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Obama Visits and Gareev Wins in Philly Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
January 20, 2009
The Liberty Bell Open Champion in action
On January 16, Friday night, Barack Obama stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia. Our president elect was on his way to pick up Joe Biden in Delaware and then head to Washington for inauguration festivities. Hundreds of chessplayers in town for the Liberty Bell Open were treated to presidential security levels. A few chessplayers claim to have seen Obama himself at the gym on Saturday morning. Sounded like a tall tale to me, but the concierge confirmed that Obama made a surprise visit to the Sheraton workout room from 7:30-8:30 AM, and that anyone lucky enough to have been in the gym at that time would be working out with the president elect-along with a couple of secret service men. One problem for most of the tournament players, according to TD Walter Brown: "Chessplayers don't wake up that early."

The 20-year-old Grandmaster Timur Gareev won clear first in the event with 6 out of 7. Gareev, originally from Uzbekistan, moved to America to attend college, first the University of Texas at Brownsville and now University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he studies economics.  The game of the event was Gareev's victory over GM Sergey Kudrin, which featured a pure exchange sacrifice.


In the last round, Gareev faced GM Georgi Kachieshvilli and they drew in a Queen's Indian, guaranteeing Gareev clear first and $2500+. Gareev's goal is to break 2650 FIDE; he is also looking forward to turning 21 in March so he can pursue his passion for tournament poker. He was originally planning to celebrate with a trip to Vegas over his spring break, but got invited to an international round-robin in Texas. Vegas will have to wait for now, and CLO readers can expect to see some more brilliant games from Gareev, including a win he plans to publish on CLO from a training match against Jorge Sammour-Hasbun.

Kacheishvili and Shabalov, who defeated Esserman in the final round, tied for second place with 5.5/7.

The overall turnout at the Liberty Bell was larger than usual, 445 players in eight sections compared to 374 in 2008 and 330 in 2007. TD Sophia Rohde said she was not that surprised and that local, affordable chess events actually do well during recessions. 

GM Giorgi Kacheishvili , Photo Jennifer Shahade
The other big story of the event was Zenyuk's first round win over 2nd place finisher, Giorgi Kacheishvili. Zenyuk also drew Kudrin and won her final game over Jerald Times, finishing with 4.5/7 and earning enough points to put her over 2300, topping off her breakthrough event in San Francisco, the Berkeley International. Rather than a change in training program, Zenyuk credits her recent results to confidence,  pointing out that she never had such a big leap in the past. The following win was Zenyuk's first over a Grandmaster. It was particularly meaningful to her because she admires the Georgian GM's positional understanding. "If he had played any other move than 19.Bf4, I wouldn't be able to try Bxd5....I thought for 20 minutes and decided I must sacrifice to have a chance."


WIM Iryna Zenyuk, Photo Jennifer Shahade

Check out final rating results from the Liberty Bell Open on MSA.
Look for a report by Jerry Hanken on the other big open of the long weekend, the Western Class Championships, where Matikozyan and Sevillano tied for first place with 5.5/7.