Liberty Bell Open 2016 Recap

Liberty Bell Open 2016 Recap

Feb 15, 2016, 10:34 PM |

Hey everyone at, since I'm about to start my next big tournament (the Southwest Class Championship, edit - now just concluded at the time of publication. I'll probably be sharing some games from there later), I figured it was a good time to share with all of you games from my last tournament, the Liberty Bell Open in Philadelphia.

It was my first time at this tournament, despite knowing a lot of people who have gone in the past. But it definitely wasn't my first time in Philadelphia! I've been going to the World Open there for years.

I came into this tournament with a rating of 2091 USCF, and played in the Open section. My goal was to play as many strong players as possible, and so I was very happy to play IM Jay Bonin in the first round. Unfortunately, my lack of opening knowledge made the game a rout. Avoid doing what I did in this game!

Ok, so this was a disaster. I was disappointed not to be able to a put up a fight in this game.

In the next round I was paired against Brian Yang, rated 2010. Later I heard that even though Brian usually TDs rather than plays, he turned in some impressive games at the Boston Chess Congress. In this game I was lucky to know the opening very well, so it was pretty much the opposite of the last game.


The next round I played against Marcus Miyasaka, who is rated 2227 and is already an FM. I was worse out of the opening here and fought back to a playable position, but move 40 would prove to be the decider.
Despite having such a bad position out of the opening, I nearly saved that game. Even with a minute left, throwing away the draw like that was not good at all. Still, I thought I played okay most of the game. I hoped I would still get to play more masters in the rest of the event.
The next day was my real bad day from the event. I lost both games, first to 1971 rated Srinivas Moorthy and then to 2086 rated Leroy Hill. I'm not going to show these games, though, because they are not very interesting. Against Moorthy I got a huge positional advantage in an exchange Caro Kann, but lost the thread, started playing aimless moves, and then lost the game. Against Leroy Hill I had an equal position with black when he played 3. h4 against my hyper-accelerated dragon, but simply blundered it away by going into long calculations before fully realizing my opponents' threats. I stopped one of them, but not the other.
So that was frustrating, because I hadn't played as many strong players as I'd hoped and knew I probably wouldn't later in the tournament. Still, I wasn't too disappointed with my play, even though it was quite uneven. 
That night I played in the blitz tournament. I managed to come in only half a point out of first with 6/8, even with IM Alexander Katz participating. The reason was my two wins against a local friend who had also travelled to the event not to play, but as the bookseller, 2000 rated David Campbell. Right after I forked his king and rook in the second game, gaining a decisive material advantage, a spectator walked by and pressed an easy button. "That was easy!" it rang as we stared at the fork. My opponent burst out laughing, as did I (only after seeing him laugh first, of course!). It was a pretty crazy moment. Other than that my blitz tournament was nothing special, as I didn't get to play any of the handful of players stronger than me playing in the event.
The next day I played 1818 rated Eduardo Mercere, who was playing several hundred points up to be in the Open section. He played the Rubinstein French, an opening I didn't have a lot of practice with. But I was able to get good play against his king and finish it off with some nice tactics, even though I let him back in the game at some point. Try to solve the following puzzles, and then play through the game.
It was nice to win, although I wish my opponent had challenged my play more by finding some accurate moves.
The last game I played against 2012 rated Maanav Ganthapodi with the white pieces. Most of the game was not that interesting. He played an accelerated dragon (my own opening as black against 1. e4) and got an equal position before he made a slight mistake that I would've had to play precisely to take advantage of, and I didn't. I'll show an interesting moment at the end of the game where I had the opportunity to try and put pressure on my opponent.
It's disappointing I didn't push my opponent harder in this last game. I should also mention that the tournament was won by Shabalov, Khmelnitsky, Ostrovskiy, and Bartell, who each scored 5.5/7. Tying for second were Awonder Liang and Bonin with 5/7. So you can see this was a hotly contested event with some very strong players. More information can be found on an article at the USCF website, which also includes game analysis and comments from some of the winners.
My score was 2.5/7, which is not bad but not great either. I lost some rating points (24, down to 2067) from this tournament, but this is not such a big deal. I'm glad I got to play some strong players and had some interesting (and for me instructive) games.
Out of my losses, 1.5 (the 1st round and partly the 3rd) were due to openings, 1 was due to lack of positional and strategic understanding (the 4th), 1 was due to poor calculation (the 5th), and the last .5 due to poor endgame skills (the 3rd). You can bet I'll be working on improving those in the future. 
Let me know what you thought of this article, or if you think I should do more. Meanwhile, I'm off to Texas for an even more challenging tournament(edit - I had some very interesting games in Texas, and yes I was definitely right that it would be a challenging tournament. More on this later)!

Normally this would be the end of the post, but I've got some exciting news to share. My coach, Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn, renowned co-author of Chess Openings for White Explained and Chess Openings for Black Explained and popular video author and blogger on this website, is launching his own opening website!

There's going to be a lot of great stuff there, including updated PGNs from the books, regular video lectures and blogs explaining opening lines and going over games, an FAQ where members can ask questions and read from the already-answered list, and personal game analysis! In fact, there'll be a bunch of Eugenes' strong students and friends also contributing to the site (including me). If you want to get a sneak peek and be among the first people to know when the site is going to launch, check out

Thanks everyone!
-Daniel Johnston