Nikolay Noritsyn Wins in Strong Crown Section at 2023 Reading Week Open

From February 18th to 20th, 2023, a record-breaking 226 players spent their Family Day weekend at the Hart House Reading Week Open. The tournament was the first since the COVID-19 pandemic postponed events in 2021 and 2022 and this featured a very strong Crown section highlighted by Grandmaster Razvan Preotu and multi-time winner International Master Nikolay Noritsyn. The tournament was sold-out early, with 226 players reached 1 week prior to the registration deadline, perhaps an indication of the growth of chess during the pandemic. The tournament also boasted the largest student showing in recent memory, alongside another ~25+ unrated players playing in their first tournament.

Similar to the 2022 Holidays Open, the tournament used an online registration system that allowed for payments to be made prior to Round 1 and which enabled an on-time start. Registrations were accepted via in-person, telephone, online, and cheque methods, making the tournament registration system the most efficient than ever before. The tournament boasted a prize fund of $9,250 and games were solely played in the Great Hall of the “castle”, Hart House, at the University of Toronto.

Like pre-pandemic, the tournament was divided into 6 sections based on ratings, however with a few added exceptions from pre-pandemic years. Firstly, Crown would require either 2200 CFC or a 2000 FIDE to compete and U1600 would be rated FIDE alongside the other top sections. In addition, the Club’s Executive learned how to operate DGT boards and thus operated them for the duration of the tournament to allow anyone in the world to view games live as they were played. Finally, student photographers were invited for all rounds to help document the interesting, serious, and funny moments of the tournament.

Board 1, Round 6 between IM Noritsyn and GM Preotu (Photo: Alayna Jang)

In the Crown Section (25 players), thanks to the increased restrictions to the Crown section, a large number of strong Masters competed in the event. 1 Grandmaster, 6 International Masters, 1 Woman International Master, 4 FIDE Masters, and 4 Candidate Masters entered the field of 25. Other than Noritsyn, the other IMs were alumnus IM Mark Plotkin and IM David Cummings, current U of T student IM Nicholas Vettese, Ukrainian IM Alexander Reprintsev, and Canadian IM Eric Lawson. Former U of T Varsity Team player FM Mike Ivanov and current U of T student WIM Yunshan Li rounded out the top-9 seeds. Interestingly, UWaterloo’s Club president FM Richard Chen and UWaterloo student CM William Li also competed in the Crown section. CM Max Chen, the winner of the recent 2022 Holidays Open, was seeded 15th and went up against IM Eric Lawson in Round 1.

FM Dukic placed 2nd with 5/6 (Photo: Alayna Jang)
IM Noritsyn placed 1st with 5.5/6 (Photo: Alayna Jang)
WIM Li placed tied 3rd with 4/6 (Photo: Alayna Jang)

The rounds featured lots of very competitive chess and resulted in many very close matches alongside some surprising upsets. GM Preotu, after defeating FM Dukic in round 1, faced Kyle Morrison, who pulled off the big upset. IM Noritsyn played numerous rounds of exceptional chess, beating CM Rusonik, CM Jaferian, WIM Li, and the GM slayer Morrison to enter round 6 with 4.5/5 and in clear 1st. WIM Li, apart from the loss to IM Noritsyn, performed remarkably to enter Round 6 in clear second with 4/5 after important wins over Sergey Noritsyn (IM Noritsyn’s younger brother and U of T student), and IM Plotkin.

FM Chen placed tied 3rd with 4/6 (Photo: Alayna Jang)
GM Preotu with 3.5/6 (Photo: Alayna Jang)
IM Plotkin placed 3rd with 4/6 (Photo: Alayna Jang)

GM Preotu did, however, recover from his loss, to enter Round 6 in a massive tie for 3rd and which set himself up for a 1-vs-2 clash in Round 6 featuring GM Preotu vs IM Noritsyn. IM Noritsyn, with white, played absolutely brilliant chess yet again and came out on top with the win and the $1500 first place prize. His 5.5/6 result earned him a performance rating of 2687 – GM level stuff! With WIM Li’s loss to FM Dukic, Dukic came out clear 2nd with 4.5/5. A 5 way tie for 3rd was split between IM Plotkin, IM Cummings, WIM Li, FM Chen, and CM Jaferian.

CM Jaferian placed tied 3rd with 4/6 (Photo: Victoria Lee)
IM Cummings placed tied-3rd with 4/6 (Photo: Victoria Lee)
IM Plotkin vs Sergey Noritsyn and FM Chen vs IM Lawson. Rd 6 (Photo: Alayna Jang)

The Under 2200 Section (38 players) was also stronger than usual thanks to the play-up rules, resulting in a large number of 2100s competing for the $700 first place prize. Matthew Shih and Eddie Xu came out on top after Shih pulled off a gutsy win over fellow U of T Varsity Team player Wenzhi Dai in Round 6 on board 1 while Xu pulled off the victory over alumnus Leon Perelman. U of T students and alumni were notable in the section, with Shih, Dai, Perelman, Cindy Qiao, and Ethan Moon in the top-8 all having some affiliation as a student.

Round 6 U2200 board 1 and 2, Shih vs Dai and Perelman vs Xu (Photo: Alayna Jang)
Round 6 U1900 board 1, Wang vs Melnychuk

In the Under 1900 Section Hart House Chess Club members Denys Melnychuk and Yixiao (Isabelle) Wang had undefeated starts before their matchup in Round 6. Isabelle sat at 5/5 and undefeated in all her rated CFC-games going into her match against Denys (4.5/5), where she would suffer her first ever CFC-rated defeat. Notably, the only unrated player in the section, U of T student Chol Elijah Akol started out strong, however, tapered off at the end. Another notable result was that Halldor P. Palsson and Omar Shar, notable chess organizers, competed and placed top-7. Denys Melnychuk (5.5/6) would finish 1st, Isabelle Wang, Halldor Palsson, and Saarthak Malakar tied for 2nd-4th with 5/6.

In the Under 1600 Section (38 players), Anthony Pham finished 5.5/6 for clear first, followed closely by a 3-way tie for 2nd-4th between Michael Ashcroft, Andrew Leliveld, and U of T student Payam Fakoorziba at 4.5/6. U of T student Daniel Wang and HHCC member Anna Gavrileva tied for 5th at 4/6.

Round 6 U1600 Board 1, Anthony Pham vs Kailey Liu
Good game! (Photo: Alayna Jang)

In the Under 1300 Section (50 players), Jerry Gerberstarted off 5/5 before losing to overall winner Oscar Liu (5.5/6) in the final round. Gerber tied for 2nd with Andrew Sithu and Isabelle Guan. A large number of women and 12 unrated players played in this section.

Finally, in the Under 1000 Section (27 players), another large showing of 12 unrated players made up almost 50% of the field! Perhaps this was a result of increased chess attention thanks to recent successes of chess online and in the media. Gabriel Saimovici was the overall winner with 5/6, Evan Xi and Dennis Shen split 2nd-3rd at 4.5/6.

Round 6 U1000 board 1 between Ethan Jia and Gabriel Saimovici (Photo: Alayna Jang)
Round 6 U1300 top boards with Jerry Gerber, Zeyu Liu (Photo: Alayna Jang)

This year, the Team Prize was contested again, consisting of 4 players representing at least 3 different sections. The total score of each player was added together to form the cumulative team score. 17 teams of 4 entered their names and after 5 rounds, only 2 teams remained in contention. Tied at 17 points apiece going into Round 6 were the teams consisting of WIM Yunshan Li, Wenzhi Dai, Cindy Qiao, and Yixiao (Isabelle) Wang alongside the eventually winning team consisting of IM Nikolay Noritsyn, Leon Perelman, Matthew Shih, and Denys Melnychuk. Perhaps the best team showing in history, Noritsyn (5.5/6 in Crown), Shih (5/6 in U2200), and Melnychuk (5.5/6 in U1900) finished in first place in their respective sections. Combined with Perelman’s 4/6 in U2200, the team won a total of 20 out of 24 possible team points!

Leon Perelman, team prize. (Photo: Alayna Jang)
Matthew Shih, U2200 1st and team prize (Photo: Alayna Jang)
Denys Melnychuk, U1900 1st and team prize (Photo: Alayna Jang)

This year, games were broadcasted live on DGT LiveChess, and games on boards 1-8 for all rounds are available here to download. Surprisingly, this is the first time that the Reading Week Open has utilized DGT live broadcasting technology.

Hart House Chess Club would like to express its thanks to certain individuals for their work in making this event possible. Time and again, Alex Ferreira, the former student, advisor, mentor, Tournament Director, and Chief Arbiter has propelled the Reading Week Open through it all since the late 2000s. His hard work, motivation, and dedication to chess are celebrated in Canadian chess. The Club would also like to congratulate Alex on his well-deserved FIDE Arbiter title which should be soon approved this year.

Alex Ferreira, Tournament Director (Photo: Michael Hsu)
Tanner McNamara, President (Photo: Bowen Zhang)

We would like to thank the work of the Hart House Chess Club’s Executive Board, led by President and Secretary Tanner McNamara. Tanner has been at U of T and has been a part of the Executive for over 5 years, and is soon to finish his PHD. His long hours volunteering and organizing this event and the Executive do not go unnoticed. We would also like to thank Crystal Cao, the Club’s Treasurer for making the finances operate as smooth as possible while still balancing schoolwork, lab work, research work, teaching assistant work, and much more. Next, a big thank you goes to Ahmed Khalf, a second-year CS student who dedicated time designing posters, helping with set-up and take-down, all of which are immeasurable. Thank you to Bowen Zhang for playing the important role of taking up scores and taking photos for select rounds. And also a thank-you goes to Ande Li, a high-school student who volunteered his weekend helping with recording results and setting up/cleaning up. Finally, the lead organizer, Victor Zheng played an important role in responding to emails, interacting with Hart House staff, creating event webpages, creating event flyers, updating registration lists, coordinating room designs, organizing volunteers for photography, coordinating DGT boards, and setting-up/taking down DGT and chess sets.

In addition to these volunteers, we would like to thank the Hart House staff for their continued and dedicated support of our chess events and tournaments. The Hart House Information Hub with Jamie, Mauro, Naesha, Andrew, and student staff provided important registration assistance throughout the entire lead-up of the event. The Meetings and Events office with Madeline and Meghan, as well as the Communications Department with Cayce, Accounting Office with Stan, and Staging Personnel provided a coordinated effort to make this tournament a success. We wish to acknowledge their assistance.

Let the games begin! Round 2 at the Reading Week Open! (Photo: Victoria Lee)

The Club would like to express its gratitude to the Annex Chess Club and its team of organizers for lending chess sets and clocks to enable us to host the first-ever Reading Week Open with chess sets and equipment for all.

A huge shoutout goes to Victoria College’s VicXposure camera club and it’s student photographers who contributed to the largest chess photo album in Hart House chess recent memory. All rounds except Round 5 were covered by a student photographer, providing both an opportunity and testing ground for students, and the resulting amazing photos. As customary, we were able to take individual, high-quality photos of almost every player and important matchup. Those photos are linked at the bottom of this post.

I see you! (Photo: Michael Hsu)

Finally, the most-important and deserved “thank-you” goes to the 226 participants who came out during Family Day Weekend to play in the tournament, and the friends, family, supporters, and chess enthusiasts who came out to the tournament as spectators. It is with your support that the Club’s initiatives and vibrancy as a hub for chess has continued for over 127 years. We are very thankful for your participation and look forward to welcoming you back to Hart House for our many upcoming events later this year. Until next time…

Click on the following links to view:

Ian Loadman, Round 3 (Photo: Michael Hsu)