The 2009 Copper State International Presented by Abstrax – Tournament Recap

Posted: June 11th, 2009 by Daniel Rensch

View the full players list.

The 2009 Copper State International, presented by Abstrax Incorporated, was exactly what it promised to be: A chess event unlike any before it in Arizona. The field of thirty-two players consisted of six GMs, thirteen players rated over 2400 FIDE, and some of North America’s most talented juniors. Through ten rounds of play the tournament produced some breathtaking results and two GM Norms. But when reviewing the week that was, and the incredible chess that was played, everything takes a back seat to the wonderfully fun environment, tremendous support of local sponsorship, and unbelievable organization and hospitality, courtesy of American Chess Events LLC (ACE Chess) and the ‘Abstrax team’.

The inspiration to create an elite tournament that hopes to someday establish itself as one of the most prestigious chess events in the country, came to Steven Kamp and Daniel Rensch (founders of ACE Chess) several years ago. However, the first annual (oh yes, there will be more) Copper State International would not have been possible if there wasn’t one man providing support from the beginning stages back in November of 2008. At the core of actually making the above mentioned vision a reality is John Lalonde.

Many local and national sponsors deserve considerable credit for their contributions to ACE Chess in order to make this tournament a success, but John led the way. In the name of his company, Abstrax Inc. John committed just about everything a person could in order to ensure that the tournament would go off without a hitch: From significant financial donations; to making sure the players never ran out of refreshments; to shuttling players back and forth from their games, to tennis, to the hotel, and back to the tournament hall; to lining up the chairs in a ‘color coordinated’ manner so that our OCD chess brains wouldn’t explode!

As he would tell you, or not tell you, he didn’t do it for credit. Chess is a game that unites generations, genders, cultures, and lifestyles under one common ideal: to think before we act. In our own personal lives, and certainly as a nation, we have all learned the hard way about the cosmic law of ’cause and effect’. John is a chess parent, and like many chess parents he has seen the effect that ‘the Game of Kings’ has had on his children and their peers. So, when we discussed the possibility of organizing a tournament of this caliber, what it could mean for the future of chess if we did it the right way, and what it would do for the local chess community, John jumped at the opportunity and never looked back.

So what happened when we came together and didn’t look back? Well, we raised $10,000.00 without non-profit status in 6 months, hosted the strongest tournament in Arizona chess history (and, when all is said and done, maybe one of the strongest tournaments in the country in 2009), raised the bar as to what should and will be expected from tournament organizers (just ask the players), and united the chess community from all around the country and of all different levels of experience. So what were the tournament conditions like?

‘Hands down the best chess tournament I have ever been to’, said the well traveled chess player, FM Carl Boor.
‘What the U.S. Championship used to be like’, said Grand Master Alex Yermolinsky.

The players began arriving as early as Wednesday night (May 27th). Your host, a.k.a. ‘tournament butler and answer-all-questions-even-at-midnight man’ traveled back and forth from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and the hotel roughly 20 times before the first move was made on Friday morning (May 29th). As the players began their race to the finish, some seeking Norms and others seeking perfection, it was clear that this would be a hard fought tournament. Leading the way from pretty much start to finish was GM Timur Gareev. He finished with an eight out of ten score, and suffered no losses. In fact, as hard as it was to award the first place winner every prize we had, in the end integrity won over, and our committee awarded GM Gareev both the Brilliancy Prize (for his round five combination against GM Giori Kacheishvili) and the Best Game Prize (for his rook sacrifice and brilliant technique in the final round game against Norm seeking IM Daniel Fernandez).

Timur did trail for short period to start the event though, and among the leaders through the front five rounds were IM Alex Lenderman and IM (or should I say GM-Elect) Rogelio Barcenilla. Both players started fast and furious, and with a little luck along the way (remember the time control next time, Zviad!), they both earned GM Norms. For young Lenderman, it was his first, and for Arizona native Barcenilla, it was his last! Unfortunately for Alex, or perhaps for all of us, was the fact that he was so excited about his great start that he made the bold promise to perform his legendary ‘Lenderman Boogie’ if he did indeed earn his Norm. Well earn his Norm he did, and after the closing ceremony speech of thanks from yours truly, and a message about integrity ‘and holding true to your word’ from John Lalonde, Alex made good on his promise…

The final standings saw GM Timur Gareev in first, GM Kacheishvili and IM Lenderman tie for second and third with seven and a half points each, IM-Elect Marc Esserman take first place U2500 FIDE with six points, IM Mark Ginsburg, IM Daniel Fernandez, and somehow, your intrepid reporter tie for first place U2400 FIDE with five and half points each, and young Arizona star Daivd Adelberg take clear first U2300 FIDE with five and a half points.

Half the players made their way to the airport and onto Vegas, but for your host, the night had only just begun. To protect the innocent for now (although who am I kidding, the chess world is small and you could probably find out if you wanted to) I will not use names. Let me ‘Tarantino’ this for you and put it this way: Before going to bed at 1am that night, I would spend two hours scrubbing puke with my bare hands off of my bathroom walls and floor. I spent the hour previous in the backseat of my car with my helper scrubbing up the ‘incident’. I must say though, GM Yermolinsky (don’t try and solve the mystery, he wasn’t the culprit, he was my helper) was as smooth as the other side of the pillow. He calmly said (literally straight from the mouth of Harvey Keitel’s ‘Cleaner’ character in Pulp Fiction) ‘we need some sort of cleaning supplies, towels, gloves, fresh air spray, and everyone needs to remain calm.’

In his deep Russian voice, Yermo imparts words of wisdom based on this past experiences, ‘Remember Danny, the final round may have been played, but the ‘tournament’ is not over until the last of us gets on the plane, and gets the heck out of here”Although I never thought I would be scrubbing up an ‘incident’ in the back seat of my Honda Civic with a world class Grand Master, the tournament was finally over, and it had certainly been a success. Hopefully, all those who experienced the event left Phoenix feeling a little bit better about our future as chess Pros, Bros, and average Joes.. Signing off from the first year of what is sure to become ‘the chess happening of the year’, I can honestly say that no one has ever experienced a tournament like this one.

Certainly worthy of note was the Copper State International: 2010 Qualifier. Here we saw many of Arizona’s most talented youngsters battle it out to earn a guaranteed spot into next year’s ‘big show’. The list of participants included Leonardo Martinez, Ben Marmont, John Williams, Joshua Zhu, Dipro Chakraborty, Randel Eng, Jon Dussik, and Karl Harmon-Velloti. Jumping out to a great start was Leo Martinez (the strongest player in the field), and he never looked back. By taking a half point bye in the last round, Leo almost risked a tie but it wasn’t meant to be. Congrats to him, and good luck next year!

The 2010 Copper State International will be held from June 4th-10th in Mesa, Arizona. Expect the best to get better next year’ For more information, feel free to contact ACE Chess President, Daniel Rensch at