Khachiyan Wins American Open
By Randy Hough   
November 29, 2012
In its 48th incarnation and the second at the Doubletree Hotel in the City of Orange, California (see our report on last year’s event), the American Open had a familiar winner and some new features. GM Melikset Khachiyan took clear with 6½ of 8 in the 25-player Open section.

Playing in the relatively leisurely four-day schedule, Khachiyan laid down his marker in Round 3 against the formidable IM Roman Yankovsky:


Khac.jpgThis writer in his last article showed a game Khachiyan should have won in the ubiquitous “Giuoco Pianissimo”; this time, he came through. Note that he’s not afraid to play …h6 and …g5 and then castle when White plays Bg5, which he believes to be a mistake. White can never play h4, which would allow …g4 and …Nh5. The position was close to equal (14.Ne3 would have improved for White, and Khachiyan feels White should have played a4 at some point, and shouldn’t have played d4, but 18…Nh5 was less than accurate), Yankovsky erroneously opts to trade queens on move 27 rather than marking time. Khachiyan regains the initiative, and 31.Rd1 loses as Black gains a critical tempo by attacking the rook on move 32, after which the Rf2 becomes trapped. (Though 35…hxg3 induced resignation, 35…Rxf2+ was mate in three…)

A grueling game against young the young Southern California co-champion then left Melik with a 4-0 score, with only a three-day player, IM Andranik Matikozyan (a 2009 co-winner) within a half point. In this game, White uncorks an attractive opposite bishops attack (13…Bxc4 and then 20…Na4 rather than …Bg5 are culprits), prolongs the game by missing 34.Kh3, but still transitions into a won ending.


A quick draw with Matikozyan followed as the playing schedules merged, then a win over GM Enrico Sevillano (the 2010 co-winner may have been a bit “chessed out” after playing in swisses four of the preceding five weekends). Draws with FM John Bryant and GM Josh Friedel (who was also in the 2010 tie) followed.

Matikozyan, a half-point behind, drew quickly with Krishnan in the finale, leaving Khachiyan alone on top. Khachiyan has now won three clear titles (most recently in 2008), two on tiebreaks, and tied twice. The champ’s chess activity for the next year will be in focused in Los Angeles, except for trips to San Diego and Reno.

And the beautiful wood sets and boards provided by organizer Chess Palace for the top two games failed to get a proper workout in several rounds!

Matikozyan’s favorite game actually came in the first round of the Game/60 schedule, against an up and coming young master. 6…Nbc6 has scored better in this unusual line of the Winawer French. 11…Re8, preparing an exit strategy for the king, appears inferior to 11…Qc7, which prevents White’s Ng5. In the game continuation, snagging the e5 pawn is too high a price to pay for Black’s displaced king – especially when he finds himself on e7 with the e-file half open!


Matikozyan also downed Bryant and 2008 co-champ Julian Landaw in the fast schedule; like Khachiyan, he beat Sevillano in the merged schedule.

Bryant (Sevillano’s stepson) downed veteran IM Jack Peters in the last round to earn a share of second place. After 17…Ne8? White got a great endgame and went on to win, though 18.Rxd7 certainly appears just to win two pieces for a rook.


Landaw.jpgIn clear fourth place with 5 points was Landaw, a recent Cal grad (Go Bears!) in applied math and statistics. He hasn’t played in many big events since starting college four years ago; in that year he tied for first in the Denker tournament of high school champions as well as in the American Open. His last round win over the always-dangerous FM Eduardo Ortiz shows that the Closed Sicilian, despite its fall from fashion, still retains some venom. 11…Nb4 and later 14…Ne7 gave Black better chances to stay in the game. As it went, White’s better pieces and pressure on the g2 diagonal led to a quick win.


At this point it may be appropriate to mention some who didn’t play. Last year’s champ, GM Varuzhan Akobian, is now living in Kansas. IM Zhanibek Amanov, who lives in LA and tied for third last year, was busy with school. Still, the organizers must have hoped that a guarantee of over $5600 in the top section would bring out a few more masters!

There was one strong addition this year: Mexican IM Dionisio Aldama, winner of last August’s Second Metropolitan International. But his first round showed the hazards of Game/60, as he “flagged” while up a piece against FM Mark Duckworth, precipitating an unpleasant dispute. He lost again in the next game, as Ortiz defused some tactical tricks and finally won a technical minor piece ending with an outside passer. Aldama ultimately finished 1-3 in the fast schedule and 3-1 in the slow one for an even score. Playing simultaneously in two events, he gained a measure of solace by winning the Action tournament Sunday.
Duckworth—Aldama, the calm before the storm


The colorful veteran Duckworth (who makes a cameo appearance as “the fat man” in the book Searching for Bobby Fischer) downed fellow FM Eugene Yanayt in the finale. Black was doing fine in the tactics – until he couldn’t resist a discovered check that dropped his stranded knight on a5!


Landaw earned the Under 2450 prize, and Ortiz (who also won the Blitz) the Under 2300. GM Friedel (who drew five games and byed another round) joined Sevillano and Krishnan in a fifth place tie at 5.

Ward and Liao
As usual, the class section winners displayed both patterns and anomalies. Under 2200 co-winners Simone Liao, 13 (this year’s US rep in the Girls World Junior) and Jonathan Homidan, 15, were joined by 54 year-old John Ward, coming off a six-year layoff! Under 2000 honors were shared by last year’s Under 1800 co-winner, 15-year-old Leo Creger (that’s what we like to see), Karl Tolentino, and Wes White, the 2011…Under 2000 co-winner! Well, Wes is 62 and swears his rating hasn’t been above 2013 in recent years.

The Under 1800 section saw a smaller tie at 7-1, with local Bryan Shapiro and ten-year-old Derek Zhang of Washington state, who came down and pocketed 93 rating points. These two lapped the field by 1½ points. Under 1600 saw a clear winner, Jeff Sinick of Northern California, also at 7-1, earning 220 points.

U2000 co-winner Creger
Finally, the Under 1400 group had a perfect score for the second year in a row, with 12-year-old George Shan sweeping his opponents aside and winning by a point and a half. A last round draw offer would likely have elicited an affirmative response from his opponent (who by then trailed him by 2½ points), but George aims at perfection! He gained 157 points, but I should also mention the Kliewer brothers, Caleb and Samuel, who, starting  below 1000, gained 337 and 146 points respectively!

Winners in the larger (292 players) scholastic tournament in the varsity sections included Daniel Wong (K-12), Daniel Zhu (K-6), and Alexander Costello (K-3). All won by at least a full point in the six-rounder. Two hundred trophies were handed out. Ben Deng’s Beyond Chess program dominated the club competition.

The Scholastic again ensured the financial success of the American Open, though from a traditionalist viewpoint, a price was paid. The ballroom was taken over Saturday and Sunday, leaving the adults playing in three scattered rooms, and the demo boards that had graced the Open section the first two days vanished. On the upside, there was one more lecture than last year, with Khachiyan presenting two of his games (including the one that enabled him to pass the American Open leader in 2006) with cogent comments. And the always-popular IM Jeremy Silman successfully battled the flu to make it down to Orange and present his unique brand of instruction and humor.

The Ong family (Alfredo, Celia, Charlene, Alfred, Anthony, Aldrich, and Aaron) of Chess Palace, aided and abetted by Chuck Rice as floor TD and a large cast of Scholastic helpers, again worked indefatigably to put on a great tournament. Plenty of non-prizewinners got gift certificates for their plus scores. The Doubletree and nearby Block at Orange mall again elicited many favorable comments from the participants. As the American Open inches closer to its 50-year anniversary, we hope to see many both new and not-so-new faces next year!
Find USCF rated results on MSA.