Wrapping up the American Open
By Randy Hough   
December 5, 2010
GM Josh Friedel
The 46th American Open in Los Angeles drew 212 players, with another 197 participating in the side events.  The field included four GMs, one WGM, and six IMs (plus Cyrus Lakdawala, winner of the Action tournament.)

GM Joshua Friedel's victory on tiebreaks in the 39-player Open section was a fitting sendoff as he prepares to move back to the East Coast. Josh played a nice attack against top seed, fellow GM Alejandro Ramirez, in the fourth round of the Game/60 schedule. Josh pinpointed 20.d5! and 23.c5! as key moves.

Another key game for Josh came in Round 7, when he held the draw against the dangerous IM Enrico Sevillano in a difficult ending. Josh annotated the game:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 d6 5.0-0 g6 6.d4 Bd7 7.dxe5 Nxe5 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.Nc3 Bg7 10.Bg5

10...Qg4! 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.Nxe5 Qxd1 13.Raxd1 Bxe5 14.Nd5 0-0-0 15.c3 Rhe8 16.Rfe1 Re6 17.Nb4 Bg7 18.f3 Re5 19.Rd5 a5 20.Nd3 Rxd5 21.exd5 Kd7 22.a4
22...Rb8! 23.c4
23.Kf2 b5 24.Ra1 was a better try.
23...c6 24.dxc6+ bxc6 25.Kf1 Bd4 26.Rb1 d5! 27.c5
27.cxd5 c5! 28.Rc1 Kd6
27...f6 28.Ke2 h5 29.Kd2 g5 30.h3 f5 31.Kc2 Re8 32.Kd2 Rb8 33.Kc2 g4 34.hxg4 fxg4 35.fxg4 hxg4 36.Rh1 Re8 37.Rh7+ Kc8 38.Kd2 Bf6 39.Rf7 Bg5+ 40.Kc3 Re2
41.Rf2 Re3 42.Rf8+ Kd7 43.Rf7+ Kd8 44.Kd4 Re2 45.b4 Be3+ 46.Kc3 Bd2+ 47.Kb3 Bxb4 48.Nxb4 Re3+ 49.Kb2 axb4 50.a5 Ra3 51.Ra7 g3 52.a6 Ra5?
52...Kc8 53.Ra8+ Kd7 54.Ra7+ Ke6 55.Ra8 Ke5!
53.Kb3 Kc8 54.Rg7 Rxa6 55.Kxb4 Ra2 56.Rxg3
56...Rc2 57.Rg4 Kd7 58.g3 Ke7 59.Rf4 Ke6 60.g4 Ke5 61.Rf5+ Ke4 62.Rf1 Rc4+ 63.Ka5 Rxc5+ 64.Kb6 Rc2 65.g5
65.Rg1 d4 66.g5 Rh2 67.g6 Rh8 68.Kxc6 d3 69.Kd6=
65...Rg2 66.Kxc6 d4 67.Kc5

67...d3 68.Rd1! (68.Kc4? Rc2+ 69.Kb3 Rc7 70.Rh1 (70.g6 d2 71.g7 Rxg7 72.Kc2 Ke3 73.Rh1 Rc7+ 74.Kb2 Rh7-+) 70...d2 71.Kb2 Rh7! 72.Rg1 Kd3 73.g6) 68...Ke3 69.Kc4 Rc2+ 70.Kd5 Ke2 71.Rh1 d2 72.Ke6=
68.Kc4 Rg3 69.Re1+ Re3 70.Rc1 Re2 71.Rh1 Rc2+ 72.Kb3 Rc3+ 73.Kb2 Rc8 74.Rh4+ Kd3 75.Rh3+ Kc4 ½-½

Of the other winners, Sevillano's most interesting game came in Round 6 against the young Roman Yankovsky. Enrico's 14th move is an apparent innovation in a known position - but perhaps not a good one, as White appears to have the advantage after 17.f4 Nxd3+ 18.cxd3. Instead, Yankovsky let Black get a second pawn for the Exchange in return for an apparently dominating king position. This proved evanescent, however, and 24.Rf6 didn't help matters. Sevillano wound up with a dangerous passed e-pawn and wrapped things up with a nice interference theme.

Defending champ Melik Khachiyan rebounded from a listless first-round loss and a half-point bye to win five straight.
GM Melikset Khachiyan

He then coasted into the first-place tie with a quick draw against Sevillano. His sixth round win over Yankovsky was a smooth technical performance, as Black's compensation for a sacrificed pawn was illusory. When Yankovsky finally snared the weak e5 pawn, Khachiyan had a winning pawn mass on the queenside, and a last-ditch effort by Black to weave a mating net failed.

GM Mark Paragua
Second seed GM Mark Paragua, who missed a chance to catch up with the winners by drawing with Ramirez in the eighth round, displayed a dangerous piece sac in the always-tactical Sveshnikov variation against new IM and World Under 18 Champion Steven Zierk. Alas for Steven, White's virtually winning queen "pseudo-sac" on move 18 has been seen before; 17...Bh6 improves for Black.

Zierk proved that he's "ambidextrous" by uncorking the resilient French Defense against the Under 2450 winner, IM Zhanibek Amanov, in the fourth round. White's eagerness to attack did him in; he should have prefaced Qg4 with 17.Nxc6. Another improvement would have been 20.Qxe4 Rxe5 21.Rxd4 Rxe4 22.Rxd8 Rxd8 23.Nf6+ Kg7 24.Nxe4, though Black has some endgame advantage. Finally, with two pieces for a rook, Steven found an ingenious way to secure a winning passed pawn.

The Under 2300 winner, 13-year-old David Adelberg of Arizona, had a great event, raising his USCF rating to a personal best of 2349. His seventh round win over WFM Tatev Abrahamyan shows that he's not afraid of the Benko Gambit! (In this game, on move 18 "heavy piece" moves such as ...Qb7, ...Ra5, or ...Rb8 all seem superior to the game continuation.) David also won the cumulative upset points prize for the Open section (local philanthropist Dr. Harold Valery again donated $500 for these awards).

One non-prizewinner, veteran IM Tim Taylor, quickly generated a winning attack against FM Harry Akopyan. 9...c6 or 9...Ra7, and subsequently 11...c5, improve for Black. White never needed to recapture on b6!

Let's note the (all clear) winners of the other sections: Varun Krishnan in Under 2200, Shaurya Jain in Under 2000, Ruben Burciaga in Under 1800, Aaron Chang in Under 1600, and Julian Daza in Under 1400. In the latter section, Owen Anderson took Under 1200 honors, and Shib Sen was best unrated. And let's mention three players who played "up" a section and tied for second place: Rachael Eng in Under 1800 and Carol Mayer-Kleist and Om Chinchwadkar (1192!) in Under 1600.

IM Zierk had a measure of revenge in the Quick, going 10-0. Scholastic winners were Richard Yang (K-12), Stephanie Shao in K-8, Alice Salvaryan (K-6), and Noah Daniels in K-3. In addition to large two-post trophies, these kids earned the opportunity for free lessons from FM Joel Banawa.

After 46 years, the American Open is something of a "homecoming" on the Southern California scene. Some players returned from absences (for instance, Bobby Liu, who took second in Under 1400 after a six-year layoff); others dropped by to say hi. One of them, a filmmaker, even hinted that he might be doing a project on chess with a foundation grant! Everyone could check out the top games on the demonstration boards, play some skittles, check out Chess Palace's great selection of books and equipment, watch a video, or listen to a lecture. Friedel and Khachiyan spoke, along with the always-popular IM Jeremy Silman, whose fourth edition of How to Reassess Your Chess was just published. Kostya Kavutskiy also discussed the first season of the LA Vibe in the US Chess League (Kostya has also written about the US Chess League for CLO).

Most players appreciate the complexities of directing a big tournament. In addition to assistants Anthony Ong, John Hayes, and Takashi Iwamoto, a number of players and parents pitched in to help out from time to time.

But the burdens of organizing a tournament are less apparent. These include hotel negotiations, structuring the prize fund and round times, publicity, preparing a flyer (Jay Stallings did a great one for us this time), processing the entries. The organizers must also ensure that the guaranteed prize money is there in any contingency. The sudden death of John Hillery, my previous webmaster and PayPal conduit, greatly complicated matters, though Anthony Ong stepped in ably. Stress becomes more of a burden with age, so this writer (a veteran of 26 American Opens, the last eight years as sole organizer) announced that he will no longer be organizing (as opposed to just directing) big tournaments. It's been quite a ride, but it's time for someone younger to step up to the plate!