Kamsky, Dreev, Nakar Win Norm-Heavy North American Open

Kamsky, Dreev, Nakar Win Norm-Heavy North American Open

| 27 | Chess Event Coverage

For those looking for 24/7 live chess action this week, on the opposite side of the Qatar Masters was the 25th North American Open, held at Bally's Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada from December 26-30.

This yearly event, organized by the Continental Chess Association, is one of the premier opens in the U.S., and normally attracts huge crowds (with players ranging from complete beginner to super-GM), all looking to win their share of the substantial prize fund.                                                              
                          (Top Seed Gata Kamsky. Photo: Alan Losoff.)

This year was no exception, as the event had a total attendance of more than 700 players, and paid out an extra 12 percent on top of the promised $120,000, divided among the seven sections: Open, U2300, U2100, U1900, U1700, U1500, and U1250.

While the Open section would be no match for the star-studded field in Qatar, it still featured some prominent names, including GMs Gata Kamsky, Alexey Dreev, Varuzhan Akobian, and Zhou Jianchao, as well as a total of more than 60 titled players in the field. The top two seeds, Kamsky and Dreev, got nicked for a few draws but did not lose a game in the event and quickly drew each other in the final round to finish with 7/9, sharing first place.

Dreev scored an impressive victory over GM Oliver Barbosa in round seven to secure a high standing in the final rounds:

   (GM Alexey Dreev of Russia had a smooth ride to a first place finish. Photo: Alan Losoff.)

Also tying for first was one of the multiple surprises in the event, IM Eylon Nakar of Israel, who after losing in round two (to the author) stormed back with five straight wins and closed out the tournament with two draws to clinch his share of first.

         (IM Eylon Nakar finished with 7/9, a GM-level performance. Photo: Alan Losoff.)

Lots of FIDE title norms were achieved in the event, thanks to the tournament having more than 20 players representing a foreign federation, which means that the individual foreign player requirement (a player needs to face at least four players not from his home federation) could be waived. The only GM norm was achieved by FM Josh Colas of New York, who was the sensation of the event, scoring many upsets and finishing in a tie for fourth with 6.5/9.

Having fantastic events and earning IM norms were FM Cameron WheelerFM Sean Vibbert, FM Alexander Velikanov, and FM Michael Song, as well as the author of this article. Lastly, WFM Ramya Inapuri's 4/9 earned her a WIM norm.

Although Nakar had delivered a 2600+ "GM-norm" performance, he only faced two GMs (the minimum is three for a GM norm, or three IMs for an IM norm) and thus did not earn a norm himself. FM Nicolas Checa also played well enough to deserve an IM norm, but needed to face one more IM to complete his requirement.


(FM Josh Colas earned over 60 USCF rating points for his amazing performance. Photo: Alan Losoff.)

See one of Colas's splendid wins from the event, this one against Chinese GM Bai Jinshi:

FM Velikanov produced a quick and dazzling win over IM Darwin Yang in round two, and had already clinched his IM norm after eight rounds:

My own route to the IM norm wasn't easy, with a key win over GM James Tarjan in round six:

Many of the games in the Open section were broadcast live courtesy of Monroi. Full standings for all sections, payouts, and a PGN of games from the event can be found here. And look for a personal recap of the event on FM Kostya's blog coming within the next few weeks.

IM Kostya Kavutskiy

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IM Kostya Kavutskiy is a professional chess author, journalist, coach, commentator, and player. As a part of's content team since 2009, Kostya has recorded many video lectures, covered elite tournaments, written instructive articles & blogs, and has done many live commentary shows for Chess TV. Kostya has also written a number of articles for Chess Life magazine and Chess Life Online, and is currently an instructor for Chess University. In 2015, Modernized: The Open Sicilian was released, which Kostya co-authored with IM Zhanibek Amanov. Kostya's tournament accomplishments include winning the 2014 Southern California Closed Championship, as well as achieving his IM title in November 2016. In April 2017, he placed 6th in the star-studded 2017 Reykjavik Open. He currently resides in Mountain View, CA, and his plans are to pursue the GM title while working actively as a coach.



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