PATRICK BALLARD WINS FIRST STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!
Dex Webster takes Blitz Championship, while Florida Master A.J. Goldsby takes Clear First in Tournament
In the largest adult tournament in Louisiana outside of New Orleans in many years, sixty-three players converged on the Baton Rouge Marriott over Labor Day weekend to compete in the 2014 Louisiana State Championship. After three grueling days and seven tough rounds of chess, Patrick Ballard displayed nerves of steel in a massive time scramble in Round 7 against two-time former champion Adam Caveney to bring home his first state title. Ballard started with two wins, struggled through the second day with three draws, then finished strong with two wins to end up with 5.5/7, which was just enough to win the state championship on tie-breaks over Connor Lunney.
With defending champion James Rousselle not playing due to illness and the top two seeds being Texas master Jeffrey de Jesus and Florida master A.J. Goldsby, the race for the title was wide open from the beginning. When Caveney, the top seeded Louisiana player, continued his poor form against youngsters and fell to Eli Karp in round 2, there was no clear favorite.
After round 2, the Blitz Championship was contested on Saturday night. Not unsurprisingly, de Jesus, a strong master who plays very quickly, dominated. He went 11.5/12 in the first six double rounds, clinching first, and took a zero point bye in the last round. Dex Webster came back from a few stumbles in the middle rounds to take two games from Atul Kannan in the last round to finish second and take his first Louisiana Blitz Championship. Ballard, the defending blitz champion, did not have a great tournament, and finished in the middle of the pack.
Dex Webster continued his momentum from the blitz tournament on Sunday, beating Karp and 2005 Louisiana Champion Eryk Hargrove before drawing de Jesus in round 5. That left Webster in a commanding position at 4.5/5 at the end of Sunday. Meanwhile, Caveney rebounded from a rough first day to win three games and move to 4/5.
On the final day, Webster’s tough pairings finally took their toll when he fell to Goldsby on board one. That loss brought lots of players back into contention going into the last round. Goldsby led with 5.5, de Jesus and Caveney were at 5, and Ballard, Webster, Lunney, and Joshua Larcena at 4.5. With Goldsby and de Jesus playing on board one in the last round for the tournament but not the title, boards 2-4 were left to decide the title, with Ballard playing Caveney, Lunney playing Webster, and Larcena playing Kannan. Kannan beat Larcena relatively quickly, eliminating Larcena from contention, and Lunney played well in a tricky variation of the French Winawer to defeat Webster. Because Webster’s tie-breakers were the strongest and Lunney’s the weakest due to a first-round loss, that result left the title fight to the board two battle between Ballard and Caveney.
The game did not disappoint. Playing an obscure line of the McCutcheon French, Caveney took the initiative on the queenside while Ballard countered on the kingside. An intense struggle ensured when Ballard broke through on the kingside and sacrificed two pieces for a rook. The struggle took its toll on the clocks of both players and a wild time scramble broke out in a position far too complicated for a time scramble. Just when Ballard should have won back a piece to take an advantage, he waited one move too long, allowing Caveney to wriggle out of the trouble and take the advantage by breaking into the queenside. Then it was Caveney’s turn for a time trouble blunder and he did not disappoint, pulling out a big whopper that dropped not one but two pieces, leaving Ballard up a full rook. The fireworks were not over yet, however, as Ballard misplayed the defense of Caveney’s queenside pawnstorm, forcing Ballard to give back the rook taking a pawn that Caveney queened. After all the fun, Ballard ended up a pawn up in a rook and pawn endgame. While normally these positions are tough, Caveney’s king was stuck on the h-file, and Ballard had a relatively straightforward win, which he duly converted. After Ballard had queened his extra pawn, Caveney over-stepped the time limit in a hopeless position. It was a great performance by Ballard in a tough position.
Congratulations to new state champion Ballard, blitz champion Webster, Goldsby, and Lunney! All played well and deserved their titles, tournament victory, and loss on tie-breaks, respectively. Full details of the tournament, with some games, will be included in the next bulletin.