Sokolov & Shabalov Top World Open
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
July 9, 2012
Philadelphia – For GM Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands, prevailing at the 2012 World Open hinged as much on the calculations he made off the board as the ones he made on it.

For starters, Sokolov decided to save stamina by taking half-point byes in Rounds 6 and 8 to ensure that he would never end up playing two potentially six-hour games in a single day.

“Taking the byes is very simple. I don’t want to play two games a day,” Sokolov told Chess Life Online, in reference to the last four rounds of the 9-Round tournament, which were evenly split over Saturday and Sunday.

“In Europe we don’t do this,” Sokolov said of playing two games a day.

He said if the time limits had been “more suitable” to two games per day – say, 90 minutes with five-second delays -- “I would have played.”

But when a player plays two back-to-back potentially six-hour games, Sokolov, rated at 2676 for the tournament, said a player’s rating strength is no longer as significant a factor because “you’re incredibly tired.”
So tired, he said, that players can start to hallucinate, “and then we go from Ng4 to Ng7.”

Whatever one may think about Sokolov’s decision to limit his games to one per day, Sokolov and GM Alexander Shabalov were the only players in the Open Section of the tournament who entered Round 9 with 6.5 points.

That is the backdrop for the reason why -- after a mere 10 moves in less than 30 minutes in their Round 9 game against each other -- both GMs agreed to a draw, then went to the bar at the tournament site hotel to have a few drinks as they waited to see if any of the three Open Section players with 6 points – GMs Wesley So, Marc Arnold and Yury Shulman -- could use Round 9 to convert their scores into 7 points.

When a CLO reporter informed Sokolov and Shabalov a few hours later that all of the other GMs with 6 points had drawn their games, Sokolov and Shabalov gave each other a high five over chicken wings – and with good reason.

Being in a two-way tie for first, the two GMs split the combined first and second place cash prizes of $16,898 and $8,449, respectively, and take home a total of $12,673.50 apiece.

Sokolov later beat Shabalov in an Armageddon play-off to become 2012 World Open Champion and earn a bonus $253. 

For Sokolov, the two-way for first place tie made his overseas trip worthwhile whereas second place would have made it a costly venture.

“People would say ‘well done,’ but I would go back to Europe without a single dollar, which is not really my plan,” Sokolov said.

Sokolov said his decision to draw with Shabalov did not come lightly. He said he had prepared for Shabalov’s Slav, but things changed when Shabalov played the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

“If I want to get the advantage against the Queen’s Gambit, I need to take risks. I would have play different (like with) was a money calculation.”

Solokov said his toughest game was his Round 5 game against GM Abhijeet Gupta.


“It was strictly positional,” Solokov said. “I had to sacrifice a pawn. I could not see immediately whether I would get enough compensation for the pawn. When you sacrifice some material you cannot exactly see through. You have to trust your instincts that you’re to get enough for it.”

Shabalov said his toughest game was against GM Wesley So, a game in which he felt he was “lost for many moves” but which ultimately ended in a draw.



A number of players earned norms this year. GM norms were scored by IM Marc Arnold, IM Eesha Karavade and FM John Bryant. IM norms were scored by FM Michael Kleinman, FM Thomas Bartell, Yaacov Norowitz and Luke Harmon-Vellotti.

13-year-old Luke Harmon-Vellotti achieved his second IM norm. 

Luke, an 8th grader and aspiring physician from Boise, Idaho, said his toughest game was his 100-move Round 5 game against IM Qingnan Liu of China.

“It came down to the end game,” Luke said.


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