Legends, Grandmasters, Streamers Meet In Carolinas Classic


A streamer, a grandmaster, and a club player walk into a tournament. This isn’t the set-up of a terrible joke, but rather the backdrop of the 8th Annual Carolinas Classic 2024 that happened at the Charlotte Chess Center. Participants included WFM Alexandra and Andrea Botez, GM Tuan Minh Le, and WGM Dina Belenkaya.

I had the unique opportunity to cover the event and live every chess player’s dream: To get to experience fun tournament vibes without having to worry about the chess.

Andrea Botez was in action in Charlotte. Photo: Kara Wise/Chess.com.

Here’s the thing about big open events. Literally anything can happen. A lower-rated player can wow everyone with a strong performance. A grandmaster could lose to an amateur. Heck, even a streamer can take home a top prize. This is what makes it so fun. I compiled all the best moments:

First Round Jitters

Everyone knows the feeling of insane butterflies thumping against every inch of your stomach before the round. Some players enjoy the nerves, as it helps them focus, others dread it.

Sabina Foisor was playing in memory of her mother. Photo: Kara Wise/Chess.com.

“I’m just very excited to be back at the board in Charlotte. I’d like to focus more on playing so this is a great opportunity. My mom would have turned 57 on June 7th so I really wanted to use my skills to play some creative games in her memory,” WGM Sabina Foisor said in anticipation for the first round.

As everyone trickled into the playing hall, I managed to capture some photos.

A player deep in concentration during the start of round one.

Grandmaster Upset

Chess.com’s Sam Copeland scored his first ever classical win against a grandmaster. Photo: Kara Wise/Chess.com.

Grandmasters lose games. It happens. However, the victor in round three wasn’t a small, underrated child but Chess.com’s very own Sam Copeland.

Surprise Guests

The tournament itself lasted two days, with several side events including (I kid you not) a signing event with GM Judit Polgar, GM Veselin Topalov, GM RB Ramesh, and GM Daniel Naroditsky.

After the rounds, each player could get their games analyzed by IM John Bartholomew, which I’m sure sweetened any win or loss.

John Bartholomew would analyze the games of any player. Photo: Kara Wise/Chess.com.

A Streamer Wins (Seriously)

Streamers get a bad rep when it comes to tournament performances. As one myself (don’t hold that against me) I get it. It’s very tough to manage the logistics of playing and preparing for games. Add in managing a whole stream and the process can affect performance. That definitely didn’t seem to be an issue for Alexandra Botez, who had an amazing performance over the weekend, scoring 4.5/5 and taking home first in the U2100 section.

Alexandra Botez with her first-place plaque.

When asked about her recent wins, Alexandra simply said, “two in a row, baby!” 

Here’s a puzzle from her round-two game. Can you find the move that led Alexandra to victory.

The Devastating Loss

Most players only like to showcase their wins and brilliancies, naturally. So when Dina asked if I could include her devastating last-round loss I was shocked. While everyone loves a story of the victor overcoming all odds to win the tournament, the tale of a terrible loss, or ill-timed blunder that cost the tournament, is unfortunately relatable.

Dina Belenkaya calculating at the board.

Last round Dina was paired against GM Julio Sadorra. A win would make her tied for first, despite being the 7th seed. This  seemed closer and closer to reality as her position developed. However, according to Dina, doubts began to creep in.

Here are her annotations of the game:

Last Round

Going into the last round, a few players were in contention for first. I caught up with one of them, GM Le, before the round. “This game is a must-win situation, so I’m going to take some risks and hopefully it will all work out,” he said. He ended by winning the game.

Le and GM Sergey Erenburg tied for first in the top section with 4.5/5. 

Winners GMs Tuan Minh Le and Sergey Erenburg.












# Name Rating Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Total Prize
1 GM Tuan Minh Le 2677 W18 W9 W17 D4 W7 4.5 $1200 – 1st/2nd Split
2 GM Sergey Erenburg 2606 W54 W10 W23 W14 D4 4.5 $1200 – 1st/2nd Split
3 GM Julio Sadorra 2644 W49 L14 W35 W17 W8 4.0 $450 – 3rd/4th Split
4 GM Julio Becerra 2495 W25 W21 W12 D1 D2 4.0 $450 – 3rd/4th Split
5 FM Hersh Singh 2305 H— W53 W46 H— W14 4.0 $450 – U2400 Split
6 Thomas Kung 2283 W56 W33 L14 W24 W12 4.0 $450 – U2400 Split
7 WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor 2322 W27 W47 D13 W32 L1 3.5
8 WGM Dina Belenkaya 2293 D29 W31 W28 W13 L3 3.5
9 Advaith Karthik 2254 W50 L1 D27 W44 W33 3.5
10 Matthew Diao 2202 W43 L2 D44 W27 W20 3.5 $300 – U2250 Split
11 Thomas Fang 2194 D45 W42 L32 W46 W21 3.5 $300 – U2250 Split

Mixed feelings accompany the end of a chess tournament. As the boards were packed up and the posters taken down, the winners lined up for their photos. Some stragglers hung around analyzing their games in the fan zone, but the hustle and bustle that had surrounded the hall for the past three days had disappeared completely.

Hundreds of players took part in the event. Photo: Kara Wise/Chess.com.

At a chess tournament, the overall atmosphere can be just as important as the results of a game. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by people who are incredible passionate, and take time off from there busy lives to pursue that passion. 

How to review? The games from the Carolinas Classic can be found on our events page, and were covered live by various streamers.

The 8th Annual Carolinas Classic is a five-round event featuring a $15,000 guaranteed prize fund in seven sections and a free $1,500 blitz tournament. It takes place on June 7-9 at Hilton Charlotte University Place. The time control for the championship section is 110 minutes plus a 10-second increment, and 100 minutes plus a 10-second increment for the other sections.





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