Khachiyan Atop Western States Open Again
By Randy Hough   
October 27, 2010
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GM Melikset Khachiyan at the 2010 Olympiad, where he coached the US Women's team. Photo Tony Rich of CCSCSL.
Midnight had passed. The ballroom at the Reno's Sands Regency Hotel and Casino where 232 players had battled for three days was empty - except for one board and two dozen spectators. The 2009 playoff winner, Melikset Khachiyan of Southern California, was again competing for the championship in two ten-minute games, this time against fellow GM Alexander Shabalov of Pittsburgh.

The first game took an unusual turn, with Khachiyan playing "rope-a-dope" in the Black Knights Tango defense, encouraging his opponent to make weakening "attacking" moves, then cashing in with a Nimzovichian attack against a doubled pawn on c4, followed by back rank penetration and a nice piece sac to bring home the point. Perhaps Shabalov should have tried 15.Be3 followed by taking the annoying Nc5. Note how Black refrained from winning a pawn on move 23 to keep his grip on the h-file. 31.Kg3 would have prolonged the game a bit without affecting the result.



Playing White in the second game, Melik again secured an advantage because of the weak d6 square. Needing a win to force another playoff, Shabalov found himself facing a Hobson's choice when he could have exchanged queens, and a blunder (move 37; ...Qa8 prolongs the game) ended matters, as White's queen will pick off the f4 pawn and dominate the board. (And thanks to WGM Anjelina Belakovskaia - who returned from a six-year layoff in this tournament -- and FM Ryan Porter for their accurate scorekeeping that enables you to see these games!)



Thus GM Khachiyan took the title (and $3050, plus a nice plaque) for the second straight year. A most satisfying result.

The Western States, though a very strong tournament, did not quite meet last year's standard. The turnout was down a bit at 232, with two small West Coast events (and the fact that Northern California was well represented in the concurrent World Youth Championship) perhaps hindering attendance a bit. Five GMs, six IMs, one WGM and one WIM graced the 44-player Open section.

GM Jesse Kraai, fresh off a win over second seed GM Alexander Ivanov, led with 4 ½ points going into the sixth and final round, but was outplayed by Khachiyan. 8...Qxb3 was probably the better alternative, as White slowly developed a slight initiative that grew into a clear spatial advantage by move 20.



Shabalov felt his third round win over the strong IM Enrico Sevillano was his best. Black did not play the opening most accurately, and White's initiative blossomed into tactical fireworks, with Shabba placing his faith in a protected passed pawn on e6 and eventually winning, not without some anxious moments.



Draws with Kraai and IM Zhanibek Amanov, followed by a win over FM John Bryant, brought Alex into the first place tie.

The playoff match would actually have been a three-way affair had Amanov and FM Robby Adamson not drawn their final round game, in which Adamson squandered an advantage. He was in top form in Round 5, though, rocking GM Sergey Kudrin back on his heels in a tactical Caro-Kann (no, that's not an oxymoron):



Kudrin,Sergey - Adamson,Robby [B19]
Western States Open, Reno (5), 24.10.2010
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7 13.Qe2 0-0 14.Nf1 c5 15.g4 cxd4 16.g5 Nd5 17.gxh6 Qb6 18.hxg7
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18...Ba3!!
And the silicon beast's evaluation changes faster than Security throwing a card counter out of the casino.
19.gxf8Q+ Rxf8 20.Rg1+ Kh8 21.Bb4
A sad necessity, as 21.bxc3 dxc3 costs White his queen.
21...Qxb4 22.c4 Nc3 23.Qd2 Nxa2+ 24.Kb1 Nc3+ 25.Kc1 Qxb2+ 26.Qxb2 Bxb2+ 27.Kxb2 Nxd1+
The smoke clears, and Black's extra pawns will prevail with a bit of work.
28.Kc2 Nxf2 29.Nxd4 Rg8 30.Rxg8+ Kxg8 31.Ne3 a6 32.Nb3 b6 33.Nd4 Ne4 34.Nf3 Kg7 35.Ng4 f5 36.Ne3 Kf6 37.h6 Nf8 38.Nd4 Nd6 39.Kd3 Nf7 40.Nb3 Nxh6 41.c5 Nd7 42.cxb6 Nxb6 43.Nc2 Nd5 44.Ncd4 Nc7 45.Nc5 Ng4 46.Ndxe6 Nxe6 47.Nxa6 White will not get the opportunity to remove that last pawn; in fact, his Na6 will be trapped.
47...Ne5+ 48.Ke3 Nc6 49.Kf3 Ke7 50.Ke3 Kd7 51.Kf3 Kc8 52.Ke3 Kb7 53.Nc5+ Nxc5 54.Kf4 Ne7 0-1
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Amanov, a 21-year-old who recently arrived from Kazakhstan to study in Los Angeles, had his moments too. He outplayed IM Bryan Smith positionally in the fourth round, carefully nursing a passed pawn to victory:



Kraai, Adamson and Amanov split third place with 4 ½ points. A couple of the four-pointers deserve special mention. Thirteen-year-old Yian Liou, a mainstay of the San Francisco Mechanics in the US Chess League, drew with GMs Khachiyan and Ivanov and IM Sal Bercys. Too bad he had to take a first round bye! And FM Eugene Yanayt of Los Angeles returned to form, beating Roman Yankovsky (a recent arrival from Russia with a provisional 2526 rating) and IMs Vladimir Mezentsev and Ed Formanek.

Class winners included Seattle Club mainstay Fred Kleist in Expert, Jamshid Alamehzadeh in Class A (second was split by two brothers from Vancouver, Washington: David and Alec Ho), and Carl Woebcke and Ritchie Duron in Class B. John Harris topped the C's despite a first round loss, and 12-year-old Aaron David Green of Mountain View, California won five straight in Class D after a first round bye.

The Western States paid out over $26,000 in its 28th incarnation. Organizer Jerry Weikel and his staff put on a great tournament as always, including simuls by Khachiyan (who scored 14 ½ of 16) and Kudrin (9 ½ of 10, with clocks) and lectures by GM Larry Evans. Charles Chinnici and Michael Goffe aplit honors in the Quick event. Such extras as state flags for the top five boards in each section (both state and national flags throughout the Open) make this event one to remember.
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staff members Anthony Ong, Jerry and Fran Weikel, Sal Rosario, Vic Flashman and Grant Fleming in back, front row: Dana and Adam Searcy.


See the tournament website at and check the USCF MSA for complete crosstables and rating changes.