Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sons of Cyrus

Whatever happened to the "Sons of Cyrus"?

By Rick Aeria, January 31st 2008

In 2003, after a very long and successful 21-out-of-23 run at the club championships, Cyrus Lakdawala, the winningest  player to descend from the chess firmament to, ...dominate the San Diego chess scene, decided to hang up his pieces and give others a shot at winning the San Diego Chess Club Championship. 



Naturally, "Father" Cyrus nurtured a hope that his students would carry on his winning tradition.  Call it karma, kismet or destiny but the very next championship in 2004 which turned out to be a long, stormy and acrimonious struggle.  A Cyrus student won! The format was (1) Seven round Markowski qualifier and then a (2) a two sectioned eight man round robin semi-final with the top three from each section qualifying for (3) an all-play-all 6 man final...Boy, we ain't doing that again!

Despite Mark Brooks' cheeky handicapping of 150-1 for my chances which drew the usual guffaws and laughs from the 'patio' crowd,  I happened to have the good fortune to finishing first with NM Robert Richard and won the tie-breaks having defeated Bob for the first time in my life in our individual encounter.  Didn't I place a five-spot wager with Mark?

I had a lot of help first with NM Ruffo Orihuela stubbornly holding NM Bruce Baker to a King versus King endgame draw.  Then tail-ender Adam Corper , also a Cyrus student, holding NM Bruce Baker in the final round to a draw.

Then in 2005 it was Adam Corper's turn and Adam won the championship outright and achieved his master-ranking in the process.  Now the buzz was about "The sons of Cyrus".



In 2006, the sons of Cyrus did not prevail although then-NM Adam Corper gave it a valiant effort and even defeated winner NM Ron Bruno brilliantly in their individual encounter.  This was the fateful year that produced a bizarre finish.  For the final round, Bruno was paired with NM Todd Smith who had fallen out of contention and was playing for pride.  Half a point behind Bruno was NM Carl Wagner who faced expert Brad Salz who was having a rough tournament.  Wagner achieved a winning position and would have repeated as champion after a 17-year hiatus (Wagner won the championship in 1989) but overstepped the time limit and forfeited!  Meanwhile on the neighboring board, the dour Todd Smith despite having an edge most of the game decided that Bruno's defences were holding and offered a draw.  The shocker was Bruno refused the draw offer which would have given him the championship and continued to play on!  A natural fighter in the mold of Fischer!  However a few moves later, commonsense prevailed and Bruno made a draw with Todd Smith.



In 2007, a new face joined the fray - SM/NM Marc Duesterwald of Germany!  Marc was clearly the "class of the field" with a near 2400 rating but he took it too easy and expert and Cyrus student John Funderburg, nicknamed "The Thunderbird" caught Duesterwald in the standings and even won the trophy over tie-breaks! The Cyrusites went wild!  We trumpeted (and looking back...quite obnoxiously too) the "Sons of Cyrus" third victory!

Then things changed.... maybe I got old but most probably lazy just like the lyrics in an old Eagles' song; Adam found true love in his wife, Jade, and faded away from the chess scene; and John? 

In 2008 the race was between a resurgent Ron Bruno and a dazzingly brilliant John Funderburg.  Both men playing exciting chess and winning the admiration of all onlookers.  It the end, Ron Bruno became the first player to repeat his success as champion but John Funderburg was a worthy and honorable runnerup.

If you look back, even the two years that the Sons of Cyrus did not prevail, one of them was in the thick of it.  In 2006, it was Adam Corper finishing second and in 2008, it was John Funderburg giving it his all.



For 2009, eyes turn to relative newcomer expert Eric Montany to uphold the banner of the "sons of Cyrus".  Recently, Eric finished in a tie for first at the 400th Gambito with IM Enrico Sevillano, NM Digesh Malla and Ariel Gerardo.  Could this be a omen of things to come?


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