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Kamsky Takes World Open Title on Tiebreak Over Adams Print E-mail
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
July 5, 2011
Photo by Betsy Dynako
Philadelphia -- As Fourth of July fireworks lit up the sky here in the city where America was born, more than a thousand chess enthusiasts were busy watching or setting off fireworks of a different sort at the 39th annual World Open.

If there were a grand finale at the seven-day mega chess tournament, it definitely included the exhilarating blitz tie-breaker between GMs Gata Kamsky and Michael Adams -- the two top open competitors who both emerged with 7 points in the 9-round Swiss tournament, enabling them to split the top prize at $14,267 a piece, plus a first place bonus of $308 to Kamsky for winning the tiebreak.


The win by Kamsky sealed his place as the official champion of the 2011 World Open. But like many GMs who take top honors at major open events, Kamsky kept his eyes on future tournaments. He said the World Open gave him a chance to “get the rust off” in preparation for the World Chess Team Championship he’ll be competing in in China later this month.

 “Now, I feel like I can play some chess,” Kamsky said in an interview with Chess Life Online, almost as if all of his recent enviable accomplishments -- including winning the 2011 U.S. Championship -- didn’t already constitute evidence enough of his prowess on the 64 squares.

Kamsky said he was particularly pleased to see so many youths in attendance at the World Open because of what it signifies about the vibrancy of chess.

 “I was happy to see young faces here,” Kamsky. “It means chess is getting more and more popular.”

Indeed, among the various feats at the World Open that have the potential to light a chess fire among America’s youth, one of most significant would be the performance of James Black, Jr., who -- at the age of 12 -- evidently got enough rating points through his three wins and two draws in the Under 2400 section to earn the title of National Master. (Update: the rating calculations from the tourney are now official on MSA, and put James just six points below master.) 

 “Yes!” an excited James said as he held up his arms Rocky-style in a third-floor walkway at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, where Chess Life Online just happened to be at the precise moment that James used a rating estimator to determine that he had surpassed the 2200 level -- 2204 to be exact, based on James’ estimate.

 “It feels good to be a master,” James told Chess Life Online. “It feels great to do it. Like this is like the biggest tournament in the world, if not, the U.S. And so many players are here.”

While the National Title master is still technically unofficial, observers say the likely accomplishment puts James at a height that most players will never reach, let alone those who will do so at as young an age as James.

 “What he’s done at 12 is really a great accomplishment,” said Daaim Shabazz, operator of The Chess Drum, a website devoted to the chess world in general and the African diaspora in particular.

Shabazz said James’ experience shows what can be accomplished when you put in work.

Indeed, James said that he studies chess as much as six hours per day. His next goal is to break GM Ray Robson’s record of becoming America’s youngest GM at the age of 14.

Robson was also at the Open, coming just a half a point shy of first place along with five other GMs, Mesgen Amanov, Pendyala Harikrishna, Loek Van Wely, Ilya Smirin and Timur Gareyev.  In the final round, Robson drew a long and drawn-out battle with Harikrishna -- winner of the 2011 Asian Continental Individual Chess Championship -- in the ninth and final round of the World Open.


While the World Open afforded some fame and fortune to some of the strongest players on the planet -- actually in the entire universe until beings from another planet prove otherwise -- it also did the same for more casual or up and coming players from all walks of life.

For instance, Delonta Richardson, a 21-year-old Washington, D.C. resident who is currently enrolled at the Earle C. Clements Job Corps Center in Morganfield, Ky., was giddy with a smile from almost ear to ear after being declared the top Under 1400 player in the Under 1600 section.

Richardson attributed his success to doing “a lot of cardio” in order to get a lot air to his brain in order to think more clearly.

He said he planned to use his winnings to visit Atlantic City and to enter the upcoming 4th Annual Chicago Class Championship.

One of the biggest winners was Tommy Wallace, 45, a civil engineer and virgin tournament player from Cincinnati, Ohio, who scored an impressive 8.5 points in the Under 1300 section, 
“I heard it’s rare,” Wallace said when asked about the remarkable nature of his eye-catching victory in his first-ever major tournament.

 “I was kind of surprised myself that I was able to win,” Wallace said, revealing that he favors the Queen’s gambit as white and the King’s Indian as black.

Wallace credited “nine guys at McDonald’s” where he plays chess regularly in Cincinnati for helping him to sharpen his game.

The hefty prize money affected tournament players and their tournament decisions in different ways and some it didn’t seem to phase at all.

For instance, Bronson Gentry, a 31-year-old security officer at General Motors in Detroit, Mich., (not to be confused with his twin brother, Loyd Gentry, who also played in the tournament) says he purposefully stayed away from tournaments throughout the year because he didn’t want to shoot his rating up over 2000 before he won something in the Under 2000 section at the World Open.

However, James Black, Jr., -- the newly-minted pre-teen master -- deliberately chose to play in the 2400 section at the World Open in order to play stronger players, even though he could have played in the Under 2200 section and virtually assured himself some prize money.

 “The money isn’t my focus right now,” James said. “I’m playing in stronger sections because I want to get better.”

Go to  World Open for complete standings, a pgn file and more. Also look for a US Chess Scoop video from the scene later this week. 

May - Chess Life Online 2011

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