Vallejo Reigns in Vegas
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
January 1, 2012
Once again a year of chess was capped off by the 21st Annual North American Open, held at the Bally's Casino in Las Vegas. With one of the largest prize funds each year, tournament organizer Bill Goichberg always attracts many players from all over the world to participate in the event. This year was no exception, with 600 players playing in the tournament. This meant about 90% of the advertised $120,000 prize fund would be paid out.

GM Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain, who normally holds a FIDE rating of over 2700 and has participated in many super-tournaments, won clear first in the open section with a score of 6/7. For his efforts he took home the first place prize of over $9000! Tied for second place was GM Varuzhan Akobian of Los Angeles, GM Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands, and IM-elect Roman Yankovsky of Los Angeles with 5.5/7. Vallejo Pons cruised to victory, never leaving the top board and only yielding draws to Sokolov and Akobian. His most important wins were in round five over GM Alexander Shabalov and in round six over GM Nikola Mitkov.

Vallejo Pons,Francisco (2778) - Shabalov,Alexander (2600)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Nec3 Nc6 12.Ne3 g6 13.Ncd5 Bh6 14.c3 0-0 15.Bc4 Rc8 16.0-0 Nb8 17.Bb3 Nd7 18.Qe2 Qh4 19.Rad1 Kg7 20.Nc4 Nc5 21.Ncb6 Rcd8 22.Bc2
22...f5?! This allows White to achieve a large positional advantage, but it is hard to blame GM Shabalov as he was a half-point behind Vallejo Pons and needed to complicate matters if he was interested in any winning chances (22...Nd7+=) 23.exf5 gxf5 24.f4! e4 White's advantage is unquestionable--his knights have many weaknesses to exploit while Black's bishops don't have any good targets) 24...exf4!? Looks bad at first, but perhaps Black could use the e-file for counterplay in the future. Nevertheless, White is still much better after 25.Nc4) 25.Kh2!
Preparing g3 to kick the active queen away and simply win the h5 pawn 25...Rb8 26.g3 (26.b4 Bxd5 (26...Nd7 27.Nc7) 27.Nxd5 Ne6 28.g3 Qd8 29.Qxh5 Was also winning and perhaps even stronger) 26...Qd8 27.Qxh5 Rh8 28.Qe2 Kf8 29.b4! After this move all of Black's become are poorly placed 29...Nd7 30.Nc4
White is absolutely winning here because he has an extra pawn, more active pieces, and the fatal threat of Nxd6 which is undefendable 1-0

His game against GM Mitkov was a very interesting struggle, which I'd rather not annotate since I hardly understand what went on but Vallejo Pons came out on top after many strategic complications.


GM Varuzhan Akobian went undefeated to reach 5.5/7, his crucial victories coming in round four, over GM Mikheil Kekelidze and round six over IM Adam Hunt of England.


GM Ivan Sokolov also went undefeated, tying for second place thanks to a critical last round win over GM Mitkov.

Sokolov,Ivan (2676) - Mitkov,Nikola (2576) 1-0
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Nge2 Re8 8.Bd2 Bd6 9.Rc1 a6 10.0-0 Nbd7 11.Ng3 c5 12.Bb1 b6 13.Qf3 Bb7 14.Nf5 Bf8 15.Qg3 g6 16.Nd6 Bxd6 17.Qxd6
17...Ne4?! Missing his chance to completely change the character of the battle (17...Re5!! Trapping the queen! 18.dxe5 Ne8 19.Qxd5 Bxd5 20.Nxd5 Nxe5 21.e4=+ White has good chances to hold here, but Black is the one in command; 17...Rc8 18.Qf4=+) 18.Nxe4 dxe4 19.Bc3 Simple and strong, Black is unable to prevent White from opening up the long diagonal, where his dark-squared bishop will be unopposed 19...Re6 20.Qf4 c4 21.f3! When you possess the two bishops, open the position for 'em! 21...f5 If Black just had enough time here to consolidate with Bd5 and Nf6 they would be all right, but 22.d5!


A very strong and thematic pawn sacrifice to keep the position from remaning blocked 22...Bxd5 23.Rcd1 Nc5 (23...Bc6 24.fxe4 Bxe4 (24...fxe4 25.Qf7#) 25.Bxe4 Rxe4 26.Qd6 The exposed Black king and pressure on the d-file give White a decisive advantage--e.g: 26...Re7 27.Qd4+-) 24.fxe4 Nxe4 25.g4? Correct in spirit (open the position!), but allows Black some tactical chances (25.Be5! was winning, with the unstoppable threat of Bxe4 followed by Rxd5 and Qf7# 25...Nc5 (25...Qd7 26.Bxe4 fxe4 27.Rxd5 Qxd5 28.Qf7#) 26.e4!+-] 25...Nxc3 Not the best-Black had two clearly better alternatives: (25...Ng5!? threatening Nh3+ 26.Qg3 fxg4 27.h4 forced, to give the King a square on h2 27...Nf3+ 28.Rxf3 gxf3 29.e4 Qe7 30.Rxd5 Rd8 White probably has better chances here, but neither King is particularly safe which makes this position extremely complicated; 25...Qd6 26.Qxd6 Rxd6 27.Be5 Rd7 28.gxf5 This endgame seems unpleasant for Black, but with accurate defense it should be holdable) 26.bxc3 Rd6? (26...Qd6 was necessary to stay in the game: 27.gxf5 Qxf4 28.Rxf4 Re5 29.fxg6 hxg6 30.Bxg6 Rg5+ 31.Kf2 Rg2+ 32.Kf1 Rxg6 33.Rxd5 with seemingly good winning chances for White) 27.gxf5
Breaking open the kingside, White has an overwhelming attack 27...Rd7 28.f6 Bf7 (28...Be6 saves a tempo, but White is simply winning after 29.Bc2! Qe8 30.Rxd7 Qxd7 31.Rd1 Qf7 32.Rd6+- The f6-pawn is too strong and White's pieces are much more active) 29.Qh6 Be6 30.Rd6!
30...Qe8 31.Be4! Rad8 I'm not sure whether Mitkov resigned after making his move or if the next move wasn't entered into Monroi, but either way White wins a decisve amount of material after 32.Bc6 1-0

IM-Elect Roman Yankovsky won his first two games, lost to Sokolov in round three, then came roaring back with three straight wins and could have tied for first had he converted his last round effort against Shabalov.


Although I think most of the players were happy with the tournament though there were a few hiccups such as salty water for the open section and random tests of the hotel's PA announcements. The location couldn't be better, as Bally's Casino is located right on the Las Vegas Strip. Check for more games and full standings. The 2012 North American Open be held from December 26-29 2012 and again boast a very large prize fund, hope to see you there!

Final Standings

Open 1st : GM Francisco Vallejo Pons-6/7
2nd-4th: GM Varuzhan Akobian, GM Ivan Sokolov, GM Roman Yankovsky-5.5/7
5th-11th: GM Alexander Shabalov, IM Marc Tyler Arnold, IM Adam Hunt, IM Enrico Sevillano, IM Mackenzie Molner, IM Jake Kleiman-5/7

U2300 1st:: Tanraj Sohal-6/7
2nd-6th : Giovanni Carreto, FM Aleksandar Stamnov, FM Stevosl Dorobanov, Martin Nilsson, Edward Perepelitsky-5.5/7

U2100 1st: Alejandro Ruiz Jr.-6.5/7
2nd-6th: Igor Ummel, Lawrence Wolfley, Richard Ding, Bryan Doyle, Benjamin Tong-5.5/7

U1900 1st: Esteban Escobedo-6.5/7
2nd: Owen Qian-6/7
3rd-6th: Solomon Ruddell, James Egerton, Pierce Shaad, Alan Rodenstein-5.5/7

U1700 1st: Constantin Rotariu-6/7

1st-3rd: Steven Clark, Scott David Wade, Rezwan Abir-6/7
4th-5th: Alexander Martin, Arman Hairapetyan-5.5/7

U1250 1st-4th: Naomi Bashkansky, Juan Ramos, Atri Surapaneni, Michael Wayn Rose-6/7
5th-6th Stephen Shu, Srinivas Susarla-5.5/7

Kostya Kavutskiy recently contributed the popular article "Breaking 2366" to CLO.