Ramirez Sole Leader as US Open Nears Finale
By Randy Hough   
August 8, 2010
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GMs Shabalov and Ramirez faced off in round eight of the US Open, Photo courtesy Monroi.com

The contest between the two grandmaster leaders of the 111th U.S. Open/Jerry Hanken Memorial took an unexpected turn late Saturday night. GM Alex Shabalov had an opening advantage in an IQP position and won a pawn, and it appears that Alejandro Ramirez’s momentum had been broken. But a time pressure blunder cost Shabalov a piece because of a bank rank weakness, and he resigned.



So the Costa Rican GM is alone in first place with 7 ½ of 8.

Three players share second place, with 7 points. GM Varuzhan Akobian ground down IM Max Cornejo in a tough ending.



IM Julio Sadorra brought NM Deepak Aaron’s upset string to an end.



And FM Daniel Naroditsky, who has been autographing copies of his new book Understanding Positional Chess, defeated 2008 champ, IM Enrico Sevillano.



The 6 ½ point group includes Shabalov, GM Timur Gareyev (who beat NM Jeff Arnold), GM Mark Paragua and IM Salvijus Bercys (who drew their game), GM Dmitry Gurevich (last year’s champ) and IM Mark Ginsburg (who also drew), GM Melik Khachiyan (a victor over FM Elliott Liu), IM Andranik Matikozyan (who downed FM Michael Langer), and FM John Bryant (who beat NM Michael Thaler). Also at 6 ½ is FM Jim Dean, who upset FM Joel Banawa and leads the Under 2400 players.

Expert leaders with 6 points include Vanessa West, a winner over NM Ilia Serpik, and Vincent Huang, who drew GM Larry Kaufman. Also at 6 is Sam Hamilton, credited with a forfeit from an opponent who had actually correctly withdrawn. Sadly, not the first time this has happened.

Three A players also have 6. Steven Cooklev just upset FM Sunil Weeramantry. Chris Pascal scored 5-1 in the 4-day schedule and then took two half-point byes. And John Harwell returned to upset-land with a win over IM Walt Shipman.  John’s fellow carpooler Jim Williamson (both are from Riverside) lost to drop a point behind.

The B leaders are down the chart a ways, with 4 ½ points: Inn Sohn, John Bastian, Janice Chen, Solomon Ruddell, Dianxun Xu, and Daniel Shaw.

World class poker player Allen Cunningham (1571), who attracts more spectator attention than anyone else in his rating group, has tallied a 2045 performance rating so far, flushing three Experts and  drawing with a Master. However, Tony Chen (1961) stopped him tonight.  Allen’s participation in chess tournaments is only recent, but he seems to have developed quite a passion for our royal game, and is reportedly preparing for a match against 1950-rated poker legend Howard Lederer, who is no longer an active chessplayer. Meanwhile, Anthony Mack and Bryan Huang moved into a tie with Alan for the Class C  lead with 4.

Class D players Danial Asaria and Alonzo Sanchez have 3 points, but an E, Josiah Paul Stearman has 3 ½. And three other Es, Alvin Cao, Ryan Perkovich and Joaquin Perkins, are at 3. Erwin Urrutia leads the Unrateds with 3 ½.
In other action Saturday, the Blitz attracted over 90 players, with Khachiyan and Jim Thinnsen (a long-retired local master) tied for first with 11 ½ of 14.

At the start of the eighth round, San Diego Expert and organizer Mike Nagaran paid tribute to the doyenne of Southern California chess, Alina Markowski, who celebrated her 100th birthday on July 18. Alina did not learn chess until age 48, but became a solid B player, major organizer, and a regular presence at USCF Delegates and Southern California board meetings. Her many friends were overjoyed to see this milestone.

An educated guess (at 3 am, though) would be Ramirez – Naroditsky and Sadorra – Akobian in the last round. The U.S. Championship qualifying spot will go the top-scoring America. Stay tuned one more day, fans!

You can watch the top boards of the US Open live on Monroi.com. Remember that round nine begins at 3 PM PST.
Follow the US Open standings and pairings here.