Norms for Shankland and Lenderman in Philly
By Jennifer Shahade   
June 29, 2009
IM Alex Lenderman
Young IMs Sam Shankland and Alex Lenderman both earned their second GM norms at the Philadelphia International (June 23-29)! (See Standings Here.) Now the race is on for the final norm they each require to qualify for the GM title. Lenderman promised to do his famous dance again if he earns the third at the World Open, while Shankland pointed out that if he gets his third in the World Open, he may set a record for shortest time to earn three norms. His first was at the New York International, while Alex's first was also quite recent, at the Copper State International in Arizona. At the top of scoretable, IM Jacek Stopa scored a quick attacking victory over GM Timur Gareev to tie for first with Lenderman with 7/9. The co-champs both took home $2250 each.  

Lenderman called his final round game  "stressful."  His opponent was Siddharth Ravichandran, who came from India a year ago to pursue his masters in computer engineering at Syracuse University. Rated only 2303 going into the event, Ravichandran clinched an IM norm earlier in the tournament and was now also playing for a GM norm.


Lenderman's favorite games were against GM Gildardo Garcia and the following win over Stopa, which was crucial for him in the hunt for first place, and his norm.

Lenderman in between GM norm #2 and the World Open: Still Thinking.

It was far from clear that there would be norms at this event, since among the 42 participants, there were only four GMs and to get a GM norm, you need to play at least three: this requires some luck in a Swiss. Shankland and Lenderman were fortunate enough to play enough GMs, but the Polish IM and University of Texas at Dallas student Stopa missed out. This is not the first time that he earned the performance rating but did not qualify for technical reasons: "The GM norm does not want me!" he said, feeling a bittersweet taste after his final win. The game featured a pretty bishop sack 22.Bb5! forcing Gareev to resign in view of 22..axb5 23. Rdg1! with an unstoppable mating idea on g8! Stopa criticized Gareev's 12...b5 (preferring Nxd4 Bxd4 and the queen is less vulnerable on c7 to tempo gaining manouevers like Ne2-d4) and 19...Kh8. If 19...Ng6 instead White also has a strong attack, but things are much less clear.


Two happy IMs: Sam Shankland and Jacek Stopa

Sam Shankland won his final round game against IM Daniel Fernandez and also scored a crucial third round win over GM Mikhalevski.

Shankland- Fernandez, Position after 13...Nb4

Sam pinpointed 13...Nb4, which was just played in the position above as Fernandez's mistake, suggesting 13..Na5 instead, "with an unclear, equalish position." Shankland's response to Nb4, 14. Nh4!, led to positional dominance. Shankland understood why Fernandez was tempted by ...Nb4. There are some beautiful lines if White misplays it, like 14.a3 Nc2 15. Nh4? Na1! winning or 14.b3 Nd5! with a mate threat on a3! Sam also told CLO that he thought 31.Rc1 was the cleanest win, preventing the bishop from coming to c5 and preparing the lethal Qd4-a7 threat.


Fernandez, who has been featured in an uncanny number of recent losses in CLO, gained rating points in the tournament, winning over GM Mikhalevski and IM Joseph Bradford.


Meanwhile, Philadelphia is being taken over by chessplayers like GMs Jesse Kraai and Josh Friedel, who just arrived for the Main Event, the World Open. The relaxed 7-day schedule starts tonight (one game a day until the last two days) and live game coverage on begins with the popular five-day schedule, which starts on Wednesday night.