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Khachiyan Wins American Open on Tiebreak; Troff Breaks 2200 Print E-mail
By Randy Hough   
December 3, 2009
GM Melikset Khachiyan, Photo Betsy Dynako
GM Melikset Khachiyan won his fifth American Open championship at the 45th annual tournament, held at the LAX Renaissance Montura hotel over Thanksgiving. He beat out IM Andranik Matikozyan and NM Julian Landaw on tiebreaks, taking his third major title in three months (the Southern California Open and the Western States Open were the others).

The three scored 6-2, all drawing their games with each other and with former champion, IM Vladimir Mezentsev (who tied FM Takashi Iwamoto and Tatev Abrahamyan for Under 2450 honors). Khachiyan downed the second seed, IM Enrico Sevillano. Matikozyan also beat Sevillano and yielded another draw to the lower-rated Master Vadim Kudryavtsev. Landaw, who took a last round bye to return to his studies at UC Berkeley, beat FMs Iwamoto and Gregg Small before drawing with his co-winners.

Khachiyan,Melikset (2607) - Sevillano,Enrico (2558) [C42]

45th Annual American Open (4), 27.11.2009

 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Bg4 12.Rb1 Qc7 13.h3 Bh5 14.Bd3 Kh8 15.g4 Bg6 16.Nh4 Nd7 17.Nf5 b6
In hindsight, 17...b5 was a better choice.
18.Qf3 Rfe8 19.Bd2 Nf8 20.h4

Black has equalized, and now 20...Bxf5 21.Qxf5 Re6 22.Bc4 Rf6 keeps it that way, as White has loosened his kingside.
20...Ne6? 21.Rfe1 Bxf5 22.Qxf5 g6
A major weakening, but after 22...Nf8 23.h5 White has a clear edge.
23.Qf6+ Kg8 24.Bc4?!
24. h5 appears better, though Black gets into an endgame (somewhat inferior) after 24...Bf4 25.Bxf4 Qxf4.
24...Be7 25.Qf3 Bxh4 26.Re5 b5?
26...c5, threatening to discover an attack on the bishop, looks good, as the tactical attempt 27.Rxe6 fxe6 28.Bxe6+ Kg7 29.Bf4 Qe7 fails because Black will be able to play...Bf6.
27.Bb3 Re7
27...Be7 appears more natural; now White could have cut the bishop off with 28.g5, threatening to win it after exchanging on e6.
28.Rbe1? Rae8 29.Bh6 a5??

The normally alert Sevillano drops the ball. 29...Nd8 to trade off some material is equal.
30.Rxe6! fxe6 31.Rxe6 Rxe6 32.Bxe6+
Ooh, that back rank!
32... Kh8 33.Bf4 1-0

Khachiyan turned in a nice combination of positional and tactical chess against Iwamoto in an earlier round:


Khachiyan,Melikset - Iwamoto,Takashi [C54]

45th Annual American Open (2), 26.11.2009

 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.Bb3 Ba7 8.Nbd2 Ne7 9.Re1 Ng6 10.Nf1 0-0 11.h3 Re8 12.Ng3 Be6 13.d4 h6 14.Be3 Qc8 15.Kh2 c5 16.Bc2 Qc7 17.Qd2 Kh7 18.d5 Bd7 19.c4 b5 20.Bd3 Bb6 21.Qc2 Kg8 22.Qc1 Kh7 23.b3 Reb8 24.Re2 Ba5 25.Rc2 Qd8 26.a3 Qf8 27.Rb1 b4 28.a4 Bd8 29.Re2 Kg8 30.Bc2 Nh7 31.Nf5

White has secured the minimal edge a strong player can expect with the "Pianissimo." Now Black should grit his teeth and "pass" with a move such as 31...Bc8 or 31...Bf6. Instead, he removes the annoying knight, but the price of giving White e4 as a pivot square for attack is too high.
31...Bxf5? 32.exf5 Nh8 33.g4 Be7 34.h4 f6 35.Nd2 Nf7 36.Ne4 Qd8 37.Qd2 Kf8 38.Ng3 Ke8 39.Nh5 Bf8 40.f4 Kd7
Gimme shelter!
41.Rg1 Qe8 42.Bd1 Rb7 43.Ree1 Qd8
Now White is ready to open lines for his better-coordinated pieces.
44.g5! fxg5 45.fxg5 Nh8 46.f6 g6 47.Ng7 Kc8 48.Ne6 Qe8 49.gxh6 Nxf6 50.Ref1 Nh7 51.Bc2 Rf7 52.Rxf7 Qxf7 53.Qg2 Kb7 54.Bxg6 1-0
White wins a piece after 54...Nxg6 55.Qxg6 Qxg6 56. Rxg6 followed by 57.Nxf8, Rg7+, and h7.

Melik also had chances to win his sixth-round game against Landaw, enough that when the game ended at least one spectator thought White had won!


Khachiyan,Melikset (2607) - Landaw,Julian (2273) [C54]
45th Annual American Open (6), 28.11.2009

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 0-0 7.Nbd2 a6 8.Bb3 Ba7 9.h3 Ne7 10.Re1 Ng6 11.Nf1 Re8 12.Ng3 h6 13.d4 Bd7 14.Be3 exd4 15.Nxd4 Nh4 16.Bf4 Ng6 17.Qd2 Nxf4 18.Qxf4 Qe7 19.Nf3 Be6 20.e5 dxe5 21.Rxe5 Qd6 22.Nf5
White has built up some attacking chances; 22.Ne4 to trade off the defending knight is another possibility.
22... Qb6
A tough call; 22...Bxf5 removes a defender of f7.
The tempting capture on h6 doesn't work as long as Black refrains from capturing on f2: 23.Nxh6+ Kf8 24.Bxe6 Rxe6 25.Rxe6 Qxe6 26.Ng4 Nxg4 and White's extra pawn is worth little. Alternatively, after 26.Qxc7 gxh6 27.Qxb7 Qd5 Black's extra piece is better than the pawns. Khachiyan's move in the game sets a trap which Landaw avoids.
23...Qxf2+ 24.Kh2 fxe6 (24...Rxe6 25.Nxh6+ gxh6 26.Rxe6 fxe6 27.Qxf6) 25.Nxh6+ Kh8 26.Ng4 with a clear advantage.
Now the game peters out into equality.
24...Ne8 25.Rae1 Rxe5 26.Rxe5 Qf6 27.Nh2 h5 28.Nf3 Rd8 29.Qf4 c6 30.Ne7+ ½-½
In his other games, Khachiyan had some difficulties, coming back to win a probably lost position against young Master Howard Chen of Washington State in the first round. Matikozyan and Landaw displayed their mastery of the Game/60 genre by going 3 ½ - ½ in the three-day schedule.

Eleven-year-old Kayden Troff of Utah (who has pursued the same circuit of Western tournaments as Khachiyan) achieved the 2200 rating milestone to become one of our youngest Masters.


Another young player dropped out after six rounds when his coach calculated that he had reached 2200. It turned out that he had actually reached, yes, you guessed it, 2199.

Kayden Troff broke 2200 at the American Open!

The other sections all had clear winners: Jared Tan in Under 2200, Fei Yue Yang in Under 2000, Zheng Zhu in Under 1800, Asatour Dovlatyan in Under 1600, and Alexander Magganas in Under 1400 (unrated player Suresh Jhunjhnuwala earned the best score in that section, but was eligible only for the smaller Unrated prize). Like Landaw, Tan and Magganas, both young students, took last round byes, though Tan actually clinched his prize and was paid before leaving.

The turnout was a rather disappointing 200. However, the Scholastic side event drew a fine total of 144 players, with Sean Manross (K-12), George Situ (on tiebreaks over Ezekiel Liu in K-8), Kumann Liu (K-6), and Eli Minoofar (K-3) winning their sections. The Quick tournament (33 players) saw a tie among Robby Adamson, Harutyun Akopyan, and Mick Bighamian, and Roger Norman took the Action (21 players). So the total turnout was, well, almost 400.

More details, including a complete list of the winners, including those of the special prizes donated by the family of the late Joyce Jillson and by Dr. Harold Valery, can be seen at www.americanopen.org.

The Renaissance Hotel is a popular venue in the LAX area, but the loss of 40% of the anticipated space just two weeks before the tournament (a dispute with the city of Los Angeles) left directors Randy Hough and Anthony Ong scrambling, especially on Saturday when the Scholastic was held. We got some volunteer help on that occasion and again on Sunday, when Murphy's Law caused hardware problems at an inopportune moment. The players and parents were generally understanding and yes, we got some compensation from the hotel.

Chess Palace again offered a nice selection of books and equipment, this time including a special used book display. Alas, many of those books were inaccessible to younger players who've never had a reason to take five minutes to learn descriptive notation!

And for approximately the 20th straight year, we were graced by the presence of Jovan "the Great" Prokopljevic of Serbia (his daughter lives in L.A.), whose chess art always lends class to the tournament. Jovan is always ready to draw portraits of players and spectators. Demo boards for the top four, lectures by Khachiyan, Sevillano, and the ever-popular IM Jeremy Silman (whose combination of humor and instruction is irresistible), and videos added to the allure of the tournament.

At the risk of damaging some friendships, here's one more game. These two 15-year-olds met in the second round, having lost the first, and White (a recent and future Master) was out for blood, at some cost. The result was a king trek (with queens on the board) to d8, followed by a return to e1. Kind of reminded me of Napoleon's march to Moscow and back, though in this case (after Black missed several mates) White triumphed.


Huang,Vincent - Polsky,Ryan [E32]

American Open U2200 (2), 26.11.2009

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 d5 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 b6 9.Nf3 Bb7 10.e3 Nbd7 11.Rd1 c5 12.Be2 Qc7 13.Bg3 Qc6 14.Ne5 Nxe5 15.dxe5 Ne4 16.cxd5 exd5 17.Bf3 Qe6 18.Bxe4 dxe4 19.0-0 Rfd8
At this point the silicon beast declares the position equal and recommends 20.Rd6 to forestall any Black effort to utilize the potential outpost square d3. White has other ideas and finds a way to imbalance things -- objectively, to his detriment.
20.f4?! Ba6 21.f5 Qc4 22.Bh4
Now if White can't mate, he'll be lost on the queenside.
22...Rd3 23.Rxd3 exd3 24.Qf2 Qxc3 25.Qg3 Kh7 26.e6 d2 27.exf7 Qc1 28.Qg6+ Kh8 29.Rxc1 dxc1Q+
And Black is just winning. But there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip...
30.Kf2 Qd2+ 31.Kf3 Qd1+ 32.Kf4 Qf1+ 33.Ke5 Qa1+
First slip: 33...Qe2 or 33...Qd3 maintain a huge advantage.
34.Kf4 Qf1+ 35.Ke5 Qd3
On the right track now, defending by pinning the f5 pawn as well as attacking.

36.e4 is, shall we say, more circumspect.
36...Qxe3+ 37.Kd6 Qf4+??
37...Qd3+ or 37...Qd2+ is mate in five if White interposes the bishop; four if he doesn't.
38.Be5 Rd8+ 39.Ke7?
39.Ke6 Bc4+ 40.Ke7 Qxe5+ 41.Kxd8 is more resilient. Now it's forced mate again.
39...Qxe5+ 40.Kxd8 Qb8+ 41.Kd7 Bc8+ 42.Kc6 Qb7+ 43.Kb5 Bd7+?
43...Qa6+ 44.Kc6 Qa4+ 45.Kd6 Qd7+ 46.Ke5 Qd4# ends matters.
44.Kc4 Qe4+ 45.Kc3 Qd4+ 46.Kb3 c4+?
46...Ba4+ is mate in seven...
47.Ka2 Qd2+ 48.Kb1 Qd3+ 49.Kc1 Qxa3+ 50.Kd1 Ba4+ 51.Ke1 Bb5
Black is still winning, but 51...c3 or 51...Qf8 improve.
52.Qe6 Qf8 53.h4 c3 54.f6 c2 55.Kd2
The last mistake, as Black will lose control of f8. 55...Qd8+ 56.Kxc2 gxf6 was necessary, and still winning, though the days of forced mates are gone.
56.Qe7 c1Q+ 57.Kxc1 Qc8+ 58.Kd2 Qc2+ 59.Ke3 Qc3+ 60.Kf2 Qd4+ 61.Kg3 1-0

Perhaps the biggest story of this American Open, though, is the player who wasn't there.

Jerry Hanken had participated in all 44 American Opens and saved the tournament through his organizing skills when it lost corporate sponsorship in 1990. Jerry passed away on October 1. On checking in to the hotel, I was reminded of what a great ambassador for chess he was. The desk clerk asked about Jerry, and I had to give him the sad news. A look of shock and dismay crossed his face, and he proceeded to tell me how Jerry had often talked to him about our royal game and given him things to send to his friends overseas. This one was for you, Jerry.

December - Chess Life Online 2009

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