Robson edges Friedel, Mitkov @ ’13 Chicago Open

GM Ray Robson
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Chicago is an iconic city for so many reasons… its memorable skyline, museums, restaurants and of course its sports. While chess would not be one of the first sports to characterize Chicago, it does have a fixture here as North Avenue Beach has been a mainstay of visiting chess players for decades.

In the 70s, Chicago was one of the marquee cities to host major events at the swank Palmer House on Wabash Avenue. However, economics caused a relocation to suburbs, Oak Brook, Rosemont and now Wheeling, the current home of the Chicago Open. The Chicago Open remains one of the strongest open tournaments in the U.S. and has drawn some of the country’s top players. This year, the youth movement was apparent.

Many of the players who participated in the 2013 U.S. Chess Championships made the four-hour trip north to compete in Wheeling. There were 20 Grandmasters led by Webster University sophomore Wesley So of the Philippines. However, he would find the going rough and the spotlight would turn to his Webster teammate (and roommate) Ray Robson. Robson ultimately won the event on tiebreaks over GMs Josh Friedel and Nikola Mitkov and thus pocketed $6,033.34 ($200.00 more). All scored 7/9 (+5-0=4).

GM Aleksandr Lenderman started out strong on 5.5/6 but only score half-point in last three rounds. That allowed several players to catch and surpass him including IM Edward Porper of Canada who incidentally scored a GM norm with 6.5/9. Porper came in joint second with GM Alexander Shabalov and earned $2,000.00. Wesley So actually dropped out after a spate of draws and the word is that he was uncomfortable with two rounds in one day format.

Part of Webster University's National Championship team. They were hanging out at the U.S. Championships. They would be a strong Olympiad team as well!! L-R: GM Ray Robson (USA), GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez (Cuba), GM Wesley So (Philippines), GM Manuel Leon Hoyos (Mexico).

GM Ray Robson (standing left) is part of the championship team at Webster University. Seated from the left are GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez (Cuba), GM Wesley So (Philippines), GM Manuel Leon Hoyos (Mexico). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Some interesting faces dotted the tournament hall. Cuba’s GM Fidel Corrales, who also plays at Webster University, is still receiving his initiation to Swiss-style tournaments. He scored 6/9 (+4-1=4) to pocket $483.34. GM Conrad Holt who was a rousing success at the 2013 U.S. Championship tallied 5.5/9 losing to Porper in the last round. Women’s Champion IM Irina Krush scored a solid +2 result and beat GM Yury Shulman in round 8 before losing to Shabalov.

There were several scholastic players with +1 scores including FM Jeffrey Xiong, IM Kayden Troff, local standout Sam Schmakel and Kevin Cao. 12-year old IM-elect Samuel Sevian (4.5/9) was another U.S. Championship alumnus to participate.

Born in Guam and raised in Florida, Robson gained notoriety by breaking many of Hikaru Nakamura’s age records and has represented the national team in the past couple of years. This result certainly shows that he will continue to improve. The future looks bright!

The youth movement is afoot in the U.S. Josh Colas about to take on Alexander Fishbein. Scholastic players dotted the Open Section. Photo by Guy Colas.

PGN Games:


  1. Chicago Open is one of my favorite tournaments. Josh did not get his Norm in this tournament was to a certain extent my fault. Letting him play in a blitz tournament that ended a little past 1am set him up for a fall in his morning game. That was a serious lapse of judgment on my part. I felt really bad watching him fighting to keep his eyes open during that game. He needed just two wins and I am sure if he had gotten a good sleep, he would have done it. Acknowledging JOSH, JAMES and JUSTUS as part of the new youth movement, is incredibly important for the other james, justus and josh who are watching and striving to be like them or even better! Thanks Daaim!

    1. Yes… with the emergence of St. Louis as the driving force and the large numbers of scholastic players, these are bright days for American chess. Whichever moniker we use whether “JJJ”, “Young Lions” or “Young Masters”, they are certainly part of the movement. We’re proud of Josh’s effort. He battled well against Fishbein.

      Darrian did well in the under-2300 and is inching closer to National Master!

  2. That was his first time playing that system. He said in hindsight, he realized that he should not have traded queens and he would have been fine. He will soon have another shot at the NY International. He’s very determined and he knows getting the first one is probably the hardest.

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