Sevian takes 2017 Chicago Open!

A total of 984 players showed up at the 2017 Chicago Open causing the organizers to scramble to arrange proper space. Having been edged out by a wedding, the tournament converted a skittles room into a playing hall and certainly created initial chaos, but the tournament was able to adjust. There was still the problem of repairing sections because people did not report their results on time and/or withdrawing from the tournament.

Site of Chicago Open

The field is not a strong as in previous years, but has a cadre of young players from university and scholastic programs. The game has continued to get younger as the top sections are dominated by young players looking for scalps and norms. The question may be why did this tournament break records for attendance, but only attracted one player over 2600? Interesting question. It’s peak time for chess and players have options, but it is apparent that Chicago is an appealing place for tournament play. Perhaps, higher-rated players are tired of losing ELO points to the young scholastic sharks in the field… and there are many!

GM Samuel Sevian (left) kept the lead throughout and nudged GM Illia Nyzhnyk to win the 2017 edition. Photos by Daaim Shabazz

Samuel Sevian came into the competition seeded 4th behind Grandmasters Illia Nyzhnyk, Vladimir Belous and Andrey Stukopin. Cagey veterans such as the legendary James Tarjan, the ever-dangerous Alexander Shabalov entered the fray. New GMs such as Ruifeng Li and Akshat Chandra would make a run. IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti of Idaho, just graduated from UCLA, landed a position at Google, and at the age of 18, would see if he could test his mettle. FMs Josh Colas and Justus Williams of Webster University were looking for ELO points to try to confirm their IM titles. Everyone had their own motives.

FM Josh Colas (right) lost against GM Vladimir Georgiev,
but scored a respectable 5.5/9.

IM Luke Harmon-Velotti (center) scored his second GM norm
a few weeks after graduating from UCLA at age 18.

IM Awonder Liang scored his 3rd and final GM norm.

Sevian actually held the lead for the entire tournament with his torrid pace of 6.5/7. He beat a surging Harmon-Vellotti in round 7 to cement his lead over the field by one point. He closed out the tournament with draws with Nyzhnyk and Josh Friedel, who both scored 7/9 along with IM Michael Brown. On 6.5/9 were GMs Vladimir Belous, Andrey Stukopin, Eugene Perelshteyn and IMs Awonder Liang and Daniel Gurevich.

GM John Fedorowicz analyzed games of participants.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

GM norms were notched by Brown, Liang and Harmon-Velotti. This will be Liang’s final GM norm. For IM norms, Matthew Larson, Robert Perez, Sam Schmakel and Aaron Grabinsky all had strong performances with 5.5/9.

Daniel X Jones
(under-2100 co-champion)
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

In the under-2300 FM Andrew Hubbard won clear 1st with 6.5/7 followed by Zhaoqi Li with 6/7. Li, a recent immigrant, is only on record as playing in one U.S. tournament ten years ago with a provisional rating of 1798. This performance gives him a provisional rating of 2483 from 14 games! In the under-2100 section, both Roderick Scarlett of New York and Daniel X Jones from Chicago split $7500 1st place with 6/7. The under-1900 had a five-way tie for 1st with 6/9. All the class sections were won with 6.5/7… (under-1700) Christopher Autera-Polzin, (under-1500) Anatole Sullivan, (under-1300) Ivan Mitkov and (under-1000) Edward Li.

PGN Games:


  1. Congrats to Sevian.
    This is one case where I’m glad looks like it’s not tightly connected to FIDE. Justus Williams turns in a sub-standard performance and loses a bunch of USCF points, but he only loses 1 FIDE point. So instead of being 17 points away from the IM title, he’s 18 points away. Not a bad deal.

    1. I interviewed Sevian at the Millionaire Chess last November. Nice young man! He has mellowed out quite a bit since he was a brash scholastic player.

      GM Samuel Sevian (USA) – Born in New York, Sevian has been a sensation for a long time. He became an Expert at age 8, a National Master at age 9 and an International Master at 12 and 10 months. He broke a national record by becoming an International Grandmaster at 13 years, 10 months and 27 days. Since then he has played in two U.S. Championships and has begun to make his presence felt in international circles. In this joint interview with his mother Armine, he talks about his evolution as a chess player. Hopefully we will see good things from this raw talent. 9:49 minutes

      GM Samuel Sevian and mother Armine chatting with
      GM Pontus Carlsson of Sweden. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

  2. Selected Photos from 2017 Chicago Open
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz

    FM Gauri Shankar (left) faces off against GM Alexander Shabalov…1/2

    Top boards… IM Zhansaya Abdumalik (near left)

    Ashkita Gorti vs. Christopher Yoo, 1/2

    Balaji Daggupati

    FM Justus Williams

    USCF Life Master Marvin Dandridge

    Ashkita Gorti vs. Arthur Guo, 1-0

    Ponder this!

    Even Pokemon Go was represented!

    Two veterans battle! Marvin Dandridge vs. Brian Wall lock horns and Dandridge comes out on top. Wall arguably had the best t-shirt in the round.

    Deepak Aaron, Georgia Tech graduate and Founder/CEO of Redde, a transaction solutions company.

    IM Angelo Young needed a fresh perspective of the position!

    FM Andrew Karklins’ Latvian-born father Erik Karklins recently passed away at 102 years old and was a long-time tournament competitor. One of the toughest father-son teams around! Interesting story about them here.

    Under-2100 battles

    Billy Turner

    Thalia Cervantes scored 7/7 last year in under-2100, but found things a bit tougher in the under-2300 and ended on 3/7.

    Nigeria’s Lolamari George got 5.5/7 and joint 2nd

    Lion King!

    Blitz battles! Tom Murphy (right) holding court while Sedrick Prude and Sam Ford look on.

    Last round!
    FM Hans Moke Niemann vs. GM Kayden Troff
    FM Matt Larson vs. Maggie Feng
    FM Sam Schmakel waiting on IM Angelo Young
    FM Ben Li waiting on IM Farai Mandizha

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