Kamsky Wins Trophy; Friedel Cements GM Status
By Jennifer Shahade   
June 11, 2008
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IM Josh Friedel and GM Gata Kamsky shake hands in their final round face-off. Photo Betsy Dynako

The six-way tie for first in the National Open (Las Vegas, June 6-8) included GMs Gata Kamsky, Laurent Fressinet from France, Tigran Petrosian of Armenia, Atanas Kolev of Bulgaria and IMs Josh Friedel and Ben Finegold. All six won over $2000 while Gata won the trophy and the title on tiebreak.  Fans were thrilled just to see the World Championship candidate in the flesh. Meanwhile Josh Friedel cemented his status as America's newest GM. After superb performances in Chicago and Las Vegas, Friedel's rating is up to 2520 FIDE and he just has to wait for the next FIDE Congress to earn his title officially. Josh is known to be a fighting player, and he admits that in the last round,  the dream of defeating Gata and winning the tournament outright occured to him. Josh said the main plus of facing Kamsky was "the opportunity to play somebody I'd normally never get to play."  When asked if he wished he had a chance to take the title in a blitz playoff, Josh said he was glad to get out of a possible Armageddon: "My last four games were over six hours each...if I had to play an Armageddon match I probably would have died of exhaustion."

The Friedel-Kamsky game featured a Breyer Ruy Lopez. Gata told Josh that he thought it was a well-played game, clearly a compliment that any young GM would be happy to receive! When Josh asked if he had an edge, Gata said: "Well, you were White."



Although he'd normally feel comfortable with his typical Ruy edge, Josh felt extreme toughness emanating from his super-GM opponent: "I felt that he'd never let me increase my advantage." In fact, Josh got a slightly worse knight endgame after Gata's cool tactical sequence 46...Ne4 47.Nd6 Qc5! Josh was proud that despite the changed situation, he managed to find the most precise path to a draw, 56.g4 followed by 57.g5!
 
Josh's draw with Nakamura was published in a previous CLO report. Josh told CLO that his clearest path to a win was probably 32.e7! instead of 32.Qd3, with the idea being 32.e7 Ne6 33.Nc7+ Rxc7 34.Qxe6+ followed by Qg6 and a great attack. However, he blames himself more for getting into time pressure, noting that it's unrealistic to expect to find the most accurate continuations with fewer than five minutes left on the clock. He pinpoints 28. Qb3 as an excellent move that took him too long to find, due to re-checking his variations. This cost him valuable time in the clutch moments. Later, Josh believes that Nakamura could have turned the tables on him and won had he taken a little more time to consider his options. After the surprising 43.Ne3!, stopping Black's checks out of nowhere, Josh is back in the saddle and drew soon thereafter.

The Friedel-Nakamura round four face-off is reprinted below.



Josh told CLO that he credits his recent bump in skill to his work with GM Alexander Goldin as well as some changes in his own study habits. Josh always thought tactics were his strongpoint in chess, but he noticed that he still lost a lot of half-points due to oversights. So lately he has been working on both ends of the tactical totem pole. He solves super-difficult Dvoretsky problems and also runs through dozens of easier problems on the tactical training server chess.emrald.net.

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Josh Friedel signs a board for a fan. Photo Betsy Dynako


Josh will write an article in his "Diary of a Samford Scholar" about his recent string of great results. The early months of Josh's Samford run were a little cold; the only positive of this for CLO readers was that Josh revelled in a comic writing style that may be harder to pull off when he can't make fun of his own play so much! Check back in later this month to see how Josh deals with this happy challenge.

National Open

Final Standings
Open
1-6- GM Gata Kamsky (winner on tiebreak), GM Laurent Fressient, GM Tigran Petrosian, GM Atanas Kolev, IM Ben Finegold and IM Josh Friedel- ($2191.50 each) 5/6
7-9- GM Sergey Erenburg, Melikset Khachiyan and Ray Robson (U2400 winner, $1644)- 4.5/6
U2300 prize- Eugene Yanayt ($986)
U2200
1. Reynaldo Salvatierra- 5.5/6- $ 4109.00
U2000
1-3. Conrad Ayson, Chet Gionson, Cezarte Ramos- 5.5/6- $ 2,410.33
U1800
1.Eleazar Poblete- 6- $4109.00
U1600
1. Ruben Burciaja-6- $4109.00
U1400
1-2. Oliver Lapurga and Troy Duncan-5.5/6- $1643.50
U1200
1-Ernesto Lim-5.5/6- $1233.00
Unrated
1. Victor Mendoza-
5/6, $405.00

Click here for complete results

Susan Polgar World Open for Boys and Girls
Final Champions
 Girls  under 8: Annie Wang, Nicole Zlotchevsky, Alisha Chawla, Queena Deng
Boys under 8:Winston Zen
Girls under 11: Leanne Hwa
Boys under 11: Tommy Polgar
Girls under 14: Sayaka Foley (TTU $36,000 scholarship)
Boys under 14: Matthew Martinez
Girls under 19 : Rebecca Lelko (TTU $36,000 scholarship)
Boys under 19: Randel Eng (TTU $36,000 scholarship)
Click here for complete results

Betsy Dynako captured some of the action from the main event and the Polgar World Open for Boys and Girls on video.

The National Open was a great event for American born players, who too often lurk in the background of big Opens. In addition to Josh Friedel, Michigan based IM Ben Finegold tied for first. Finegold's result was notable because he and Atanas Kolev were the only two tied for first to play six straight decisive games, scoring five wins and one loss. Here is Ben's final victory over GM Dmitry Gurevich.



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IM Ben Finegold. Photo Betsy Dynako

Meanwhile Ray Robson celebrated earning his IM title officially with a great 4.5/6 result. The following last round victory secured Ray the U2500 prize. He takes home over 1600$ for his efforts.



GM Laurent Fressinet of France (and husband of IM Almira Skripchenko) made it into the winners circle with a penultimate win against GM Alexander Yermolinsky.



We end this report with a stunning game by co-winner GM Tigran Petrosian and a sad afternote.



The Armenian GM must have other things on his mind now besides winning the National Open, as his compatriot Karen Asrian died of a heart-attack just a day after this brilliancy. Karen was just 28. You can read his obituary here. America is home to many Armenian chess players, and we offer our deepest condolences for Armenia's loss, which is far away geographically but close in the world of 64 squares.