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2024 Charlotte Spring Open and Norm Tournaments: Full Recap!

The Charlotte Chess Center's Spring Open tournament took place at the Southpark Hilton Garden Inn from March 29 to 31, 2024. Including the blitz tournament, the Spring Open hosted a total of 140 players who hailed from (by this author's count!) fifteen states as well as the District of Columbia.


Alongside the tournament, CCC hosted a nine-round GM/IM Norm Invitational event, with three sections full of titled players. This report will summarize all the action that took place this weekend and showcase a couple of the most important games from the event.


Charlotte Spring Open: Main Event


The Spring Open tournament featured three sections: Top, U2000, and U1600. Across five rounds of G/110+10 rated chess, participants fought over a guaranteed $5,000 prize fund.


The big winner in the Top section was FM Vishnu Vanapalli, scoring 4.5/5 and pushing his USCF rating back over 2400. Vanapalli pulled off a classic "Swiss Gambit" in this event; his draw was in the first round against Benjamin Snodgrass.


One of the stories of the event early on was the success of Andrew Wu, whose recent progress has pushed him very close to the NM title. Wu was tied for first in the tournament after three rounds, due in large part to a massive upset victory with the black pieces against GM Alonso Zapata. In a very sharp Sicilian Dragon, black achieved the famous Rxc3 exchange sacrifice, after which white's king never felt safe:



This win propelled Wu into a tie for first with FIDE CM (and USCF NM) Alexandre Houhou entering Sunday morning. When the two players matched up in round four, it was Houhou who came away with the victory in another opposite-side-castling middlegame.



Meanwhile, FM Vanapalli was doing his best to climb back into the running, scoring victories over Marcus Zheng and NM Anthony Parker. In the fourth round, he was paired against FM James Canty, a well-known streamer and chess coach who flew down from Michigan to participate!


Canty played the Guimard variation of the Tarrasch French, but he quickly found himself in trouble as white sacrificed tons of material to hunt the opponent's king:



The last round matchup between Houhou and Vanapalli decided the outcome of the tournament. In a Cozio Spanish, black won a pawn but white seemed to have plenty of compensation for a while. Ultimately, the sequence with 31...Rd1+ 32. Kh2 Qd4 sealed the win for black, as white had to worry about threats around a suddenly weak king.



With the win, FM Vishnu Vanapalli took clear first place in the Top section with 4.5/5, winning the $1,000 first prize. Houhou won $366.67 for his efforts, alongside NMs Emmanuel Carter and Naveen Prabhu who each scored 4/5. Other strong performers who finished just outside the money included Hugo Nam (gaining 26 points to reach 2100 USCF!), Aaron Wang (1925 -> 1956), and Benjamin Tyrrell (1974 -> 1997).


In the U2000 section, Beiyang Ni took the $600 first prize with a score of 4.5/5. Ni did not enter the section as a rating favorite, actually facing a higher-rated opponent in all five rounds!


The only player to hold Ni to a draw, Dereck Laureano, was part of a group tying for second place alongside Nikita Panasenko, Tanay Sanghani, and Arjun Garg, winning $150 each. Freya Austin also scored 4/5 and received $250 for finishing with the top score among players under 1750.


Saharsh Koka and Ata Erdogan tied for first in the U1600 section, splitting their game in round five and defeating all other players they faced:



Each player received $500 for shared first, while Nikolas Lewis, Ray Bayne, and Jared Crawford netted $66.67 each for 4/5. Jonathan Gao took home $250 for winning the top U1600 prize within the section.


Full standings with prize information can be viewed at this link.


GM/IM Norm Invitational


Our GM/IM Norm Invitational tournament ran alongside the Spring Open, starting on Wednesday the 27th. We had three groups, with one GM norm and two IM norm sections. Six GMs participated: Emilio Cordova, Cemil Can Ali Marandi, and Cristhian Cruz Sanchez in the GM norm section, and Julio Rivero, Darcy Lima, and Dimitri Komarov in the IM norm sections.


The top finisher in the GM norm group was GM Cristhian Cruz Sanchez with 6.5/9, while IMs Levan Bregadze and Joshua Posthuma finished atop the two IM norm groups, scoring 7.5/9 and 7/9 respectively.


FM Liam Putnam scored 5.5/9 in the GM group, achieving an IM norm and inching his FIDE rating closer to 2400. Here is his win against FM Seth Homa (FIDE ratings listed for each player):



Blitz Tournament


On Saturday night, players competed in a USCF-rated blitz tournament with a time control of 3+2. Grandmasters Daniel Naroditsky and Olexandr Bortnyk split the first prize, each scoring 5.5/6. The two GMs made a draw against each other and defeated all their other opponents, which also happened at the most recent CCC Rapid & Blitz tournament!


For their split first place, the two GMs each took home $200, while IM Joshua Posthuma, NM Naveen Prabhu, WGM Dina Belenkaya, and FM James Canty each won $37.50 for scoring 5/6.


The top U2250 prize was split between five players: WFM Mairebis Castillo Coca, Patrick McCartney, Vihaan Pendse, Dereck Laureano, and Christopher Williams, all finishing with 4/6 and winning $20 each.


Celine Atassi and Daniel Gentry split the top U1750 prize ($20 each) while the U1500 prize was split between Ricky Sabhikhi and Dhruv Patil who also each netted $20.



For upcoming tournaments, bookmark our Events Schedule. The CCC hosts nearly 8 events a week at our facilities in North and South Charlotte, along with bi-monthly major events such as the upcoming ALTO tournament.


Not a member of the CCC? Join over 800 members today!


NM Dennis Norman

Chess Coach - Club Journalist

Charlotte Chess Center

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