Khachiyan Tops Western States
By Randy Hough   
October 27, 2009
Youth vs. Experience: On board 1, Darwin Yang faces Alexander Ivanov, while Daniel Naroditsky plays Ildar Ibragimov. Experience prevailed this time! Photo Dujiu Yang

The 27th incarnation of the Western States Open at the Sands Regency in Reno, October 23-25, was tinged with sadness. Jay Blem, a bookseller and then TD at the tournament for many years, had passed away suddenly a month before, and a moment of silence was observed in his honor.

The turnout of 250 players approximated last year’s, and a prize fund of about $29,000 was paid out. The Open section attracted no less than nine grandmasters and five IMs. As observed in our earlier report, upsets were in the air (yes, and lots of draws), and no one had more than 4 points going into the sixth and final round. Jaan Ehlvest and Alexander Ivanov drew quickly, and Eugene Perelshteyn and Sergey Kudrin were not far behind. That left the running to Ildar Ibragimov, who administered a severe defeat to young FM Steven Zierk (the only non-GM in the group), while Melikset Khachiyan was paired “down” with the Dutch GM Loek Van Wely. He triumphed in a tactical middlegame followed by an intricate ending:


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0–0 Nbd7 9.Nh4 Bg4 10.f3 Bh5 11.g4 g5

A recent move, found during a quick pre-game database perusal. 11...Nd5 and 11...Bg6 are well known.
12.Nf5 Bg6 13.e4 Qa5 14.Na2 exf5 15.exf5 0–0–0 16.fxg6 hxg6 17.Nxb4 Qxb4 18.Bxf7 Rdf8 19.Bxg6 Qd6 20.f4 Nxg4

Suffering from a headache, Khachiyan offered a draw. Trailing by a half point, Van Wely declined.
21.Qxg4 Qxg6 22.Ra3 Qd6 23.Rd3 Rfg8 24.Kh1 Rh4 25.Qg3 Rgh8 26.Rf2 g4 27.Re3
White's turn to offer a draw -- too late!
27...Qd5+ 28.Kg1 Rh3 29.Qg2 Qxd4 30.Qe4 Qxe4 31.Rxe4 g3 32.Rg2 gxh2+ 33.Kh1 Nc5 34.Re5 Nb3 35.Re1 Nxc1 36.Rxc1 Rf3 37.Rg4 Rf8 38.Rc4
Of course, White's king is too far away for the pawn exchange.
38...Rf2 39.b4 Rd8 40.Rg2 Rdd2 41.Rxf2 Rxf2 42.b5 Kc7 43.a5 Rb2 44.a6 Rxb5 45.axb7 Rb2 46.f5 Rf2 47.Rxc6+ Kxb7

And now Black's king will perform a delicate dance to escort the a-pawn down the board.
48.Rf6 a5 49.Rf7+ Kb6 50.Rf6+ Kb5 51.Rf8 Ka4 52.f6 Ka3 53.Ra8 a4 54.Ra6 Kb4 55.Re6 Kc4 56.Re4+ Kb3 57.Re3+ Kb2 58.Re6 a3 59.Rb6+ Kc3 60.Rc6+ Kb3 61.Rb6+ Kc4 62.Ra6 Kb4 63.Rb6+ Ka5 64.Rb3 a2 65.Ra3+ Kb4 66.Ra8 Rf1+ 0–1

GM Melikset Khachiyan, Photo Betsy Dynako
And so there ensued a playoff (two ten-minute games…at 11 pm!) for the title of Western States Open Champion and a $100 bonus. Khachiyan won the first game against his better rested opponent, with Ibragimov misplaying an easily drawn ending. Though needing only a draw with White, Khachiyan won the second rapid game in style:


Western States Open Playoff (2), 25.10.2009
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Kf8 8.h4 Qa5 9.Bd2 Qa4 10.Kd1 b6 11.h5 h6 12.Nf3 Ba6 13.Bxa6 Qxa6 14.a4 Nbc6 15.a5 c4 16.Qf4 Ke8 17.g4 Kd7 18.Ke2 Nxa5 19.Qxf7 Rhg8 


Black figures to gain time attacking White's queen, but he's in for a big surprise!
20.Bg5!! hxg5 21.Nxg5 Rae8 22.Qxe6+ Kc7 23.Qd6+ Kc8 24.Ne6 Qb7 25.Rxa5! bxa5 26.Rb1 Rd8 27.Rxb7 Rxd6 28.Rc7+ Kb8 29.exd6 1–0

With another major title under his belt, the 39-year-old GM from Los Angeles (who once trained world championship contender Lev Aronian) confirms his place among our premier Swiss circuit players.

Joining Perelshteyn, Kudrin, Ehlvest, and Ivanov in the 4 ½ group were FM Alexandre Kretchetov and IM Enrico Sevillano (now clearly America’s top IM, after the ascension of Ben Finegold to GM). Enrico was one of Steven Zierk’s upset victims (Round 4), but recovered and downed FM Andrew Karklins in the finale. And speaking of Andrew, here’s his first round shocker over Ehlvest, which was referenced in our earlier article:


Western States Open, Reno (1), 23.10.2009
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 e6 3.c4 Bb4+ 4.Nc3 c5 5.g3 d6 6.Bg2 Nc6 7.0–0 0–0 8.Qd3!? cxd4 9.Nxd4 Ne5 10.Qc2 Nxc4 11.Qb3 Bxc3 12.Qxc3 Nb6 13.b3 Nbd5 14.Qd2 Qb6 15.Ba3 Rd8 16.Nc2 Nc7 17.Ne3 Nce8 18.Rac1 Bd7 19.Nc4 Qa6 20.Qa5 Bb5 21.Qxa6 Bxa6 22.Rc2 Rac8 23.Rfc1 b6 24.h3 Rc7 25.f4 Rdc8 26.Kf2??

White's pawn sac has not yielded the desired results. His pressure has dissipated, but it's still very much a game -- until this careless move leads to a deadly zwischenzug.
26...d5 27.Ne3 d4 0–1 (White loses a piece because Rxc7 dxe3 comes with check- the reason Kf2 was a blunder.)

Zierk did split Under 2400 honors with Curt Collyer and GM Amon Simutowe, while the same 4-point score earned clear Under 2300 honors for Dana Mackenzie of Santa Cruz, CA.

Class winners were many, as befits a tournament held in a casino. The first place winners included Expert: Paul Romero (trophy), Gary Huang, and Igor Margulis; A: Drayton Harrison; B: Galen Pyle (trophy), Taylor Bailey, and Daniel Rozenblatt; C: Daniel Moglen (trophy), Adam Baraz, Kerry Van Veen, and Matthias Grabiak; D: Michael Winters (trophy), Eric Isberg, and Eduardo Magan; and E/Unrated: Philip Dennis (trophy), Leland Moglen (Daniel’s son), and Jeff Olson. The Quick tournament was the only event with a poor turnout, and IM Cyrus Lakdawala came up from San Diego to win with ease.

Karklins’ upset of Ehlvest was hardly the only case of experience topping youth. 93-year-old Daniel Litowsky won over seven-year-old Jeffrey Tao in the B section! Another tournament oddity: having warned that ten pushups would be imposed on cell phone violators, TD Jerry Weikel was the first to suffer the penalty. And though it’s been many years since he was a Marine, he did them with ease. Semper Fi, Jerry, and remember – vibrate setting!

Jerry’s capable staff included Fran and Dana Weikel, Victor Flashman, Adam Searcy, Grant Fleming, and Sal Rosario. The Sands Regency tournaments (October and Easter weekend) offer many extras (coffee and pastry, name plates with state/national flags for the Open section and top five boards in the others, ten demo boards, lectures by GM Larry Evans, and a simul (Dmitry Gurevich did the honors this year). Consider making that trip to Reno!