2019 Chicago Open (Wheeling, Illinois)

Summer is here and just outside of the “Windy City” in the suburb of Wheeling, the Chicago Open has begun. Aleksandr Shimanov is the defending champion, but Jeffery Xiong is the top seed and wants to repeat his 2015 win. Then only 14-years old, he has since evolved into a member of the U.S. national team and is approaching the 2700 class. He will be challenged by a cadre of other young upstarts looking to make the same type of impact he did four years ago.

While the Chicago Open $100,000 prize fund is not enough to attract the true elite, it is enough to attract norm seekers and those trying to get a “major” win. A number of foreign Grandmasters are affiliated with American universities and will be coming from all of the collegiate powerhouse teams. Webster University, St. Louis University, Texas Tech and University of Texas-Rio Grand Valley and a few others have sent several players.

Blitz phenom Gopal Menon battles IM Atulya Shetty, 1/2

FM Justus Williams drew GM Alexander Shabalov. While Sandeep Sethuraman took down FM Jimmy Canty. The young lions are on the prowl!

WIM Megan Lee takes on FM Josh Posthuma, 1/2
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

The lower sections will be hotly contested with the unconventional section of under-2300, under-2100 and under-1900 which different from the 100-point increments seen at the World Open. Wheeling is just outside of downtown Chicago and fall during the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Official Site: https://chicagoopen.net/
Standings (Open): https://chessevents.com/chicagoopen/
Tournament Details: https://www.chesstour.com/chio19.htm
PGN Games: https://www.thechessdrum.net/games/chicagoopen2019.pgn


  1. 2019 Chicago Open (25 May 2019)

    Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

    Jeffery Xiong holding down top board.

    IM Sam Schmakel

    IM Kassa Korley vs. GM Pavel Vorontsov

    Aakaash Meduri vs. Deepak Aaron

    Benjamin Chen

    WIM Emily Nguyen

    The eyes have it!

    FM Joshua Colas vs. GM Alexander Shabalov, 1/2

    3-day group

    Charles Troutman vs. Daniel Jones

    Sedrick Prude


    Elton Huang

    Stephanie Ballom

    Stephen Faulkner (Louisville), IM Kassa Korley (Brooklyn),
    Kenneth Gaskin (Los Angeles) representing three iconic cities!

    Justus Williams on the move

    George David, “Permanent Supreme”

    Charles Troutman of Atlanta

    Go Cubs!

  2. 2019 Chicago Open (26 May 2019)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

    City of Wheeling

    Remi Adekola goes over game with Daniel X Jones

    Illia Nyzhnyk vs. Vasif Dararbayli

    Dr. Okechukwu Iwu battling in Open Section

    There are still a few Cavalier fans!

    Jimmy Canty

    Lazaro Bruzon vs. Qi Chen

    Chicago Open

    Sharika Luster, Trechelle Williams, Imani Hill
    of St. Ethelreda School (8734 S. Paulina Avenue, Chicago)

    …with coach Erik Luster

    … and Daaim Shabazz!

    Tim Speight II (center) tied for 1st in the under-1500.
    Here he is analyzing with fellow Detroiters.

    Remi Adekola vs. Kassa Korley in blitz battle

    Jimmy Canty vs. Kassa Korley attracts crowd

    Marvin Dandridge watching

    Josh Colas vs. Daniel X Jones

    Brian Wall trying to mate with a bishop and knight in the blitz tournament.

    Justus Williams, Josh Colas and James Black

  3. 2019 Chicago Open (27 May 2019)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

    Round 8
    Yuniesky Quesada vs. Vasif Dararbayli, 1/2
    Jeffery Xiong vs. Illia Nyzhnyk, 1/2

    Awonder Liang

    GM Dariusz Swiercz

    IM Guillermo Vazquez (Paraguay) vs. Atulya Shetty

    FM Justus Williams vs. FM Alansafar Ramoutar (Trinidad)

    Ken Gaskin of Los Angeles

    Shakira Luster

    Trechelle Williams

    Vinay Sridhar

    Lawrence Reed

    The ornate chess sets are attracting a crowd.
    Matia Chemngorem tests out the hardware.

    Jimi Akintonde and Jonathan Corbblah

    Blitz Battle! New York City vs. Midwest

    Justus Williams vs. Daniel X Jones

  4. Vasif Dararbayli wins 2019 Chicago Open!

    Illia Nyzhnyk and Vasif Dararbayli face off in round 7.
    The game was drawn.

    Aided by a strong 5.5/6 start Vasif Dararbayli held off a field of strong GMs to win the 2019 Chicago Open. Perhaps the key win was his 6th round win over then-co-leader Jeffery Xiong (2015 Chicago Open winner). He ended with three draws and top the charts with 7/9 for a $10,300 prize. The other contenders were primarily an All-Star cast of collegians from the chess powerhouses in Texas and Missouri.

    Yuniesky Quesada

    Dararbayli, an Azerbaijani student at Webster University was joined in the hunt by teammates, Illia Nyzhnyk Alexander Shimanov (2018 Chicago Open winner) and Cuban GM duo Lazaro Bruzon and Yuniesky Quesada. They ended on 6.5/9 along with Dariusz Swiercz of St. Louis University, Hovhannes Gabuzyan (UTRGV) and Pavlo Vorontsov (Texas Tech). UTRGV’s Vladimir Belous (2016 Chicago Open winner) ended on 6/9 along with Evgeny Shtembuliak (Texas Tech) and Cuba’s Yasser Quesada. IM Qi Chen of China was an intrigue. Going undefeated in his U.S. debut he ended on +3, but unfortunately no GM norm.

    Other notable results were IM Erik Santarius winning 1st under-2400 with 6/9 and joint 2nd under-2400 won by FM Edward Song, Deepak Aaron, FM Seth Homa, James Canty. Homa got an IM norm as did FM Aleksey Sorokin.

    Jimmy Canty finished with 5.5/9 and 2nd under-2400

    The 2019 Chicago Open drew 859 players from the U.S. and approximately 20 countries. As usual, the tournament was populated by a good percentage of scholastic players. Collegiate players dominated the upper echelon of the Open section. There were a good percentage of girls/women playing in the “under” sections and particularly prominent in the under-1000 section.

    Shakira Luster, Trechelle Williams, Imani Hill from St. Ethelreda School
    with their copies of Triple Exclam!!!
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz


    • Open: GM Vasif Dararbayli, 7/9
    • under-2300: Nicholas Matta, 7/7
    • under-2100: Dan Rade, Dane Zagar, Vladyslav Shevkunov, Ciprian Comsa, 6/7
    • under-1900: Ethan Pau, 6.5/7
    • under-1700: Donald Aman Uzoma, 6.5/7
    • under-1500: George Gonzalez-Napoles, Timothy Speight, 6/7
    • under-1300: David Paul Schmitz, 6.5/7
    • under-1000: Liam M Masse, 6.5/7

    Tim Speight II (center) tied for 1st in the under-1500.
    Photo by Nathan Kelly

    Official Site: https://chicagoopen.net/
    Tournament Details: https://www.chesstour.com/chio19.htm
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2019/05/28/2019-chicago-open-wheeling-il/

  5. Blitz Battles!
    IM Kassa Korley (NYC) takes on Chicago Chess Blitzers (CCB)

    New York vs. Midwest

    IM Kassa Korley (NYC) vs. NM Jimmy Canty (Detroit)

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

  6. Renewed Energy @ Chicago Open!

    The Chicago Open has been one of the marquee tournaments for two decades. It is the first major of the summer season and generally attracts a healthy mix of professionals, norm seekers and scholastic phenoms. However, what made this tournament different was the buzz created by the online battles that had been brewing over the past two years.

    Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

    Daniel X Jones and Jimmy Canty
    in the first official cage match almost TWO years ago!
    Photo by Nathan Kelly

    Chicago Chess Blitzers (CCB) started a movement centered around the formation of several intercity matches. The action started with a Detroit-Chicago cage match between Jimmy Canty and Daniel X Jones. After a series of cage matches with different players, team matches become all the rave as Chicago set up successive matches with Cleveland, Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit. The battles have done more than provide players with opportunities to engage in battle, but it has also helped players to build cameraderie which is an important facet of chess improvement. Let’s talk specifically about the impact on the Black chess community.

    The Chicago Factor

    What was evident at the 2019 Chicago Open was that there is an energy that may translate into sustainable participation for the Black chess players. Why is this important? For decades, the issue of Black involvement in chess had been given little to no attention. So much has been said about the gender gap in chess and the May 2019 issue of Chess Life was declared “The Women’s Issue.”

    On the other hand, there has been little outreach to the Black community which is why these efforts are so important. Unfortunately, U.S. Chess Federation does not keep ethnic data, so it is difficult to understand the demographic trends. Suffice it to say, observational data shows a lack of participation of Black players in USCF tournaments. This is why for 18 years The Chess Drum has served as a platform for encouraging more participation from this overlooked segment.

    Joshua Colas on the move while Daaim Shabazz watches. Photo by Nathan Kelly.

    Joshua Colas on the move while Daaim Shabazz watches.
    Photo by Nathan Kelly

    As far as the history of Black participation, it has become obvious that many of the players who were part of the strong wave in the 80s have either retired from tournaments, focused on family obligations, and even switched to poker (i.e., FM Norman Rogers). Unfortunately, quite a number of important figures have passed away in the past decade (IM Michael Schleifer, FM Ron Simpson, NM Leroy Muhammad, James “Black Knight” Taylor, Jose Espinosa, NM Everest Tucker, Beau Hardeman, NM Ray “Dragon Robinson, IM Emory Tate, Herminio Baez, Sammy Barton, Peter Roberts, Atty. George Leighton, NM Ken Clayton and Life Master Alfred Carlin).

    Granted, some have rekindled their interest and come out of retirement to compete again, but there has been a net loss. The recent jolt of energy from the Chicago Chess Club has given a shot of adrenaline to the Black chess community. Many players who have met at one of the blitz match or through Facebook came to the Chicago Open with hopes of earning titles, rating points, prize money, or simply bragging rights. This kind of energy has not been seen at a Chicago Open in a long time.

    Let’s Battle!

    While were was the usual banter and trash talk in between rounds, there was a camaraderie and a support that extended beyond the inter-city rivalries. There was the Detroit “lion’s den” (AirBnB) that everyone visited to unwind, socialize and play blitz. It appears to be the beginning of a tradition. There were a couple of blitz matches before the tournament started with Gwayne Lambert facing Joseph Gadson (10½-10½) and Kameron Tolliver facing Tom Murphy (Murphy won 11½-7½). Daniel X battled Jimmy Canty in another round of their ongoing rivalry. It ended in a 5-5 tie.

    Stephen Faulkner (Louisville), IM Kassa Korley (Brooklyn),
    Kenneth Gaskin (Los Angeles) representing three iconic cities!

    While players who form the National Blitz League came Detroit and Chicago, Ken Gaskins came from Los Angeles to take part. Stephen Faulkner came from Kentucky to enjoy the festivities. Long-time legends like Marvin Dandridge reveled in watching the blitz battles featuring Kassa Korley and CCB members. The Chicago Chess Blitzers were making all types of challenges. One of them bore fruit as the New York trio of Justus Williams, Josh Colas and James Black took on Atulya Shetty, Jimmy Canty, and Daniel X Jones.

    New York City vs. The Mighty Midwest
    27 May 2019, Wheeling Westin Hotel
    Williams, J
    Colas, J
    Black, J
    Jones, D
    Canty, J
    Shetty, A

    New York won the battle, but the war will continue in Philadelphia at the World Open.

    The Future of Black Chess

    One of the ongoing discussions often heard at the tournament was the prospects of harnessing talent in the Black community. In various podcasts hosted by Detroit’s Derek Wilder this has been an ongoing theme. This question has been the $1million question and has been discussed in a special session at the 2002 World Open. Many of those players are no longer active although National Master Glenn Bady, who took part in the 2002 discussion, was at the Chicago Open with his children Grace and Ayo.

    Here is Grace Bady at 2014 World Open. She is the daughter of National Master Glenn Bady and still going strong. She scored 4/7 at 2019 Chicago Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    When asked the question during a recent podcast, I offered that blitz can be used as a training tool, but too much emphasis on the discipline will not result in accomplishment of goals that are often stated for classical chess. There are many expressed goals of earning titles, rating heights and norms, but these are only a distant goal if the right steps are not taken.

    In a world where 12 and 13 year olds are becoming Grandmasters, we can no long be content when our youth are making a 1800 rating in high school. The youngest Black master ever is just over 13. The record for youngest U.S. National Master nationwide was set by Abhimanyu “Abhi” Mishra at 9 years, 2 months and 17 days! The current world’s youngest GM (Dommaraju Gukesh of India) earned the title at 12 years, 7 months and 10 days, ten days behind the record of Sergey Karjakin.

    Justus Williams, Josh Colas and James Black
    still striving at 2019 Chicago Open

    National Masters Justus Williams, James Black, Jr. and Josh Colas. Photo by Guy Colas.

    “Young Lions” Justus Williams, James Black, Jr and Josh Colas in 2012.
    All made National Master in their 13th year.
    Photo by Guy Colas

    If we don’t want to wait another 20 years for our next GM, we have to put a support system in place. Of course one can argue that not every player wants to be a chess master and that is fine, but for those showing a talent, they may be able to earn a scholarship or admission to a university based on their chess prowess. Chess seems to be the new currency in college admissions. Asian parents have understood this very well.

    International Master Kassa Korley, IM-elect Justus Williams, IM-elect Josh Colas and National Master James Black, Jr. are still pursuing chess and that is admirable, but what kind of assistance are they getting? What kind of support is Jimmy Canty getting? How about 13-year old Experts Tremil Anderson of Los Angeles and Brewington Hardaway of New York?

    YouTube sensation Tremil Anderson giving an intermediate lesson!
    Video by Los Angeles Chess Club

    Stephanie Ballom, formerly a scholastic state champion of Texas, now lives in New York. Along with Adia Onyango, Stephanie serves as a role model for girls and boys!

    Sharika Luster, Trechelle Williams, Imani Hill
    of St. Ethelreda School (8734 S. Paulina Avenue, Chicago)

    What about our young girls? Jessica Hyatt? Charisse Williams? Janell Warner? I met a trio of girls from St. Ethelreda School and they have received media attention. Shakira Luster wants to be the first African-American female National Master. We’ve heard it before, but we are still looking for that historic mark to fall.

    New Road Ahead

    The World Open will be a very critical moment with a number of players from the east coast joining the fray. In addition, African and Caribbean contingents are usually in the crowd. Five years ago in Arlington, ten Nigerians came to compete in the World Open. They made quite an impression.

    Nigerians & two friends: (L-R) Charles Campbell, Iyobebe Owolo Hanson, Precious Acheru, Efemuai Odafe Benedict, Uche Agu, Daaim Shabazz, Lolomari E. George, Robert Asibor, Vanita Young and Paul Obiwame. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    NIGERIA & two friends!

    (L-R) Charles Campbell, Iyobebe Owolo Hanson, Precious Acheru, Efemuai Odafe Benedict, Uche Agu, Daaim Shabazz, Lolomari E. George, Robert Asibor, Vanita Young and Paul Obiwame

    The World Open is still the marquee tournament in the U.S. It is a reunion of sorts and an event during which lifelong friendships are made. It is also where many ideas are exchanged. While we miss the exciting post-mortems displays of Emory Tate, perhaps we will start a new tradition of chess advancement.

    While blitz chess is a popular magnet for activity, we must venture into more serious efforts at chess excellence or many of the sought after goals will only remain dreams. The World Open is typically where there are breakout performances of Black players. George Umezinwa’s $18,000 haul in the under-2000 section is still part of history and there have been many norms taken at this tournament. Let’s take advantage of this energy! Philadelphia awaits.

    2019 Chicago Open (Drum Coverage):

    World Open (Drum Coverage): 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001
    Official Site: https://chessevents.com/worldopen/
    Tournament Announcement: https://www.chesstour.com/wo19.htm

  7.  Photo by Nathan Kelly.

    L-R: Daaim Shabazz, Aderemi Taiwo Adekola, Jonathan Corbblah, Kassa Korley, Aderemi Adekola, Daniel X Jones, Jimmy Canty

     Photo by Nathan Kelly.

    Long-time friends Daaim Shabazz and Marvin Dandridge rolling back the clock.
    Photos by Nathan Kelly

  8. Atlanta’s Troutman at 2019 Chicago Open

    Charles Troutman III

    Charles Troutman III had been one of the top 100 players in age categories between 9-11 years old. After a lull in his tournament play during 2017, he began playing more online activity and his classical chess began to improve. He’s on the verge of eclipsing the 2000 rating barrier.

    He is the son of a tournament chess player (Charles Jr.) and lives in the Atlanta area. Now 15, Charles is one of the top 20 juniors in the state with a rating of 1992 and traveled to Wheeling to compete in the 2019 Chicago Open (under-2300 section). He ended on 3/7 with two wins over 2100-rated players. In fact, he had interesting encounter with Chicago’s Daniel X Jones, promoter of the National Blitz League (NBL). Playing white, he alertly won a pawn on the queenside, but the game took many twists and turns. Jones beat back a blistering attack and won the battle.

    Charles Troutman (right) playing Daniel X Jones in the first round of the Chicago Open, under-2300 section. National Master Marvin Dandridge looks on while waiting for his opponent. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Charles lost that battle, but played in the blitz tournament on Sunday night and got 4.5/10 in the Open section. It’s puzzling because the cross table indicates that he drew his games against his first opponent when he clearly won the following game with 00:03 left on the clock. Was it a friendly?

    This game against National Master Luke Calhoun of Arizona was out of a Blackmar-Diemar Gambit, an opening often used for shock value. This particular game saw black decline the gambit only to win a pawn later. Despite being a pawn down, white had more space and in order to free his position, black had to return the pawn. The game evolved into a very interesting pawn ending.

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

  9. St. Ethelreda making moves @ Chicago Chess Open!

    Shakira Luster

    At the 2019 Chicago Open, I walked into a tournament hall and noticed the wide range of ages playing in the under-1000. However, what also stuck out was three girls who were under the watchful eye of their coach. I snapped a few pictures not immediately realizing the backstory of success. Of course, in today’s tournaments it is rare to see three Black girls competing. I knew that Glenn Bady’s daughter Grace Bady was playing, but the pink uniforms intrigued me.

    I later saw them in the skittles room with their coach and went over to introduce myself to their coach, Eric Luster. He told me he was familiar with The Chess Drum and immediately introduced me to Imani Hill, Trechelle Williams and his daughter Shakira Luster. Imani had such a bright smile! After the introduction, I realized I had seen a story and video about St. Ethelreda floating around on Facebook from one of the Chicago Chess Blitzers, While I bookmarked it for a story, I now had my own scoop.

    St. Ethelreda in action!

    St. Ethelreda in action!


    Trechelle Williams… focus… focus.

    “We are stars,” said Shakira half-jokingly. It was apparent from watching them that she was the outspoken one with very expressive eyes. I soon had an idea to get some photos of them. I had been selling Triple Exclam, the biography of International Master Emory Tate. There were numerous blitz battles going on, but I had another idea. I told the Coach Luster that I would present each of them with a copy of Triple Exclam. I ran to my car to retrieve the copies and we were able to get some nice photos.

    Shakira Luster, Trechelle Williams, Imani Hill from St. Ethelreda School

    Shakira Luster, Trechelle Williams, Imani Hill
    with Triple Exclam!!!

    After the photos, I challenged them to a few of the puzzles from Triple Exclam. This was the best part. I wanted to see what their thought process was. The first puzzle was relatively straight forward. In back was the banging of the chess clock. IM Kassa Korley was holding court against the Chicago Chess Blitzers and of course I wanted to watch, but this was a “teachable moment.”

    The girls peered at the board with inquisitive eyes. In this instructive puzzle from Tate-Cohen, 1996. The girls saw 1. Bd3+ skewering the rook, but rejected it because of 1…e4. They thought a bit longer, looked at other variations before going back and finally seeing the cute 2.Bxe4+! Kxe4 3.Nf6+ snaring the rook. Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum.

    Interestingly enough, the second puzzle (Tate-Serper) I gave them was much harder! This puzzle was presented by GM Gregory Serper shortly after Tate’s death in a tribute on chess.com.

    Emory Tate-Gregory Serper
    White to Move (After 35…Ba3xc1)

    The first move that was suggested was 1.Rxd4 which of course would lead to mate if black plays 1…exd4 after 2.Qe7+. Of course, black would play 2…Ba3, keep the extra rook and play Rh1+ if the white queen wanders. There was also the suggestion 1.Bxf7 with the idea of 1…Kxf7 2.Qb7+ but black can play 1…Qb4+ with unstoppable mate after 2.Bb3 Qa3. After some time, I gave them 1.Qb7! to threaten mate.

    After 1…Rh7, they suggested 2.Qe7+ but the black king runs away. Other moves fall to 2…Qa3! So… after minutes melted away, they learned about deflection of 2.Rh1!, but isn’t white getting mated again after 2…Qa3? The beauty of this is one has to see these tactical oddities. Finally Shakira found 3.Qxf7+!! Rxf7 4.Rh8 mate!

    Emory Tate-Luke Zhao
    White to Move (After 24…g7-g5)

    The last puzzle I gave them was Emory Tate-Luke Zhao. We spent a long time on that one. The tactical ideas seem to impress them. With prodding from a few bystanders, they learned the solution to this amazing sequence which was played during a simul. Can you figure it out?

    We had a great time and I would watch them on the next day not quite sure what impact was made with those tactical puzzles. They finished out the tournament with respectable scores with Imani and Trechelle both scoring 4/7 (under-1000) and Shakira getting 3.5/7 (under-1300). After the tournament, Coach Luster told me they were going through the book and the rest of the puzzles. Let’s hope their experience at the Chicago Open will yield them more success!

    Official Site: https://chicagoopen.net/
    Tournament Details: https://www.chesstour.com/chio19.htm
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2019/05/25/2019-chicago-open-wheeling-illinois/

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