The premier chess event in America was held July 4th weekend beginning on June 30th in the iconic place of the country’s founding. Philadelphia is known for many things… Declaration of Independence, Rocky movie series, cheese steaks and soul music. For the past three decades, it has also become an institution in chess. The World Open has mostly been held in the “city of brotherly love” and seems to be the perfect place for magical moments. The 2017 had a few.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz
Nearly 1300 players came from around the country and from nearly nearly 50 countries (32 in Open Section) to compete in America’s largest open chess tournament. The prize fund was a guaranteed $225,000 with the Open Section offering $20,000 for first prize. While there has been a decline in overall strength of the tournament, the competitive nature was in full swing. The top section had more than 200 players including more than 30 Grandmasters. Top-seed Le Quang Liem of Vietnam (2726) followed by 14-year old Jeffery Xiong (2658), the current World Junior Champion.
Jeffery Xiong was steady during the entire event, but was slowed by a 1/2-point bye. He beat IM Roland Nolte in this contest. Le Quang Liem of Vietnam (foreground) gets a 14-minute headstart while waiting for GM Pavel Blatny.
Le held onto the first table for most of the tournament, but a spate of draws slowed his progress and Jianchao Zhou of China passed him on 6/7. Along with Le, Tigran Petrosian and Andrey Stukopin had 5.5/7. Xiong also had the same score after taking a 1/2-point bye in round seven. However the big surprise was 17-year old International Master Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazahkstan. After beating Gil Popilski of Israel, she joined the logjam a half-point from the lead! She started attracting attention, not only for her long ponytail she wore past her back, but for being an increasing threat on the top boards.
In the penultimate round, Zhou-Petrosian, Le-Stukopin, Xiong-Lenderman, Zherebukh-Abdumalik were headliners. Here is how the games transpired:
Meanwhile IM Farai Mandizha of Zimbabwe was on the mark for earning his second GM norm. Here he is preparing for one of his games. Photo by Respina Mandizha
Here Mandizha polishes off GM Andrey Stukopin after the Russian made a dubious exchange sacrifice…
With one round remaining, Petrosian, Xiong, Abdumalik and Filipino Grandmaster Oliver Barbosa moved out front with 6.5/8. Abdumalik’s performance was already causing a stir, but now she would be on board one for the finale against Xiong! Petrosian would play Barbosa in the other match-up. By this time, Abdumalik (win or lose) was poised for a GM norm joining Zimbabwe’s Farai Mandizha. The teen Kazakh shined in the Chicago Open, but this has to be her best result thus far. The former world youth champion has been touring the U.S. She started miserably in St. Louis with 1/9, but now having a chance to win a major event.
For the third year in a row, Steve Immitt sang the “Star Spangled Banner” before the last round.
America has long had the national anthem before the opening of sporting events and it is certainly a different feeling at a less-fancied chess tournament. Immitt received generous applause for his efforts. Now… let’s get it on!
Abdumalik-Xiong started out in a Sicilian Najdorf and entered the fashionable 6.h3 line. This game was equal for the most part without any of the fireworks typical of such a game. It wasn’t certain whether Xiong was trying to press, but probably felt that his opponent was in good form.
A crowd assembled around the board waiting to see if history would be made.
The Petrosian-Barbosa game was gripped in a battle of a Catalan. The game was a thriller with all types of imbalances. Somewhere along the way the Filipino stumbled and allowed white an initiative after 18…Nxf8?! 19.d4! After 19…cxd4 20.Rac1 Bxd5 21.exd5 black appeared to be busted. The black king was stuck in the center and white kept striking at the center after 26.f4! The game exploded into a tactical melee after 37.Rcd1 Rxh3 38.Nxe5. Black was never able to fend off the onslaught and had to donate more material. It was hopeless and Barbosa resigned.
Petrosian (no kin to former World Champion) would end on 7.5/9 and get clear first to go along with his National Open win the previous month. Along with the US$20,500 prize, Petrosian also won the blitz tournament later on that evening beating Samuel Sevian. Blitz phenom Andrew Tang came in 2nd. As far as the World Open, it was quite a fruitful weekend for the Armenian. Even with his loss to Xiong in the 6th round he was able to recover. In 2nd-6th were Le, Xiong, Yuniesky Quesada-Perez (Cuba), Zhou and Stukopin on 7/9 and $3,960.00. Abdumalik also had 7/9, but would take the 1st under-2300 prize for $5,000.
In other sections, the winners were:
Under-2200: Ramon Manon-Og, Martin Hansen, James Lee Richardson, 7.5/9
Under-2000: Rigoberto Rodriguez, 8/9
Under-1800: Bruce Mubayiwa, 8/9
Under-1600: Angel Barrios, Rachael Li, Kendrick Gardner, 7.5/9
Under-1400: Daniel Wang, 8/9
Under-1200: Matthew Block, 9/9!
Unrated: Turmunkh Narangerel, 7/9
See you next year!
All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated)