Round #6:
Amin on a roll, crushes Fawzy… Adly back in the hunt
Shrook devastating field, 6/6


Another exciting round of chess. Three of the top seeds are back on course and are sitting atop the field with 5/6. The situation may favor Ahmed Adly since he has already played three of the top seeds. He plays Adham Fawzy tomorrow. Neither Bassem Amin nor Bilel Bellahcene have played Hicham Hamdouchi. Amin plays Essam El-Gindy tomorrow while Bellahcene will play the undefeated Fy Rakotomaharo.

In today’s games, Amin totally destroyed Fawzy who must’ve woken up this morning from a bad dream. With the white pieces, Fawzy essayed the Scotch Gambit and unknowingly went into a line where black has a huge plus score. It is surprising that the young GM would play this line against someone of Amin’s caliber. The lines are too concrete and black is generally able to equalize… if he can avoid traps. This game was a complete disaster for Fawzy and by move 15, he was strategically busted.

Adly got back on the winning track with a win over Adlane Arab and his attempt to avoid the “Killer Catalan” with 5…b5!? This move is actually being tested at top level by none other than Viswanathan Anand, Evgeny Alekseev, and Jan-Krzysztof Duda. The line turned out to be very complicated and Adly showed better preparation and got a lasting advantage even with the queens off. The end of the game is instructive and proves that even with completely equal material, there is something to play for.

Bilel Bellahcene – Mahfoud Oussedik
saw 6.h4!? against the Najdorf

Bellahcene, who was raised in France, has to be quite prepared to face Mahfoud Oussedik’s Najdorf, the main weapon of French player Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Certainly there is a lot of discussion in Najdorf circles about ways to upset the dynamic defense.

The new trend in the Najdorf is after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h4!? It appears that every other pawn move has been played on white’s sixth move (even 6.h3), so this is the latest. The idea is multifaceted and at the least, white can use the move to shore up his bishop on g5. There is also the idea of f3 and g4.. or even f4 and potentially g4!

GM Bilel Bellahcene essaying the latest approach against Najdorf.
Photo by Tunisia Chess Federation

This game was a classical opposite wing battle and lived up to its billing. Without much help the white queen invaded black’s position and wreaked havoc after 27.Qh8+ Bf8 28.Qg8 Bb5 29.c3 Nb6 30.Qe6+ Kd8 31.Qxe5! The game was a clinic on how to catch an opponent flat-footed in preparation. Wonderful game by Bellahcene!

Lastly, there were two similar endings in both sections today. In Miladi-Moaataz and Munenga-Rakotomaharo, there were rook endings with a- and h- pawns remaining for one side. As we segway to the women’s section, let’s look at the positions and see how they evolved.

In the position above, black has to run his king over toward the rook to break the barrier and walk up the board to support the pawn while the rook helps to stop the enemy’s pawns. It is a common theme in rook endings. The rook can sometimes stop up to three pawns if the king is close enough.

IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
Photo by Amruta Mokal

This position was very instructive because of the frequency in which rook endings occur and Rakotomaharo showed enough patience to prevent counterplay. The 20-year old IM remains undefeated, but will have a stiff test against Bellahcene tomorrow. He certainly has GM norm aspirations and of course, if he wins the tournament he will get the GM title outright. The Malagasy player won the 4.3 zonal with 8/9 so he is in excellent form.

There were a good number of draws in today’s action. Since there are no rest days, it may be no wonder that fatigue may become a factor. The tournament standings are so critical that blunders as a result of fatigue can change the fortune of the tournament quickly. There were six draws from 21 games. We can expect more in the rounds to come as players become more cautious about their position and title chances.

Top Pairings for Round #7

IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar) – GM Bellahcene Bilel (Algeria)
GM Amin Bassem (Egypt) – GM Essam El Gindy (Egypt)
GM Fawzy Adham (Egypt) – GM Adly Ahmed (Egypt)
IM Adlane Arab (Algeria) – GM Hicham Hamdouchi (Morocco)
IM Mahfoud Oussedik (Algeria) – GM Solomon Kenny (South Africa)


Back to business. Eleven games played. Eleven games decisive. The bad news is that Shahenda Wafa is all but eliminated from defending her title successfully, but her sister can be an able successor. Shrook Wafa played another sparkling game against Nigeria’s Toritsemuwa Ofowina. The 18.Rxd7! shot was the finsher on 23.Nd7+ black resigned.

Zambia’s Lorita Mwango eliminated the defending champion from contention. Photo by Tunisia Chess Federation

Sabrina Letreche has rebounded after being beaten badly by Wafa on board 1. Not often you get to see mate on the board but this game was decided when Sabine Ravelomanana had an oversight and lost a piece on move 12. There were some tactics in the middlegame and black ended up with three pawns for the piece, but they were trebled on the c-file. Letreche attacked the queenside pawns directly and begin to pick them off. Despite being a piece down, there are still chances to liquidate all pawns and begin counting. Before that happened the Ravelomanana walked into mate.

Miladi-Moaataz had an encounter that ended with an instructive ending. As mentioned earlier Munenga-Rakotomaharo had a similar ending. This was a game to watch because white had more space the entire game before overextending her position. Suddenly, she ended up two pawns down and the Egyptian converted the win comfortably. Ending with a- and h- pawns are hard to defend against with any piece because it is hard to contain them both.

There should be some discussion about the inclusion of a rest day for this tournament in the future. Some of the games in round six were not competitive. The original schedule had a free day for Saturday, but apparently the change in venue required a change in the schedule. It’s unfortunate because this tournament will be very close in the end. The open section will be especially tense the last three rounds.

Round #6 (All Games)

There are still many rounds remaining and there are some interesting matchups for the next round…

Top Pairings for Round #7

WIM Mezioud Amina (Algeria) – WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt)
WIM Moaataz Ayah (Egypt) – WIM Latreche Sabrina (Algeria)
Ofowino Toritsemuwa (Nigeria) – WIM Nassr Lina (Algeria)
WIM Elansary Eman (Egypt) – WFM Miladi Amen (Tunisia)
WFM Ravelomanana Sabine (Madagascar) – WFM Mwango Lorita (Zambia)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #5:
Amin beats Adly moves back into joint first… Shrook Wafa on 5/5


GM Hesham Abdelrahman has exited the tournament after five rounds. The 2016 African Champion suffered three losses and one can only imagine that something is not well with the Egyptian player. Takaedza Chipanga of Zimbabwe also exited the tournament after forfeiting his last game. More details on these developments as they become available. We wish the best for them in the future.

In round five action, the situation has become very intense at the half-way mark. It’s now a five-way tie after top seed Bassem Amin toppled Ahmed Adly. In this Egyptian derby, they battled in a Rossolimo and the queens came off after 14 moves. The position was a bit imbalanced, but white had the better structure.

GM Bassem Amin vs. GM Ahmed Adly, 1-0

As white’s knights held sway over black’s territory, Adly sacrifice a pawn to free his bishop. Amin pocketed the pawn, but later Another skirmish broke out. When the smoke cleared white had three passed pawns for a knight. It appears in this position Adly should be able to hold (after 52.Rxh6), but his knight begin to wander around on the queenside and even gobbled a b2-pawn… far away from the steamrolling fgh-pawns.

As it turned out the pawns were simply too fast and Amin finished off with a cute 71.Rxe8! Adly may have missed a chance to maintain his one point lead against the field. With four rounds remaining it will be a dog fight.

Adham Fawzy has been in good form so far. The relatively-new Grandmaster has long been one of the bright talents in Africa and is perhaps remembered for his sparkling win against Parham Maghadsoodloo which included a queen sacrifice.

IM Adham Fawzy

GM Adham Fawzy
Photo by

In Hamdouchi-Fawzy, white was very unambitious in the opening and allowed black to equalize quickly. As black begin to mobilize for a kingside onslaught, the Moroccan had to sacrifice a pawn to free his position. Both sides kept sacrificing pawns to gain time and the game was very dynamic. Then the tactically-alert Fawzy uncorked 33…Bxf3! and all of a sudden, black was completely winning. Black won yet another pawn and after a few more moves the Moroccan had seen enough. Hamdouchi has yet to find his footing, yet he is only a point out of contention.

Bilel Bellahcene faced Andrew Kayonde’s Caro Kann and the strategical battle ended in the Algerian’s favor. In the middlegame with most of the pieces still in play, white started to find crack’s in black’s position and after 37.Bf5! black scrambled to plug up the holes. It was too late. White had already netted two pawns… then a third. The Grandmaster then sacrificed an exchange for a fourth pawn. In the end, the pawns were more than enough to secure the point.

In other games, Adlane Arab beat Achraf Hbacha to remained undefeated. The wily veteran is seeking to remain in the hunt and it seeking to vault closer to 2500. He faced his opponents Stonewall Dutch, but had to grind out a win in a fascinating rook ending. Looking at the ending, it’s hard to understand how black could lose such a game. Take a look.

Mahfoud Oussedik scored against Nigeria’s Femi Balogun to remain undefeated and only a half-point off the pace. Fy Rakotomaharo split the point with Kenny Solomon in a very typical intense Sicilian battle. Douglas Munenga of Zambia beat Chukwunonso Oragwu to also pull within half-point of the lead (3.5/5 with Oussedik and Rakotomaharo).

GM Kenny Solomon (South Africa)
Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

Zambia is without question one of the strongest African federations. Home to the Amon Simutowe, the first African GM south of the Sahara, they have a number of hopefuls looking to score the title. While IMs like Daniel Jere and Chitumbo Mwali are not on the trip, they have more than enough. Stanley Chumfwa is one of the long-standing veterans and his win over the promising Angolan David Silva put him just a point of contention. Speaking of Zambians Prince Mulenga suffered three losses, but has scored two wins including a win over compatriot Musatwe Simutowe.

One intriguing story (besides the father and son duo from Gabon) is the upset of Hesham Abdelraham (2417). Nigeria’s Sasha Winston-Onyiah (1968) beat the Egyptian GM bringing to question the state of his health. Three losses to players 2191, 2248 and 1968 is extremely unusual. Even at his worse form, such an event is unlikely to occur. Nevertheless, it may show that the rating pool remains depressed in Africa and such lower-rated players are far above their advertised rating.

Round #5 (Selected Games – Open)

At the halfway mark, there are the rankings…

Top Pairings for Round #6

GM Adham Fawzy (Egypt) – GM Bassem Amin (Egypt)
GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt) – IM Adlane Arab (Algeria)
GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) – IM Mahfoud Oussedik (Algeria)
FM Douglas Munenga (Zambia) – IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
FM Oussama Douissa (Tunisia) – GM Hicham Hamdouchi (Morocco)


Jesse February faced the wrath of Shrook Wafa’s Dragon Sicilian.
Photo by Tunisian Chess Federation

Again… the women’s field only had two decisive results. Surprisingly, players with the black pieces scored 9/11. Shrook Wafa has been in good form. Following her demolition of Amina Mezioud, she obliterated Jesse February with her pet Dragon. The game was actually following many theoretical discussions from the past. All the moves up until February’s 16.Bd4?? had been played before. The finish is brutal.

Sabrina Letreche and Amen Miladi produced one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Pieces zipped around the board and at some points it appears as if someone emptied a container and dropped pieces on the board. In this tactical slugfest, both sides missed chances, but what more can be expected in this Sicilian games.

The game started as a Paulsen and white adopted the Maroczy Bind. Black was fixing for a fight after 8…d5!? This game exploded in the middlegame and the evals definitely changed from move-to-move. White’s king safety was more important than any material advantage it had since black’s pieces were well-placed and ready to enter battle. Letreche did well to hold the position and dodged many bullets. It would remind one of Neo in the movie, Matrix.

Watch this battle and hold onto your hats!

What an adrenaline rush!

So many of the women players are opting for the London System. It’s not clear if they are seeking to avoid the huge volumes of preparation, but it is not going to be an opening that you can hope to get much of an advantage. Shahenda Wafa is defending her title, but had already lost to Amina Mezioud. She needed a win to keep pace with her sister who is in great form. Toritsemuwa Ofowino, the 4.4 women’s zonal champion, is looking for greater opportunities in chess and is perhaps extra-motivated to have a good showing.

Wafa trotted out the London System and black had no problem equalizing the position. Wafa was confident as the Elo favorite and her 32.Kc1 was to prevent a trade. In fact, white should have been happy to trade queens. Wafa got her king stuck in the center of the board with heavy pieces trolling the board. Ofowina’s 41…d4! was a powerful move exposing the white king to danger.

Black ended up with passed a- and h-pawns which the lone white bishop and king would never be able to stop, but the Nigerian allowed white to keep her rook with 58…c5 instead of trading down with 58…Rxd4! when white can resign in a few moves. Ofowino managed to win the game and is now joint second with three other players on 3.5/5.

Round #5 (All Games – Women)

There are still many rounds remaining and there are some interesting matchups for the next round…

Top Pairings for Round #6

WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt) – Ofowino Toritsemuwa (Nigeria)
WIM Latreche Sabrina (Algeria) – WFM Ravelomanana Sabine (Madagascar)
WFM Miladi Amen (Tunisia) – WIM Moaataz Ayah (Egypt)
WIM Mezioud Amina (Algeria) – WFM Marzouk Amira (Tunisia)
WIM Nassr Lina (Algeria) – WIM February Jesse Nikki (South Africa)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #4:
Adly and Shrook win… both lead the field on 4/4


Tunisia is sizzling right now. It is not the heat of the weather, but it is the action at Hotel Caribbean. After the top seed went down yesterday, the player who beat lost to Ahmed Adly leaving him with the only perfect score.

GM Ahmed Adly five years ago in Tromso, Norway.
Will he be able to take the world stage again?
Photo by David Llada

Adly trotted out a Catalan and Bellahcene entered a sharp line entailing a pawn sacrifice with 7…Nc6!? 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.Nxc6, but must have forgotten his preparation. Black would give up a pawn for the two bishops, never got enough and his compromised structure suffered. In the ensuing endgame, black had a lot more space but a compromised pawn structure. Eventually white collected a few pawns and was able to push for the win.

Interestingly enough, none of the seven GMs qualified for second board which was a battle of International Masters. Both Andrew Kayonde and Fy Rakotomaharo have shown considerable talent on the international stage and aspirants for the GM title. Both both having led their respective countries in the 2018 Batumi Olympiad. Kayonde became a sensation for drawing with Vassily Ivanchuk.

Andrew Kayonde battling Fy Rakotomaharo, 1/2
Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

In their game, the Zambian trotted out a type of London System and the player from Madagascar adopted a very solid setup before lashing out with 18…f5. It seemed to be the typical race on the wings… white trying to crash through on the queenside and black trying to checkmate on the kingside. In the tense battle, white decided to sacrifice the exchange with 33.Rc6, but did not gain an advantage. The game later clarified in a drawn knight ending.

Bassem Amin got back on track with a masterful endgame technique against Zambia’s Stanley Chumfwa.

Hicham Hamdouchi also won his game against Nigerian hopeful Daniel Anwuli. While Adham Fawzy and Essam El-Gindy contributed to the resurgence of the GMs, Hesham Abdelrahman lost again to FM Oussama Douissa of Tunisia. The Tunisians have been defending their flag quite well.

GM Essam El-Gindy

GM Essam El-Gindy
Photo by James Mwangi

Overall the field remains tight with Adly on 4/4 but a pack of eight players follow on 3/4. Adly will face Amin in round 5 which means he will have faced the top three in the field. Lot of interesting battle on tap!

Round #4 (Selected Games – Open)

Round #5

GM Bassem Amin (Egypt) – GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt)
GM Hicham Hamdouchi MAR – GM Adham Fawzy (Egypt)
GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) – IM Andrew Kayonde (Zambia)
IM Adlane Arab (Algeria) – IM Achraf Hbacha (Tunisia)
IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar) – GM Solomon Kenny (South Africa)


Very nice head coverings and flowers over here!

The women field had two draws in round four. That is the most draws in any of the four rounds. Maybe someone should punish them for too many draws! The reality is that as more games are played people are finding their form and the players are more than likely facing their equals. Unfortunately for the African field, Shrook Wafa has not found her equal yet.

Wafa won her fourth game in a complete demolition of black. This was absolutely poor preparation by black as she opted to capture a pawn only to allow a winning initiative right in the opening. After 16.e6, black was already in dire straits. Latreche had to resign in only 22 moves.

Jesse February continues as she dealt Amina Mezioud her second loss. Black opted for a French and it went into a mainline, but white released the tension too early with 6.dxc5 and allowed easy equality. After 11.Ne5?! black was fighting for the initiative. With white on the retreat, black struck with 16…Ne4 breaking all resistance. In Ravelomanana-Moaataz, it is hard to understand how the game transpired, but black appears winning after 41…d4! This was the last move given and the game was drawn.

It appears that some of the players are not fully prepared in the openings, especially with the white pieces. Lina Nassr (1982) was upset by Amira Marzouk (1667) after being outplayed in the middlegame. Her play against white’s hanging pawns was instructive. She unleashed a small combination winning a pawn with the alert 24…Nxd4! 25.Bxd4 Rxd4! 26.Rxd4 Nc3 and the ushered her pawn advantage to victory.

There are still many rounds remaining and there are some interesting matchups for the next round…

Round #4 (All Games – Women)

Round #5

WIM Jesse Nikki February (South Africa) – WGM Shrook Wafa (Egypt)
WIM Sabrina Latreche (Algeria) – WFM Amen Miladi (Tunisia)
WGM Shahenda Wafa (Egypt) – Toritsemuwa Ofowino (Nigeria)
WIM Eman Elansary (Egypt) – WFM Sabine Ravelomanana (Madagascar)
WIM Ayah Moaataz (Egypt) – WFM Lorita Mwango (Zambia)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

The World Open has been a fixture in the American chess circuit for 47 editions. Bill Goichberg and his staff have turned it into a franchise, and it remains a big draw. The tournament routinely draws 1000+ players from around the world hence the tournament’s name. There was always an intrigue to see who will show up from one year to the next.

Jeffery Xiong at 2019 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The talented Jeffery Xiong represents the new face of open tournaments in the U.S. These tournaments have been overtaken by young, well-prepared and fearless scholastic and collegiate players. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

In 2003, I ran an article titled, “The Magic of the World Open.” In that article I wrote,

The playing site is a literal festival as players and their guests are milling about. The electricity can be felt from excitement. Many reunions are made between players who have not seen each other since the last World Open or perhaps many years. There is always smile, laughter and excitement… at least in the beginning of the tournament.

I continued…

During the tournament, there is the usual “star-gazing” at some of the world’s best chess players. It is interesting to see Grandmasters enter the skittles room to analyze a game in full view. This type of accessibility is usually not afforded to the average player, but the conditions of the hotel make it possible. The food vendors outside the playing area also add to the informal atmosphere as all types of players fill up on hotdogs, pizza, chips and soda in between rounds. After the tournament last year, GM Maurice Ashley took off his suit and was seen playing hacky-sack with a group of his fans. He then played a round of pickup soccer outside the hotel! At what other U.S. tournament can you have this type of atmosphere?

Philadelphia’s Adams Mark

This tournament was also (and still is) a tournament of dreams. Many players aspire to win a five-figure prize, but also to earn norms or walk away with a heap of rating points. If not that, there is always the social side of it. The old Adams Mark Hotel had a nostalgic feel and was perfect for such an event. There was plenty of room for socializing, and there was not usually a problem with noise in the playing hall. Of course, this was before the massive surge in scholastic players at open tournaments.

I have been to about 20 World Open tournaments, including a couple where I was a spectator. The first visit was in 1990 when I tagged along with Jerry Bibuld and Maurice Ashley during the summer I lived in New York. It was important because I saw a number of Black masters including Wilbert Paige, Alfred Carlin, and Norman Rogers for the first time. Emory Tate and Stephen Muhammad were also there. It was also at this tournament that I revealed my plan for starting a communication vehicle that would later become The Chess Drum.

I have fond memories of the old Adams Mark site which carried a mystique. The skittles room was always on fire and something interesting going on like a blitz battle between GMs, friendly reunions or one of Emory Tate’s theatrical postmortems. I will never forget the postmortem of his game with Sergey Kudrin, a 24-move crush of the strong GM. There was a coliseum of players watching his entertaining display, and afterward, he received generous applause.

FM Emory Tate showing Kudrin-Tate at 2000 World Open. There were easily 30 people watching. This photo was taken standing on a chair. The audience remained at rapt attention up until the last move. As he rose to leave the room, a thunderous applause broke out! Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Hikaru Nakamura at the 2004 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

GM Hikaru Nakamura at the 2004 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

One of the other attractions of the World Open is that top players were attracted to the tournament and occasionally a Chinese or Indian delegation of several players would show up. Times have changed, and the top 100 GMs are not taking a special trip to come to the World Open. There are several reasons, but it is simply a tougher tournament to play in given the expense and the amount of preparation everyone is doing at all levels. Lastly, some foreign players complain about the lack of professional conditions in American tournaments.

IM Tania Sachdev. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

India’s IM Tania Sachdev was one of the members of the large Indian contingent in 2012. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

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.

Nigerians & two friends at 2014 World Open (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.

Strong GMs used to be able to show up at the World Open and be reasonably sure they’d take home a prize. Today there is not enough incentive to justify such a long trip if one has to compete against juniors with fully-indexed databases, GM coaches and their 3500-rated engines.

Yoshiru Habu at 2006 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

There used to be the air of camaraderie between GMs and other players. In the past ten years, rarely do you see GMs enter the skittles room and analyze because everyone will discuss at the board briefly and then go input the game in the database as part of the preparation for later rounds. It was an absolute marvel to see two Grandmasters conducting a postmortem analysis. With so much emphasis on computer preparation, there seems to be less interaction.

In years past, the interaction was fairly easy and you had a chance to meet some interesting people. In 2006, Yoshiru Habu played in the World Open. If you don’t know who he is, he is a many time World Champion of shogi. In fact, that is precisely how Maurice Ashley described him when he mentioned playing Habu in another tournament. “He’s the Kasparov of shogi.” At that tournament, I asked him for an interview, and he graciously accepted.

Yoshiru Habu at the 2006 World Open

So has the magic been lost? Well, that is not a “yes” or “no” question. Let’s say the magic is displayed a bit differently. Before engines became an essential tool of tournament players, the vast experience of a Grandmaster-level player was enough to wade through the venomous Swiss system.

“You can’t play this way anymore. You can’t bluff a computer. Everybody works with a computer now, and defense techniques are so improved. It’s no wonder that my peak came at a time when computers were not strong yet.”

~Alexander Shabalov

There was a time in the U.S. when many of the top players were veteran emigres from the former Soviet Union, and they dominated many of the open tournaments for nearly two decades. There were many perfunctory draws given, but a new generation of players arose. Hikaru Nakamura was one such brash player who came with a “kill or be killed” mentality in the mid-2000s. No easy draws! As there was more reliance on computer preparation, many from the old guard had problems adapting.

Alexander Shabalov at 2019 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Now everyone has a chess engine, but there are other ways players are trying to find balance in chess. I recently read an article about Alexander Shabalov and his preparation for the U.S. Senior Invitational. Everyone who has been playing in U.S. tournaments for at least the last ten years will know “Shabba” and his collection of attacking gems. However, he has had to seek a different path to regain the magic.

His regiment involves immersing himself in a sensory deprivation tank for deep meditation and yoga sessions. Shabalov was known for his effective play in Swiss systems and adopted a swashbuckling, tactical style in the tradition of Latvian legend and former World Champion, Mikhail Tal. Here is what he said:

“You can’t play this way anymore,” Shabalov said. “You can’t bluff a computer. Everybody works with a computer now, and defense techniques are so improved. It’s no wonder that my peak came at a time when computers were not strong yet.”

“It’s a young person’s game now,” Shabalov said. “Because of computers, you don’t need a coach anymore.”

“I wish I was born 50 years later,” said Shabalov. “Now is a really exciting time to be a young chess player because the sky is the limit. There are no restrictions. You might be born in a godforsaken place, but you can still teach yourself how to play. One of the strongest players in the United States, Wesley So, is from a very poor family in the Philippines. He became the No. 2 chess player in the world.”

Amazing and insightful. Of course, you still need more than a computer to become a strong player, but the example of So is appropriate. What is intriguing is that you have a former U.S. Champion talking about the changes of tournament play in the U.S. and he is 100% correct.

Young players have also become incredibly stout defenders. During the 2015 World Open, Marc Esserman was showing a game he played months earlier against Awonder Liang. Esserman wrote the famous book on the Morra Gambit, Mayhem in the Morra. As Liang showed in their encounter, such mayhem at the expense of black is not going to come easily.

In the aforementioned game, Marc Esserman essayed the Morra Gambit against 12-year old Awonder Liang months earlier at the Philadelphia Open. Black declined and the game turned into a c3 Sicilian. White still got a vicious attack and it appears black is being mated by Rf3-h3xh5. (diagram 1) What would you play to stave off the attack? Looks grim. Marveling at Liang’s defensive skills, an animated Esserman banged down the computeresque 26…Rg8! (diagram 2) It was not a one off move since the young phenom had to foresee this attack developing. (GAME)

I have witnessed a number of norms earned at World Open including one by IM Stephen Muhammad who seemed to shine at the World Open tournament. Of course, Emory Tate would always produce at least one memorable game during the World Open (see 2007 World Open game). These days, it is the youth who are challenging GMs and gaining attention for their World Open Magic. Jeffery Xiong shocked Grandmasters to win the 2015 Chicago Open and was the co-winner of this year’s World Open tournament with Le Quang Liem.

I have also watched other players grow from scholastic players into young adults. I remember seeing both Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana at various World Opens sharpening their fighting skills. Now it is horde of young players like Xiong. One is amazed that players no longer fear or defer a point to Grandmasters. At the recent World Open I saw IM Joshua Sheng battle Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon in Q+Q+3P vs. Q+R+B+N+P. The game attracted a huge crowd and Sheng looked as cool as a cucumber.

IM Joshua Sheng

Tense battle… Sheng on the move, but Bruzon bearing down!

A large crowd watches the action.

The game was drawn!

What does this mean? Chess magic is still in Philadelphia on 4th of July weekend. There are some issues that need attention. Firstly, the noise level is too much. With half of the tournament consisting of scholastic players, there needs to be more of an effort to control the noise right outside the tournament hall. The playoff game between Jeffery Xiong and Le Quang Liem was played amidst a noise-filled hall with a tournament director shouting instructions for the blitz tournament.

Secondly, there needs to be enforced guidelines for parent/coach interaction with their children/students during competition. Unlike scholastic tournaments, parents are allowed to remain in the tournament hall, and stand by the boards. These relationships are crucial to the child’s development, but in competitions, there has to be some boundaries.

There was an unfortunate situation at 2016 Philadelphia Open of a parent following a player into the bathroom they suspected to be cheating. This parent allegedly peeked into the stall! When the player emerged, they questioned them about a phone. Strangely, his child was not the opponent and he had no official capacity to question the boy. Let’s ensure that these parent-player or coach-player interactions meet acceptable guidelines.

Coach Tyrell Harriott giving words of wisdom to his player, Isiah.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

It may very well be that the World Open is a totally different tournament with the amount of junior players it has now. It has a different feel, but that’s fine. We want children to play, but we also want more adults playing. Let’s ensure that we keep the tournament adult-friendly as well. That way legendary players like Larry Gilden and John Fedorowicz will come back to play next year.

What is beautiful about the World Open is that memories are formed and history is being made. Everyone has the chance to bring their magic to the World Open. Whether that is a beautiful game, a strong result, a handsome prize or simply meeting a lot of great people. However you define your mission, let us make magic!

See you next year!

Tournament Website:
PGN Games:
World Open (Drum Coverage): 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001

Round #3:
Tournament heats up… top seed Bassem Amin goes down!


It was “Fire on Board” at the 2019 African Championships as the top two boards saw titanic struggles lead to decisive results. Amin-Ballahcene and Hamdouchi-Adly represented three different generations of chess.

GM Bassem Amin battling upstart GM Bilel Ballahcene
Photo by Tunisian Chess Federation

Last year Bilel Bellahcene transferred his affiliation from France to Algeria and played top board at the 2018 Chess Olympiad. He was actually born in Strasbourg, France and was one of their top juniors winning five junior titles and the under-16 World Blitz Championship. Along with Hamdouchi’s return to Morocco, the African field has gotten more competitive.

GM Bilel Bellahcene
Photo by Kim Bhari

Bellahcene sat down to play black against African ace Bassem Amin who sits on an 2707 Elo. The game started as a French, but then transposed into a type of Closed Sicilian. The Algerian played energetically and a middlegame skirmish ensued. After 33…Rg7 34.Qh1 black played 33…Nxe5!? to get at white’s exposed king.

The beauty was that black had a passed b-pawn which tied up white’s army, so the Egyptian sacrificed an exchange for an absolutely crazy position. When the position clarified, black had an extra exchange and pawn. Ballahcene then broke all resistance after sacrificing back the exchange for a pawn, thus netting two pawns. The rest was trivial.

In Hamdouchi-Amin, the game begin 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6!? known as the Nimzovich Sicilian. The Egyptian most likely sidestepping preparation and the deep experience of his opponent. The game ended up with several imbalances and in the middlegame, black decided that it was time to seek initiative on the kingside, but the Moroccan sought to simply by trading queens. Black uncorked 38…Ne3+! forcing white to backtrack. With mounting pressure, white could no longer hold the position together. After the cute 49…Rxf2+! 50.Rxf2 Ne3+ black was able to get a winning initiative.

GM Hicham Hamdouchi facing the younger African Lion GM Ahmed Adly

Adly has always been a difficult opponent because he plays very enterprising chess where he takes you away from main lines and outplays you. When he sees the initiative, he comes with full force and it’s hard to stop the momentum. With his win and Amin’s loss, the field is wide open. There is still a matter of upsets down the road as the hyenas are prowling among the lions.

In other action, the other three GMs got -1 for the day as both Kenny Solomon and Adham Fawzy were held and Essam El-Gindy lost. Albeit, IM Adlane Arab weighs 100 more Elo than Solomon, so it was a fair result for both. In a GM upset, Tunisia’s Zoubaier Amdouni (2248) toppled El-Gindy (2423) as the Egyptian GM remains winless in three games.

To demonstrate how wide open this tournament is, Bellahcene and Adly are on 3/3 and the next 15 players are within a point of the lead. IMs Fy Rakotomaharo and Andrew Kayonde both won their games and stand at 2.5/3. They will face each other in the next round. The fourth round should also be interesting as both Amin and Hamdouchi will try to rebound from losses.

Round #3 (Selected Games – Open)

Round #4

GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt) – GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria)
IM Andrew Kayonde (Zambia) – IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
IM Stanley Chumfwa (Zambia) – GM Bassem Amin (Egypt)
IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria) – GM Hicham Hamdouchi (Morocco)
FM Simplice Degondo (Ivory Coast) – IM Adlane Arab (Algeria)


Tops boards yield decisive results!
Aishat Ibrahim (Nigeria) vs. Jesse February (South Africa)
Photos courtesy of Tunisian Chess Federation

Another round of bloody chess in the women’s field. Out of 11 matches only one ended peacefully… between two Tunisians. The rest of the players were in a fighting mood. Many of the top women in Africa have already won the continental title, but that does not stop them from having the hunger needed to perform well. With Egypt’s Mona Khaled having made way for the newer generation.

Shrook Wafa continued her march with another win over her compatriot Ayah Moaataz. Sabrina Latreche beat an ambitious Lorita Mwango who was coming off of a win over Amina Mezioud. So Wafa and Latrech are the only players with 3/3. Mezioud recovered by beating the defending champion Shahenda Wafa. There is still lots of time to make up ground. Upsets are lurking in the tournament hall.

Round #3 (All Games – Women)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #2:
Tense battles in Open Section… Lorita Mwango breaks through!


One of the truths about African chess is you never really know how strong a player from the continent is. The idea that Africans play in so few international tournaments is lost on the fact that the continent is awash is talent. In more recent times, strong players in the first round of Olympiad tournaments have found out the hard way.

For the African Championships, even some African GMs discover hidden landmines and upsets are inevitable. Nigeria’s Chukswunonso Oragwu (2191) faced Hesham Abdelrahman (2417), 2016 African Champion and was able grind out a win to collect the first GM scalp of the tournament.

GM Hesham Abdelrahman being hunted by FM Chuks Oragwu
Photo by Amira Marzouk (Algeria)

Several GMs have already ceded draws and Essam El-Gindy (2423) was held for the second time. Kenny Solomon (2375) split the point with his compatriot Calvin Klaasen. The rest of the GMs scored wins. Here is one from the former African (and French) Champion, Hicham Hamdouchi and Adham Fawzy’s miraculous escape:

There were rating upsets as well with draws occurring between players with 200-point difference. Zambia’s Prince Mulenga (2279) lost to Winston-Onyiah Sasha (1968) and Ethiopia’s Mesfin Leykun (2160) held Mahfoud Oussedik (2440).

Round 3 will finally feature GM clashes as Bassem Amin will face Bilel Bellahcene and Hicham Hamdouchi will face Ahmed Adly.


Zambia’s Lorita Mwango (right) pressing forward against Amina Mezioud
Photo by Amira Marzouk (Algeria)

Lorita Mwango (1931) has done it again! The Zambian has continued to upset the tables in Africa and upset the 3rd seeded Amina Mezioud (2128) of Algeria. She is now on 2/2 with three other players. Defending champion Shahenda Wafa (2175) was also slowed by Lina Nassr (1982) who ably held her to a draw.

Round #2 (All Games – Women)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #1: Tournament starts off with a few nicks

Venue for the 2019 African Individual Chess Championships


In general the top seeds prevailed… except for one result. IM Rodwell Makoto got a taste of home cooking with a loss to an unheralded Tunisian Jmila Omar. Nevertheless, it is a long tournament and it is much better to suffer these in the beginning when the overall result is still in doubt. In fact, there will mostly likely be more upsets in early rounds when players may not be as alert and recovering from travel.

GM Bassem Amin readying to play Prince Daniel Mulenga of Zambia. GM Ahmed Adly poses for a photo and GM Hicham Hamdouchi waits for Tunisian IM, Achraf Hbacha.

All of the 2500+ players won their games without incident, but there were a few rating upsets with Fawzy (2476) being held by Angolan International Master David Silva (2246). Tunisia’s Yacine Barbaria (2210) held IM Mahfoud Oussedik (2440) and Nigeria’s Chukwunonso Oragwu (2191) split the point with GM El-Gindy (2423).

Here is the upset win of the round…


The opening move is made at the board of Algeria’s Amina Mezioud’s board.
Photos courtesy of Dr. Hesham Elgendy

The women’s field was about almost perfect in terms of the expected results. All eleven games were decisive with the rating favorite coming out victorious. The next round will be a lot more competitive and most likely contain an upset or two. The games for the second round will result in an accelerated pairing with many of the contenders playing each other. Sometimes it is good to play the strongest players first.

The women’s field is quite small, but eleven federations is a positive development. In the continuing discussion of equality in chess, it appears that there is a lot to be done raise the interest level of girls and women. It is a worldwide issue, but perhaps many girls now find the game appealing.

Round #1 (All Games – Women)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

This has been an outstanding year for African chess thus far. With successful subzonals held, new zone format and the groundbreaking Grand Chess Tour held in Abidjan, there is hope that this just may be the “African Century.” The momentum continues in Tunis, Tunisia where the 2019 African Individual is being held. It is the home of the first Grandmaster from the African continent in Slim Bouaziz (1993).

The field this year is the strongest in many years with seven GMs and 13 IMs. While Arkady Dvorkovich’s initiative to spread chess to developing regions can be applauded, what is happening on the continent is simply and natural evolution during a time when information acquisition and online competition is widely available.

GM Bassem Amin
Photo by David Llada

Since Bassem Amin won his 5th title last year, Egypt has gained another Grandmaster in Adham Fawzy and Algeria has a young GM in 21-year old Bilel Bellahcene. Bellahcene won the 4.1 zone with a 9-0 score! Another young player to watch in Madagascar FIDE Master Fy Rakotomaharo who won the 4.3 zone with an 8/9 score.

One of the returnees to the championship is 11-time Moroccan champion Hichem Hamoudouchi who was once the continent’s strongest player. Hamdouchi moved to France, switched his federation, got married to WGM Adina-Maria Bogza and became French national champion in 2013. He later moved to Qatar and changed his federation back to his native affiliation. He bolsters a powerful lineup with Egypt’s Amin and Ahmed Adly, his successors in carrying the African mantle. Hamdouchi was the first player on the continent to eclipse 2600 and Amin was the first player to pass the 2700 mark. Egypt’s Essam El-Gindy and South Africa’s Kenny Solomon round out the field of Grandmasters.

CIV Invitational - Round 1 - IM Andrew Kayonde (Zambia)

IM Andrew Kayonde of Zambia looks to join the World Cup field
Photos by Alina L’Ami

With this year being a World Cup qualifier, 44 hopefuls have assembled in Tunis for the last two spots. Bellahcene (winner of subzonal 4.1), Adly (winner of subzonal 4.2), Rakotomaharo (winner of subzonal 4.3) have already qualified. Twenty-two year old IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria), who won subzonal 4.4 has also qualified. The World Cup will take place in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia from 9 September to 4 October 2019.

Eighteen federations have sent players with host Tunisia fielding seven, Nigeria with six and Zambia with four in the Open Section. The event should see quite a few upsets as this is one of the few opportunities for players to face GM-level competition on Africa soil.

The women’s section has 22 players from 11 federations with host Tunisia carrying five players. Egypt’s Shahenda Wafa will defend her crown as the top seed with her older sister Shrook Wafa, a two-time champion. Both Egypt and Algeria occupy the top seven slots and have dominated the continental championships in the past 15 years.

WGM Shahenda Wafa, 2018 African Women's Champion

WGM Shahenda Wafa, 2018 African Women’s Champion

With Zambia’s Lorita Mwango seeded 8th at 1931, she will look to upset the tables as she did a few years back with several upset wins. Jesse February of South Africa and 4.4 zonal champion Toritsemuwa Ofowino of Nigeria have high hopes.

Note: There is no official website, but several websites (i.e., Africa Chess Media and Kenya Chess Masala) will be covering the action with The Chess Drum. There is also the African Chess Confederation (ACC) Facebook page.

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

The 47th World Open ended in an exciting tiebreak with Vietnam’s Le Quang Liem winning over Jeffery Xiong. Both ended the tournament with a sterling 7.5/9. Five players following on 7/9 were: GMs Hrant Melkumyan, Ray Robson, Aleksandr Lenderman, Saven Andirasian and Fidel Corrales Jimenez. More than 1000 players trekked across the U.S. to compete in this marquee tournament.

Le Quang Liem faces Illia Nyzhnyk while Jeffery Xiong faces IM Andrew Hong. GM Isan Ortiz watches the action. Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Illia Nyzhnyk actually bolted out to the lead with 4/4 and 5.5/6. He then suffered consecutive losses including one to his friend and teammate Le Quang Liem. The two played last year when the Vietnamese player had the advantage only to blunder into mate by exposing his king. Nyzhnyk went on to win the 2018 World Open title. As fate would have it, Le exacted revenge by taking advantage of Nyzhnyk’s exposed king!

Xiong kept pace with an important win over IM Andrew Hong, who was having a strong tournament. Robson, Lenderman, Andriasian and Jimenez all won in round 7.

Fidel Corrales beat Vasif Durarbayli
putting him in joint first after seven rounds.

Le-Xiong would be a gripping Ruy Lopez. Ortiz watches as he waits for Jimenez.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

In the penultimate round, Xiong and Le faced on board 1. The game was a Ruy Lopez their encounter earlier that day in a gripping struggle that saw Le seize an initiative only to let it slip. In a post-tournament interview with USChess Online, Xiong stated that he was fortunate to save the game. In other action, Corrales won his fifth game in a row over fellow Cuban Grandmaster Isan Ortiz and had pulled into first place going into the last round with 7/8. Both Le and Xiong were on 6.5/8.

U.S. Hall-of-Famer, GM John Fedorowicz
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The last round was bloody with six decisive results on the top boards. Jimenez lost to Xiong knocking him out of contention while Le took care of Quesada. One game that had a bit of intrigue was Ray Robson playing John Fedorowicz. Chess fans may remember that James Tarjan, another American legend of the 70s, made a recent comeback and beat Vladimir Kramnik at Isle of Man. Fedorowicz was the next of the “Old School” to square off against the younger generation of players. He won his first World Open in 1977 as an 18-year old when first place was $3,000.00.

This is definitely a battle between generations and “Big John” or “Fed” was a legendary player of the 70s and 80s rising in the same manner that his young opponent did… through the scholastic ranks. Both were part of an era of players… Fedorowicz was one of the products of the “Fischer Boom” and Robson part of the new computer age in chess. Both are Olympiad medalists with Fedorowicz winning a team silver in 1990 Novi Sad and team bronze in 1986 Dubai. Robson won silver in 2018 Batumi and the historic gold in 2016 Baku.

Their game was a Sicilian, a nostalgic opening very much in vogue in the 70s and 80s. One can clearly see the impact of computer preparation in Robson’s play. Fedorowicz never fully equalized even after sacrificing pawns for activity. It was a rather clean win for Robson. Despite the loss the U.S. Hall of Famer acquitted himself quite well. He scored wins over Aleksandr Lenderman and Aram Hakobyan. His 6/9 was a fantastic result given his inactivity.

It seems interesting that in the past it was the former Soviet emigres who were winning the top places in the major events. Now they are dominated by foreign players who are attending American universities. Not to mention that the open section is crowded with hungry scholastic players who are looking for IM and GM norms.

Not long ago Jeffrey Xiong was in that crowd. Now at 18, he has entered the upper echelon of U.S. players now at #6. He caused a sensation in 2015 by winning the Chicago Open (as an IM) and is now was the co-winner of the 2019 World Open. Both he and Le finished on 7.5/9 and were set to play the tiebreaker to see who would get the title and the additional $500.00.

Le Quang Liem and Jeffery Xiong chat before tiebreaker.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

As the crowd assembled around the board, there was an apparent delay in starting the match. Le and Xiong stood by the board in a rather amicable conversation about the previous game. Dr. Wayne Xiong was on hand to watch his son battle. Xiong had the better tiebreaks so he choose to take the white pieces. After the tournament director explained the rules to both players, the players settled in their chairs and here is what happened.

Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

The tournament was festive as usual with more than 1000 players. Unfortunately, there were complaints about the noise levels. In fact, watching the video you can hear the crescendo of noise in the background. At one point Xiong shook his head perhaps reacting to the buzz of children in the background. The tiebreak was held concurrently in the same room with the blitz tournament. In addition, the regular rounds also had noise issues and cell phones of non-competitors went off on occasion. Also in the back there was a lot of noise just outside the doors where people were congregating.

Market Street, Downtown Philadelphia

As far as parents and coaches are concerned, it is understandable that they escort children and students to the board, see the opponent, make sure their child/student fills out the score sheet, and give their last pep talk. However, if they linger around, they can get in the way of the other players trying to find their boards. After the round has started, many non-competitors remain around the boards. Perhaps there needs to be announcements to non-competitors in open tournaments to ensure the environment is kept free of congestion and distractions.

The World Open is changing before our eyes. In the days of the Adams Mark Hotel, the players were much older. Now approximately half of the tournament is scholastic players. There will have to be changes in how the tournament is managed to keep up with the changing demographics and expectations and demands of the diverse crowd.

For now, the World Open is still a popular tournament with plenty of side events and maintains a festive and family-friendly atmosphere. It is where chess dreams sometimes come true. Norms, scalps and personal best performances are often achieved here. Despite the heartbreaking sights of homelessness and mental illness in downtown area, the iconic city still remains a great host. The Magic of the World Open still remains.

Section Winners (Nine Rounds)

Open: Le Quang Liem, Jeffery Xiong, 7.5
Under-2200: Rocky Pabalan, 8.5
Under-2000: Joshua Lewis-Sandy, 8.0
Under-1800: Rama Yalavarthi, 8.0
Under-1600: John Myles Flynn, 8.0
Under-1400: Daniel George, Arav Patel, Guy Carwell, 7.5
Under-1200: Sebastian Dstair, 8.0
Under-900: Ekeoma Osundu, Soham Patel, 8.0
Unrated: Yonathan Sosa: 8.5

Tournament Website:
PGN Games:
World Open (Drum Coverage): 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001

After the history Rapid and Blitz tournament in Abidjan, the Grand Chess Tour moves to another new city in Zagreb, Croatia. Chess historians may remember the town being host to a number of important tournaments including the 1959 Candidates. Sixty years later, the elite assemble again for the second event of the GCT.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen has had a historic year winning several tournaments in a row including the recently-ended tournament in Norway. His resurgence has left his competition flat-footed as they jockey for position as the next challenger. Viswanathan Anand, Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana have all lost championships matches, but will get a shot at him in Zagreb.

GCT Calendar

Cote d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz, May 6-13, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire
Croatia GCT (Classical), June 24-July 9, Zagreb, Croatia
Paris Rapid & Blitz , July 26-August 2, Paris
St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, August 8-15, St. Louis, Missouri
Sinquefield Cup (Classical), August, 15-30, St. Louis, Missouri
Superbet Rapid & Blitz, November 4-11, Bucharest, Romania
Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz, November 20-27, Kolkata, India

The 2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour tournament will be the first of two classical events and the second stop on the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. The tournament is hosted in partnership between the Grand Chess Tour and Chess Club e4 from Zagreb and will see all 12 full tour participants compete over 11 rounds of classical chess for a prize fund of $325,000. The event will take place at both Mimara Museum (Opening Ceremony) & Novinarski Dom. The participants are…

2019 Grand Chess Tour
June 26th to July 8th (Zagreb, Croatia)
1 Carlsen, Magnus GM Norway
2 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
4 Ding Liren GM China
3 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
9 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
6 Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM Russia
10 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar GM Azergaijan
2 Nakamura, Hikaru GM USA
5 So, Wesley GM USA
8 Aronian, Levon GM Armenia
7 Karjakin, Sergey GM Russia
Official Site

Commentary Links

The Playlist for both the English and Russian language broadcasts can be accessed on the YouTube Channel. The English Commentary team consists of GM Yasser Seirawan, IM Jovanka Houska, GM Alejandro Ramirez & GM Maurice Ashley. The Russian Commentary team will consist of GM Evgenij Miroshenko and GM Melikset Khachiyan.

Promotional Video

The 47th Annual World Open will begin this week with its usual fanfare during July 4th weekend. More than 1,000 players will journey to the iconic city of Philadelphia for the festival. The World Open attracts a wide array of national and international players and the 9-round Swiss tournament always has its magic moments. Ideally located in downtown Philly, the venue is near the Reading Terminal Market, a smorgasbord of restaurants to suit all palates. There are even tours for the family and even a chess park to relax in.

World Open (Drum Coverage): 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001

Octavius Catto, 19th century educator and freedom fighter
Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

47th annual WORLD OPEN

July 2-7, 3-7, 4-7 or 5-7, 2019
US Chess Grand Prix Points: 300 (enhanced)

9 rounds at luxurious Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market St, Philadelphia PA 19107 (directly across the street from the world famous Reading Terminal Market with over 80 food vendors).

In 9 sections. Unrated may enter only Open, U2200, U2000, or Unrated Sections.

Free analysis of your games by GM Sam Palatnik 7/3-7. Free GM lectures 7/5 and 7/6, 9 am.

OPEN SECTION, July 3-7 only: 40/2, SD/30 d10.
UNDER-2200 to UNDER-1200 SECTIONS, July 2-7, 3-7, 4-7 or 5-7: 40/2, SD/30 d10 (4-day option, rds. 1-2 G/60 d10; 3-day option, rds. 1-5 G/35 d10). Unrated not allowed in U1200, U1400, U1600 or U1800.
Under-900 & UNRATED SECTIONS, July 5-7 only: G/60 d10, plays separate schedule. Unrated not allowed in U900.

Tournament Website:
Organizer: Continental Chess Association
Venue: Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 United States
Phone: (215) 625-2900

US Chess

In chess, the spotlight usually shines on the world’s elite players. While we respect players for their mastery of chess, we may not realize the hard work that goes into organizing an event: the details, the expense, and all of the effort. We can’t thank organizers enough for their hard work.

One of the hardest-working contingents in the U.S. chess community are the Tournament Directors (TDs). International Arbiter Boyd Reed is one recognizable face in that number. Currently the Director of Events for U.S. Chess, he recently told The Chess Drum about Maya McGreen, a promising tournament director.

Mariah and Maya McGreen directing
at the 2014 World Open in Philadelphia.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Have we ever thought about how much effort goes into directing a tournament? Hardly. It appears that the main reason we interact with TDs (apart from registration) is when there is something wrong. On a lighter note, TDs have been experts at setting clocks! Of course, directing is important for so many reasons. It keeps the rhythm of the event, it ensures fairness and provides an avenue for conflict resolution. It is also important to have competent personnel in the yellow shirts.

For the past few decades, the McGreen family has been involved in many areas of the chess community and what can be termed a “chess family.” Kofi McGreen and wife Benna, proprietors of The Right Move chess organization, produced four children (Najee, Jabari, Maya, and Mariah) all of whom have played an active role in promoting chess.

The McGreens recently earned another accolade after Maya earned her Senior Tournament Director title. Several years back it was refreshing to see Jabari become the youngest National Tournament Director in the U.S. He would be considered a phenom if this were a competition. If you’ve seen Jabari, you may have also seen his twin sisters, Maya and Mariah. Both are also tournament directors with Maya (oldest twin by 10 minutes) recently earning her Senior Tournament Director title.

Maya McGreen USCF card

I passed and got my US Chess Senior TD title!!
Big thanks to everyone who’s supported me on this journey…up next NTD

Maya and Mariah started directing tournaments in 2013 at age 14 and have had to carve out their own niche. Both started as players at their parents’ club and ended up at the storied IS-318, the school highlighted in the movie, “Brooklyn Castle.” They had to play in the shadows of the featured players like Justus Williams and Rochelle Ballantyne. After success at IS-318, they turned their energy towards directing.

Mariah and I began directing tournaments in 2013 with Chess In the Schools. Jabari was a big influence in that. He was known as this big and important computer TD and I’ve wanted for a while to be at his level of TD knowledge if not better. Growing up I’ve watched him in the computer TD room. He’s always been so focused, assertive and in control of what need to be done. Sophia Rohde and Steve Immitt have been a big part me increase my TD knowledge and practice and have helped me get to Senior TD.

Tournament directors are charged with making the experience of playing in a chess tournament enjoyable. Let’s face it; we love chess as a hobby or sport, and we want to enjoy ourselves. Directors have an arduous and challenging task to keep hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of players calm and cooperative.

Maya McGreen as a scholastic player
at Brookyn’s IS-318.
Photo by Elizabeth Vicary.

We may have followed arbiters or “directors” since our scholastic days and developed a rapport. Many of them are retiring, and the current generation has to deal with a new breed of players and a wide range of issues. Decades ago, scholastic players were not mainstays in open tournaments. If so, they were typically top high school players. Today they make up half of the tournament population!

The duties for TDs are a bit different than before. Not only are there more situations involving children, but sometimes parents get emotionally involved and linger in the aisles. For a player competing, this can be unnerving, but for a TD, it poses another set of challenges. Certainly, TDs have to tread carefully when dealing with parents who can be quite a nuisance. In one instance, Maya had to adjudicate a long game, and the parent objected.

“Her son was the last one playing in the section, and we needed to stay on top of round times, so it’s only right and normal that at the last 20 mins we put a 5-minute 5-second delay clock on.”

The parent threatened to withdraw, but decided to keep her child in the tournament.

Then there there is cell phone issue. There have been some high profile cases of cheating worldwide, but monitoring electronic devices is quite a challenge. Maya and Mariah are often seen at the World Open collecting cell phones at the restrooms. Some have even tried to use cell phones to record scores. Maya mentioned, “What kid would boldly sit at a board and use a cell phone to record score?!” Apparently, quite a few have.

She had a tense situation where one player in K3 under-700 claimed that black captured a bishop with Ng6xf4. An argument ensued which soon turned to yelling. With emotions running high, she told them both to stop talking after which she deciphered their score sheets. She reconstructed the game while getting both players to confirm the moves and determined that the knight was on f6 and not g6.

“I’m just glad that what I can do as a tournament director can help me keep chess games as fair as possible.”

~Maya McGreen

A junior at Hunter College, Maya plans a career in film and media, but aspires to be a National Tournament Director (NTD). She mentions that there has not been an African American Female NTD before and desires to be the first. She also wants to be in a position to inspire Black girls to stay with chess in the long run. It is clearly a problem in general. She recalls a happenstance encounter with one of the world’s most recognizable chess personalities.

I work at the Apple Store and a year ago Maurice Ashley came in the store looking to buy a phone for his son. I automatically recognized him because I grew up learning from him. There’s a picture in the chess and checkers house in Central Park that Adia (Onyango) found hanging up of him playing me. I began to tell him how I played and he seemed reluctant to ask me if I had a rating. He was very surprised when I said 1800.

US Chess

Mariah watching Maya on the move at the 2017 Amateur Team East
Photo courtesy of Maya McGreen

Given that ratings are what gives a player their standing in the chess world, it can be challenging to break through. Maya sees the inequalities as multifaceted, but she admits that chess is a male-dominated game fueled with ego. As a scholastic player, she asserted herself at IS-318 among players who were enjoying the national spotlight. With her aspiring career in film and media, she hopes to tell stories like the one depicted in “Brooklyn Castle.”

The McGreens: Maya, Mariah, Kofi, Beena, Jabari

The McGreens: Maya, Mariah, Kofi, Beena, Jabari
Photo courtesy of Maya McGreen

In an impressive showing last Friday, Detroit City Chess Club (DCCC) continued its tradition by honoring area scholastic players for its 6th Annual All-City Team Awards. Detroit has had a history of successes in scholastic tournaments and this is an opportunity to recount the positive community impact.

DCCC hosted the event on June 14th at the historic at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the children in attendance were in good spirits and looked impressive in their formal attire. DCCC board member Catherine Martinez gave the welcome and occasion.

According to the program, DCCC founder Kevin Fite described the occasion…

This annual event is one of our personal favorites because we get to honor our young men and women who have been totally dedicated to the game of chess through competition, hard world and discipline. Our young people represent some of the brightest minds of our nation.

Board Members, parents and volunteers making it happen!

The awards program honored two members with the Harold Steen Hall of Fame award for excellence, Dr. Ed Mandell (All the King’s Men) and Coach Glenn Smith (Duffield, UPrep, Washington Park). Steen was a long-time chess coach at Bates and organizer in the Detroit area. He passed away more than a decade ago, but is still honored with a memorial tournament and as the icon whose name is associated with the Detroit Chess Hall of Fame.

There were ten categories for 2019:

Honorable Member All-City
Primary School (2nd Team)
Primary School (1st Team)
Elementary School (2nd team)
Elementary School (1st team)
Jr. High School (2nd team)
Jr. High School (1st team)
High School (2nd team)
High School (1st team)

Chrysler Elementary School

Photos by David Calton

Detroit has been making strides in developing talent for the next generation and these efforts are complemented by local standout players some of who have worked directly with these children as coaches or volunteers. Several have been forging ties with the broader chess community (and adjoining cities like Cleveland and Chicago) to help provide these talented children with opportunities in chess and in life.

Job well done!

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Twenty-year old Aleksandra Goryachkina won the Women’s Candidates tournament with a dominating performance and finally bringing to fruition her prodigious world championship potential. Since coming on the scene as a young prodigy she has turned in stellar performances winning three age world titles and the Girls World Junior in 2013 and 2014. She joined the national team in a reserve role in the 2013 European Team helping Russian win a silver medal.

Three years later she was double gold (team and individual) at the 2018 European Team and became a Grandmaster the same year after earning the required three norms. She got her first appearance on the 2016 Olympiad team in Baku, Azerbaijan and score 50% before a strong performance in Batumi, Georgia with 6.5/9. She has been fancied as the future of Russian women’s chess as her teammates make way for a new generation.

Her ascendancy may invoke memories of Alexandra Kosteniuk who played against Zhu Chen for the women’s championship as a 17-year old. She lost this battle, but would win the title in 2008. Goryachkina has a similar story line and seems to be Russia’s next hope to reclaim the highest in a world of increasing parity.

Russia’s future has arrived with Goryachkina.
Photo by Fred Lucas

In the recently-ended Candidate’s she dominated a veteran field and clinched the berth with two rounds remaining. She will be the second Russian to play for the title as Kateryna Lagno lost the title bout last year against Ju. Goryachkina will try to bring the title back to Russia after 11 years. The match will take place later in the year and will mark the first championship after returning to the match format.

Aleksandra Goryachkina (after Round 9)

Video by FIDE/Kharlovich

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

PR contact: David Rose, Public Relations Chair

University of Technology student Nathan Hinds claimed first place after an exhilarating finale in the President’s Cup Invitational Chess Tournament which concluded on May 26 at the Jamaica Olympic Association.

Hinds, who has had a phenomenal Chess year so far, inched closer to achieving the illustrious National Master (NM) title. This came as a result of his recent performances in the Fesco Manchester Open, Robert Wheeler Open and the now concluded President’s Cup. The title still has to be ratified by the Jamaica Chess Federation’s (JCF) Council, but there is no doubt Hinds will receive the title. “The NM title has always been a key goal for me. I am elated and proud of my achievements so far and look forward to achieving higher goals I have set for the year”, Hinds stated.

Nathan Hinds
2019 Presidents Cup Champion

Hinds’ final game against Douglas Markland saw an equal position that was balanced all the way into the endgame. With the tournament secure, Hinds drew his final game to finish on 7 points from 9 games while Douglas Markland finished eighth on 2.5 points.

“It was a spectacular feeling to win such a prestigious tournament. Playing against veterans such as International Master (IM) Shane Matthews and Michael Diedrick and other strong players such as FIDE Master (FM) Shreyas Smith and Candidate Master (CM) Malik Curriah was both humbling and satisfying.” As long as Hinds maintains the momentum he started the year with, he should qualify for his CM title once his international rating surpasses the 2000 mark.

There was a three-way tie for second place involving IM Matthews, FM Smith and CM Curriah who each finished on 6.5 points. FM Smith had the opportunity to claim first place if he had won his final game against IM Matthews. However, IM Matthews maintained his composure as he played with precision throughout the complicated game. Despite being down a piece, FM Smith tried some last minute tricks to secure a draw, but his sacrifices weren’t enough to stop the “Magician” and prevent an inevitable checkmate. CM Curriah also won his final game against CM Andrew Mellace in a lengthy endgame where he was up a piece. CM Mellace finished in fifth place on 6 points.

NM Blackwood secured a sixth place finish on 4.5 points with his final round victory against Michael Diedrick. NM Blackwood’s tournament saw him secure draws against Hinds and IM Matthews while Diedrick struggled as he finished in last on a half point.

Incumbent JCF President Ian Wilkinson had a rousing Sicilian Dragon win against the reigning Jamaica Junior Women’s Champion Raehanna Brown in his final President’s Cup game as the sitting JCF head. Even though the event was far from perfect for Wilkinson who finished on 2 points, it was an entertaining event for him as he got to play the national champions and enjoy thrilling games against them in his final event. He said that this was arguably the strongest-ever President’s Cup as it featured an International Master and a number of national champions. It was also a memorable event for the rapidly-improving Brown who registered a massive upset, delivering the only loss to IM Matthews in the tournament to finish in seventh place on 3 points.

Incumbent President Ian Wilkinson QC (left) plays the final moves of his game against National Junior Girls Champion Raehanna Brown. Photos by David Rose/Jamaica Chess Federation.

The tournament, one of the most prestigious on the calendar of events for the JCF, was held between April 24 and May 26, 2019 at Eden Gardens Wellness Resort & Spa and the JOA. It was a ten-player round-robin event with nine rounds played at a time control of ninety minutes per player for the game with increments of thirty seconds from the first move.

The event was made possible thanks to sponsorship from the Sports Development Foundation, Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa, the Jamaica Olympic Association and the Magnificent Chess Foundation.

Please email feedback and queries to for more information, especially on any upcoming tournaments. Also visit the Jamaica Chess Federation on Facebook or at

~ David Rose, Public Relations Chair

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