For most, February 12, 2023, was a day specially reserved for the Super Bowl. However, for chess enthusiasts at South Jersey Innovation Center (SJIC), the big day started off with a chess tournament – naturally! 

This is SJIC’s 10th year of hosting the pre-Super Bowl tournament. What made this year noteworthy was the large number of Grandmasters (GMs) and International Masters (IMs) attending. GMs Alex Lenderman, Abhimanyu Mishra, Fidel Corrales Jimenez, Maxim Dlugy, and Semyon Lomasov attended, as well as IMs Alex Katz, Yaacov Norowitz, Thomas Bartell, and Mykola Bortnyk, and at least 10 National Masters.

The day began at 11:00 a.m. with some 77 chess players of all ratings and ages crowding into SJIC to play a total of five rated chess games. The center was certainly full of energy, and tournament director Noah Xu worked hard to keep things under control and running smoothly. 

One highlight of the tournament was the placement of DGT (Digital Game Technology) chess boards at Boards 1-5 (where the tournament’s leaders played each round). This allowed the top boards’ games to be streamed in real time on the popular streaming website Twitch. There were also interviews going on throughout the day with individuals attending the tournament, including most prominently GM Dlugy.

A key factor in the tournament’s success was SJIC’s ambitious effort – assisted by a grant from the New Jersey State Chess Federation and key donors – to cover travel and lodging expenses for the participating GMs and IMs. This is a common feature in important European tournaments, but has been rare in the United States. SJIC plans to continue to host important tournaments like this. SJIC thanks the amazing tournament directors and supporting donors, as well as expert player and instructor Kameliia Sharuda, all of whom were a huge factor in the tournament’s success.

A leading center for STEM instruction (including math, computing, and robotics), SJIC offers superb instructional chess programs for both children and adults. SJIC hosts official rated chess tournaments every other Sunday and rated rapid tournaments every Wednesday night.