Sadvakasov wins 11th Foxwoods Open

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Sadvakasov & ShulmanIt shouldn’t have been a problem for any chess player to find a tournament during Easter. In almost every continent there was a tournament that was broadcasted worldwide. Special attention deserved the Foxwoods Open, held 8-12 April in Connecticut (USA), according to our editor IM Robert Ris, who reports.

Darmen Sadvakasov (l.) and Yuri Shulman (r.) finished tied for first after which Sadvakasov won the Armageddon game to win the title Foxwoods Open Champion 2009. | Photo: Mike Atkins

It must be noted that, generally, American Opens are different from the rest of the world. Obtaining conditions is out of the question for titleholders and usually they even have to bring their own chess set! In return, the sponsors of Foxwoords promised a huge prize fund of $100.000 based on 650 entries. In case this number wouldn’t be reached, the prize fund would be adjust proportionally, with a minimum guarantee of $70.000.

The 11th edition brought a field of 573 participants together, containing 54 titled players, among them are 14 GMs and 14 IMs. The players were divided into different rating categories, so that in the Open section there were ‘only’ 127 participants, while amateurs also still had a great chance to win an interesting prize. The reason why there are so many participants is explained by the fact that the tournament venue is the Foxwoods resort & casino, the biggest gambling palace in the US, so that in case the chess tournament doesn’t go well, the players still have a chance on a different kind of table!

Time to return to the main subject of this report. In the very first rounds the Open section was mainly dominated by Yuri Shulman. The current US champion 2008 had a turbulent start with 5/5, among his victims Joshua Friedel (see analysis of game in ChessVibes Openings 15!), Darmen Sadvakasov and Loek van Wely. The latter equalized quite comfortably in a topical Anti-Moscow Slav, but had probably counted on a draw too easily. Such huge blunders by top-class players occur quite often in the American Opens, where normally 9 games are played within 4 or 5 days.


America's latest GM: 17-year-old Robert Hess | Photo: Mike Atkins

On a half point distance two players tied for the 2nd place: Alexander Shabalov and 17 year-old Robert Hess, who became the sensation of the tournament achieving his 3rd GM norm and passing the important 2500-mark. His fantastic result is very well reflected by his wins against experienced GMs Ehlvest and Nakamura, who both couldn’t play a big role in the top of the rankings.

After making a quick draw with Black against Hess, Shulman continued his winning streak by completely outplaying his main rival Shabalov in round 7. Understandably, Shulman decided to secure his top ranking by making quick and riskless draws in the final rounds. This gave pursuers the opportunity to catch up with him. IM Alex Lenderman played a fantastic tournament beating the strong GMs Yermolinsky and Akobian on his way, and drew with Shulman in round 8. Unfortunately he wasn’t in the position to achieve a GM-norm, since he missed the obliged number of foreign-opponents.

Probably this had a negative impact on his last round game, since instead of his usual attractive chess, he opted with White for a rather boring exchange Slav against Sadvakasov, who fully recovered from his hopeless loss in the 3rd round against Shulman. Being determined to fight for the first place, Sadvakasov gradually improved his position and won a typical knight against bishop ending which reminded us of the famous ending Levenfish-Kotov, Soviet championship 1939. Levenfish won in a very instructive way, but it should be said that in the present game Sadvakasov got all the cooperation from his opponent.

Games selection

This victory brought the Kazakh on a shared 1st place with Shulman, and as usual in Foxwoods Open the tournament winner has to result from an Armageddon tiebreak. As was decided, Shulman played with White and therefore needed to win to prolonge his win of last year’s Open. Despite the time-advantage, Shulman never came close to victory and so Sadvakasov became the deserved winner. As one could read from the tournament site, on move 29 Sadvakasov had the intention to play his bishop to c8, but while touching the piece, he noticed that this move would cost him tournament victory because of 30. f6, winning the bishop. Therefore he went for the odd-looking 29…Ba6 but luckily for him it didn’t influence his position in a bad way.


Loek van Wely won his last round game after a tough fight, which led him to 3rd place, half point behind the tournament winners. Behind him ended 7 players on 6¬?/9. Julio Becerra was one of them, and I would like to conclude the report with his tragically final-round win over IM Justin Sarkar.

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