Three-Way Tie at World Open

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

The World Open began as the largest open tournament in the U.S. when it started in 1973. Back then, the total prize fund was "only" $15,000, while this past year, the first prize in the Open Section was $20,000 by itself.

No one won quite that much in this year's 42nd edition, thanks to a three-way tie among GM Ilya Smirin of Israel, GM Ilya Nyzhnyk of Ukraine, and GM Conrad Holt of the U.S. All three won 7/9 and pocketed $9,891, and Smirin won a $254 bonus for winning a tiebreak Armageddon game with Nyzhnyk.

GM Ilya Smirin, winner of the 2014 World Open (photo: FM Eric Rosen)

Holt repeated his share of the title from last year, when no less than 11 players shared first with 6.5/9. Smirin previously claimed a piece of the title in 2001, 2002, and 2003, although this is his first playoff win.

Here he dispatches one of America's biggest talents, 11-year-old Awonder Liang, who is a past World Youth Championship gold medalist. Liang also has the record for youngest person to beat a grandmaster, but Smirin shows his experience (he is more than four times as old!) by proving ugly pawns also mean open files:

The event took place June 30-July 6 in Arlington, Virginia. Notable is that the Open section only offered a 5-day option. According to the tournament's announcements, this was done to comply with the new FIDE rules about norm events requiring only one section. You can see the full standings here.

The sole GM norm winner was young FM Razvan Preotu of Canada, who had to go through eight grandmasters to earn it!

Eight players earned IM norms, with three earning their third and final norm: Christopher Gu (USA), FM Denys Shmelov (USA) and FM Kassa Korley (USA). Fans of the United States Chess League may note that all three have played there in the past.

IM-elect Kassa Korley (top right), shortly before playing the Alekhine for the first time ever. He drew GM Lazaro Bruzon. U.S. Champion GM Gata Kamsky (hat) in the foreground (photo: Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum)

After two-and-a-half decades of being hosted in Philadelphia, this is the second year that the Continental Chess Association has hosted its premier event in Arlington, the Washington, D.C. suburb. The advertised prize fund of $250,000 was nearly met -- the prizes to the top players suggest that 84.66 percent was paid out, thanks to the 1000+ paid entries.

The playing hall before the round...
...and during the round (photos: Richard De Credico)

The event usually attracts so many top players that finishing in sole first place is rare nowadays (this year, 28 of the 95 players in the Open Section were GMs). Only two players have accomplished that in the last 15 years: GM Varuzhan Akobian in 2004 and GM Viktor Laznicka in 2010. Both scored an impressive 7.5/9.

It should be mentioned that 17-year-old Nyzhnyk plans to attend Webster University in St. Louis in the fall. His FIDE rating of 2628 is exactly the same as fourth-board GM Ray Robson -- won't that be a showdown for their "A" team! GMs Wesley So, Le Quang Liem, and Georg Meier are currently rated higher on the Webster team. (Perhaps those five should be their own country for the Olympiad?)

GM Ilya Nyzhnyk (photo: FM Eric Rosen)

Here Nyzhnyk shows a clinical conversion of a space advantage:

A few more players missed out on a chance to join the three winners. GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez of Cuba and GM Sergei Azarov of Belarus began the final round a half-point back, but only managed to draw Nyzhnyk and Smirin, respectively.

GM Mark Paragua and Holt each had 6/8, but Holt's victory propelled him into the shared lead. He had been chasing the leaders all event thanks to an early loss in round two to an IM, but Holt reeled off 4.5 in the last five rounds to eliminate the margin.

Watch him go pawn grabbing against a near-2700 and live to tell the tale:

Smirin used the opposite method -- he won 5.5 of the first 6, then cruised by drawing three 2600+ GMs in the final three rounds. Nyzhnyk's key wins were against GM Josh Friedel in round 6 and 2010 Champion GM Viktor Laznicka in round 8.

The organizers of the tournament, long known for creative ideas like re-entries, also sponsored a "mixed-doubles" prize for the man/woman team who scored the most combined points. Teams could be from different sections, but had to average less than a 2200 rating. Wouldn't you know it, the winning team of Yogesh Gautam and Sandhya Goli had both players re-enter!

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