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Gareyev Wins American Open Print E-mail
By Randy Hough   
December 3, 2014
Timur Gareyev
The American Open, a rich West Coast tradition, returned to the Doubletree in Orange, California, for the fourth straight year and the tournament's 50th anniversary.

The 274 players (plus five reentries) enjoyed eight rounds of chess in the comfortable ballroom, a welcome change from the last two years when the scholastic tournament preempted the prime space. That event was switched to the previous weekend, drawing 342 juniors.

In the 43-player Open section, GM Timur Gareyev of Las Vegas again came out on top, scoring 7-1 to lap the field by a point. (Last year GM Mac Molner, who didn't play this time, tied for first.) The strong field included four GMs and four IMs.

Timur, playing in the three day schedule as usual, yielded a draw to the ever-stronger junior Nicky Korba in the first round, but then racked up three wins. Joining him with 3½ at the merge were the talented but sometimes erratic Mexican IM Dionisio Aldama, local FM Alexander Kretchetov, and from the four day group, veteran IM Jack Peters and young FM Michael Brown.

Gareyev then downed Brown and Kretchetov. In a slightly inferior position, Black neglects to support his kingside with 16...Ra7, and punishment is swift, as 17...gxf6 18.Bh7+ followed by Bf6 mates.


Meanwhile, Peters and Aldama drew with each other and then beat, respectively, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan and the underrated Canadian player Jordan Clyde. Gareyev and Aldama drew quickly in Round 7 while Peters took Brown's measure. Having just won first and tallied his first IM norm in the Saint Louis Chess Club invitational, Brown may have felt a bit of fatigue by this time. 

Peters' 11...b5 may be a new move; taking on b5 might have been the lesser evil for White, and 18.Qh4 definitely improves. As he game went, White's king died, and not comfortably, on his home square.


So Gareyev and Peters entered the last round in the lead at 6-1, trailed a half point behind by Aldama and the unheralded Filipino master Rodolfo Panopio (USCF 2274!), who had beaten Kretchetov. And in the money round, Gareyev slowly assumed the initiative and ground Peters down in a technical ending.


Aldama and Abrahamyan drew, leaving the former tied for second with Peters and Panopio (who took Under 2450 honors). The group at 5½ included Abrahamyan, young FM Vignesh Panthananam (with a last round half point bye) and another Filipino master, Hamed Nouri, whose woefully unrepresentative USCF was wisely replaced by the organizers with a 2377 seed (FIDE rating plus 50). Among the five pointers, Mike Zaloznyy took Under 2300 laurels.

Abrahamyan, with her teammate and student Robert Shlyantenko. also tied for the Mixed Doubles prize. She uncorked an attractive pseudo-piece sac in Round 7. 9...b5 is the usual choice for Black, and after Black weakened his kingside, 12.Ne6! fxe6 13.fxe6 White would recover the piece with interest. The game went on for a long time with Black tied up in knots (note how White rejects taking the Exchange on moves 23 and 24), though 30.Red2 and then 33.Rxd6 appear to win more quickly.


The other titled players had disappointing results. Egyptian GM Samy Shoker made a minus score in the three day schedule and finished with 4½. Filipino GM Darwin Laylo made an even score in that group and pulled the plug after losing to Panchanatham in Round 6.

Most surprisingly, Round 4 marked the end for GM Melikset Khachiyan, the most successful American Open player in recent years. After yielding draws to Nouri and another untitled player, Dayron Huertas, he confronted Brown, an experienced Ruy defender, with the “double deferred Exchange Variation.” Michael did not react optimally (8...Re8 has scored best), but then a series of errors by White (10.Nc3 and then 14.Nbd2 improve) left his queenside undeveloped with a pawn formation reminiscent of Swiss cheese and Black with a kingside attack. White then missed 17.Bxe7 Rxe7 18.Nc3 and 22.Bxf6 Rxf6 23.Qf2,which would have mitigated the damage. Brown concluded with a nice combination mating or winning the queen..


This game had another cute finish. Black manages to get control of the c-file in an Exchange Slav, but underestimates White's potential kingside attack. The hammer drops with 36.Bxf5!.


The Under 2200 prize was split by two players with 6½. Young WFM Agata Bykovtsev is an experienced international player, and her rating reached...2199. Her dedicated mother Rita has endured many three hour drives back to Santa Barbara, but a nice prize check must have made this one sweeter. The other 6 ½ pointer, Kenneth Odeh, actually won five games and drew one, but had to take two byes the last day because of his aviation job.

In Under 2000 (the largest, with 63 players), young Derek Zhang of Washington State downed former master Brian Zavodnik in the last round to take clear first. Derek tied for Under 1800 two years ago – we like to see progress! The game ends in a king hunt, appropriately since this variation of the Sicilian was invented by Johann Lowenthal, a Morphy contemporary. 11...Nd4 is known to be the only correct move, and after 13.Bd3 Black chose to go down in flames rather than lose prosaically after 13...Nxd3+ 14.Qxd3 Qxd3 15.cxd3 Rb8 16.Ba7.


Two local players, James Williams and young Cory Chen, tallied 6½ to split Under 1800 laurels. Locals also prevailed with 6½ in Under 1600, as Jesus Barraza and Pio Reyes tied for first. The Under 1400 went better for visitors, with Ricardo Lara Jr. of Arizona and Varun Kumar of Washington State joining local Leo De Vera at – you guessed it – 6½. It's a rare year when none of the class winners equals the Open champion's score!

The teams that tied Abrahamyan/Shlyakhtenko for Mixed Doubles were siblings Queena and Tim Deng (whose parents, Ben Deng and Sarah Lu, are leading local coaches) and Gabriel Sam and Kaitlyn Chu. Panopio took the 49 player Blitz ahead of Gareyev, and Laylo partially redeemed himself by tying with local master Eduardo Ortiz in the 26 player Action (hardly the only dropout from the main event to participate).

The Chess Palace crew (aka the Ong family: seven present, though two had to return to their college studies Sunday night) kept a variety of plates spinning in the air – pairings, presence on the playing floor, coordinating the videos and lectures (IM Jeremy Silman was the great hit as usual), selling books and merchandise, and handing out a variety of gifts to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Almost $27,000 was paid out in prizes, all plus scores got gift certificates, and place winners received medals as well as moola. Several players received special recognition, including 92-year-old Dave Hartman and Dr. Leo Raterman, the only participant who took part in the inaugural tournament in 1965.

Players react differently to anomalies. In the third round, when someone loudly announced, “Checkmate,” then amended it with “Oh, it's not checkmate, you can interpose your queen but I'll just take it,” some were amused, some annoyed, and some focused players were blissfully oblivious. The miscreant made amends by announcing “Sorry!” – in an equally loud voice!

This year marked the 50th Annual American Open, but next year will the 50th anniversary, an equally impressive occasion. Hope to see you there!

See rating report on MSA.