|Friedel in Clear Lead at North American Open|
|By Randy Hough|
|December 29, 2010|
GM Josh Friedel has taken the clear lead in the 20th annual North American Open at Bally's in Las Vegas. Friedel, the winner of last month's American Open in Los Angeles, is now in the driver's seat with a 5-0 tally. Three fellow GMs (Kachieshvili, Smirin and Stocek) are a half-point behind.
Josh downed GM Varuzhan Akobian with a resilient Nimzo-Indian.
He then went on to beat GM Yury Shulman in a tricky rooks, knights and opposite bishops ending (with his knight stranded, Shulman chose to yield the Exchange on move 34, but it didn't help).
Ilya Smirin is fresh off as victory over young IM Marc Arnold, whose king was stuck in the center and lacked shelter in a Najdorf Sicilian.
Smirin also took down yesterday's hero, IM Mackenzie Molner, in Round 4.
Giorgi Kachieshvili defeated GM Alexandra Kosteniuk in Round 4, grabbing the b-pawn and living to tell the tale, as her King march in the ending yielded nothing.
Jiri Stocek beat IM Irina Krush and then drew with Kacheishvili.
At four points are GMs Alex Shabalov, Nikola Mitkov, and Dmitry Gurevich; IMs Molner, Siddharth Ravichandran, Jake Kleiman, and Vladimir Mezentsev; WIM Alisa Melekhina (who upset Krush).
2540-rated Yaacov Norowitz, whose international title possibilities have been constrained by his refusal to play on the Sabbath also has four points. He drew an interesting tactical game with Ravichandran.
The player totals for the tournament have been adjusted to 672 with 14 reentries. Stay tuned for an exciting finish Wednesday night. Follow the action on northamericanopen.com and watch live games at http://monroi.com/watch/?tnm_id=1454.