2015 World Open (Arlington, Virginia)

43rd Annual World Open
June 30-July 5, 2015
Hyatt Regency Crystal City
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
Arlington, Virginia

The historic World Open was held this past weekend at Crystal City Hyatt in Arlington, Virginia for the third consecutive year before returning to Philadelphia. This year made even more apparent that the youth movement has hit the U.S. as the hotel was literally overrun by an ever-increasing number of scholastic players.

These young talents are testing their skills by playing the strongest competition and scoring points! It was not too long ago that Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Ray Robson were blazing their respective trails at the same tournament. Junior player John Michael Burke (2258) was the breakout star this tournament with 6.5/9 (beating two IMs and a GM) and a $4000.00 under-2300 honors. There were a number of upsets, but the veterans are still in control… for now.

The tournament had an interesting mixture of players from around the world including England’s Luke McShane, Alexander Ipatov (Turkey), Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (Iran), Axel Bachmann (Paraguay), Jianchao Zhou (China) with strong contingents from Israel, India, Nigeria and Canada. In the end, Aleksandr Lenderman won the tiebreaker over Rauf Mamedov and won the extra $300.00 prize in addition to $5162.50 that each of the eight players received for 7/9.

Aleksandr Lenderman being congratulated by Rauf Mamedov
after winning the tiebreak.

There were also a healthy number of women competing including U.S. champion Irina Krush, former Asian champion Atousa Pourkashiyan of Iran who told The Chess Drum that she has been playing in a number major tournaments in the U.S. She was at last year’s Millionaire Chess Open. There were also a large contingent of girls throughout each section including FM Akshita Gorti who scored a respectable 5/9.

FM Akshita Gorti (right)

IM Odion Aikhoje (Nigeria) vs. GM Alonso Zapata (Colombia)

Some main observations can be made about the World Open. IM Odion Aikhoje made the observation that the energy of American chess is was inspiring and the tournament appears to be like a festival with an emphasis on enjoyment. In fact in three separate interviews conducted by The Chess Drum, there were interesting contrasts drawn between American and European chess. As of now, chess seems to be experiencing a resurgence.

Virginia was nice…

…and memories were captured, but…

…the World Open returns to Philly next year!

Despite the resurgence, there was something missing in this year’s World Open. The amount of registrants eclipsed 1000 with a large percentage of scholastic players. This is a double-sided issue… the youth movement is flourishing, but the adult segment is shrinking. So what gives? Is the World Open going to be rejuvenated after a return to Philly? Will there be better conditions to harness the magic of the World Open? Time will tell.

Official Site: https://www.worldopen.com
Games: https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/worldopen2015.pgn


  1. Selected Photos from World Open (July 2, 2015)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    GM Gata Kamsky and FM Seth Homa waiting.

    GM Rauf Mamedov (Azerbaijan)

    FM Yuanchen Zhang (Canada) – GM Kayden Troff (USA)

    GM Artur Jussupow (Germany)

    After winning the U.S. Junior Open, FM Awonder Liang had a disastrous result.

    FM Tanraj Sohal (Canada) – IM Kassa Korley (Denmark)

    NM Majur Juac (South Sudan)

    GM Arun Prasad Subramanian (India) – IM Odion Aikhoje (Nigeria)

    IM Odion Aikhoje (Nigeria) – GM Arun Prasad Subramanian (India)

    GM Alexander Shabalov in the process of being upset by Corey Acor.

    A regular occurrence at tournaments… clock-setting!

    NM Okechukwu Iwu

    Fifteen-year old National Master Emmanuel Carter

    GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (Iran)

    IM Farai Mandizha (Zimbabwe) in an intense battle!

    IM Odion Aikhoje (Nigeria)

    Senior Master Joshua Colas (USA)

    “Sammy” of Washington Square Park fame!

    Edward Sedillo vs. Gabriel Tafalla (under 2000)

    If you mess with this big guy, I believe he has a twin brother!

    A young tiger prowling!

    Saithanusri Avirneni of Atlanta, Georgia.

    Deanna Alter of Colorado is also a cheerleader
    and competitive rock climber.

    Alfred Hurd, Jr.

    Antoine Hutchinson analyzing with Dr. Kimani Stancil
    as the legendary Frank Street looks on.
    All photos by Daaim Shabazz.

  2. Selected Photos from World Open (July 3, 2015)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    Open Battles!

    GM Varuzhan Akobian (USA)

    GM Irina Krush (USA) – GM Luke McShane (England)

    Let’s get it on!

    McShane is still having issues with the clock as Krush makes her move.

    More battles! Recognize anyone?

    FM Gauri Shankar (India)

    Another young tiger prowling his prey?

    FM Akshita Gorti

    Hiding under that cap is WIM Megan Lee,
    the owner of a 1000-watt smile.

    Billy Turner (USA)

    Antoine Hutchinson (under-2200)

    Adia Onyango was in the running in the under-2000 section…

    …while Vanita Young cashed in the under-1800!

    Mayra Beras from the Dominican Republic got 6.5/9 and also bagged an under-1800 prize. She’s has recently come out of a retirement. Glad to have her affable presence. ๐Ÿ™‚

    IM Farai Mandizha analyzing his game with Josh Colas. Farai won.

    Deanna Alter analyzing with Saithanusri Avirneni. Avirneni won the game. I had an interesting conversation with them about women in chess and encouraged both high schoolers.

    Saithanusri Avirneni getting ready for her next game.

    Frank Street blitzing with Majur Juac.
    Both have remarkable stories.

    Peter Roberts representing Harlem, New York.

    New Yorker Christopher Johnson with the best cap in the place!
    All photos by Daaim Shabazz.

  3. Selected Photos from World Open (July 4, 2015)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    The bookstore was quite busy. Nice selection and artistic presentation.

    He’s bagging up US$187.00 worth of stuff I bought… bookends, two Benko DVDs, Karsten Muller’s Fischer game collection and Garry Kasparov’s “Great Predecessors” book on Fischer. The banana is not mine.

    Analysis session. Did that shirt bring any magic Eric? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Before the round on July 4th, Steve Emmitt sang the national anthem to commemorate the 239th birthday of the U.S. Wow! He’ll get an “A” for effort.

    GM Alex Lenderman set to face GM Anton Kovalyov
    while FM Michael Bodek waits for GM Gata Kamsky.

    GM Alexander Shabalov (USA) ready to destroy as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, he was upset by two National Masters.

    FM Gauri Shankar (India) – Tanraj S Sohal (Canada)

    Daaim Shabazz, Walter Harris, Adia Onyango and Vaughn Bennett.

    The current youngest Black national master Emmanuel Carter
    with Walter Harris, the first Black national master.

    IM Farai Mandizha blitzing with Nigerian master Odafe Benedict Efemuai.

    One of my friends Dr. Donna Cill was in town for a wedding and she came to visit for a short while. I couldn’t quite convince her of the intense nature of chess, but she seemed to appreciate the environment. I introduced her to Peter Roberts who lives in Harlem not far from where Donna lives. Small world.

    Donna knew exactly which piece to use!

    I resign!

    Peter lost quickly to the Black Queen, so it was my turn!

    GM Alejandro Ramirez is on the move! Originally from Costa Rica, he is now making contributions in the journalistic arena, so I guess he is my colleague now! I told Alejandro I purchased his Benko DVDs and hoped to add 100 Elo points. ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually I’ve been playing the Benko since high school and at the time, had no theoretical knowledge. I knew the main ideas, but played by intuition and feel and got good results. I later studied Pal Benko’s book, the first mainstream book on the Benko. Yep… that’s a long time ago!

    IM Odion Aikhoje (Nigeria) vs. GM Alonso Zapata (Colombia)
    Zapata got revenge for Colombia’s World Cup loss to Nigeria in 1994.

    Jamaica’s Mario Marshall blitzing with Donnell Sutton. Check!
    All photos by Daaim Shabazz.

  4. Selected Photos from World Open (July 5, 2015)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    Getting ready for the last day!

    Scholastic players in the hunt too!

    IM Andrey Gorovets (Belarus) vs. GM Sergy Azarov (Belarus), 1/2
    GM Jianchao Zhou (China) vs. GM Alex Lenderman (USA), 0-1

    Arthur Guo playing with the big boys.

    Top board in the under-2000 section. Nigerians did well with two players on 7/9.

    Eat. Sleep. Chess. Nice bottle Peter.
    Sounds like a motto some players take to heart. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Two of my opponents. I played Devan Shan the previous round in a Benko Gambit. Draw. In this round I was playing the 13-year old Canadian phenom, WCM Maili-Jade Ouellet. It was a tough game, but drawn. Ouellet has won national championships in Canada and hails from the Quebec province. She has received quite a bit of media attention in Canada. I told her I was going to track her progress.

    Blitz demon Tavon Carter vs. Adia Onyango, 0-1

    Scholastic invasion!

    Tavon Carter doing what he does best. He is playing Nigerian IM and Olympiad gold medallist, Odion Aikhoje.

    Adia Onyango in a good mood after winning chatting with with James Jeffrey and his friend, Dionne.

    Two scholastic players on board #1 of the under-2200 section… Justin Wang and Andy Huang. The game was a tactical Sicilian in which white had what appeared to be a big attack. However, black held and both players won $7,000.00. Not bad for a couple of under-12 players.

    Kassa needs help!

    Jon Haskel

    National Masters from North Carolina Emmanuel Carter and Dominique Myers.

    Guillermo Nieto of Colombia and…

    … his twin brother Manuel Nieto.

    WCM Apurva Virkud (USA)

    WCM Maili-Jade Ouellet (Canada)

    Bouncing back from a poor result in DC International,
    Kenneth Odeh scored a tough draw to take a share of 4th-6th.

    Deepak Aaron on the move.

    Dr. Kimani Stancil, a physicist by training, had a good result and got 50%.
    It was the shirt! ๐Ÿ™‚

    GM Magesh Panchanathan

    Cool cap!

    Skittles! Tournament is almost over! Great fun!


    IM Marc Esserman

    Emmanuel Carter blitzing against Shawn Martinez. Martinez is part of the famous championship teams at Edward R. Murrow with Alex Lenderman and Salvijus Bercys. He is the Co-Founder of Chess In Brooklyn (http://www.ChessinBrooklyn.com) and has a fascinating story. You can read about Shawn here.

    The games were hotly contested and pieces were zipping across the board in lightening speed. Great to watch!

  5. Lenderman wins 2015 World Open!

    Alex Lenderman continues a nice run of tournaments after winning the 2015 World Open. Lenderman actually tied with seven other players to finish the tournament on 7/9. Of course all players will be considered co-champions, but there were be a playoff tiebreak to decide who would receive the additional $300.00. However, the path to the top would be tortuous.

    GM Jianchao Zhou (China) vs. GM Alex Lenderman (USA), 0-1
    IM Andrey Gorovets (Belarus) vs. GM Sergy Azarov (Belarus), 1/2

    Setting the stage for a frantic finish, Lenderman won a crucial penultimate contest against Chinese Grandmaster Jianchao Zhou. In an interview with U.S. Chess Online, Lenderman had little chance to win but capitalized off of a mistake by Zhou. According to comments in the post-tournament interview by US Chess Online, he had this to say,

    “He blew a nice position and he realized now that he has to fight for a draw,” Lenderman said. “I kept playing and he made a mistake and I won this game.”

    In the last round, there was a bit of a shock after Lenderman accepted a quick 15-move draw with Ehsan Ghaem Maghami of Iran. It punched his ticket to the playoff, but insisted that he was not being anti-competitive.

    “I was trying to win, especially with white. I don”t ever make pre-arranged draws. That”s not how I play. For me, chess is a sport. I don”t want to make it a business.”

    Interesting perspective because he is a professional and such a decision could be seen as a rationale one. However, with all the furor over quick draws, such results may be increasingly scrutinized. With eight players log-jammed on 7/9, both Lendermen and Mamedov had the best tiebreaks. So both sat down to battle in front of a modest but riveted audience. Here is the video by Jamaal Abdul-Alim seen filming in the photos below.

    Alex Lenderman wins!
    All photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    The tournament was hotly contested with a younger field from previous World Opens. There were some notable upsets as former top-five player Artur Jussupow lost to Andrew Tang, an IM from Canada. Alexander Shabalov lost to Corey Acor. In a sparkling performance by junior player John Michael Burke or “JMB” he tallied 6.5/9 beating two IMs and getting a Grandmaster scalp from Arun Prasad Subramanian. He earned his first IM norm along with 15-year old Craig Hilby, who beat GMs Conrad Holt and Shabalov. Kapil Chandran beat Colombian Grandmaster Gildardo Garcia. There are piranhas in the Open Section!

    U.S. Chess Life (July 2015)

    In the current issue of Chess Life, there is a mention of a “Golden Age” for American Chess. It appears that the talent is being harnessed from the inertia of scholastic chess. In fact, the DC International tournament saw Michael Bodek, Ruifeng Li, Cameron Wheeler, Christoper Wu from the US, and Jason Cao from Canada all earned IM norms. All of these players were recently or are still playing scholastic chess.

    Less than 10 years ago, Lenderman was one of those players competing in the scholastic arena for Edward Murrow High School in Brooklyn. Now he has elevated to compete for the U.S. national team and for U.S. Championships. It is good to see him taste his first World Open victory and perhaps more successes to follow.

    Selected games of GM Alex Lenderman

  6. Drum Interviews @ โ€™15 World Open

    IM Odion Aikhoje gave some interesting professional insights about the marketing of chess in an informative half-hour conversation. He has a Master’s degree in sports marketing management.

    The 2015 World Open remains America’s marquee event… for right now. It has staying power, but of course its consistency may suggest that a few tweaks are needed. Many foreign players get their first exposure to American tournaments via the World Open and usually will gripe about lack of professional standards.

    In fact, Alexander Ipatov wrote an article for ChessBase that sounded like so many of the other articles written… no conditions, have to supply own clock and set, two rounds a day, the usual complaints. Few foreign players understand the American chess landscape and how it works. However, there were some interesting observations made by IM Odion Aikhoje (Nigeria) who gave an interesting perspective in our 30-minute conversation. He also gave his analysis of why African chess suffers such dysfunction… not for the lack of talent.

    Aikhoje won a gold medal at the 1998 Chess Olympiad in Elista, Russia, but makes some incisive comments about how a country can capitalize off the success of a single player to create a sustainable business model for future development. Very insightful indeed! 30:01 minutes

    GM Luke McShane (England) – Luke was playing in the blitz tournament when I asked for an interview so I only had a few minutes. The English player was enjoying a vacation in the U.S. and decided to make chess a part of it. This was his second time competing in the World Open, America’s marquee tournament. This time he competed in both the DC International (tying for 1st on 7/9) and the World Open (tying for 2nd on 6.5/9).

    Luke McShane (right) was able to avoid being krushed by Irina!
    Yes I know… a bad pun!

    He made a comment about the two games a day, but not as strongly as his compatriot Nigel Short who feels the practice should be banned. Luke is not a professional chess player, but is often touted as the strongest amateur player in the world. Perhaps one can sense that he is a bit at ease while playing. Unlike many professional players, a game’s result would have no bearing on his ability to pay his mortgage! 3:21 minutes

    Fifteen-year old National Master Emmanuel Carter in action!

    NM Emmanuel Carter (USA) – This young master gained major experience at this World Open and was able to test his rapidly improving skills in a number of blitz encounters. Soft-spoken, yet confident and self-assured, Carter tells The Chess Drum about his beginnings, how he found chess and his career aspirations. While the 15-year old is rather new to the national scene, we certainly will hear more about him in the coming years. 5:17 minutes

    Vanita Young got 6.5/9 at the World Open
    in the under-1800 section.

    Vanita Young (USA) – A Philadelphia native how gained some initial exposure the the Dark Knights Chess Club under the tutelage of Douglas Cox, Young earned a scholarship to player for the the highly-fancied Webster University chess team. However, she returned to Philadelphia after one year to be closer to home.

    This tournament was a rousing success for Young who scored 6.5/9 in the under-1800 section. It was her most successful result since leaving Webster University. These days she keeps a busy schedule but still finds time to take on a few students while working and going to school. Vanita also gives some interesting insights on the raging gender debate in chess. Certainly, a credible voice on the topic. 7:03 minutes

    FM Kazim Gulamali discussed his international adventures!

    FM Kazim Gulamali (USA) – When someone calls Kazim a “bugger” they mean it in a positive light. ๐Ÿ™‚ One of the world’s strongest players in the chess variant of “bughouse” the Atlanta native still has aspirations in chess. His goals have taken him to Europe to play in a series of tournaments including Lazslo Nagy’s “First Saturday” tournament in Hungary. Kazim raved about the travel experience and remarked at the beauty of the country and the hospitality of Nagy. He was able to bag one IM norm and hopes to defend his Millionaire under-2500 title this October. 15:55 minutes

    Gulamali playing bughouse, a variant in which he is one of the world’s best!

    Mario Marshall (Jamaica) – Many times in tournaments, we do not know the professional backgrounds of our opponents. Sometimes I Google my opponents after a tournament and it is amazing how many accomplished players lurk at tournaments. May it’s not so surprising! Mario is one of those unassuming players with immense intellectual capital. Holding a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Florida Atlantic University, he currently teaches online courses for Western Governors University and resides in south Florida. Although he did not do well in the tournament, he shared his experiences during the World Open and views about chess in the Caribbean. 8:21 minutes

    Mario Marshall blitzing with Donnell Sutton.
    All photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    This year, I had a wish-list of interviewees and while I did not get many of them, I hope to get some good ones at the Millionaire Open in October. Adia Onyango has agreed to do one at the Millionaire Open and maybe I’ll have a few surprises, so stay-tuned! Please feel free to make comments below!

    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/07/09/2015-world-open-arlington-virginia/
    Drum Interviews (archive): https://www.thechessdrum.net/interviews.html

  7. Selected Photos from World Open (July 5, 2015)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    Post-tournament activities (Blitz Tournament and Bughouse)

    Blitz tournament!

    GM Alejandro Ramirez vs. GM Jianchao Zhou

    FM Luis Flaquer (Dominican Republic)

    NM Dominique Myers (USA)

    Jeremiah Williams (USA)

    GM Luke McShane vs. IM Kassa Korley

    McShane won 1ยฝโ€“ยฝ.


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