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Alexander Zelner wins Central Florida Class Championship

Alexander Zelner Continuing his impressive run, Alexander Zelner won the Central Florida Class Championships, seemingly without much effort. Zelner, whose rating was below 2200 in 2003, started his climb when he played in that year’s Space Coast Open. He lost to Blas Lugo as well as to his life-long friend, trainer and compatriot, Alexander Goldin, but won his other games to finish with a 3-2 score and a rating increase to 2205.

He then started on a streak by winning a few points each event as he ran his own chess school, the Orlando Chess and Game Center, in which he played and directed. By October 2010 after about 50 small events his rating reached 2300. He had developed a medical condition which had kept him out of strenuous traveling to larger events, and some players were getting suspicious of his actual playing strength.

In the first 8 months of 2011 he still limited his activities to his local events amassing a game-score record of about 108 wins, 2 draws and 1 lose (to his wife) and then a lose at the US Open G/15 event in Orlando. But needing to conclude some out-of-town business affairs, he received permission from his doctor to go to Ohio. While he was there he played in two big events finishing first in both  without a lose and beating a GM. … and his rating reached 2457. This was now high enough that even a drawn game in his own events would prevent his rating from climbing.

Zelner than decided to travel to Ft. Lauderdale and play in the Turkey Bowl. His win over GM Julio Becerra and draw against GM Lars Hansen certainly should have proven that this man was worthy of his rating. By giving up several of his business affairs he had been able to devote more time to just studying chess and learning from GM Goldin… and as Zelner recently explained, “I’m about ready to teach Goldin.”

But Zelner’s wife, Catherine , and his doctors are still concerned for his health and try to keep him from getting over-worked, so he is taking byes and medicine breaks, as needed. After he won his game in the 4th round in this event, against Dalton Perrine, both players went over their game outside the hall. This writer had the fortune to listen in on the discussion. It was very evident that Zelner was “booked-up” on the opening as he was able to quickly show the different lines and who played them. It seemed he had  the game in hand, almost from the beginning. His opponent seemed to have learned a lot from this session.

Going into the last round, Zelner was leading with 3½-½ after an early bye. Perrine was tied at 3-1 with Toby Boas and Yilmer Guzman. Ernesto Alvarez had earlier lost to Dalton  and Guzman. As Zelner had already beaten both Perrine and Guzman, he was paired to play Boas, leaving Perrine to battle against Guzman. Boas took a lot of time with his first few moves and then excused himself, as he went to the wallchart to discuss with the TD how the prize distribution would work and whether he should offer an early draw to his opponent. Later, after the game as this writer was talking to Zelner, he mentioned that he refused the early draw offer, but later in the game offered one himself when he didn’t think he had any advantage. Boas declined that one and soon Zelner had the better game and would no longer take a draw. I guess that’s the chance one takes!

The event was played January 13-15, typically always over the Martin Luther King weekend, and at the DoubleTree Hilton Orlando Downtown hotel where many of the Central Florida Chess Club’s events are being held. Players seem to like this hotel and this year all prizes were to be paid in full as the “based-on” number was met for the first time in a number of years. So with 133 entries, $7000 in prizes were awarded along with a number of trophies. But still many top players were not at the event. GM Julio Becerra is taking a year “off from chess” as his wife recently had a baby girl. Eric Rodriguez didn’t make it. And Robert Perez is now attending MIT in Massachusetts.

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