Ramirez & Shabalov Lead in Irvine
By Randy Hough   
August 7, 2010
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GM Alexander Shabalov,  Photo courtesy Monroi.com
As we reported the status of the 111th U.S. Open yesterday , GM Alejandro Ramirez of Costa Rica  had scored 6-0 in the Traditional schedule and was guaranteed at least a share of the lead when the three schedules merged late Friday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine, California. In fact, he turned out to be the only perfect score.

Nobody in the six-day schedule could score more than 5, a score achieved by GM Mark Paragua; IMs Enrico Sevillano (the 2008 Open champ), Salvijus Bercys, Mark Ginsburg, Julio Sendorra, and Max Cornejo; 2290-rated Michael Thaler (who upset FM Oscar Culbeaux), and Expert Eric Zhang, who followed his upset of IM Tim Taylor by beating 2325-rated Howard Chen. (Eric modestly says that neither of his opponents played near normal strength.)

When the smoke cleared in the frenetic four-day schedule (Game/60 for each player), two of the U.S.’s top GMs, Varuzhan Akobian and Alexander Shabalov, were on top with 5 ½.  Akobian had drawn with GM Timur Gareyev while "Shabba" drew with GM Dmitry Gurevich (last year’s champ). Garayev and Gurevich were joined at five points by IM Andranik Matikozyan (an Akobian victim in Round 5), FM Joel Banawa (who drew Gurevich in Round 6), FM Gregg Small, Bryan Williams Paulsen, young Master Deepak Aaron (a Denker player who rested two days before getting into the Open; he upset veteran IM Anthony Saidy), and unheralded A player Chris Pascal (who beat a 2200 and two strong Experts).

After the merge, Shabalov caught Ramirez at 6 ½ points of 7, beating GM Larry Kaufman while Ramirez and Akobian drew.





Joining Akobian at six points are Paragua, Gurevich, Sevillano, Bercys, Cornejo (who took Zhang’s measure), Sadorra, Ginsburg, Naroditsky, and Aaron, who continued to validate his strategy by upsetting IM Michael Mulyar. GM Melikset Khachiyan (who barely beat young Kevin Mio) and Matikozyan (who drew with Thaler) are in the 5 ½ group, still in contention.

At the start of the merged round, USCF Executive Director spoke about Jerry Hanken, for whom the 2010 tournament is named. At the start of the Traditional schedule this writer had spoken of Jerry’s devotion to the Open (he played 43 times), political, organizing, and journalistic skills, and status as a great ambassador for chess. Bill emphasized how he and Jerry developed a close friendship after initial mutual suspicion, of how Jerry mellowed and repaired some damaged friendships in his final years, and the heartbreak of missing the 2009 Open, the first time since 1972. Jerry passed away two months later.

Mike Wojcio reported on the annual U.S. Open golf tournament. He won first low net ahead of Denis Strenzwilk. USCF President Jim Berry was second in low gross, but local player Shawn Williams took a trifecta with first low gross, closest to pin, and longest drive. Way to go, Shawn!

Look for another report after Round 8 ends late Saturday night. It will be an especially long day for those of us who are USCF Delegates, as the annual meeting (first day) runs from 9 to 5. We’ll catch up on our sleep later…

You can watch the top boards of the US Open live on Monroi.com.
Follow the US Open standings and pairings here.