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Then and Now: The U.S. Open Print E-mail
By Vanessa West   
July 30, 2015
GM Walter Browne, Photo Tony Cortizas, Jr,

The first U.S. Open took place in 1900 and had a mere 28 participants. No one then could've predicted the immense influence the tournament would have on American chess

In 1957, a 13-year-old Bobby Fischer played in the U.S. Open in Cleveland, Ohio. Although he was only a National Master at that point, he shared first place with GM Arthur Bisguier (the U.S. Champion at the time) and won the title on tiebreaks.

Winning the tournament set Fischer on the path to elite Grandmaster. Within months, his rating rose to above 2600, and he became the U.S. Champion.

Bisguier himself later recalled this transformation: "Who could have seen in the early stages, by not winning against Fischer, I created a Frankenstein!"

Here is the momentous game between the two:

Photo - Judit Polgar.jpgThe list of first-class players who've won the event is stunning.

Fischer's former rival and ex-world champion, Boris Spassky, tied for first along with prominent American Grandmasters, Yasser Seirawan and Joel Benjamin, in 1985 in Hollywood, Florida. 

Super-GM Judit Polgar tied for first with GM Boris Gulko in 1998 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Polgar was once ranked number 8 in the world and her peak rating of 2735 is in the top 50 highest ratings in history.

Here is her must-win last round game against GM Joel Benjamin.

Benjamin, three-time U.S. Champion, has won the U.S. Open himself on three occasions: Florida in 1985, Massachusetts in 2001, and Arizona in 2005 (in fact, at the same location as this year).

American chess icon, GM Walter Browne, won the tournament consecutively in 1971 and 1972.  

Here is Browne's epic defeat of GM William Lombardy, who was Bobby Fischer's second in the 1972 World Championship Match.

Lombardy vs. Browne

This leads us to the question: Who will win this year's U.S. Open?

Let's take a look at the top players in the field:

Last Year's Winner

GM Conrad Holt

Holt is the defending U.S. Open Champion. He won last year's tournament in Orlando, Florida by coming out victorious in an Armageddon blitz tiebreak playoff against IM Michael Mulyer.


GM Aleksandr Lenderman

With a US Chess rating of 2728, Lenderman is currently the highest rated competitor, giving him the high-pressure task of beginning the tournament at the top board.

  Lenderman thrives at open tournaments: He won the World Open earlier this summer. He's also won the Long Island Open (2014), the Atlantic Open (2013), the North American Open (2013), the National Open (2012), and the Continental Open (2010). Additionally, he was the U.S. Open Champion in 2011, and he is ranked #7 in the country.

Past US Open Champions

Four other competitors will also be searching for their second U.S. Open Champion title.

GM Alejandro Ramirez
Ramirez won clear first at the U.S. Open in Irvine, California in 2010. Additionally, he was the runner-up in U.S. Championship in 2013. Ranked #13 in the country, he is a formidable opponent for anyone.

GM Mackenzie Molner
  Molner won the event when it was located in Madison, Wisconsin in 2013. He's also won the American Open (2013), the Michigan Chess Festival (2013), the North American Masters (2010), and the Denker Tournament of Champions (2004). Currently residing in Arizona, he will have the home court advantage.

Photo - Bryant.jpgIM John Bryant
  Bryant tied for first in Vancouver, Washington in 2012 and is an ever-improving competitor, not to be underestimated.

IM Timothy Taylor
Taylor shared first prize in the tournament in Columbus, Ohio in 1977. Although much time has passed since then, he has remained an active competitor and an avid chess book writer over the years.

The U.S. Open is geographically dynamic and has stretched its reach to over 60 cities. It leaps back and forth across the country annually, allowing for a fresh field of competitors every year.

This year's U.S. Open will be hosted in Phoenix, Arizona at the Biltmore Resort. The Biltmore is known as the "Jewel of the Desert," featuring 39 acres-worth of gorgeous fountains, expansive ballrooms, and elaborate gardens.

The resort has an endless supply of distractions, including eight swimming pools (such as The Catalina Pool, which was frequented by Marilyn Monroe), poolside parties and outdoor movies, a tennis center, an award-winning spa, and a lawn dedicated to a giant chess set. 

The U.S. Open is also known for having an array of side events:

·       The National Championships for Blitz and Game/15: for those who prefer to begin the game in time pressure

·       A weekend swiss tournament: for those who can't spare a day off work

·       A bughouse tournament: for those who prefer chess pieces appearing out of nowhere

·       Golf and tennis tournaments: for those who prefer to take a break from chess altogether

  Additionally, three scholastic championships are held concurrently to the U.S. Open:

·       The Denker Tournament of High School Champions

·       The National Girls Invitational

 ·       The Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions

Learn more about this historic event here: http://www.uschess.org/tournaments/2015/usopen/