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East Side Story! The Alex Zelner Memorial 29th Space Coast Open Has a Successful Run!

Written by Andrew Rea

GM Jianchao Zhou vs. Roshan Jayaraman (photo: Dyson)

The Melbourne Hilton (Rialto) was the site of what continues to be the most successful chess tournament in Brevard County, the 29th Space Coast Open and Alex Zelner Memorial, May 3-5,2024. Friday evening was the first round- with some choosing to play a shorter Round 1 Saturday morning. 210 players in 6 sections- Master, Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E/U1200. The Masters Section was also FIDE rated- and quite strong! I lost my first round, and was then paired- correctly!- against an International Master!

More on that later- now is a great time to thank the people who made this event happen! As can be expected from being on this website, this was organized by the Space Coast Chess Foundation, with Peter Dyson and Peter Koretsky doing most of the heavy lifting on that front. Landing the site, determining the tournament format, appropriate staffing, and obtaining sponsorship for the event, there is plenty to do to ensure an enjoyable experience for the players!

If you were to do back-of-the-envelope math regarding the cost of the site, the prizes, and the staff, you could wonder how this event supports itself. It is due to the gracious support of our sponsors- Prestige Florida Realty; Goldman, Monaghan, Thankar & Bettin, P.A. Attorneys At Law; Mick Farinella/Realtor (Coldwell Banker); and Heidi's Jazz Club & Restaurant (Cocoa Beach)! We are not speaking of a few dollars- no, our sponsors are very generous and wonderfully supportive!

Of course, it is expected that the tournament will be well run- this is the purview of our two excellent Tournament Directors! Jon Haskel is the Chief TD, well assisted by Charles Hatherill. Both are National TDs; Jon is an International Arbiter while Charles is a FIDE Arbiter. More importantly, they are accustomed to starting rounds as scheduled while not having arguments escalate to bothersome drama. It is not a coincidence that there are so few problems to be settled when they are directing! A longstanding tradition at the Space Coast Open is to have master assistance as well for the players.

A role well filled on two fronts! At the hotel, National Master Nick Moore and FIDE Master Theo Slade were available for several post-mortem analyses, with two guest lectures as well. Online, Womens Grandmaster (WGM) Sabina Foisor was analyzing games from the Master Section in real time- these are also on the website! Of course, while these games were closely contested, the other sections most assuredly generated plenty of anxious moments as well. It is hardly news that games are challenging to win but can be alarmingly easy to lose...

Our stage has been set to list the prizewinners, but before we get there, let us not overlook an addition to this year's event. Shockingly, in the first week of January, NM Alex Zelner passed away, far too young. Much has been written about Alex already, all positive about his contributions to chess in Brevard County. Having the Space Coast Open also serve as an honor to Alex surely took zero time and arm twisting. Noting his positive contributions to chess in Brevard County, it has also been noted that Alex was a good person, he will be greatly missed!

Of course chess tournaments do not happen without the players- most predictably, some fared better than others. And for the usual reasons, most notably, they played better, regardless of section! As noted earlier, many games from the top players of the Masters Section can be accessed on this site, well discussed by WGM Sabina Foisor! 

When the dust settled, there was only one in first place- GM Jianchao Zhou, 4.5/5. He won his first four players, a pace none of the other players could match, thus allowing him to settle for a final-round draw… A cool prize of $2000.00 as well as the Masters Trophy! Each section winner received a Trophy, with a few others in the Class E/U1200 to be noted when we get there also winning a Scholastic Trophy. 

Back to the Masters- 2 players tied for 2nd-3rd, Siddharth Sing and Scott Ramer, 4/5. ( All sections, 5 rounds ) 6 players scrapped to a tie for 4th-5th place, at 3.5/5, Theo Slade, Joseph Wan, Nick Moore, Vincent Stone, Raghav Venkat, and Anibet Shukla. Yes, there are titled players who did not finish in the prize circle, chess is a tough game!  The Masters Section also had prizes for Top U2200; a tie at 3/5 for Ayush Maddikonda ( who received the U2200 Trophy), Ubaldo Lopez Naranjo, and Truman Hoang.

Before we get to the other sections, a note about attendance- players not only from various locales in Florida but 11 other states and the US Virgin Islands! That's a strong endorsement for this and previous renditions of the Space Coast Open, pleasant memories, and good word of mouth! 

Now for the Class A Section, with 2 players tied for first at 4.5/5- Fabio Lozano (also winning Class A Trophy on tiebreak) and Jolie Huang, well played! 2 players tied for 3rd-4th, Suresh Rajamani and Sebastian Merida Ceballos, scoring a quite nice 4/5. 

Healthy competition as well in Class B, with Clinton Young prevailing with 4.5/5, congratulations! He also earned the Class B Trophy; 3 players tied for 2nd - 4th at 4/5, just off the mark despite their best efforts- Bavi Whale, Angel Barrios, and Leonardo Hernandez Sr.

Class C had three players at 4.5/5, Alex Dshalalow, Vincent Iorga, and Eduardo Meza-Luna. Alex had the better tiebreak and thus also gained the Class C Trophy. When others tie for first, the prize money is also split equally. 

Class D had only one player able to reach 4.5/5, Braden Blackwell. The money and the Class D Trophy! Four players at 4/5, to wit, Ryan Yates, Yaseen Osman, Seth Harless, and Mark Gao. Per the previous blurb, there is plenty of tension in all sections, well done by all of our prizewinners! 

Which gets us to our Class E/U1200 Section! Brian Ordonez is the only player to win 5 games- First Place, $$$, and Class E Trophy with that excellent score of 5/5!  Alone in second place, 4.5/5 is Stone Wang- 2nd place $$$, and also the K-12 Scholastic Trophy! A scramble for the remaining place prizes, with five landing at 4/5  namely, Arham Shah, Nicholas Lefort, Gus Bleakley, Sundarapandian Pandian, and Jacob Vassiliev. The K-8 Scholastic Trophy goes to Arham Shah, while Gus Bleakley scores the K-5 Scholastic Trophy, and the K-3 Scholastic Trophy goes to Jacob Vassiliev- well earned by all! To complete the Class E prize recap, there are 3 players tying for the U1000/U800 prizes- Masie Blakeley, Shivbhagat Hegde, and Landon Meaders, at 3/5.

But wait, there's more! In each of the first four rounds, there is an Upset Prize. Based on rating difference, maximum one per player. The four winners are- Round 1: Maisie Blakeley; Round 2: Braden Blackwell; Round 3: Stacey Gilbert; and Round 4: Param Dubal. So many prizes, that helps that word-of-mouth a bit... Three more Special Prizes, as follows- Oldest Player: Lou Frisco; Youngest Player: Suraj Jani (5!); and Longest Distance: Justin Hair - USVI. Thanks to all of the players for their support- it looks likely that the 2025 Space Coast Open will return to the Hilton Melbourne, please stay tuned!

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