National Open: A Chess Festival You Don't Want to Miss!
By IM Irina Krush   
May 18, 2011
The National Open in Las Vegas, Nevada is just around the corner, but I hope that our thrifty readers will be happy to hear that there are still a few days left to take advantage of the early bird registration discount! ($179 through May 18th; $199 after, and $220 at the door). 

GM Timur Gareev, Photo Chris Bird 2010
The National Open is once again attracting a top notch field in its Open section…GM Timur Gareev will be back to defend his 2010 title...he’ll surely find some challenge from players like Loek van Wely or the Georgian horde from New York…as well as some new (old) faces! GM Suat Atalik from Turkey used to be a frequent visitor to the U.S, but I haven’t seen him here in years. Nonetheless, he’ll be making an appearance at the National Open, as will his friend, GM Alex Yermolinsky, the host of a great new show on the Internet Chess Club called “What Every Russian Schoolboy Knows.” Don’t miss your chance to meet the man behind that fascinating salacious/sinister intonation.

Another surprise participant is GM Pavel Blatny, who also was a regular at U.S. open tournaments during the mid-late nineties, even winning the super strong 1994 New York Open, but who’s dropped off the map the past six years (his last tournament in the U.S. was in 2007). Where has Pavel been and what has he been doing? I’ll try to get that answer for my National Open Chess Life article :) 

So there are the old pros, but I’m sure the young trio of Ray Robson, Sam Shankland, and Alex Lenderman will try to leave their mark on this tournament. Sam really shined at the 2011 U.S. Championship; will he continue his good form at the National Open? Will Alex return to his winning ways of 2009? Will Ray have a breakout performance? Right, I am curious about all these things too.

IM Irina Krush, Photo Suzy Gorman 2010
Of course, the most interesting question is, will I be paired against my coach (Giorgi Kacheishvili)  for the third year straight? I know what you can do to thank me for writing this article, Al :) Stop pairing me against him! I even made it easy for you this year- our ratings are much closer so you should be able to avoid this matchup. Well, we’ll see what the stars have in mind…

The National Open is actually part of a whole chess festival, and the festival starts a day before the main event. Let me tell you about the offerings on Thursday, June 9th:

- the always popular g/10 and g/5 championships. If you love the adrenaline rush of playing quick chess, these are the events for you. 
- a chess camp with GM’s Khachiyan, Finegold, and Henley - all highly experienced teachers, ready to impart their knowledge in a small, intimate setting. Bring your own candles. (Wait, get it? It’s a play on “bring your own clock”!) 

- one of the ‘novelties’ of this year’s festival is the chess960 (Fischer Random) simul being given by GM Larry Kaufman. If you think opening theory is your problem, sign up for this one and discover that it’s really your middlegame that’s weak ;) No, I’m serious, try out this event, guys, it’s the chess of the future! Giorgi’s a big fan of it, and if this year’s turnout is poor, he won’t have anyone to crush next year. By the way, in this kind of simul, you have a big advantage over the simul-giver, as he won’t be able to rely on any opening knowledge and won’t have much time to figure out an opening strategy…time you’ll have as he goes on his walk around the circle.
-  a regular simul with GM Ray Robson , one of America’s brightest young stars. Don’t play the Dragon against Ray. 

So that’s it for the pre-main event appetizers. During the tournament itself, you’ll have a chance to get your games analyzed by GM’s Khachiyan and Henley, who are replacing GM Arthur Bisguier in this role. Art played in the first National Open in 1965, and has been a supporter of the event ever since, providing many years of insightful and entertaining game analysis, but as they say, you don’t get any younger…and traveling doesn’t get any easier. Thanks to Art for all those years and let’s wish him good health and many more years.

If arthritis isn’t an issue for you yet, the National Open has an event for you called the “Youth tournament”. It’s open to boys and girls fourteen and under, and it’s hosted by Ray Robson. 

There are a couple of non-chess related events I should mention as well: on the Monday morning after the tournament, there is a poker tournament organized specifically for the chess tournament participants, and during that weekend, there will be a band called Three Dog Night playing at the South Point…I’ve never heard of them, but from the way Al went on about it, they must be pretty famous :)   

I haven’t written this article for nothing, right? I’ll see you there? :)