Shabalov Repeats At U.S. Open, Earns Slot At U.S. Champs

Shabalov Repeats At U.S. Open, Earns Slot At U.S. Champs

Shaba is love, Shaba is life. The popular GM Alexander Shabalov repeated last year's victory at the U.S. Open (held July 30-August 7), and once again, claimed the coveted spot at the U.S. championship.

Shabalov's impressive 8.0/9 score was equaled by GM Gil Popilski, whose federation is Israel, and as such was not eligible for the U.S. championship slot.

Shabalov seems a bit unsure where to put this trophy. | Photo Fun Fong.

Although 13 grandmasters did compete, the U.S. Open is so packed with experts and masters (nearly 100) that a very high score is needed for victory and many early rounds were convincing drubbings. Many of the most engaging games were played in the late rounds, and in this report, we will bring you exclusively high-stakes combative chess from the final round.

Ultimately, the key final-round victory was Shabalov's over GM Alexander Lenderman as Black. An interesting opening variation led to great pressure for Shabalov who won an aesthetic victory.

Shabalov, the rich man's Jason Statham, at his U.S. Chess
Hall of Fame induction ceremony in April 2015.

The other final-round victory was Popilski's over GM Joel Benjamin. Popilski's victory was the first achieved as Benjamin missed a tactic. Can you find it?

Despite being surpassed in the final round, the talk of the open was IM Ruifeng Li, who was always atop the crosstable. As late as round seven, he held sole first place with 6.5/7. Li has been thoroughly impressive of late; he won the National Open ahead of many GMs, and he is probably one of the strongest IMs in the world.

He wasn't able to win the necessary final round against GM Vasif Durarbayli, but he should have. He was pressing in the famous f- and h-pawn rook endgame that is "drawn." In practice, it is very difficult though and Durarbayli went wrong before the favor was returned by Li. Can you draw it?

Li demonstrating a soon-to-be GM's power of
concentration at the National Open. | Photo: Tim Hanks.

Catching Li on shared third was GM Fidel Corrales Jiminez, who was losing to GM Timur Gareyev before some luck came his way.

In addition to playing in the open, Gareyev gave one of his trademark blindfold demonstrations at the event. Rumor has it that he intends to break the world record of 46 simultaneous boards soon.

An armageddon game was held between Shabalav and Popilski to determine the U.S. Open champion and trophy recipient. Shabalov duly won with the sort of Sicilian aggression for which he is renowned.

The Denker Tournament of High School Champions, National Girls Tournament of Champions, and the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions junior tournaments were held concurrently. They were won by NMs Mika Brittain, Jennifer Yu, and Brandon Jacobsen respectively.

U.S. Open Final Standings | Seven Points And Up

No. State Title Player USCF Rating Score
1 TX GM Popilski, Gil 2642 8
2 PA GM Shabalov, Alexander 2634 8
3 TX IM Li, Ruifeng 2624 7.5
4 MO GM Corrales Jimenez, Fidel 2598 7.5
5 MO GM Nyzhnyk, Illia I 2718 7
6 MO GM Durarbayli, Vasif 2706 7
7 NY GM Lenderman, Aleksander 2700 7
8 TX GM Zherebukh, Yaroslav 2668 7
9 UT GM Troff, Kayden W 2630 7
10 NJ GM Benjamin, Joel 2627 7
11 NJ IM Chandra, Akshat 2562 7
12 TX IM Javakhadze, Zurab 2546 7
13 CA IM Kiewra, Keaton 2533 7
14 CO IM Mulyar, Michael A 2486 7
15 NY GM Fedorowicz, John P 2481 7
16 CA Hilby, Craig 2476 7
17 OR Grabinsky, Aaron 2373 7
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