Playing The Quintessential American Tournament: The 2017 World Open

Playing The Quintessential American Tournament: The 2017 World Open

NM SamCopeland

Note: This piece is a blog. The opinions are the author's. So are the errors

The World Open is a uniquely American tournament. Held this year for the 45th year (which a little math dates back to 1973), it is always held over the 4th of July weekend, American Independence Day. After a brief stay in Washington D.C., the World Open is back in it's traditional home: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia was the capital of the United States from 1790-1800, home to the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the signing of the Declaration of American Independence.

The World Open itself also has a distinctly American feel. The Swiss System may bear a European moniker, but the format and the opens with which it is associated (although now the FIDE Grand Prix cycles use Swiss Systems too...) are a staple in the United States. The legendary blindfold exhibitionist George Koltanowski innovated by employing the Swiss System in the U.S. Open way back in 1947.


Before Koltanowski, the U.S. Open used a round-robin prelims and finals format.

Today, no one has done more to propagate this format than Bill Goichberg and the Continental Chess Association who have hosted the tournament in each of its 45 years. They do much excellently. Rounds are on time, registration systems are fluid, the event is rated promptly, the TDs and staff are knowledgeable and affable, and (best of all) pairings are sent promptly by both e-mail and text message

That said, there's a distinctly American commercialism to the event that can be tiresome. The hotel venues are sterile, the crush of players seeking to enter and exit the playing hall is oppressive, and the elevators are impossible to use during round times. Worst of all, the restroom conditions can be appalling. I lost count of how many times a toilet overflowed

So Who Won?

The 2017 World Open was won by GM Tigran Petrosian, a grandmaster who will be familiar to members from his Blitz Battle with Magnus Carlsen. He joins only 11 other players who have won the event solely. His winning score was 7.5/9. A good trivia question: What is the highest winning score from a World Open? Another question: What is the best percentage score from a winner? A final question Who is the only player to have twice been a sole winner?

Petrosian's victory in the final round over GM Oliver Barbosa was both the most important game in the tournament and a fine game. He trapped Barbosa's king in the center and executed effectively.

To my eyes, and to many others, the main story of the event was the breakthrough performance of 17-year-old IM Zhansaya Abdumalik. She is not a player I am familiar with, and I was surprised to discover that her Wikipedia page declares her a "former prodigy."


MRW 17-year-olds are former prodigies.

She won a beautiful game as Black against GM Yaroslav Zherebukh, but it was her performance in general that was most noteworthy. She tied for second with 7/9, gaining 30 FIDE points and cracking the top 50 FIDE women's list for the first time. If this performance is indicative, she may soon be 34th female grandmaster in history.


Finally, I have to include this finish. Beautiful

My Eight Memorable Games

I have watched my rating steadily decline over the past couple of years. Teaching chess to young players is not conducive to playing strong chess yourself. In my experience, my thinking is reduced to the level of the student and the problems they face. Playing chess at master-level and above requires you to push past surface-level thinking. It's not easy if you are not in the habit.

Consequently, it was really exciting to feel like I played eight really interesting games this year! As a reward, I even gained rating points. Here's each of my games and some lessons I thought were noteworthy. Maybe they can even help you

I missed game one due to travel delays so I started with a bye.

Game 2: GM Michael Rohde vs Myself 1/2-1/2

I thought for a moment that this was my first classical half-point against a GM (I only have about 5 games vs GMs.), but I have drawn GM Anatoly Lein (winner of the 1976 World Open) before.

Lessons Learned:

  • Don't get into time trouble trying to win the game right away.
  • Every pawn push is a committal decision.

Game 3: Myself vs Robert Perez 0-1

Lessons Learned:

  • I tend to force the play too often. I am missing opportunities to maintain the tension favorably.

Game 4: Anaiy Somalwar vs Myself 0-1

Lessons Learned:

  • Only seek a queen exchange when the position calls for it.

Game 5: Myself vs FM Ladia Jirasek 0-1

There is unfortunately a frustrating story associated with this extremely complex game:

I went under 5 minutes around move 30 and stopped notating. On move 33, with about a minute on the clock, my opponent told me I have to notate (First of all, I think that making statements directly to me on my time when I am under such time trouble is a violation of 20G regarding districting the opponent.). I say, "No, I'm under 5 minutes." He says I still have to because there is a second time control. I'm flustered and full of adrenaline, and I mutter a mild expletive under my breath and hasten to catch up the notation, doing so with seconds on the clock.

Naturally, the assertion is is not true. I do not have to notate under five minutes, and I am quite confident I would have played the correct 38th move with some more seconds on the clock. Of course, I have myself to blame for not stopping the clock and dealing with the situation, but it always leaves a bad taste in one's mouth to feel that the game was decided off the board.

Lessons Learned:

  • Question? Pause the clock, get the TD.
  • My opening prep as White is lacking.

Game 6: Dragan Jiricic vs Myself 0-1

Lessons Learned:

  • There's no point losing with hours on the clock as my opponent did. Slow down and think.

Game 7: Myself vs WFM Apurva Virkud 1/2-1/2

Lessons Learned:

  • I tend to be too optimistic or too pessimistic. I need to be more objective.
  • Again, I tried to force the play when it was unfavorable to do so.

Game 8: Myself vs FM Hans Niemann 1-0

I think this is one of my best games I had a nice strategic set of ideas that I utilized effectively, and I finished with a small combination: a good day!

Lessons Learned:

  • This game is a good illustration of the value of playing with a clear plan.

Game 9: FM Deepak Aaron vs Myself 1/2-1/2

I enjoyed discussing this game afterwards with my opponent. The positions are very interesting, and my opponent was free and honest with his thoughts.

Lessons Learned:

  • Good opening preparation is about more than memorization. I got into some trouble on the board and the clock because I did not know the middlegame structures well.