Jacksonville lies at the northern tip of the state of Florida in the eastern corner. It is two hours from the capitol city of Tallahassee, but eight hours from Miami. So when the Florida State Championship was hosted, many players chose not to make the long trek northward. Despite there not being the usual Miami-based Grandmasters, the field had a number of strong players led by Colombian International Master Nelson Gamboa who incidentally, did not finish the schedule. Also in the field were two more Cuban nationals, FM Jorge Oquendo and FM Cesar Valido adding to a field of strong Floridan expats.
FM Ian Findlay hails from Alberta, Canada, but spends time in Florida. Findlay was a star of the 1980s University of Toronto teams that won three Pan-Am titles in 1979, 1980 and 1981. FM Corey Acor of Tampa rounded out the field of titled players. Ironically, there were three professors Dr. Jeremy Mandelkern (2190), Dr. Jindrich Zapletal (2285) and myself (2041) and the rest were school-aged boys. In fact 6th-grader Raghav Venkat (2154) scored three points drawing Findlay and Acor and beating Mandelkern.
In the end it was Oquendo who clinched the title with a thrilling last round win over Mandelkern. FM Cory Acor eclipsed 2400 for the first time after drawing with upstart Raghav Venkat and finishing with 4.5 points. Valido also finished with 4.5 after an interesting win over Findlay.
FM Cesar Valido trying to break through against Canadian FM Ian Findlay.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz
Theo Slade’s battle against the Benko Gambit ended in draw with Daaim Shabazz after white missed a couple of chances. The game ended in a dispute of a claimed three-fold repetition, but after a conference, the game was declared drawn. Photo by Kevin Pryor.
2017 Florida State Championship
(under-2000) Andy Wang, 5.5/6
(under-1800) Harry Bollinger, 5/6
(under-1600) David Sheppard and Amy Xing, 5/6
(under-1400) James Zhang, 5/6
(under-1200) Spencer Lewis, 5/6
The 130 players came from all parts of Florida for the state championship. This was just off from the 140 the previous years and over 200 in the best years. The one-day scholastic tournament drew 31 school kids.
Florida Chess Association Board of Directors meeting… (L-R) Daaim Shabazz, Steve Abrahams, Bryan Tillis, Michael Hoffer (via Skype), Miguel Ararat (via Skype), William Bowman, Jon Haskel, Steve Lampkin. Photo by Kevin Pryor