THIS YEAR'S ODDS ON WHO WILL WIN THE CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
by Rick Aeria
Since 'expert' oddsmaker Mark Brooks does not frequent the club in the past few years after his infamous 150-1 odds on my winning the 2004 Club Champioship. I have decided to carry on the tradition - strictly for the humor aspect and give the odds on the various championship contenders,
As this is written on January the 3rd, 2009 - only four players have qualified to the finals and the Markowski Qualifier has not been played. Please take this with a 'grain of salt' and don't get too upset!
RON BRUNO (3-1) National Master Ron Bruno is the reigning club champion and the only one who has repeated as club champion since the legendary Cyrus ("The Great') Lakdawala won it 21 out of the 23 times he played. Ron qualified for the final by virtue of being the defending champion. Ron is relatively young in his late twenties and in good health. What is surprising is that Ron learnt the game of chess relatively late - about ten years ago. Ron has a sharp opening repertoire favoring king pawn openings with White and defending with the Sicilian Defence as Black. On occasion, Ron will divert to the Alekhine Defence to avoid special preparation of particular opponents. Ron is a student of the game and can be a difficult man to beat. Perhaps Ron's biggest asset is that he has crossed swords with some of the best masters and grandmasters in the Southland and has played them on even terms.
Nothing seems to faze this mild-mannered master off the board except if he gets charged $18 for a pitcher of beer!
FELIX VILLARREAL (4-1) International Master Felix Villarreal has returned to chess after a long absence in 2008. Felix qualified by easily winning the Fall Swiss Open. Felix is a very sound player with a solid positional, classical positional style. Whereas his opening repertoire may be not as 'modern' as some of his fellow masters, Felix relies on the French Defence as his primary weapon to the king's pawn but will also play the Petroff Defence to mix things up. Felix will try to beat you with patient good moves but if you slip and allow a combination, Felix will most certainly spring that on you too.
Felix suffers from the logistical disadvantage of having to commute all the way from Tijuana, Mexico to play each round.
PETER GRAVES (5-1) National Master Peter Graves is a very experienced player with an aggressive positional style. Peter usually plays in the quicker Gambitos on Saturday but qualified for the final by winning the San Diego County Champion title. Peter will play a mored varied assortment of defences but like Felix will tend to favor the Frenc h Defence
Peter Graves suffers from the disadvantage of a long commute from North County, that is why he usually does not play on Wednesday nights.
DIMITRY KISHINEVSKY (6-1) Former master (and now expert) Dimitry Kishinevsky qualified for the finals by winning the open section of "The Masters' recently. Many years ago, George Zeigler, once assessed Dimitry's style as a player with 'one big punch'. The 'one big punch' theory probably correlates with Cyrus' observation that Dimitry has the ability to look for and find the combination we call the 'computer-shot'. White or Black, Dimitry has a preference for 'fianchetto defences' and is probably the most original and intuitive player amongst the contenders.
The longer time controls on Wednesday nights should favor Dimitry's "deep thinker" style of play.
NOW, ASSUMING IF THESE STALWARTS QUALIFY THROUGH THE MARKOWSKI....
BRUCE BAKER (7-1) National master Bruce Baker has a blend of deep chess knowledge and uncompromising aggression. A natural attacker and initiative-hound, Bruce plays a wide array of systems with black and white but favors king pawn openings. At 2300+, Bruce, in my opinion is under-rated! It is difficult to prepare for him as Bruce will sometimes blithley play into your 'preparation' then toss you a theoretical grenade. I would assess Bruce's chances more highly but winter just isn't his season (even in San Diego). And winter is when the Markowski and finals are played. In the past few years, I have observed Bruce play below himself because of a bad cold during these events. If this trend contiues, Bruce could end up as the "Akiba Rubinstein" of our times - the strongest player never to have won the club championship. Bundle up, big guy, and take it all the way this year! I am rootin' for you!
CARL WAGNER (8-1) National master Carl Wagner is a former club champion in 1989, a former National Senior Champion and many time State Senior Champion. Carl brings many years of competitive chess experience and a carefully worked out opening repertoire that has served him well. Carl would like to beat you in the quiet of this study. That is, Carl, is the consummate master of home preparation. He wins many of his games with Preparation C, 'C' as in Carl. With Black against the king's pawn, Carl will steadfastly reel out his Najdorf Sicilian and against the queen pawn, Carl will usually throw out his Benko Gambit at you.
JOHN FUNDERBURG (9-1) Expert John Funderburg, nicknamed "The Thunderbird", won the club championship in 2007 and was a brilliant runner-up in 2008. One curious aspect I have observed about John's play is that throughout most of the rest of the year after the championship, John plays like he is in a deep funk and sheds rating points like a drunken sailor sheds dollar bills. Then during the club championships, John snaps back to his lethal mode and plays his best chess. Once upon a time, we used to joke about John wheeling out museum-openings like the Colle and the Zukertort, not any more. With Black, John will defend against the king pawn with the French Defence and John is someone who will specifically prepare for you - usually something uncomfortable and even nasty.