With the heat wave blanketing the country, many players braved the characteristically dreadful heat of Arizona. Triple-digit temperatures are not uncommon in August and the heat had swept the nation only weeks prior to the scheduled U.S. Open. However, 455 participants trekked to Phoenix for the annual tournament. The number of registrants was actually a slight increase over last year's tournament (held in hurricane-plagued Fort Lauderdale).
The U.S. Open is a prestigious tournament, but attendance has been lagging the past decade. Fortunately the Denker Tournament of High School Champions and the Polgar Girls tournament helped to boost the numbers. Vadim Milov of Switzerland and Joel Benjamin topped the field with 8-1 followed by the quintet… Grandmasters Alek Wojtkiewicz, Larry Christiansen and International Masters David Vigorito, Amon Simutowe and Greg Shahade on 7˝-1˝.
Christiansen was being chased throughout the tournament only to falter in the last round against Milov. This sole loss allowed Benjamin, who beat Alexander Yermolinsky, to share the crown with Milov. A trio of IMs had strong tournament and won their last two games to share 3rd-7th place. Simutowe faltered in the 3rd when he giving up a perpetual check against Expert Arin Madenci, but finished strong. "I let my opponent today escape with perpetual checks I had an option to prevent. He had a minute versus my 22 to make 20 moves," the Zambian IM told The Chess Drum.
Along with Christiansen, both Vigorito and Shahade qualified for the U.S. Championship in San Diego as well as Gregory Serper who was on 7-2. For the two women's spots, Experts Elizabeth Vicary and WFM Hana Itkis earned a trip to the "big dance." The USCF reported that 44 players registered to compete for qualification including Sayaka Foley, a 9-year old player rated 1114! A recent ruling require qualifiers to have at least a 50% score.