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Upsets Kick Off World Open Print E-mail
By Jonathan Hilton   
July 3, 2008
Marc Arnold pulled off a big round 1 upset. Photo Jonathan Hilton
This is my first time traveling to the World Open in Philadelphia , and the one thing I’ve noticed thus far is that everybody seems so happy. Don’t get me wrong, at the start of most chess tournaments, there are plenty of happy folks. This tournament, however, has an atmosphere of sheer euphoria unlike that of any other. Since I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia on Tuesday evening, I’ve talked to literally dozens of people—and not a single one has displayed any outward form of pre-tournament blues. I’m still trying to get my head around it, but I have decided that something about the World Open is special—special enough to draw hundreds of players from around the country, reuniting old chess pals and creating a powerful sense of elation across every board in every section.

      At the start of the first round, the question on my mind was whether this jovial atmosphere would facilitate or impede the playing of high-quality chess. After all, I’d spent all Wednesday meeting up with new and old friends, hopping from one restaurant to the next! I suspected several other players had done the same. I awaited eagerly the start of the first round to gain some insight into my question.

      I’m writing this at about 12:30 A.M., towards the end of the round for most players, and I believe I’ve found a possible answer. The young players seem to be benefiting the most from the aura of enthusiasm generated by this tournament; they have been playing strong, solid chess in their first-round struggles to achieve upsets in the Open Section. 15-year-old Marc Tyler Arnold defeated top seed GM Vadim Milov to score what will likely be the most impressive upset of the tournament. Closely following, however, was the defeat of GM Alexander Shabalov by Californian Sam Shankland in a highly one-sided attacking game.



Shulman and Yeager

      FM Daniel Yeager, who recently played in the U.S. Junior Closed, drew with Black against current U.S. Champion GM Yuri Shulman, and Canadian FM Bindi Cheng drew with 2700+ rated GM Jiri Stocek.

Also notable was WFM Alisa Melekhina’s draw with 2550+ rated IM Renier Gonzalez; meanwhile, we cannot forget Japanese high-schooler Shinsaku “Shin” Uesugi’s draw with GM-elect Joshua Friedel. The list goes on and on—out of the dozen boards or so, it appears that there were more upset wins or draws than “normal” results! Finally, I’d like to offer a big shout-out to FM Robby Adamson, who drew his game with 2650+ rated Victor Mikhalevski.


 While Robby is no teenager himself, my guess is he benefited from the energy of the prominent Arizona (corrected- 7.2.08) group of scholastic players he coaches. Congratulations to everyone who pulled off an upset in the Open Section!

      My own experience in Round 1 of the U2400 Section has allowed me to refine the conclusions I made regarding calculation back in my Chicago Open blogs. I faced off with NM Chris Williams in one of my favorite Black openings, the Grünfeld.


Williams went for a sharp mainline featuring an exchange sacrifice, and the crucial position in the diagram below was reached:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 0–0 9.Be3 Nc6 10.0–0 Bg4 11.f3 cxd4 12.cxd4 Na5 13.Bd3 Be6 14.d5 Bxa1 15.Qxa1 f6 16.Bh6 Re8 17.Kh1


White wants to break with e4-e5. The idea behind Kh1 is to prevent nasty ...Qb6+ tricks that could help me defend the f6 square. So far, this has all been theory, but unfortunately here my theoretical knowledge ended. However, I spotted an attractive idea: luring White into playing e4-e5 and then counterattacking his center with the maneuver ...Be6-d7-c6!! I calculated here 17...Bd7 18. e5 Bc6!? 19. dxc6?! Qxd3 20. exf6 Qxe2 21. Re1 exf6!? (I missed the simple 21...Qc4!, winning) 22. Rxe2 Rxe2 23. h4 Nxc6! 24. Qxf6 Re7 with a good game for Black. My calculations were deep, so I confidently played...
17...Rc8 with the idea of ...Nc4 has been played more often, and is preferable.
 18.e5 Bc6?
 An awful over-the-board novelty.
Ouch! Suddenly, my entire plan is ruined. With this simple knight thrust, all of my counterplay is destroyed. [19.dxc6 Qxd3 20.exf6 Qxe2 21.Re1 exf6 (21...Qc4) 22.Rxe2 Rxe2 23.h4 Nxc6 24.Qxf6 Re7]
20.Rd1! Bf7
20...e6? 21.exf6 Kf7 22.Bg7 and h2-h4-h5 gives White a crushing position.
Again, my calculations had been of decent length--but not particularly helpful. In addition to this move by White, I had analyzed 21.Bxg6 hxg6 22.Rxd8 Rexd8! 23.e6 Be8 with a good game for Black;; 21.Bb5 Qb6 22.Bxe8 Rxe8 23.Re1 Rd8! when Black's position is defendable. However, the text move simply wins for White, no matter how deep I calculated.
 21...Qb6 22.exf7+ Kxf7
 Despite having a rook and two pawns for two pieces, Black is utterly lost. He cannot stop White's brutal attack, which features Black's king getting stuck in the crossfire of White's two bishops.
23.Nd5 Qc5 24.Be3!
Highlighting the awkwardness of my queen.
24...Qc8 25.Qd4!
White transfers his queen to the kingside, effectively ending the game!
 25...Nc6 26.Qh4 Rh8 27.Bc4 Na5 28.Nb6+ Nxc4 29.Nxc8 Nxe3 30.Re1 and here I was forced to resign in view of 30...Nd5 31. Qc4. 1–0

My conclusion? Besides the realization that perhaps I ought to know more theory, I think sometimes I get so carried away in my calculations I play overly fanciful maneuvers. When I found my sneaky …Bd7-c6 maneuver, I was on top of the world! My position just looked so good; surely White’s center must crumble in the wake of my active pieces. Plus, I felt super tricky for “re-sacking” my bishop to the d5 pawn. Then Chris Williams found the one-mover 19. Nf4! and I was in big trouble! Kudos to Chris for executing a highly accurate attacking game, and for finishing me off in short order. The game was over in a mere two-and-a-half hours, giving us both plenty of time to rest for our next games—one thing is for sure, though, Williams is off to a great start. Perhaps he’ll score a second IM norm this tournament—something which is quite possible even in the U2400 Section!

Check back in a few days as I continue to blog from the World Open, and monitor the excitement level of the tournament over the next four days!