Loek van Wely wins Chicago Open (UPDATE: Interview)

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Loek van Wely wins Chicago OpenLoek van Wely won the Chicago Open tournament in Wheeling, Illinois. In the 9-round Swiss, the Dutch GM was the only player to score 7.5 points. Adams, Najer, Mikhalevski and Stocek ended shared second with 7 points. Interview with Van Wely added.

Loek van Wely in Chicago | Photo: Rose Homa

The 19th annual Chicago Open was held May 27-31 and organized by the Continental Chess Association. This year the organizers added two more rounds to their traditional 7-rounder, making norms possible.

The tournament was traditionally held during the Memorial Weekend. The rate of play in the Open Section was 2 hours for 40 moves plus another hour to finish the game.

For the different sections (besides the Open there was an Under 1000, Under Under 1300, Under 1500, Under 1700, Under 1900 and Under 2100) there was a US $100,000 unconditionally guaranteed prize fund.


The venue was the Westin Chicago North Shore Hotel in Wheeling, Illinois

Like in previous years, the tournament attracted several very strong grandmasters from the US and abroad. Besides US Championship participants Ben Finegold, Varuzhan Akobian, Aleksandr Lenderman, Melikset Khachiyan, Alex Yermolinsky, Samuel Shankland, Alexander Shabalov, Dmitry Gurevich and Jaan Ehlvest (who defended his title in Chicago), the tournament had for instance Michael Adams (England), Evgeny Najer (Russia), Victor Mikhalevski (Israel) and Jiri Stocek (Czech Republic) from abroad. One name we didn't mention yet is that of Dutch GM Loek van Wely, who won the tournament with 7.5 points.


GM Loek van Wely (a pic from last year in Chicago) | Photo Chris Bird

Van Wely won after beating IM Sam Shankland in the final round, while Akobian, who went into the round tied with Van Wely and Shankland, lost to Adams.

Van Wely-Shankland Loek van Wely wins Chicago Open From the moment the move c4-c5 was possible tactically on move 15, the bishop on a7 had been out of the game. Now Van Wely decided the endgame with 28.Bxa6! bxa6 29.Nd4 Bd7 30.Bd6 and White was basically a piece up.

Adams-Akobian Loek van Wely wins Chicago Open Can you see how White won a pawn (and later the game)? Answer below in the game viewer.

Chicago Open 2010 Round 9 (Final) Standings
Chicago Open 2010 Round 9 (Final) Standings
Full final standings here

Selection of games

Game viewer by ChessTempo



We talked with Loek van Wely through Skype on Tuesday night (Dutch time; afternoon in the US), while he was at Chicago airport, on his way back to The Netherlands. He told us that he played Chicago together with his girlfriend Lorena Zepeda from El Salvador, who didn’t do bad either (5/9). Before Van Wely will play the Dutch Championship (June 10-20 in Eindhoven), he will first compete in the French team championship and travel to France together with Anish Giri ('I'm in the same team so I can be his driver!'), that other Dutchman who won a tournament this week.

When was your last victory at a big open? “That must have been Foxwoods, in 2006. In the U.S. I won the World Open in Philadelphia in 1994, and the New York Open in 1996. The funny thing was that Mickey Adams played his last tournament in the States in New York in 1996, the one I also won. He said to me he was bringing me luck.”

That last round looked quite easy, but what were the more difficult moments in this tournament? “Against Mulyar in round 3 was tough. We got this very sharp line from the Slav, from the Anand-Kramnik match, and at some point I deviated from what I intended to play. I won a piece, but then I saw that I had to simplify the position as quickly as possible. And the games against Yermo and Dmitry Gurevich were both very tricky.”

Does this mean you were also lucky, or do you feel you did play the best chess in Chicago? “Well, in those games against Yermolinsky and Gurevich I was the one who was pushing. Against Yermo, for instance, I declined a draw offer and played an ending a pawn down. You always take some risks, you know. Against Gurevich it was very sharp, and I deliberately went for complications, based on some calculations. This means it can go well, or bad.”

“What’s the main difference between tournaments in the US and Europe, for you? In Europe, with all these strong Russians, and with just one round a day, openings are much more important than over here. In the States it comes down to stamina, tactics, those kind of things. In Europe preparation plays a much bigger role.”

Does such a tournament, with 9 rounds in 5 days, suit you better? “Well, I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind to play one game a day here, but for some players over here it’s a bigger problem. My physical condition is not bad, I would like to do a bit more sports, but I can’t complain. But for some players that’s different.” And what about bringing your own chess set and clock, I cannot imagine that big names like you, or Mickey Adams, walk into the playing hall with a chess set under their arm? “Well, you think wrong, mate! We do. Some people don’t, and hope that the opponent will bring material, but this means you might get into the situation that your opponent isn’t there yet, and you cannot press his clock.”

Does a victory like this make you want to play more often? “Well, one victory doesn’t suddenly change the world, you know. And in fact I play more than you might think. After this I play the French team championship, then the Dutch championship, then a tournament in Norway, then Amsterdam, then the Spanish league and then the Olympiad.”

Yes, that’s a pretty tough schedule. What about the Olympiad team? I presume Anish will play, and...? “Yes, Anish is in team, Jan Smeets is, and I am, for the moment. The other two spots will be clear after the Dutch Championship. But it comes down to the following, I believe: if Dimitri Reinderman doesn’t win, it will be Erwin l’Ami and Daniel Stellwagen by rating.”

On Facebook Anish teased you, that staying ahead of him was an extra motivation for you to win in Chicago. Is it still important to you to be the number one on the Dutch rating list? “Let’s say it’s always good to keep Anish down as long as possible. ;-)”
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

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