Saturday, January 3, 2015

History of the Ohio Chess Congress

Dana Mackenzie, who was briefly a regular on the Ohio tournament scene and who earned the National Master title in the 1992 Ohio Chess Congress, notes that Ohio is one of just 13 states that does not publish a list of their official chess champions. Mackenzie's lament reinforces the notion that, in general, Ohio chess organizations do not have great respect for their tradition/history and their champions. The Dayton Chess Club repeatedly rebuffed my suggestions about including a history section on their website (or even just a bare bones listing of the winners of the Dayton Chess Club Championship, an event that dates back to 1959). In 2012, I posted a complete list of Dayton Chess Club Champions and the Chess section of this website includes several articles about Dayton Chess Club history and/or Ohio chess history, including The Dayton Chess Club Championship: Still Going Strong After Five Decades, Looking Back on Two Decades’ Worth of Games Versus Clif Rowan and Mike Anders is Gone Too Soon but His Joyful Spirit Will Never be Forgotten.

Since it is doubtful that the Ohio Chess Association (or any other Ohio chess individual or group) is interested and/or able to produce a list of Ohio's Chess Champions, I decided to gather this information from official sources and publish it for posterity.

The list format is simple: year, site, Ohio Champion, score. I do not have full information for each year but I will continue to edit this list as my research uncovers more details. Each Ohio Chess Champion is listed in bold type; usually, the Ohio Chess Champion also finished first overall in the Ohio Chess Congress' Open section but for some years I was not able to determine the Ohio Champion's final score and/or whether or not the champion was also the overall tournament winner (any non-Ohio resident who finished with an equal or better score than the state champion is listed in italic type in parentheses for the years in which such information is known):


In the November/December 1990 Ohio Chess Bulletin, David Moeser described the formative years of the Ohio Chess Championship: "Early in the 1900s, and again from the late 1920s to 1944, the Ohio Championship was decided by a match between the Northern Ohio Champion (NOC), representing Cleveland, and the Southern Ohio Champion (SOC), representing Cincinnati." The modern Ohio Chess Association was founded in 1945.

????: Bluffton--C. Herman Bahnning 11/12 According to the September 1969 Chess Life, Bahnning scored 10 wins and two draws and he was one of the U.S. Chess Federation's "early state champions." That Chess Life article does not state the year that Bahnning won the Ohio Championship. Bahnning's name does not appear on Moeser's list, which includes the years 1910-11, 1928-1938 and 1944.

1945: Milton Ellenby 6/7
1946: Columbus--John Hoy 6/7
1947: Columbus--Thomas Ellison 6/7 Lawrence Jackson also scored 6/7 but, according to some 1947 Chess Life issues found by Mike Steve, Ellison won the title on tiebreak points. The Championship section included 27 players.
1948: Columbus--Elliott Stearns
1949: Walter Mann
1950: Akron--James Schroeder 5.5/6 The Championship section included 34 players.
1951: Columbus--Harald Miller 5.5/6
1952: Columbus--Tony Archipoff 6/7
1953: Columbus--Tony Archipoff 6/7
1954: Frank Ferryman 6/7 James Harkins also scored 6/7 but, according to the January/February 1991 Ohio Chess Bulletin, Ferryman won the title because he had 32.5 Solkoff tiebreak points compared to Harkins' 30.5.
1955: Charles Heising
1956: Robert McCready 6/7
1957: Robert Steinmeyer
1958: Ross Sprague 6/7 Charles Heising also scored 6/7 but, according to the January/February 1991 Ohio Chess Bulletin, Sprague won the title because he had 33.5 Solkoff tiebreak points compared to Heising's 29.5.
1959: Richard Kause 7/7
1960: Jack Witeczek 7/7
1961: Jerold Fink/Saul Wachs/Thomas Laicik 5.5
1962: George Miller/Richard Ling 6/7
1963: Rea Hayes 6.5
1964: Richard Kause/George Kellner/Thomas Wozney/James Harkins/David Presser 5.5
1965: Richard Noel 7/7
1966: Saul Wachs 7/7
1967: Thomas Wozney 6.5
1968: Akron--James Harkins 6.5/7 The September/October 1968 Ohio Chess Bulletin noted that Harkins became just the fourth two-time Ohio Champion, joining Archipoff, Kause and Wachs.
1969: Columbus--Thomas Wozney 6/7 Wozney won by five median tiebreak points over Robert Burns and Richard Garber. A then-record 122 players participated, though the September/October 1969 Ohio Chess Bulletin noted that figures for the event's early years are incomplete. Saul Wachs won the Speed Championship, scoring 6/6 in the final section (there were three separate preliminary sections, with the section winners facing each other in a round robin final section).
1970: Joseph Shaffer
1971: Columbus--Robert Burns 6/7 Burns (rated 2211 at the time) won on tiebreaks over Thomas Wozney (2211) and Ross Sprague (2229). Burns and Wozney remained tied after the first tiebreaker but then Burns prevailed based on Sonnenborn-Berger points. Burns drew his individual encounters with both Wozney and Sprague.
1972: Thomas Wozney 4.5/6 Wozney (2243) defeated former champions Ross Sprague (2256), Richard Kause (2176) and Jerry Fink (2228) on tiebreaks. Art Keske won the Speed Championship and Calvin Blocker won the Problem Solving Contest; future International Master Blocker, then rated 1865, scored 2.5/6 in the main event.
1973: Columbus--James Harkins 5.5/6 Harkins prevailed on tiebreaks over Joseph Shaffer, Ross Sprague and Rea Hayes.
1974: Robert Burns 5/6 Burns (2204) won on tiebreaks over Jerry Fink (2188), James Voelker (2090), Thomas Wozney (2294) and Arthur Keske (2192). Calvin Blocker (2169) scored 4/6, losing to Wozney in the last round.
1975: Dayton--Ross Sprague 5.5/6 Sprague's victory marked the "...first time in many years that the title has not been decided on tie-breaks" (Quote from the cover of the September/October 1975 Ohio Chess Bulletin). The tournament's top-rated player Milan Vukcevich (2489), fresh off of a third place finish in the U.S. Championship, lost in the second round to Perry Sill (1872) but bounced back to tie for second. Vukcevich also claimed first place honors in the Ohio Speed Championship with a 7/7 score.
1976: Toledo--Ross Sprague 5.5/6 
1977:Cleveland--Danny Shapiro 5.5/6 Ross Sprague and Nachum Salman tied for second-third with 5/6. Richard Horvitz won the Ohio Speed Championship with a 6/6 score, followed by Calvin Blocker (5/6).
1978: Dayton--Robert Burns 5/6 According to the September 1978 Dayton Chess Club Review, Calvin Blocker (2325) and Richard Noel (1865) also scored 5/6 but Burns (2232) won the championship on tiebreaks. Blocker defeated Errol Liebowitz (2159) in a 106 move, 10 hour, 10 minute game in the final round. Blocker won the Ohio Speed Championship with a 7/7 score, ahead of Richard Horvitz (6/7).
1979: Columbus--Errol Liebowitz 5.5/6 "He is the first champion since 1966 to come from the southern half of the state and first non-Cleveland resident to win since 1970. Three former state champions, Bob Burns, Joe Shaffer and Ross Sprague, along with Cincinnati expert Perry Sill, tied for second with 5-1" (Quote from December 1979 Chess Life & Review).
1980:Columbus--Alan Federl
1981: Columbus--Calvin Blocker 6/6
1982: Lima--Calvin Blocker 6/6
1983: Columbus--David Glueck 5/6 (Ed Formanek 5.5, Vince McCambridge 5)
1984: Calvin Blocker 5.5/6 Charles Diebert, Jim Weitthoff, Bruce Steinfeld, Randy Andrews and Dennis Gogel tied for first in the Ohio Speed Championship (4/5).
1985: Columbus--Calvin Blocker/James Schroeder 5/6 (Anatoly Lein 5; Lein would later become an Ohio resident and win the state title in 1999).
1986: Columbus--Calvin Blocker 5/6 (Igor Ivanov 6, Michael Rohde 5, Boris Gulko 5, Vivek Rao 5)
1987: Columbus--Calvin Blocker 5/6 (Boris Gulko 5.5, David Norwood 5.5)
1988: Columbus--Calvin Blocker 5/6 (Anatoly Lein 5, Andrew Karklins 5, Mike Blankenau 5)
1989: Cleveland--Calvin Blocker 5.5/6
1990: Columbus--Steve Wygle/Nachum Salman 4.5/6
1991: Dayton--Boris Men 5/6 (Sergey Kudrin 5.5)
1992: Cleveland--Boris Men 5/6 (Gregory Kaidanov 5.5, Sergey Kudrin 5)
1993: Columbus--Boris Men 5/6 (Alex Shabalov 5.5)
1994: Columbus--Boris Men 5.5/6
1995: Columbus--Alex Yermolinsky/Dmitry Berkovich/Calvin Blocker 5/6 Ram Dake and Carl R. Boor shared first place in the third Ohio Quick (G/15) Championship, each scoring 3.5/4.
1996: Columbus--Greg Serper/Boris Men/John Stopa 5/6
1997: Columbus--Greg Serper/Calvin Blocker/Boris Men/George Umezinwa 4/5 (Ed Formanek 4)
1998: Columbus--Greg Serper 4.5/6 (Alex Goldin/Eric Torman 5)
1999: Columbus--Calvin Blocker/Anatoly Lein 5/6
2000: Columbus--Calvin Blocker 5/6 Blocker's 13th title, according to the July/August 2000 Ohio Chess Bulletin, but my research proves that this was Blocker's 12th OCC title.
2001: Columbus--Mark Geist/Russell Wilson 4.5/6 (Stanislav Kriventsov 5.5)
2002: Dayton--Anna Zatonskih/Carl B. Boor 4.5/6 (Alex Goldin 5.5, Stanislav Kriventsov 4.5, Yevgeniy Gershov 4.5, Jim Dean 4.5) Ananth Pappu won the Ohio Quick Championship (G/10, unrated) with 5/5. David Friedman and Will Surlow tied for second (4/5).
2003: Dayton--Ananth Pappu/Mike Joelson/Bob Basalla 4.5/6 (Ron Burnett 5)
2004: Cleveland--Oliver Koo/Andrew Zebrowski/Paul Nemeth/Kasun Waidyaratne 4.5/6 (Ed Formanek 4.5)
2005: Columbus--Calvin Blocker/William Wright/Allan Bennett/Ananth Pappu/Ross Sprague 4/6 (Jaan Ehlvest 5.5, Stanislav Kriventsov 4.5, Mark Heimann 4)
2006: Dayton--John Bidwell 5/6 (Mark Heimann 5)
2007: Dayton--Carl B. Boor 5/6 (Mark Heimann 5)
2008: Columbus--Calvin Blocker 5/6 (Mark Heimann 5.5)
2009: Dayton--Kris Meekins 5/6 (Matthew Marsh 5) Meekins also won the Ohio Quick Championship (G/25 w/5 sec. delay) by scoring 4/4 in a field of 14 players. Ross Sprague and David Friedman tied for second (3/4). Ananth Pappu won the Ohio Blitz Championship by scoring 10.5/12. Marsh took clear second (8.5/12).
2010: Dayton--Siddharth Ravichandran 5/6 (Alex Goldin 5.5) The father-son duo Carl R. Boor and Carl B. Boor shared the Ohio Quick (G/25) Championship title by scoring 3.5/4 each.
2011: Columbus--Carl B. Boor/Walker Griggs 5/6 (Alex Zelner 5) The official USCF crosstable incorrectly lists Boor with 4.5 but the Ohio Chess Bulletin correctly credits Boor with four wins, one draw and one bye.
2012: Cleveland--Goran Vojinovic/Walker Griggs 5/6
2013: Cleveland--Calvin Blocker/Oliver Koo/William Wright/John Lodger Hughes 4.5/6 (Bryan Smith 5)
2014: Dayton--Hans Multhopp 5/6
2015: Columbus--Goran Vojinovic 4.5/5
2016: Columbus--Mika Brattain 6/7 (Alex Shabalov 6) Yuri Barnakov won the Ohio Blitz Championship (G/5, no delay) by scoring 7/7 in a field of 20 players. Carl B. Boor finished second (6/7) and David Friedman finished third (5/7).
2017: Cleveland--David Allen/Arvind Jayaraman 4/5 (Grant Xu 4.5) No side events were held.
2018: Cincinnati--Mika Brattain 6/6 No side events were held.
2019: Cleveland--Elton Cao 5.5/6 No side events were held.
2020: ONLINE (COVID-19)--Eigen Wang/John Miller/Christian Thornton 3/5 (Alex Lenderman/Gadir Guseinov 4) No side events were held.


This history project will be an ongoing labor of love until I am able to provide complete information about every Ohio Chess Congress. I will update this list each year as new winners are crowned and I will make any other relevant additions/changes as my research uncovers more data about previous champions.

It is widely known that International Master Calvin Blocker has won the most Ohio Chess Championships, but for some time there has been uncertainty regarding how many titles he has actually captured. The July/August 2000 Ohio Chess Bulletin states that Blocker's win in that year's event was his 13th title but my research proves that the 2000 championship was Blocker's 12th title (1981-82, 1984-1989, 1995, 1997, 1999-2000). Perhaps the source of confusion for the writer of the 2000 article comes from counting Blocker as the 1978 champion or co-champion; even though Blocker shared top honors with a 5/6 score in 1978, he lost the title on tiebreaks to Robert Burns (the OCA has not followed a consistent policy regarding the use of tiebreaks to determine the state champion and in this article I have simply followed the standards that were applied at the time that each tournament was held).

Blocker added titles in 2005, 2008 and 2013 to push his total to 15. It is likely that very few players have won more state championships--in any state, not just Ohio--than Calvin Blocker. It is unfortunate that the Ohio Chess Association has not done a better job of keeping widely available, accurate records about this remarkable accomplishment--and about a great event that has been held annually without interruption since 1945.


Sources: Various Ohio Chess Bulletins, U.S. Chess Federation crosstables, Chess Life issues dating back to the late 1960s, and the Dayton Chess Club Review.

1/6/15 edit: I added some names to the list after receiving dozens of Ohio Chess Bulletins from Earle Wikle.

1/15/15 edit: Thanks to information provided by Robert Loggins and Mike Steve, I have been able to identify all of the pre-1969 Ohio Champions who did not appear on my original list.

4/15/15 edit: According to Mike Steve, Witeczek's perfect score in 1960 was reported in the local Lorain, Ohio newspaper. Steve notes that Witeczek later moved to Michigan and won the Michigan State Championship. Also, Steve found a 1981 OCC crosstable listing Blocker as the 6-0 winner, meaning that Blocker scored back to back perfect scores in 1981 and 1982. Blocker is the only player who can be confirmed with posting two perfect OCC scores.


Author's Personal Note:

I have yet to capture the OCC crown but I had two "near misses." In 2010, John Lodger Hughes and I each scored 4.5/6. We were the highest scoring established Ohio residents but Siddharth Ravichandran--a strong Indian playing in his one and only Ohio event--was somehow considered to be an Ohio resident and thus was crowned as the Ohio Champion with 5/6. (Alex Goldin, also a non-Ohio resident, captured first place overall with 5.5/6). Most organizations/clubs require their champions to be established members/residents but apparently this is not the case for the OCA, at least regarding the 2010 Ohio Chess Congress.

In 2005, out of staters Jaan Ehlvest (5/6) and Stanislav Kriventsov (4.5/6) finished 1st-2nd, while five players shared the state title with 4/6. I finished with 3.5/6, though I was not truly in contention since it took a last round win for me just to pull within a half point of the Ohio co-Champions. My strongest performance other than 2010 came in 2000, when I finished tied for 5th-9th overall with 4/6, one point behind tournament winner/Ohio Champion Calvin Blocker, who defeated me in round one.

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