Akobian Wins; Friedel and Zenyuk Wow
By J.Shahade/B. Dynako   
May 26, 2008
Varuzhan Akobian in Tulsa last week, Photo Betsy Dynako
After seven rounds of tough chess in the top-heavy 2008 Chicago Open (May 23-26) , Varuzhan Akobian, Hikaru Nakamura and Tigran Petrosian headed the crosstable with 5.5 points each. The title victory (plus a 300$ bonus) came down to an Armageddon  battle, which Akobian and Petrosian contested, since they had better tiebreaks. In need of a victory, Akobian chose a quiet line against Tigran's Grunfeld defense, but came out ahead a pawn after a long and narrow tactical line starting with 13. cxd5 and ending with 22.Rc7, or 24. Ng5. Petrosian had some stalemate tricks at the end, but even in blitz it wasn't hard for Akobian to find 48. Kd4 instead of the awful 48. Kd6? which would allow Re6!, drawing instantly.


Nakamura and Petrosian set themselves up for tie for a first by winning their sixth round games against fellow GMs Kolev and Mitkov. Then, in round 7, Nakamura and Petrosian were paired and had a quick draw.



Akobian defeated Mexican GM Alonso Zapata in the final round to earn his spot in the winner's circle.

Josh Friedel won his third GM norm in Tulsa and in Chicago, he earned the rating points for the title.

The other big news in the tournament included striking performances by young players such as Josh Friedel and Iryna Zenyuk. Josh Friedel earned the necessary points for his GM title- he defeated GMs Hikaru Nakamura and the current champ, Yury Shulman. In his creative win against Shulman, Friedel made an unclear piece sack.

Position after 23.fg3

Friedel played Nxg3 hxg3 Bxg3, earning an exchange back as well as a scary attack that eventually prevailed.


Iryna Zenyuk in Chicago

Iryna Zenyuk scored two upsets in Chicago, including a last round miniature win over Matt Parry. Parry erred with 17.c4? which allowed 17...Qf3! winning instantly since Qd1 is mated in two to Qe4. Instead, d3 holds on the e4 square and the game would go on.


Chicago Open

Final Standings
1-3 Varuzhan Akobian, Tigran Petrosian and Hikaru Nakamura- 5.5
U2300 Alexander Betaneli and Justin D Daniel- 6
U2100 John Rinaldo and Steve Saidi- 6
Alex Gianos-Steinberg-6.5
Ariel Gerardo- 6.5
U1500 David Jin- 6.5
Fedor Titov- 6.5
Chad Hirsch and Corbin Rudnick- 6
   Joshua J. Herman- 6
Unrated James M. Pavese-7

Correction: Previous standings for the Under sections were incorrectly labelled as "Final" when they were actually after six rounds.

For complete results and more information including games and reports, go to the Chicago Open's official website.
Also look for a follow-up blog by Jonathan Hilton (read his first here ) and a Chess Life Magazine article by Jerry Hanken.

Chicago Open Photo Gallery by Betsy Dynako

IM John Donaldson provided game analysis at the Chicago Open

GM Hikaru Nakamura tied for first in the Chicago Open but missed out on tiebreaks

GM Alexander Shabalov

Hana Itkis

Nikola Mitkov

Emory Tate