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Awonder and Ivanov Top Junior & Senior Opens Print E-mail
By Chris Wainscott   
June 17, 2015
Awonder Liang, Photo Bill Feldman

From Friday June 12th through Sunday June 14th the US Junior and Senior Opens were contested over six rounds at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg, IL.

This year's edition of the Junior Open featured 184 players from 17 states and DC.  The Senior Open featured 74 players also from 17 states and DC, but added a second country as well with William Doubleday arriving from Ontario, Canada!

The Senior Open featured two GM's in Alexander Ivanov and local Chicago resident Dmitry Gurevich, along with IM Angelo Young (another Chicagoan), and FM's Doug Eckert, Karl Dehmelt, and Albert Chow, the third local titled player who participated.

After four rounds the only two perfect scores remaining were the two Grandmasters.  Their matchup came on Sunday morning, and the game ended almost as quickly as it began with a five move draw. 

I spoke with GM Ivanov about this shortly afterwards and his stance was that the tournament situation called for neither of the players to take chances at that point, so while he was prepared for a long fight, he immediately accepted the draw when it was offered.  (For more information on my take on these types of situations please see the post on my blog at http://www.chessiq.com/sometimes-reality-gets-in-the-way/)

Unfortunately for GM Gurevich, this particular version of the Swiss Gambit backfired when he was paired with IM Angelo Young in the last round whereas GM Ivanov had the much easier pairing, of James Voelker, an Expert from Missouri.

When the dust settled IM Young had held GM Gurevich to a draw while GM Ivanov had won his game to finish a half point ahead, and take this year's Senior Open title.

Meanwhile, in the U21 Junior Section some tense battles were being fought to claim the coveted prize of a spot in the 2016 US Junior Closed.  FM Awonder Liang cruised to a 6-0 victory which included strong opposition in the last three rounds in the forms of FM Sasha Velikanov, Andrew Tang, and IM-Elect Artulya Shetty.

During each of the final three games mentioned above Awonder was offered a draw by his opponent, and each time he declined the offer and brought home the full point.  Impressively he chose to do this in the last round as well when the draw would have secured sole first place!

Showing a maturity that surpasses his young age, Awonder said of his win "I am very happy that I was able to win such a strong event with a perfect score.  The games with FM Velikanov in round four, with IM Tang in the penultimate round, and with IM-Elect Shetty in the final round were very difficult.  I took some risks in declined draw offers from all of them at some point of our games.  At the end, my fighting spirits paid off and I was lucky to win these tough encounters." [Editor's Note: Andrew Tang told CLO that he did no offer a draw at any point in the game.] 

I asked a number of the participants what the driving force was in their decision to play in the event.

Awonder said "I have played numerous chess tournaments in Mr. Sevan Muradian's North American Chess Center since the very beginning of my chess career.  I and my family see Mr. Muradian as a friend and supporter to my chess development.  The main reason my brothers, Adream and Able who are semi-retired from chess, and I chose to play in the US Junior Open was to have some fun and support Mr. Muradian."  He continued "The second reason for me to compete in the event is that it was FIDE rated.  I want to have more chances to raise my FIDE rating to help in getting my FIDE titles since I have limited opportunities to compete in FIDE rated events due to the financial limitations of my family and the lacking of serious institutional support."

He certainly made the most of that opportunity as his FIDE rating should be right at the 2400 mark once this event is rated, leaving him short only one performance norm of getting the International Master title.  Currently he has more than seven month in which to score his last norm and break Sam Sevian's record as youngest American IM of all time (Sevian was 12 years, ten months, Awonder is currently 12 years, two months.)

Overall, the tournament appeared to make a mostly positive impression on the participants.  Tom Braunlich of Oklahoma said "The playing site was terrific; with great conditions, first class hotel rooms at a good price, and lots of local things to do. Some senior players want the event to be held in more of a vacation resort setting, for example in Orlando Florida or on a cruise ship, to make the whole experience a holiday. They don't mind the extra expense, but not all interested seniors can afford that. I think a site like this which is nice but also affordable works much better."

He went on to say "Many of the older participants complain about the playing schedule of two games per day, and would prefer only one, since for seniors there can be an issue with stamina. I sympathize with that, but of course that doubles the hotel expenses for those who must come from out of town."

While some seniors may indeed be looking for a one game a day schedule, Daniel Perelman, the winner of the U11 section said that if he would have had the choice "I would've added another round on Saturday."

FM Doug Eckert point out the real reason that so many of the seniors come to play in this event "Playing the up and coming kids is really tough these days.  I am trying to do that also.  But, it was nice to play against players I have known for a long time, have a similar perspective on the game, and whom I can relate to at an adult level after the game.  I had the pleasure of catching up with many old friends at dinner and had a good time."
Anupama Rajendra, Photo  Bill Feldman

The complete list of section winners is as follows:

Senior Open: GM Alexander Ivanov

Junior Open U21: FM Awonder Liang

Junior Open U15: Anupama Rajendra

Junior Open U11: Daniel Perelman
Junior Open U8:  Sanjay Rajjan

Daniel Perelman, Photo  Bill Feldman

There were many hard fought battles as each section had its own clear first place winner.

A major point of pride for this author's current state of residence is that three of the four Junior Open winners hail from Wisconsin!

Find full final standings of the US Junior Open and US Senior Open on MSA.