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Bel Air’s Shelby Getz survives ‘unforgettable’ chess battles with legends of the game at U.S. Senior Championship

Shelby Getz said he was recovering Tuesday after spending roughly 15 hours over the previous three days in an online chess battle for the 2020 U.S. Senior Championship.

“I’m recuperating, I’m trying to give rest to the neurons and all the synaptic firings of my brain from the weekend,” the 58-year-old Bel Air resident and American chess FIDE Master, said Tuesday afternoon.

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Getz was the clear underdog of the 10-player, round-robin tournament, battling with nine others, all Grand Masters or legends of the game, Saturday through Monday. In the end, Getz celebrated a stunning win, halved four other matches and in his own words, “was pummeled” in the other four.

“I knew this going in, one doesn’t go up against the great American legends and come out, not badly beaten, bruised and battered,,” Getz said. “I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, it literally was a once in a lifetime opportunity that just fell into my lap.”

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Getz knew he was the odd man out, “the square peg that just didn’t fit in the round hole, no matter how hard you try,” he said.

Getz says he was able to get a little bit of dig into these stellar opponents that he calls “old time greats.”

“Even though my lowly status, I managed to dispatch one of the great players from yesteryear in just a dozen moves,” Getz said.

The win came over Patrick Wolff in the fourth round, which was the opening of play on Sunday.

“This doesn’t happen every day, it doesn’t happen every month, it doesn’t happen every decade,” Getz said. “So, of the nine matches, that upset was forever talked about throughout the event and managed to put me as the front showcase in ... the final round actually, which was against the tournament leader. It was as if there were no other matches to discuss. It was just all me and the great champ who took the event.”

Joel Benjamin was the champion with 12.5 points totaled. The winner received $12,000. Getz scored 3.0 points and received $2,000 for his efforts. A win is one point, a draw gets a half point and a loss gets zero.

“It was just an unforgettable experience for me, really a once in a lifetime opportunity to play with these great veterans of the game," Getz said. “Once they knew what I was up to and what I was trying to pull off in broad daylight, that’s when the other four pounced on me to no end unmercifully. But still, I seemed to exceed all expectations.”

Getz just didn’t want to get shut out and he took care of that fear in the first match

“Unexpectedly, I held one of the great all-time players, Alex Yermolinsky, to a draw and got on the scoreboard right in the very first round and met that goal,” Getz said.

Getz says there were three ways this event was new to him. Playing an event where all other players are Grand Masters; the rapid playing format and playing in an online tournament.

“I was battling nerves, if you watch me on screen, you can see me grimacing and of course, when they fed me to the ultimate lion in round nine, and they never broke away to even look,” Getz said of the online streaming of the event. “It was as if all other matches just weren’t happening.”

Regardless of the overall finish, Getz will forever remember this event.

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"I didn’t expect it to happen, I don’t think it will happen again, but boy, for me, it was magical, memorable, really unforgettable,” he said.

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