With the exception of a few top-notch tournaments mainly in St. Louis, the United States Chess circuit is composed almost exclusively of tough, shark-infested weekend Swiss events. And the ‘Great White’ of them all is unquestionably the World Open, which for the past 42 years has been held over the Fourth of July holiday period. Traditionally it has been held in Philadelphia, but for the last few years now in Arlington, Virginia, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.
This is the ‘jewel in the crown’ for Bill Goichberg’s tournament circuit, and its various class tournaments attracted nearly 1,200 players for the holiday weekend which fielded 32 GMs, 27 IMs, 38 FMs, one WGM, two WFMs, and included players from 30 chess federations from countries that ranged from Iran to Israel, India, Brazil and Nigeria.
The main lure, of course, is the lucre: there’s a guaranteed prize fund on offer of $210,000. But as usual for the World Open, with all that cash on offer, inevitably there’s grandmaster gridlock at the top - and this year proved no different, with an eight-way grandmaster tie on 7-2 between Ilya Smirin (Israel), Rauf Mamedov (Azerbaijan), Romain Edouard (France), Illya Nyzhnyk (Ukraine), Alexander Ipatov (Turkey), Axel Bachmann (Paraguay), Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (Iran), and last but not least Aleksander Lenderman, the lone American in the group.
While all eight sharing first place and $5,162 each, there was the bragging rights to the title and a small additional cash bonus to fight for, by winning an “Armageddon” playoff match between the two with the best tiebreak scores - and this was won by Lenderman, who beat Mamedov to capture his first World Open title. “It’s a very strong tournament with a lot of worthy competitors,” commented Brooklyn-based Lenderman on Chess Life Online after he emerged victorious. “I’m just lucky to be in the winner’s circle.”
Alex Lenderman - Rauf Mamedov
43rd World Open, Armageddon play-off
Kings Indian Defence
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.Nf3 d6 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Nc3 0-0 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.e4 a6 10.Re1 Rb8 11.h3 Re8 12.Rb1 Ne5 13.b3 These are well-known battlegrounds in the g3 King's Indian Defence - with moves such as h3, Re1, Rb1 and b3, White first defends his territory, trying to avoid falling into a tactical trap from Black. The bottom line here is, if Black can't find a breakthrough, then - long-term - White has what could be a lasting positional advantage. 13...c5 It looks weakening, leaving a backward, isolated d-pawn - but Black has to play in this active manner, otherwise he'll be pushed positionally off the board. 14.Nc2 Be6 15.a4 Nc6 16.Bb2 Qa5 17.Ba1 Rbd8 18.Kh2 Ne5 19.f4! Although this may be an Armageddon blitz decider, White has very carefully positioned his structire to prevent Black seeking active outposts for his pieces. 19...Nc6 The tactical shot with 19...Neg4+ looks spectacular...however after the simple 20.Kg1 Nh6 21.Qf3 Black's pieces are now very awkwardly placed, and White is now set to strike. 20.Qd2 Nd4! The best chance... 21.b4! (See Diagram)...and the best reply! 21...Qc7 The only chance, as after 21...cxb4 22.Nxd4 bxc3 23.Bxc3 Qxa4 24.Rb4! Qd7 25.e5 dxe5 26.fxe5 and Black is in dire straits, with no squares for the knight. 22.Nxd4 cxd4 23.Nd5 Nxd5 Also a lost cause was 23...Qxc4 24.Rec1 Bxd5 25.Rxc4 Bxc4 26.Qc2! d5 27.e5 d3 28.Qc3 Nd7 29.Rd1 and White will pick off the pawns on d3 and d5. 24.cxd5 Bd7 25.a5 Rc8 26.Rbc1 Qb8 27.Bxd4 Rxc1 28.Rxc1 Bxd4 29.Qxd4 Rc8 30.Rxc8+ Qxc8 31.Qf6 It's all over apart from the time-element - Black is going to try to cling on for dear life to try to run down the time and hope for a 'winning' draw. 31...Bb5 32.Qxd6 Qc2 33.Qc5 Qd2 34.e5 Bf1 35.Qg1 Bb5 36.d6 Qxb4 37.Qb6 Qd2 38.Qxb7 h5 39.Qd5 Qxa5 40.e6 Qd8 41.e7 Qe8 42.Qe5 Qc8 43.Be4 Be8 44.f5 Qc4 45.Bg2 Qb5 46.Qxb5 axb5 47.f6 b4 48.Bd5 g5 49.h4 gxh4 50.gxh4 Kh7 51.Bxf7! b3 52.Bxb3 Kg6 53.f7 Bxf7 54.d7 1-0