A Speedy Start to the Las Vegas Chess Festival
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
June 11, 2011
The 2011 National Open is now underway at the South Point Hotel, Casino, and Spa in scorching Las Vegas. After two rounds a single word can be used to describe the tournament so far: eventful!

Our newest GM, Sam Shankland
The schedule was slightly different from last year, as both the G/10 and blitz side events were held on Thursday, a day before the tournament. Several GMs participated in both events and an important lesson learned from playing and observing these events goes as follows:

Whether you are an amateur, expert, or grandmaster, if you have 10 seconds left on your clock and your opponent has 12 you better just throw any pieces you can grab and hope for the best.

U.S. Game/10 Championship

The Game/10 event was won by GM Sam Shankland and IM Levon Altounian with a score of 5.5/6. GM Shankland was able to achieve this fantastic score with big wins over GMs Kacheishvili and Akobian, while IM Levon Altounian took down GMs Gareyev, Van Wely, and Akobian. They split the 1st and 2nd prizes and each earned $965.

IM Levon Altounian

Here is Shankland's win over Kacheishvili:


3-5th  place went to GM Tamaz Gelashvili, GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, and GM Aleksandr Lenderman, each with 5 points. The U2300 prize went to Ernesto Malazarte, who earned 4.5 points, and the U2100 prize was split by Tony Yim and John Iinuma.

GM Lenderman
The Blitz event was about twice as audacious as the game/10, since playing without any delay caused players to lose their minds in the furious haze of time-scrambles. Towards the end of the 1st game of Akobian-Lenderman, literally everyone in the room (including those still playing) stopped and stared as the two well-respected GMs pushed as many pieces as possible and frantically slamed their side of the clock as a new chess rule was born: When all the pieces on the board are knocked over and the clock shows 0:00 for both sides, a draw shall certainly be agreed!

GM Loek Van Wely took first place with a superb score of 10.5/12, beating GM Henley 2-0 in the last round. GM Aleksandr Lenderman took second with 10/12 after going on to win the second game of his match with GM Akobian, and GM Giorgi Kachieshvili took third place with 9.5/12, beating IM Altounian 2-0 in the final round. The U2400 prize went to Deniz Seyhanoglu and Erich Siebenhaar, with second going to Arun Sharma.

Main Event

While the first round of the 3-day section could be considered a warm-up round, with the only significant upset being GM Lenderman giving up a draw to FM Michael Feinstein of Texas, the second round was of a bloodbath nature similar to round 2 of the recently concluded Chicago Open. The top seed of the tournament, GM Loek Van Wely (who warmed up in Round 1 by swiftly trouncing yours truly), was upset by IM Andranik Matikozyan, who played a very interesting game:


GM Giorgi Kacheishvili also went down to another tough player, IM Dionisio Aldama, when he lost (sacrificed!?) a piece in a tragically complicated King's Indian middlegame.

GM Kacheishvili vs. IM Aldama

Among these two major upsets there were also several draws, and after the smoke cleared the leaders with two points are GM Tamaz Gelashvili, GM Varuzhan Akobian, GM Suat Atalik, IM Matikozyan, IM Aldama, and several other strong players.
So far the event has been organized and run very well, and easily one of my favorite things about this event is how many people come to just spectate.
Dozens of people anxiously watched the end of the aforementioned Matikozyan-Van Wely game as well as Rensch-Akobian, which ended with a nice queen sacrifice:

Round 3 continues Saturday at 10 AM, with the 2-day section merging in at the beginning of the 4th round. Visit www.vegaschessfestival.com for results, pairings, live games and more information about the tournament and continue to check CLO for the final recap of this wonderful event.

Forecast: Blood spilled, hearts broken, and caution thrown to the wind. Stay tuned.

IM Irina Krush will be covering the National Open for Chess Life Magazine.