Jan Johansson of Livingston finished off a hot season by winning the Montana State Closed Championship trophy on tiebreak points. The first place showing, shared with previous state champ Alex Dawson, capped an extraordinary year for Johansson who, in spite of resuming tournament play only last April, has come away with most of the state's highest chess honors this season. These honors include winning the State Open, the Grand Prix, the Senior championship, and now - the biggest prize of all - his first State Closed Championship trophy.
The tournament, held September 9-10 on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, also featured strong play from co-champ Dawson, who ended the weekend tied with Johansson at 4 points out of 5. His round 3 loss to Johansson spelled the difference in tiebreak points, however, so the trophy that he won outright last year passed to a new owner. One consolation to Dawson, a six-time champion from Helena (only two other players in MCA history ever earned more titles), is that under MCA rules he retains his automatic seeding into the next Closed Championship. Johansson will have to fight his way back into the Closed just like the rest of us.
Mike Jensen of Missoula finished third, a full point behind the champions, owing in part to a first round loss to Dennis Petrak of Great Falls. At 239 points, this was easily the biggest upset in the Closed. Petrak, one of four players the Electric City sent to the Closed this year, was unable to continue his winning ways, ending with 2 points. That put him just behind fellow club players Thad Suits, Jim Skovron and Doug Hansen, along with Missoula's Rudi Katzl.
In spite of some cancellations and substitutions, this was one of the strongest championships since the MCA went to the 10-player format in 1995. It was also the first time prize money was involved; Johansson and Dawson split the $100 first place prize.
When asked about his chances before the tournament, Johansson said, "I think that if I just avoid obvious, stupid blunders I can win here." As his victory attests, the only obvious blunders Johansson's opponents ever saw were their own.