November 12-14th, 2010
3-way tie for the State Championship title.

This year Arizona Chess Federation experimented with with yet another system to determine the State Champion. Last year it was a Swiss system tournament with 5 rounds, while the previous couple of years the Champion was determined in the biggest tournament of the year- Tucson Open. I actually favor the new system, where 6 best players (the number next year may increase if needed) were determined either by winning certain passed events (State Champion, Tucson Open, Old Pueblo Open winners) plus 3 highest by rating. As a result, the field was pretty strong- with 3 IMs and 3 Masters. The final line up by rating was: IM Levon Altounian, IM Mark Ginsburg, IM Dionisio Aldama, David Adelberg, Nick Thompson and Jason Mueller.
The only real reason for me to play here was to be able to add the “2011 State Champion” title to my achievements, as this year there is no chance given to qualify to the US championship by winning State Championships. Very sad new rule in my opinion that denies many strong players an ability to earn a spot in the extremely strong 2011 US Championship. If I win this- it will be the 4th consecutive title for me.
In Round one I was facing Jason Mueller. Apparently he made a secret pact to attack everyone in this tournament, scare everyone and then see how many points he can collect. That strategy worked overall pretty well, I might say. In a Kings Indian he started pushing pawns against my King and a tactical battle issued. At the end, the weaknesses he created along the way, proved to be too decisive.
Round 2 was against Nick Thompson (4th Board for Arizona Scorpions). Nick has it all figured out and memorized so finding an opening weakness in his style is both easy (he always repeats) and hard (he knows his lines well). I played a line that I prepared for the 2010 US Championship but didn’t dare to dwell into, when in the match against GM Akobian (2700 USCF) just 2 weeks prior, I had the chance. It worked pretty well and after some small mutual mistakes I won.
Round 3 was a quick and bloodless draw against IM Mark Ginsburg. It is always hard beating Mark in tournaments because not only he is very experienced but loves theoretical chess and knows lines that can only be found if you search obscure websites or dusty 1950’s books. That draw almost proved to be my downfall in this tournament.
Round 4 was another quick but extremely complicated battle with ever-dangerous Aldama. What was almost comical is that I was very well prepared in the variation that we played, having worked it out with the computer, but have a general distaste for those type of positions. Aldama, on the other hand, had no clue about any of the lines, had to find everything on his own but he does like those positions and does very well with them. That was the main cause of my uneasiness when I was thinking of playing that line.
Round 5 was a game against rapidly improving David Adelberg. Having White, I was confident I can steer the game towards more positional and more my type game. After his inaccuracy on move 3, it looked like I got what I needed. 15 moves later, however, I realized the advantage I got was too small, got into time pressure and repeated the moves.
The final result of 2 wins and 3 draws was not a good one.
What saved me was that the leader- Mark Ginsburg lost a very tough and very drawish endgame against Aldama. I have to mention also the risk taking Adelberg had a fabulous tournament, beating Aldama, Mueller, Thompson and losing only to Ginsburg, and only after declining a draw.
So at the end the 1st place was shared between Ginsburg (plaque), Altounian and Adelberg. Congratulations!
I want to thank all players, Organizers, SACA for this wonderful event.

DOC format download: ARIZONA STATE CHAMPIONSHIP 2011.doc

International Master Levon Altounian


2008-2011 Arizona State Champion