Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2015 arrow June arrow Lenderman Tops World Open: "For me, Chess is a Sport."
Lenderman Tops World Open: "For me, Chess is a Sport." Print E-mail
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
July 6, 2015
GM Aleksandr Lenderman recording a result at the 2015 World Open
Arlington, Va. — GM Aleksandr Lenderman knew he was in trouble during his Round 8 game in the World Open against GM Jianchao Zhou, an opponent he knew to be “very dangerous.”

“I was basically fighting for a draw,” Lenderman said. “After the middle game, I was just shuffling back and forth because I didn’t have a plan.

“He had a strong passed pawn and there’s nothing much you can do.”

But things turned around when Zhou “suddenly gave me a chance out of nowhere,” Lenderman said.

“I had this move, Nd7, with the idea that if he takes on d6, I have Nb6, and I’m probably close to winning in the knight endgame,” Lenderman said.

“Once I got rid of his annoying bishop, I have a slight chance for a win because he has doubled pawns on the kingside, and I’m able to make some passed pawns,” Lenderman explained. “And even if he has passed pawns, he has no winning chances.”

Lenderman was also up on time and gaining momentum.

“He blew a nice position and he realized now that he has to fight for a draw,” Lenderman said. “I kept playing and he made a mistake and I won this game.”

That break ultimately enabled Lenderman to join seven other GMs in an eight-way tie for first place at the World Open, each of them scoring 7 out of 9 points and pocketing close to $5200 apiece as a result.

After several attempts, it was Lenderman’s first taste of first place at the World Open, 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.

“It’s a very strong tournament with a lot of worthy competitors,” said Lenderman, 25, of Brooklyn.“I’m just lucky to be in the winner’s circle.”

Lenderman won an extra $300 on tiebreaks during a late night playoff game against Azerbaijani GM Rauf Mamedov.

Sweetening his experience even more, Lenderman captured the first place prize for “Mixed Doubles” teams along with his partner, Carla Naylor, who also scored 7 points in the U1800 section.

Lenderman told CLO while he wasn’t able to prepare specially for the World Open — neither chess-wise nor in terms of physical endurance — he approached the tournament with the idea that he would remain calm throughout the battles.

“I didn’t feel like I was super well-prepared but my only goal was to take losses or unlucky moments during the tournament well and not lose my inner peace no matter what happens,” Lenderman said.

Lenderman and Mamedov were joined in the winner’s circle by GMs Ilya Smirin, Romain Edouard, Axel Bachmann, Illia Nyzhnyk, Alexander Ipatov and Ehsan Ghaem Maghami.

Lenderman agreed to a draw against Maghami in the final round, a safe move that assured both players first place, although Lenderman said he was trying to go for clear first place.


“I was trying to win, especially with white,” Lenderman said. “I don’t ever make pre-arranged draws. That’s not how I play.

“For me, chess is a sport. I don’t want to make it a business.”

Lenderman said the reason he agreed to the draw against Maghami is because Maghami took Lenderman into unfamiliar terrain.

GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami

“He played a line which I wasn’t familiar with,” Lenderman said. “Since my opponent offered a draw and I didn’t like my position so much, I figured I’ll take it.”

Maghami, 32, a PhD student in sports management at the University of Tehran, said he hasn’t prepared much over the past decade but was pleased to secure a first place spot in both the World Open and the DC International, which took place just prior to the World Open in the same venue.

Also joining the winner’s circle was GM Illia Nyzhnyk, 18, of the collegiate chess powerhouse Webster University.

“Honestly, I didn’t do anything special before the tournament,” said Nyzhnyk, who also tied for first place in the World Open last year.

“I just played a lot of different positions with my teammates (at Webster) and a lot of blitz games, tried out new lines,” said Nyzhnyk, a math major who is minoring in computer science. “That’s pretty much it.”

Nyzhnyk counted his final round game against GM Alexander Stripunsky as the most critical game of the tournament.

He said the turning point came when his opponent missed his “a5, b6 idea,” which enabled him to trap Stripunsky’s a4 knight.


“So he had to make a lot of unusual moves to be able to escape with his knight,” Nyzhnyk said. “That allowed me to make a forced line and get a better pawn structure.”

Now that Nyzhnyk has won first place in the World Open back-to-back, he figures he will have to change up his game plan because he will be more or a target.

“I think I should probably learn something new, because playing these same things is not going to work for me,” Nyzhnyk said.

Lenderman also said he hopes to better prepare for the 2016 World Open, which returns to Philadelphia next year after a three-year run in Arlington, Va., just outside of Washington, DC.

“I have to make notes to myself and prepare better next time, because tournaments are usually won before the tournament, not during the tournament,” Lenderman said.

In the 122-player DC International (June 25-30, Arlington) that preceded the World Open, GM Luke McShane of England, Ehsan Ghaem Maghami of Iran, GM Magesh Panchanathan of India and IM Andrey Gorovets of Belarus tied for first with 7/9 and won $1550 each.  Michael Bodek, Ruifeng Li, Cameron Wheeler and Christoper Wu from the US, and Jason Cao from Canada all earned IM norms. WFM Rachel Ulrich, had a performance rating of 2311.89 well exceeding the 2250 requirement to achieve a WIM norm (but does not receive a WIM norm due to a technicality, that she did not play any other WIMs.)
Addendum: Craig Hilby and John Michael Burke both made IM norms and Jennifer Yu made a WIM norm.

 Find full crosstables and more information at http://chessevents.com/worldopen/. Follow Jamaal Abdul-Alim on twitter @dcwriter360.