2018 Florida State Championship (Jacksonville, FL)

FM Jorge Oquendo

FM Jorge Oquendo came into the 2018 Florida State Championship as the defending champion. The Cuban national lives in the Jacksonville and enjoyed “home-court advantage.” It would come into play in a field headed by GM Benjamin Finegold who drive in from Atlanta, Georgia. There were 131 players who trekked to North Florida for the tournament and the Marriott was the venue for the second year in a row.

Oquendo won his first two games against Experts Alex Sinnott and Ravindra Wijesundera before facing Arslan Otchiyev, who traveled all the way from West Haven, Connecticut. In fact Otchiyev is a professional mixed martial arts fighter from Turkmenistan. Here he is in action.

Video by WarriorNationXFA

Otchiyev would win that fight but lost his battle with Oquendo in the third round. It would be his only loss, but he could not rebound fast enough to catch Oquendo. In the 4th round, Finegold and Oquendo drew quickly to leave the Cuban in the lead going into the last day. Meanwhile, Finegold was held by Tampa native FM Corey Acor and couldn’t seem to gain momentum. He ended with four consecutive draws.

Perhaps a great story brewing was the performance of 14-year-old Benjamin Chen who was undefeated after four rounds. After drawing with Bryan Tillis, he scored wins over Daaim Shabazz and Timur Annayev. He then drew with Troy Daly to sit 1/2-point behind the leader. His pending match with Oquendo would be a big challenge.

Tournament Organizer Kevin Pryor makes announcements to start the last day. Tournament Director Steve Lampkin is on the left.

There was some tension in the air as Jorge Oquendo was not at his board at the start of the 5th round. Ben Chen waited patiently while Ben Finegold faced MMA fighter Arslan Otchiyev.

Still waiting.

The game is on! A crowd gathers around the top board.

Oquendo finally showed up, and the game quickly drew a crowd. Ben, who is in the top 100 in his age category, fought valiantly but lost a long struggle in a rook ending. The Finegold-Otchiyev battle was drawn while Acor beat 10-year old Bach Ngo (2012). Acor would get a shot at Oquendo to earn a share of 1st place.

Acor took down the promising Bach Ngo

Raghav Venkat

In the final round it would be Oquendo (4.5) to face Acor (3.5) with Otchiyev (3.5) being paired with Kai Tabor (3.0). In fact, there were several players sitting on three points. Pre-tournament favorite Finegold (3.0) was in an improbable position of not competing for a tournament win and was paired with upstart Bach Ngo (3.0).

Ngo, a promising scholastic player, was having a good tournament despite losing the previous round to Acor. Bryan Tillis had already ended on 4.5/6 with byes in the last two rounds. However, he could theoretically tie for 1st if Acor toppled the defending champion.

In the end it was Oquendo ending with 5.5 points with a win over Acor and Oticheya winning against Tabor. Ngo ended a strong tournament by drawing Finegold and ending on +1 score and earning 63 rating points. Oquendo successfully defends his title, but will have his hands full in a much stronger field when the tournament moves to south Florida.

2018 Florida State Championship
Jacksonville, Florida

Final Results (six rounds)

Open: FM Jorge Oquendo, 5.5; Arslan Otchiyev, 4.5; Bryan Tillis, 4.5
U/2000 Winner: Marvin Gao, 5.5
U/1800 Winner: Cannon Farragut, 5.0
U/1600 Winner: James Zhang, 4.5
U/1400 Winner: Nicholas Di Mille, 5.5
U/1200 Winner: Carson Koppe, 5.5
Mixed Doubles: Sisira Yerrayennu and Advait Nair

Quick Championship: FM Corey Acor
Blitz Championship: NM Bryan Tillis

Crosstable: https://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201809036182.0-15916510

There were many interesting “faces in the crowd” at the state championship. Florida has made progress in producing a number of talented scholastic players. Several played in the Open section while others performed well in other sections.

Selected Photos from 2018 Florida State Championship

Intensely waiting!

Mach Deng playing bravely with …g5.

Raghav Venkat vs. Dylan Sunjic

Zoe Zelner

Vincent Stone trotting out his pet Dragon

Interesting position?

Youth vs. Veterans

Hakim Aquil of Academy Prep (Tampa)

William Bowman, outgoing President of Florida Chess Association,
taking on Grayson Cooke

Michael Young giving a pep talk his team captain Qinniun Varmah,
Academy Prep Chess Team

Academy Prep Center of Tampa

Left to Right (front row): Ralph Augustine, Edwin Mendoza (back row) Dameer Gay, Tracy Calloway, Bryan Romero, Coach Michael Young, Hakim Aquil, Qinnion Varmah, and Javaris Williams

Florida Chess Association

On Sunday morning, the Florida Chess Association Board of Directors met and handled the chess business of state. The new membership management system called WildApricot has been adopted to make the process of Florida players interacting with the FCA more efficient. The implementation of the system has helped produce an increase in membership and a more accurate reporting mechanism. The FCA is in a very stable financial state.

The Board has vowed to support scholastic and collegiate chess in Florida and also continue to lend sponsorship to the Pro Chess League Florida team. There was one bid for the 2019 Florida State Championship submitted by Bryan Tillis representing Palm Beach Chess and Boca Chess. The venue will be for the Palm Beach Gardens. The election certified the new Board of Directors for 2018-2019.

2018-2019 Board of Directors

President: Kevin Pryor
Vice President: Steve Lampkin
Secretary: Bryan Tillis
Treasurer: Scott Cavan
Northeast VP: OPEN
Northwest VP: Daaim Shabazz
Southern VP: Jon Haskel
Central VP: Paul Leggett
Western VP: Sam Sokavari
At Large: Harvey Lerman
At Large: William Bowman
At Large: Steve Cernobyl
At Large: Miguel Arrarat

L-R (clockwise): Daaim Shabazz (NW Vice President), Kevin Pryor (President), William Bowman (Past President/At-Large), Bryan Tillis (Secretary), Steve Lampkin (NE Vice President), Scott Cavan (Treasurer), Miguel Arrarat (At-Large)

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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