Hosted by the Guam Chess Federation, or Guam Echecs, a pair of grandmasters dominated the 2019 Guam Oceania Zonal Chess Championships. The six-day tournament concluded on Saturday at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa in Tumon.

“It’s a very big deal to hold this tournament,” said chief arbiter Robert Gibbons. “It’s been a pleasure for everybody to be here. The tournament went really, really well.”

Australia’s Max Illingworth and Julia Ryjanova, both elite grandmasters, placed first in the men’s and women’s open divisions, respectively.

Rounding out the podium in the men’s open field, Papua New Guinea’s Shaun Press placed second, Australia’s Clive Ng, third.

Placing fourth, Guam’s Enofre Manuel was the top local male finisher.

Starting with a bang, Guam’s Felix Lacno, unranked, defeated Illingworth on the tournament’s opening day.

Gibbons compared the upset to an unknown tennis player knocking off Roger Federer on the grass at Wimbledon.

“It’s 100 to 1 for Max to lose in this kind of field,” Gibbons said. “It’s really a great win for the other player.”

The 70-year-old Lacno said a mistake by Illingworth allowed the Guamanian to win.

“Chess is my game since I was 8 years old,” Lacno said.

Undeterred by the upset, Illingworth, a professional chess player, amassed a 7-1-1 record, ultimately taking home a $1,000 cash prize.

“For me, this tournament was a holiday,” Illingworth said. "I wasn’t too upset with that loss.”

With the win, Illingworth qualified for the Fédération Internationale des Échecs World Cup from Sept. 9 to Oct. 2 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The top two finishers in that tournament qualify for the Candidates Tournament for the World Chess Championship 2020.

It was a “very good week of chess,” said Guam Chess Federation President Roger Orio. “The highlight has to be Felix’s win on the first day. He shocked the grandmaster.”

'A kind of model of life'

Julia Ryjanova steamrolled through the competition, claiming a $750 winner’s check. Like her compatriot, Ryjanova also qualified for the World Cup.

What I “most I enjoy about chess, is to win,” Ryjanova said. “Chess is a kind of model of life. In chess, like in life, you have choice(s). There are many ways to go and you have to choose which way is the best for you.”

Rounding out the women’s top spots, Australia’s Rebecca Stones placed second, New Zealand’s Vyanla Punsalan, third.

Missing the podium by a rung, Guam’s Olga Szekely placed fourth.

Guam’s Cyle Sarmiento, 13, and Grace Estur, 14, were the two youngest competitors in the tournament.

Sarmiento, in his first-ever competition, received 2 points after beating the oldest player in the tournament, Guam’s Leon Ryan.

“It was fun,” Sarmiento said. “I was able to get some points and get to play other players."

Estur, a 10th-grader at Harvest Christian Academy, enjoyed making new friends.

“It was great getting to play with people from other countries,” Estur said.

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