World Open Heats Up
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
July 2, 2011
GM Ray Robson at the 2010 US Chess Champs, Photo CCSCSL
Philadelphia -- Grandmasters dueled it out late into the night Friday -- and in some cases past midnight -- as the 39th Annual World Open got underway this weekend here in the City of Brotherly Love.

Among those whose battles drew throngs of spectators is 16-year-old GM Ray Robson, a World Open regular who thwarted a four-pawn end game push on Board 10 by GM Nick E De Firmian.


The game ended when De Firmian resigned after Robson’s defense dissolved De Firmian’s cadre of kingside pawns. As was common throughout the tournament, the two GMs chatted it up a bit after the battle ended.

Robson emerged with 2.5 out of 3 points on the five-day schedule and said he is looking forward to more intense battles as the fight for the hefty amounts of tournament prize money -- $25,000 for first place in the case of the open -- continues through Monday.

 “It’s a great tournament because not only there’s the prize fund but it attracts so many strong GMs,” Robson said after Friday night’s game. “It’s probably the strongest tournament in the U.S.”

Leading the the five-day open schedule with perfect scores three rounds into the tournament are GMs Gata Kamsky, Michael Adams, Loek Van Wely, Jaan Ehlvest, and Salvijus Bercys. Round three saw many GM vs. GM battles. 


Among the upsets so far is the following game that IM Conrad Holt, age 17 who is rated 2417, played against GM Alexander Shabalov, who is rated 2586.


And IM Puchen Wang, who is rated 2437, managed to get a draw out of GM GM Timur Gareyev, who is 2613, in round 4 of the 5-day schedule.

GM Pendyala Harikrishna, of India, is one of three contenders leading the 7-day schedule with 3 out of 4 points. The others are GM Victor Mikhalevski and IM Leonid Gerzhoy.

Harikrishna ended Friday’s games with black in a draw against GM Vitali Golod, who declined several offers by Harikrishna to swap queens in an endgame that would have left Harikrishna with a knight and six pawns against Golod’s six pawns and a bishop.
Harikrishna said the World Open is distinct among U.S.-based chess opens because it draws the strongest competitors on the planet.

“I hope such tournaments increase in the U.S., so that chess will be more popular,” Harikrishna said. 

Official numbers on the amount of registrants are not yet in, but organizers say they are down from last year and were unsure if it would top 1,000.

While the tournament has attracted some of the strongest players in the world, it also attracted a fair amount of young competitors. Some of the young warriors came only with their families while others, such as members of the U.S. Chess Academy led by Candidate Master Roland Yakobashvili, were part of a group.

Among Yakobashvili’s proteges is 8-year-old Zachary Feldman who, we are somewhat loathe to admit, thoroughly frustrated and ultimately checkmated a certain Chess Life Online writer in round one of the Under 1300 section.

Yakobashvili, a longtime World Open regular, said he brought about 20 youths from his academy to give them exposure to strong players.

“It’s the first time they played in this kind of tournament,” Yakobashvili said. “I’m expecting for them to get experience and to know what a big tournament is all about, not just scholastic, but a real tournament.

“So far they have given a challenge, which makes me very happy.”

 See full standings at and watch live games on Monroi.