Viktor Mikalevski ponders Gata Kamsky’s next move while Nakamura-Najer reaches the climatic stage. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
In an unusual ending to America’s premier tournament, Evgeny Najer and Hikaru Nakamura topped the World Open field with a final 7-2 tally. What made this result so unusual was that Nakamura had requested two half-point byes for the last two rounds. The U.S. Champion had to make a Sunday flight to Spain to compete in San Sebastian tournament which was beginning on Tuesday. As it were, Nakamura was tied with Najer in the end, but Nakamura had to forfeit the overall crown since he was not present to play the blitz tiebreak. Najer pocketed $15,200.00 (with an additional $200.00 for the overall crown).
Najer had lost to Nakamura in round #7 in a thrilling encounter, but won key games over Alex Shabalov and Jaan Ehlvest to move into the winner’s circle. Victor Mikhalevski collapsed when it appeared as if he would be in competition for the crown. Losing to fellow Israeli Ilya Smirin and Czech Jiri Stocek squashed his chances. There was five-way tie for joint 2nd led by Gata Kamsky and followed by Smirin, Stocek, Leonid Yudasin and Varuzhan Akobian. A seven-way tie for joint 3rd netted $257.15.