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Hilton on the World Open: Lenderman Dances; Nakamura and Najer Tie for 1st Print E-mail
By Jonathan Hilton   
July 7, 2009
GM Hikaru Nakamura and Evgeny Najer tied for first at the World Open, while Alex Lenderman is now a GM-elect, Photo of Nakamura and Kamsky by Chris Bird
In early June at a tournament in Arizona, IM Alex Lenderman achieved his first GM norm and performed one of the most spectacular feats of skill in American chess history: publicly dancing the "Lenderman Boogie." Now, just 32 days later, he has completed his third GM norm at the 2009 World Open - and, true to his word, has yet again performed the Grandmaster dance of the century. It all started when a small group of chess players approached him at midnight during the after-tournament blitz championship. By the time I arrived on the scene, I had to fight my way through a thick throng just to get a glimpse of the new GM-elect. "Do your dance, Lenderman!" was the crowd's refrain. Lenderman looked off in the distance, then down at the ground. "Do the dance!" 

Yet Lenderman appeared to be lost in thought. "We're proud of you man, we want to celebrate you!" a fan exclaimed, but Lenderman still seemed detached, removed from the moment. Someone initiated a chant, and two dozen chess players joined in the chorus of "Len-der-man, Len-der-man" as they clapped their hands and stomped their feet.

GM-elect Alex Lenderma, Photo Jennifer Shahade 
Slowly, Lenderman raised a hand and made eye contact with the crowd. "He's gonna speak!" someone shouted, and everyone turned to "shush" his neighbor. Would Lenderman agree to repeat his celebrated steps, or would he graciously bow out? The crowd's ears strained to catch the soft-spoken words coming from America's newest grandmaster. "I think," Lenderman said, "I will do the dance!" More fans enveloped Lenderman in a tight circle as he began to swing his arms up and down to the robotic beat of the Lenderman Boogie. Sporadic applause, cheers, and wild screams erupted from the spectators, who were constantly growing in number as the Boogie progressed. By the time Lenderman was break-dancing on the floor, at least three of the lighter spectators had mounted the shoulders of their taller friends to get a better view. Remarking on the cost of entering the blitz event (which ran from about 11:00 P.M. to 2:00 A.M.), the player to my right in the crowd turned to face me and said, "This was totally worth my $40." 

With the Lenderman Boogie and the blitz event to get things kicked off, the World Open continued to break down into a full-fledged party. After the close of nine long rounds of chess, the players were ready to celebrate in the manner of their choosing - be it bughouse, inebriation, or a little of both. The main ballroom area stayed open throughout the night, so there was plenty of room to spread out; I stuck to the "just bughouse" side myself. 

For celebrated blitz master Yaacov Norowitz, who won the blitz event with 9.5/10.0 for the $400 first prize, settling into a cozy armchair and taking a thorough nap proved the best way to pass the wee hours of the morning. Norowitz took the title of World Open Blitz Champion quite handily, topping a field which included a number of GMs. He mentioned his "blitz trainer" Marc Esserman as someone who has been particularly influential to his game, and said that he got his lightning-fast pattern recognition skills from playing two or three week's worth of queen-odds games against rank amateurs for money. "It really teaches you how to use all your pieces," he said. "My online blitz rating went from 2700 to 3100 practically overnight." 

GM Evgeny Najer. Photo Chris Bird
Switching subjects, the main event was won by GM Evgeny Najer of Russia, who recovered nicely from his loss against Nakamura in Round 7 to defeat GMs Alexander Shabalov and Jaan Ehlvest on the last day. The much-anticipated Round 8 showdown between the two tournament leaders, U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura and GM Victor Mikhalevski of Israel, never took place - your humble reporter (in a typical Philadelphia oversight) had completed forgotten that the former had taken two half-point byes in the last round in order to head to the San Sebastian tournament in Europe, which began on July 7 (check out the official website here.)

Mikhalevski suffered two devastating losses on the tournament's last day: the first to his fellow countryman, GM Ilya Smirin, and the second to GM Jiri Stocek of the Czech Republic. This left both Nakamura and Najer at the top with 7.0/9.0, with Najer being declared the World Open Champion since a blitz playoff was not possible. This is Najer's second year winning the World Open crown, though last year he split with three others instead of just one. Nakamura and Najer should each receive around $15,000 in prize money. 



In other news, IM Alex Lenderman was not the only player who earned a norm at this year's World Open. Leonid Gerzhoy, an International Master from Canada, secured a GM norm with a last-round draw against GM Alexander Ivanov. Another Canadian, FM Bindi Cheng, achieved an IM norm. And finally, FM Michael Lee from the state of Washington, just 15 years old, earned an IM norm with a solid string of wins and draws for 5.0/9.0. Heartbreakingly close to an IM norm was NM Kassa Korley of New York, who finished with 5.0/9.0 but still needed a draw in the last round against GM Eugene Perelshteyn to make his norm. "I feel like I missed a chance," the young master remarked. Korley, who is part Danish, is already making plans for his next big tournament, however - he's heading back to Denmark for the summer and will be participating in a powerful 10-round FIDE event there later this month. 

In closing, I would like to say how much I enjoyed this year's World Open. The tournament may be huge, but I certainly felt that I contributed my part to this historic event. I brought a number of notable gimmicks and curiosities with me to my rounds, including a blossoming flower pen given me by Ohio Girls' Champion Rebecca Lelko. It was intended to make me look "more intimidating," to use her own words. I also wore GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz's UMBC name tag religiously to all my rounds. I managed to play a handful of games using my favorite "Wojo" systems, though my ultimate score of 5.0/9.0 in the U2400 Section was a bit anticlimactic, if still respectable. Both the flower pen and the name tag received a number of stares and comments from players and passers-by alike, so I was never in search of a conversation piece.

autotrucks.jpg The biggest thing I contributed to this year's World Open event, however, actually began with my attempted participation last year. Mysteriously, ever since my "incident," a number of signs have started sprouting up all over Philadelphia. The following graphic depiction of a stick figure receiving a mighty blow is now mounted at the parking lot between the Sheraton Hotel and Rex's Pizza. Many thanks to New York chess coach John MacArthur for both taking the picture and attempting to draw glasses on the stick figure with a sharpie marker. Assuming I survive my final day in Philadelphia before heading home, I'll be able to enjoy these signs every time I return in the years to come.

Check out complete standings, photos, pgn files and more on the World Open homepage. Also see U.S. Chess Scoop episode #3 to see how Lenderman got norm #2!


July - Chess Life Online 2009

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