Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Sea Chess Tournament


14 Nov, 2020




The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation hosted its first online Sea Chess Charity Tournament to benefit conservation efforts of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary on Saturday, November 14th, 9:00 AM PST!

Live commentary was provided by Grandmaster Sahaj Grover and Women’s International Master Charlize van Zyl


If you are a fan of the Netflix series, “The Queen’s Gambit” you would have LOVED participating in or watching the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s first Sea Chess Tournament!  On November 14th, 2020, Grandmaster Sahaj Grover and Woman International Master Charlize van Zyl hosted and provided live game commentary of the tournament. 18 players participated in the overall tournament, making it a huge success! 

Players logged onto starting at 9:00AM and after a short introduction by Mason Kelly, and a showing of the Sanctuary Foundation short-film, the first games began – 5 Rounds G15 Rapid. GM Grover and WIM van Zyl live-streamed the event to, where they provided colorful and instructive commentary as they cycled through games. After over an hour of play, two winners tied for 1st place -screen-names: “Unteachable” and “Mangonel.” The second event – 5 Rounds G3 + 2 Blitz – began at 11:50AM. This was a quick event as the Blitz game gives players only three minutes to complete their games. Top placers were screen-names “Mangonel,” “Unteachable,” and “Belugawhale1.” Tournament prizes for the top placers included lessons from International Grandmaster Ilya Smirin and National Master Gjon Feinstein.

And in the highlight event, GM Grover played a simultaneous exhibition against five players. Not only did he play all five players at once, but he also continued providing live commentary and handily won all five games!  It was something to see.  

After a brief sign off from our commentators and Special Events Contractor Harrison MacDonald, the tournament came to a close.

We would like to thank our wonderful commentators, GM Grover and WIM van Zyl, for all of their contributions to the success of the event. We would also like to thank our prize donors, GM Ilya Smirin, GM Sahaj Grover, WIM Charlize van Zyl, and NM Gjon Feinstein. We would also like to thank our generous sponsors, Gateway School and Santa Catalina School.

We look forward to having more Sea Chess Tournaments in the future!

Photo Gallery

Tournament Types:

  • 5 Rounds, G15 Rapid
  • 5 Rounds, G3 + 2 Blitz
  • Simultaneous G30 against GM Sahaj Grover


  • U1500
  • Open 


  • 5 Rounds, G15 Rapid Open (for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place): 2 one-and-a-half-hour group lessons from IGM Ilya Smirin
  • 5 Rounds, G15 Rapid U1500 (for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place): 2 one-and-a-half-hour group lessons from IGM Ilya Smirin
  • 5 Rounds, G3 + 2 Blitz Open (for 1st place): 2 one-hour private lessons from GM Sahaj Grover
  • 5 Rounds, G3 + 2 Blitz U1500 (for 1st place): 3 one-hour private lessons from WIM Charlize van Zyl
  • 5 Rounds, G3 + 2 Blitz Open (for 2nd place): 1 one-hour private lesson from NM Gjon Feinstein
  • 5 Rounds, G3 + 2 Blitz U1500 (for 2nd place): 1 one-hour private lesson from NM Gjon Feinstein

Winners Received Lessons from :

International Grand Master Ilya Smirin

Formerly ranked 13th Highest in the World, Winner of World Open (2014 and 2015)

IGM  Ilya Smirin has a rating of 2614. His highest rating was 2702 – the 13th highest in the world (2002). He has been the winner of a number of strong tournaments, including the New York Open (2000) and World Open (2014 and 2015), Los Angeles (2000), and Las Vegas (1997), among others. He was a participant of the “Russia vs. Rest of the World” (2002) match, playing on the “Rest of the World” team, who were victorious in the match. 

Smirin is available to coach players:

GM Sahaj Grover

Winner of the South African Open (2017-2018)

Sahaj Grover is a chess Grandmaster from Delhi, India. He won the Under-10 World Youth Chess Championship in 2005 and came in third in the Under-20 World Junior Chess Championship in 2011. He also won the South African Open in 2017 and 2018.

Grover has coached the South African team for the online Olympiad 2020. Contact:

WIM Charlize van Zyl

2-Time Olympiad Participant

Charlize van Zyl is a Woman International Master from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Her noteworthy performances in past tournaments have earned her spot in the Olympiad team through the SA Grand Prix system, which will be her second Olympiad in 2021.

van Zyl is a scholastic, provincial, and private coach. Contact:

National Master Gjon Feinstein

Feinstein earned his USCF National Chess Master Title in 1984. He reached a rating high of 2348 and is currently rated 2249. Gjon has taught chess full time in the schools since 1995 and as a library volunteer since 2001. He has led various scholastic chess teams to first place victories in Central California Scholastic Chess Championships. 

In this period of COVID-19 and sheltering in place, Gjon teaches group classes and private lessons online. Contact: or by phone at: 831-425-7835. 

About The Foundation

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a treasured place in America’s ocean. It provides a home to 36 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, and at least 525 species of fish. The MBNMS Foundation is dedicated to protecting the long-term health of the Monterey Bay area for two million residents spread across the five counties adjacent to the Sanctuary, as well as the millions of tourists who visit the region every year. Donations to the Foundation go to benefit the Sanctuary’s wildlife disturbance docent programs, BayNet, Team OCEAN, and the Whale Disentanglement team, as well as to research projects. All donations are greatly appreciated!        

Thank You to Our Sponsors!


Contact us at or if you have any questions or concerns!