Becerra, Cordova, Krush, Ruifeng Li, and Paragua.  Francisco is also one of the world’s best bughouse players.  He will be playing for his first IM norm.

Senior Master Richard Francisco

WIM Ewa Harazinska (Poland, FIDE 2257, USCF 2289) is a member of the UMBC Chess team.  She represented Poland at the 2014 World U16 Chess Olympiad, scoring a silver medal on her board.  A player with a lot of international experience, Harazinska earned her WIM norms in three different nations (France, Greece, and Poland).  She can earn a WGM (6/9) and/or an IM norm (6.5/9) here in Charlotte.

Tianqi “Steve” Wang (Charlotte NC, FIDE 2215, USCF 2325) is one of our local invitees.  He is currently at both his peak FIDE and USCF ratings.  He is a solid master who ranks fifth in North Carolina, and has scored draws against Moradiabadi, Ivanov, Bartholomew, and Schroer.  In addition to his strong online play (2500+ blitz and bullet ratings on, Wang has a strong local presence, having finished in clear or equal first at the 2015 and 2016 NC Championships, 2013 and 2015 NC Opens, 2015 NC K-12 Championship, and he has represented North Carolina in the Denker Tournament of High School Champions.  He will hope to earn his first IM norm.

IM John Bartholomew analyzing with NM Steve Wang

Kapish Potula (Atlanta GA, FIDE 2075, USCF 2125) is a 14 year old from Atlanta who has played in Charlotte many times.  He is coming off a nice result at the Southwest Class in February, where he drew GM Matamoros, IM Aponte, FM Feinstein, etc on his way to a 60 point FIDE gain.  He is looking to gain much experience and is in the unique position of only needing 6/9 for his first IM norm, while his competitors will need 6.5 points.

C Group (IM Norm = 6.5/9) - Pairings

IM Titas Stremavicius (Lithuania, FIDE 2453, USCF 2504) is another member of the UT Dallas chess team.  An extremely active player in the Texas circuit, he has had successful results against the very strong competition there, including draws with GMs Nyzhnyk, Sevian, Popilski, Holt, Li, Berczes, and Yang.  Stremavicius will join us in Charlotte in his first American tournament outside of Texas/Louisiana.

IM Felix Ynojosa Aponte (Venezuela, FIDE 2378, USCF 2478) is part of the UT Rio Grande Valley chess team.  He once won the Venezuelan Championship four years in a row (2011-2014), and won the U8 Pan-American Championship in 2004.  He represented his native Venezuela at the Chess Olympiad twice, and finished third place in the U12 World Youth Championship.  Aponte has had very strong results in Texas, and will hope to increase his rating in our event.

IM Angelo Young (Chicago IL and Philippines, FIDE 2294, USCF 2384) has had a long career as a Filipino-American IM.  Young has had a very rich career on the tournament circuit, having scored draws against GMs in over 100 games.  Hailing from Chicago, he has also had incredible results against many legends of the American tournament circuit, including wins over Van Wely, Shabalov, Yudasin, Holt, Finegold, Stripunsky, Dzindzichashvili, Fishbein, Benjamin, Ivanov, Fedorowicz, Zapata, Browne, etc.  Young returns to Charlotte after a solid 4.5/9 at the 2016 CCCSA IM Norm Invitational.  Here is his interview from the 2016 event.

IM Angelo Young

Andrew Hong (California USA, FIDE 2378, USCF 2421) is the top 12 year old in the United States and the ninth highest FIDE-rated player in the world under 14.  He earned the Silver Medal and the FIDE Candidate Master (CM) title at the World Cadet U12 Championship in Batumi, Georgia, finishing 1 point behind Nikhil Kumar, who will be playing in our GM norm section!  Hong already has plenty of international experience, having represented USA at various World Cadets, World Youth, North American Junior, and North American Youth Championships in Georgia, Canada, Greece, and Mexico.  He is seeking his first IM norm.

FM Seth Homa (Michigan USA, FIDE 2326, USCF 2411) is the fourth highest rated player in Michigan.  His peak ratings of 2486 USCF and 2383 FIDE, combined with his two IM norms from American tournaments, show that he is a serious contender for the IM title.  He will need to improve upon his 4.5/9 at the 2016 CCCSA IM Norm Invitational to earn his final IM norm.  Here is Seth's interview from the 2016 event.

FM Seth Homa, from the 2016 Invitational

FM Edward Song (Michigan USA, FIDE 2285, USCF 2394) is the sixth highest rated 17 year old in the country.  A talented junior, Song has had solid results, earning draws against GMs Kamsky, Avrukh, Erenburg, and Holt.  Song earned the Silver medal at the 2014 North American Junior Championship, after which he earned the FM title and his first IM norm.

Sanjay Ghatti (Atlanta GA, FIDE 2276, USCF 2331) from Atlanta is a student of GM Alonso Zapata, and one of the top juniors in Atlanta.  His rating has improved by quite a bit since he became a National Master after his 5/5 victory at the 2014 Ron Simpson Memorial, which included a win over GM Maurice Ashley.  Ghatti tied for first with GM Akobian at the very strong 2014 Castle Grand Prix in Atlanta, ahead of many GMs.  He is hoping to earn his first IM norm.

FM Yuanchen Zhang (Canada, FIDE 2268, USCF 2402) from Canada has been a FIDE Master since 2013.  Zhang is a two-time Canadian U10 Champion and the 2013 North American U12 Champion.  He is currently the second highest rated player under 16 in Canada.  He is no stranger to American tournaments, as he sports a USCF rating over 2400, and has drawn many 2500-2600 GMs.  He is searching for his first IM norm.

Benjamin Moon (Atlanta GA, FIDE 2254, USCF 2328) is a several time USCF national champion.  He is a chess instructor for the Georgia Chess Institute in Atlanta, and a student at Georgia State University.  Moon’s recent results from North Carolina include an even score at the 2016 US Masters, including draws against two 2500-2600 IMs.  He is playing in his first round robin and will hope for an IM norm.

NM Ben "JustKid" Moon, many time National Scholastic Champion!

Aaron Balleisen (Durham NC, FIDE 2196, USCF 2300) is another local North Carolina player with plenty of local success.  He won the recent Ron Simpson Memorial Tournament (with 5/5), the 2016 K-12 NC Championship, the 2015 NC State Championship, and has represented North Carolina at the Denker Tournament of High School Champions.  Balleisen has a solid record against GMs, having drawn 2600+ GM Moradiabadi twice in addition to GM Tarjan.  Balleisen will attend Princeton University later this year.  This is his first invitation to an elite event, where he will hope to score his first IM norm.

The average rating across the event is 2432 USCF and 2355 FIDE.  Out of all 30 players, there are 3 GMs, 10 IMs, 1 WIM, 8 FMs, and 7 other masters.  It is not often the case that Peter, Dominique, and I bring down the average rating of people in the chess center!

12 States Represented – Maryland, New Jersey, California, Georgia, Minnesota, New York, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois.

10 Foreign Federations Represented – Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Georgia, Mexico, Poland, Lithuania, Venezuela, India, Philippines.

9 Universities Represented – universities that our players are currently enrolled at: University of Maryland Baltimore County, Brigham Young University, Georgia Tech, University of Texas at Dallas, McGill University, NC State University, University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, Georgia State University, and Princeton University.

Here is the link to tournament information.  The event takes place Wednesday, March 29 through Sunday, April 2.  Spectators are welcome throughout the event - members may visit for free, while non-members may purchase a $10 day pass.

There will be plenty of analysis, blitz, and chances to meet some famous chess masters – come by and check it out!  For those that can’t make it, we will be posting game PGNs online after games conclude, in addition to pairings and standings online on Chessstream.  We will also have player interviews, videos, games, ... it will be an awesome event!

Hope to see you at the Charlotte Chess Center, March 29 – April 2!



  1. Is there a way we can watch the games live?

    1. We do not have a way to watch Live but we will upload pgn to the Chessstream site immediately after each game.

      We will also conduct player interviews after each round which can be found on our YouTube page.