Added on 1/22/2018

We’ve got the action from Tata Steel covered in our live recap videos, so I’m going to focus on a couple of other stories that may not be getting so much attention in the chess media.  Two tournaments, two continents, two grandmaster titles.

First, I’m very pleased to report that a student of mine, John Michael Burke of New Jersey, has earned his third grandmaster norm in the Charlotte Chess Club Winter International.  Coupled with a FIDE rating already comfortably over 2500, Burke’s title will be officially ratified at the next FIDE Presidential Board Meeting. GM John Michael Burke, from New Jersey

John’s score of 6.5/9 was also good enough for equal first place with Denis Kadric.  Winning all four white games in the first six rounds powered this strong result.  I first met John at the World Youth in Brazil in 2011.  We were residents of the same state, but I knew nothing about him at the time.  I was really blown away when he showed me his first-round game; even though he lost, I couldn’t believe how much he calculated as a nine-year-old.  Now sixteen, he is an especially formidable attacking player.  I will showcase two wins of his that show his fearless approach. The first came out of the gate in the first round against a slightly older teenager, Bryce Tiglon.

In the fifth round, John knocked off a contemporary of mine, Columbian GM Alonso Zapata.  Burke’s play is a bit speculative here, but Zapata is not able to meet the pressure of finding all the accurate defensive moves.

GM Alonso Zapata (COL)

John Burke is not all about attacking play, however.  He is just as happy taking opponents down in the endgame, so simply trading pieces is not the solution, as Anatoly Gorovets found out the hard way:

Meanwhile across the pond, a norm tournament which found the last two players only just before starting concluded with a historical achievement.  Sam Collins earned his third GM norm and can now just about taste that title which will be granted when he adds around 30 points to reach the required 2500 rating. 

IM Sam Collins (IRL)

Sam will then become the first ever Irish born grandmaster (they already boast the émigré Alexander Baburin).  I’ve seen the tournament listed as both the Philip Hogarty Memorial and the Irish New Year Norm tournament; either way, Sam’s score of 7-2 did the job and also produced a tie for first with GM Oleg Korneev, who now represents Spain. Going undefeated, Sam nevertheless needed to finish with two wins and a draw in his last three to get there.  First up was veteran Irish FM Colm Daly, with Sam triumphing in a surprisingly sharp battle.


But he had bigger hurdles to come, as he needed at least one victory over a grandmaster, and he got it in the eighth round over Ukrainian Mikail Simantsev.


Sam easily held a draw in the last game against Scottish GM Matthew Turner, and the celebration was on in the Emerald Isle.  Sam may be better known to ICCers as a chess author, but congratulations to him on his fine playing achievement, and best of luck getting over that last obstacle of the big 2500.

That does it for this week but look for my live Tata Steel recap on Thursday. GM Joel Benjamin