Kobalenko co-champion at 2016 Banff Open
By Daniel Katz, Bow Valley Crag & Canyon
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 2:35:02 MST PM

A Canmore resident tied for first place in the 2016 Banff Open chess tournament this past weekend, finishing with five out of six points.

Jerry Kobalenko, an A-class rated amateur chess player, defeated some of the best players in Alberta, including three Masters.

After completing the tournament, Kobalenko said he was shocked by his final result.

“I was punching far above my weight class,” he said. “I’m delighted with how it worked out.”

The northern writer and photographer tied for first with Robert Sasata of Saskatchewan, the highest-rated player who participated in the tournanment. Kobalenko beat Sasata when the two dueled in one of the tournament’s six rounds.

A serious chess player in high school, Kobalenko devoted less time to the game as he grew older but took it up again recreationally in the last three years and occasionally tests his skills at the Calgary Chess Club.

In the Banff Open, Kobalenko finished with four wins (one point each) and two draws (half-point each).

The 2016 Banff Open featured 32 players from across the province competing in three, eight-hour days and six rounds of tournament play at the Kinnear Centre. Five locals participated in the tournament.

To be a chess champion, Kobalenko says it takes enormous patience and concentration in order to minimize mistakes and keep one’s mind focused on the game at hand.

“It’s a real mental exercise,” he said. “In the course of … making hundreds of moves in 24 hours, it’s very easy to slip. So the person who slips least, wins.”

Banff resident Ian Findlay, a FIDE-ranked Master and the tournament co-organizer, says the inaugural edition of the tournament at the Banff Centre was a resounding success with the competitors.

“Everybody is raving,” he said. “It’s the best venue they’ve ever been at. Because it’s been so great, we’ll probably make it an annual event.”

For those wishing to learn how to play chess or practice against other players, the Banff Chess Academy meets at the Banff Seniors Centre Saturday evenings starting at 7 p.m.


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