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A New Face for the American Open: Akobian in Orange County Print E-mail
By Randy Hough   
December 1, 2011
Akobianlead.jpgAfter 46 years as a Thanksgiving weekend fixture in Los Angeles County (the last 16 at LAX-area hotels), the American Open was held in Orange County this year. The move reflects "new ownership" - this writer stepped down after 26 years of directing and eight of organizing - and the ability of the new organizer, Chess Palace, to find a great hotel deal at the Doubletree Hotel in the City of Orange. More on organization below, but first: the play!

GM Varuzhan Akobian, after a seven-year absence, won a convincing 7-1 victory in the 28-player Open section. Starting off in the three-day schedule, he drew second seed GM Josh Friedel in Round Three, and proceeded to mow down the field until a quick final round draw with IM Enrico Sevillano. Var provides light notes to his critical wins over IMs in the sixth and seventh rounds.



47th Annual American Open
White: Akobian,Varuzhan
Black: Peters, Jack

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 Be7 6.0-0 0-0 7.Nc3 Ne4 8.Bd2 f5 9.Qc2 Nxc3 10.Bxc3 d6 11.d5 e5 12.c5! 12...Bxd5 
12...bxc5 13.Nxe5 dxe5 14.Qb3 Bd6 15.Qxb7 Nd7 16.e4 fxe4 17.Bxe4±
13.cxd6 cxd6

13...Bxd6 14.Nxe5 Bxg2 15.Qb3+ Kh8 16.Nf7+ Rxf7 17.Qxf7 Qg8 18.Qxg8+ Kxg8 19.Kxg2+-
14.Rad1! Bxf3 15.Bxf3 e4 16.Bg2 Nd7 17.g4! Rc8 18.gxf5 Rxf5 19.Qxe4 Rg5 20.f4 Rg6 21.Kh1 Kh8 22.Bh3 Rc5 23.Qf3 Nf6 24.e4 Qa8 25.Bf5
25.e5 Qxf3+ 26.Rxf3 Ne4 27.Be1 Rh6 28.Bf5 d5 29.Rfd3+-
25...Rh6 26.e5 Qxf3+ 27.Rxf3 Nd5 28.Bd4 Rc4 29.b3 Rc7 30.exd6 Bxd6 31.Be5 Bxe5 32.fxe5 Ne7 33.Rd8+ Ng8 34.Be4 Rg6 35.Bxg6

47th Annual American Open
White: Remlinger, Larry
Black: Akobian,Varuzhan

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bf4 Bf5 7.e3 e6 8.Ne5 Nxe5 9.Bxe5 Nd7 10.Bg3 a6 11.Bd3 Bxd3 12.Qxd3 Be7 13.0-0 0-0 14.Rac1 Rc8 15.Rc2 Qa5 16.Rfc1 Rc6 17.f3 Rfc8 18.Be1 Bd6!
19.e4 dxe4 20.fxe4 Qc7 21.e5 Bb4 22.Rf2 Nb6 23.Rd1 Bxc3 24.Bxc3 Nd5 25.Bd2 Rc2 26.Rdf1 Rxb2 27.Qg3 
27.Ba5 Rxf2 28.Bxc7 Rxf1+ 29.Kxf1 Rxc7

27...f5 28.Ba5 Qxa5 29.Rxb2 b5 30.Rbf2 Qb4 31.Qd3 Qc4
31...Rc3 32.Qd2 Qc4 33.Qg5 h6 34.Qg6 Ne3-+
32.Qa3 b4 33.Qa4 h6 34.Qd7 Qc6 35.Qa7
35.Qxc6 Rxc6 36.a3 a5 37.axb4 axb4 38.Ra1=
35...Rc7 36.Qb8+ Rc8 37.Qa7
37.Qd6 Qxd6 38.exd6 Rd8 39.Rc1 Nc3 40.a3 a5 41.axb4 axb4 42.Rb2 Rxd6 43.Re1 Nd5
37...Kh7 38.h4 Ne3 39.Re1
38.Qb8+ Kh7 39.h4 Ne3 40.Re1 Nd5 41.Ref1 Qc4 42.Rd2 

42...Ne3! 43.Re1 Qc3 44.Rde2 Ng4-+
43.Rdd1 Ne3 44.Qa8 Nxf1 45.Kxf1 Qc4+ 46.Kg1 Qxa2 47.h5 Qe2 48.Rf1 Rc2 0-1

He had also beaten the six-time champion, GM Melik Khachiyan, in the fifth round, in a flawed game:


Melik defended poorly this time: 20.Bxh4 Nxh4 21.f4! Nxf4 22.g3 Qd8 23.gxf4 exf4 24.Nf3 gives White an edge, and later the cold-blooded 22.g3 Nxg3 23.Kxg3 Qh4+ 24.Kh2 Bh3 25.Bxh3 Nf4 26.Qd2 Qxh3+ 27.Kg1 is a perpetual. Very short of time in the final position, White resigned in view of 29.Kg1 Ng3, but 29.Kh2 Qg3+ 30.Kh1 Nxh3 31.Bxh3 Qxh3+ 32.Kg1 Qg3+ 33.Kh1 Qh4+ 34.Kg1 Rec8 25.Re2 keeps him in the game, though at a disadvantage.

Var took home a $2500 prize check. Now 28, he's been married for a year. He's looking forward to the Gibraltar Open in January, and may play in the North American Open before that.

GM Josh Friedel, a New Hampshire native now living in Milwaukee, was clear second with an undefeated 6-2. He annotates his win over the always-dangerous FM Eduardo Ortiz.

47th Annual American Open

White: Ortiz, Eduardo
Black: Friedel, Joshua
This was the second round of the 3-day.  My opponent had beaten IM Sevillano in the previous round, so I had my eye out!
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bd3 Qa5 9.Qc2 c4 10.Bf5 0-0 11.0-0 Re8 12.Nd2 g6 13.Bh3 Kg7 14.Bh4 Nb6 15.Bxc8 Raxc8 
Surprisingly, this has all been played before.
16.Bxf6+ Kxf6 17.a3 Bxc3 18.bxc3 Na4 19.Rac1 Kg7 has been played a couple times, and while white's center looks a little scary, my general feeling is that black is doing well here due to his active pieces. 16...Ne4!?
I could have gone for the more standard Bxc3, but I wanted a more ambitious setup with the knight on d5 against the dark-squared bishop. 16...Bxc3 17.bxc3 Na4 18.Bxf6+ Kxf6 19.Rc1 would basically transpose into the Bxf6+ line, except the pawn would be on a2.
17.Ndxe4 dxe4 18.f3 Bxc3 19.bxc3 Qa4
19...f5 is what the computer prefers, but I was really worried about a potential g4.
20.Qf2 Qd7 (20...f5 looked way too dangerous to me due to g4 type moves.) 21.Bg3 Rc6 and while Black has to be super careful, I don't see how White can break the light square blockade.
20...Qc6 21.fxe4 
Now black has little to worry about.

22.Bf6+ Kg8 23.Be5 f5 with a comfortable position.
22...Qe8 23.Rf4 Rxe3

Apparently my opponent missed I could capture this pawn when he played 22. Rf6.
24.Bf6+ Kg8 25.Rff1 Nd5 26.Bg5 Rxe1 27.Rxe1 Qd7 
Now I'm up a clear pawn with no counterplay, but in g/60 nothing is ever simple!
28.Qc1 Re8 29.Bh6 f6 30.h3 Rxe1+ 31.Qxe1 Kf7 32.Qg3 b5 33.Qb8
This is the best try to mix things up, but the problem is that my king wants to move anyway.
33...g5 34.Qh8 Kg6 35.Bf8 Nxc3

White has no threats, so I can safely grab this pawn.  The key now is to run my king to the queenside without blundering anything.
36.Qg8+ Kf5 37.Bc5 Nd5 38.Kf2 Nf4 39.g4+ Ke4 40.Qa8+ Qd5 41.Qe8+ Kd3 42.Qe3+ Kc2
The king run is complete, my pieces are ideal, and white has no checks.
43.Qg3 Qe4 44.Bxa7 Kd2 
A nice way to finish.
45.Bc5 Qe1+

I liked this game as it was reasonable quality for a G/60 apart from the pawn blunder, and also because of the thematic king march at the end of the game. 0-1

Josh's fifth round win, against the young Oregon master who eventually took Under 2300 honors, shows the perils of neglecting king safety.


In the next round, Black holds his own against Josh's attack and transition to an ending - but drops a pawn on the time control move.


Sevillano and IM Zhanibek Amanov of Kazakhstan tied for third with 5½ points.

At 5, Khachiyan was tied for fifth with IM Larry Remlinger, FM Harutyun Akopian, and Edward Perepelitsky (the latter two, though rated under 2300, split Under 2400 honors). A disappointment for the defending champ.

Amanov more than held his own against Khachiyan in their fourth round encounter, despite perhaps being surprised by Black's 17th, declined a draw on the 34th move, and then collapsed in the final phase (49.Rf4!), finally walking into mate.


Sevillano had a cute finish in the sixth round:


Konstantin Kavutskiy, featured in our Western States Open article, only tied for ninth here, but uncorked a nice attack with an underpromotion in the penultimate round.


The class section winners had some interesting stories to tell. The Under 2200 champion, the formidably named Hermenegildo Duhaylungsod, Jr. (2062), believes he should merit the Master title (as do his opponents). But although he won $2,000, a sum that would normally earn a rating floor in the next-highest class, it doesn't apply to Experts, as a 2200 floor equates to a de facto Life Master title.

A six-way tie for Under 2000 honors featured a fascinating age distribution: Neil Bershad (74), Brian Glover (67), Wes White (61), Fernando Sevilla (48), Jeffrey Ding (14), and Arizonan Ethan Li (11)! In Under 1800, Leo Creger and Ruben Burciaga tied with 16-year-old Abzal Nurlanov, a visitor from Kazakhstan who could win only $900 because of his unrated status.

Young Thomas Hart was atop Under 1600 with a 7-1 tally, and Amado Ancheta went all-out in Under 1400, finishing with 8-0, two points ahead of his nearest rival.

Robby.jpgThe Blitz attracted a fine turnout of 48. FM Robby Adamson, who accompanied his Tucson Catalina Foothills High players but did not play in the main event, finished a point ahead of the field with 9½ - ½   IM Cyrus Lakdawala topped the 24 participants in the Action side event.  In the varsity Scholastic sections, Karl Tolentino swept the High School, Stuart Kusdono and Sachil Verma tied in K-9, Jerry Qu and Qinhong Chen split K-6 honors, and Kevin Chor went 6-0 in Primary. Beyond Chess and California Youth Chess League did well in the club competition. Final standings in all sections can be viewed at www.americanopen.org.

Games played in non-Open sections frequently get no scrutiny, and this fascinating contest sees the light of day only because it was played on a board next to this writer's game. Steven Pennock (one of the Catalina Foothills students) throws everything but the kitchen sink at veteran former Master Craig Clawitter's French Winawer. Black defends successfully...up to a point. After Craig queens a pawn with check, the game takes a couple of strange twists in mutual time pressure.


Black could have won simply with 37...e4 38.Rxd5 Qxd5 39.Qxb6 Qd6+, and White returned the favor by missing 39.Rc8+ Rxc8 40.Rxd5 Qc7 41.Rd7+, winning. White is a bit better in the final position, but a draw seemed logical after all those exertions!

The main tournament attracted 228 players (plus two reentries) and paid out $25,000 in prizes. The Scholastic, greatly beefed up from that of previous years, drew 226. After all, it offered 200 trophies (some of them for clubs and teams)! Other new features included gift certificates for plus scores (a concept borrowed from the National Open) and extra merchandise gifts on top of the trophies for the scholastic players. Missing, alas, were some previous hallmarks: daily lectures (though IM Jeremy Silman gave his always-popular one on the last day), demo boards, and videos. Time moves on, and things change...

AHolidayXMas.jpg The Doubletree (near Disneyland, and with the great outdoor mall The Block at Orange a short walk away), offered a nice contrast to the area around LAX, which many players had found dreary. This far outweighed the reluctance of some LA players to venture into Orange County, which they consider terra incognita. And the Doubletree had a great room night pickup on what is a dead weekend for most hotels!

Chief TD Anthony Ong, assisted by the Chess Palace family (dad, mom, and four siblings!), Chuck Rice on the tournament floor, and a myriad of helpers for the Scholastic, kept the rounds on time and everything under control. My thanks to staff and IM Jack Peters for the help in securing game scores. And the American Open successfully turns a page as it nears the half-century mark!

Find USCF rated results on MSA.