Miami Kicks Off After Ike Scare
By Jason Handelsman   
September 11, 2008
IM Irina Krush in Miami, Photos by Jason Handelsman
Chess players from around the world gathered in downtown Miami’s Hyatt Regency for the Miami Chess Open last night. Hurricane Ike seemed to be a main topic of discussion. (Read the letter below from IM Blas Lugo for more on how the weather affected the event) “They canceled my first flight,” said one player, “I’m from Texas and they say that Ike is going to hit us.”  He explained that there is a $100,000 grand prize, so hundreds of players are expected to arrive during the weekend. He also informed me that many contestants had canceled due to fear that the hurricane was going to hit Miami.

I entered the tournament area and walked up and down the aisles, watching the games and taking photos. This was the first chess tournament that I had ever been to, and I was surprised at how it was completely silent (except for an occasional cough). Top players in the event include GMs Victor Mikhalevski, Alexander Shabalov, Varuzhan Akobian, local hero Julio Becerra, Jaan Ehlvest, Darmen Advakasov, Alexander Ivanov. GM-elect Josh Friedel, IM Irina Krush and the young star IM Ray Robson are also playing.

IM Ray Robson

Hundreds of chess books were on display in the corner of the Reception Hall. I took a break from watching the games and picked up a book about Bobby Fischer, the most powerful American chess player in history, who died this past January. I thumbed through the book, wondering what had happened to Bobby. I remembered his radio speeches from the Philippines after the 9/11 attacks, exactly 7 years ago. “What goes around comes around, even for the United States.”  I put down the Bobby Fischer chess book, and walked over to the hotel’s lounge area. I ordered a vodka tonic as a man in his late 50s walked up and asked if I play chess. I explained that I am not a very good amateur player (my rating is around 1200), but I am writing a blog about this tournament (9/10-9/14). “Will you be analyzing the games? Do you know algebraic notation?”  he asked.  I told him that I love chess and that I am excited about this year’s tournament, but I am not a chess columnist. He nodded his head and walked away.

For tournament schedule and other information go to:
Check out the wall charts (not updated yet with round 1 info.) Also look out on CLO for future  reports with games and photos and a blog by GM-elect Josh Friedel.

Letter from Blas Lugo, September 9, 2008

Miami Open players,
We are looking forward to your participation in this year's Miami Open.  As I am sure you know, hurricane Ike is just passing south of Miami, right over Cuba.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Cuba. 
Because of the uncertainly during the last few days, due to Ike, some players have called, expressing concern and asking if the chess tournament was still scheduled.  We have been very fortunate and the event is, indeed, still scheduled.  Nevertheless, it also appears that this will affect attendance.  Therefore, I want to inform you that the Prize Fund may be affected by this developments.  The possibility exist that we may only pay 50% of the Prize Fund instead of the guaranteed amount of 70%.  As this point, we do not know but I just wanted to make sure that you knew of this possibility.  Again, this is just a possibility and does not mean it will happen.  If it does, we will have to appeal to the US Chess Federation, in accordance with Rule 32C4 and 21L of the USCF Rule Book.  We are still hoping that many players sign up in the coming days.  If that is the case, the prize fund will not be affected.
IM Blas Lugo
Organizer, Miami Open