Nyzhnyk nabs National Open

by Ruifeng Li
6/24/2019 – Grandmaster RUIFENG LI reports and annotates games from Las Vegas as Ukrainian GM Illya Nyzhnyk won the newly lengthened 9-round National Open. Nyzhnyk's five wins and four draws were good enough for clear 1st place and the USD $8,000 prize. Alejandro Ramirez was the best scoring US player. Pictured: Organizers Janelle and Alan Losoff, with the new National Open Champion. | Photo: Tim Hanks

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International GMs dominate in Las Vegas

In a positive break from tradition, this year’s Las Vegas National Open (June 12 – 16) was a nine-round norm tournament, instead of six rounds. Reigning World Open champion Illya Nyzhnyk took home the Edmonson Cup with 7 points, half a point ahead of eight GMs who snapped at his heels. Although Nyzhnyk sometimes, in his own words, “felt so terrible” about his play (such as in his game against me), his consistent performance and last round victory against "Blindfold King" Gareyev made up for it all.

Li and Nyzhnyk

Ruifeng Li vs Illya Nyzhnyk | Photo: Rachael Li


Nyzhnyk vs Gareyev

Gareyev is ready for a long, long game | Photo: Rachael Li

This year’s main event was remarkably strong; out of 108 players, nearly thirty GMs were in attendance. Former National Open winners Ioan Chirila and I were among the hopefuls, but we faced severe difficulties against the second and first seeds respectively.


Chirila vs Kovalenko

Chirila vs Kovalenko | Photo: Rachael Li

In the middle of the event, however, it was well-known chess personality Alejandro Ramirez who took the sole lead. This he accomplished by a sweet win over FM Aleksey Sorokin who, with an Elo of 2536, is surely the strongest FM in the world!

Ramirez vs Sorokin

Ramirez vs Sorokin | Photo: Rachael Li

Unfortunately for the American grandmaster, he then encountered tough resistance in the forms of Igor Kovalenko and Hovhannes Gabuzyan. Despite being up an exchange in both games, positional draws were almost inevitable, and the top spot was again up for grabs.


Speaking of exchanges, this fellow Gabuzyan seems to sacrifice rooks for breakfast. My brain tells me that aside from his game against Ramirez, he did so in both the first round and the penultimate. In the last round, however, Gabuzyan played ultra-solidly against the ultra-solid Lazaro Bruzon, ending in an ultra-solid draw. Aside from Nyzhnyk vs. Gareyev, all the other top games ended in truces as well, enabling Nyzhnyk to climb decisively above his competitors.

A special mention should be made for the participation of the legendary IM Anthony Saidy, who is famous for having been Bobby Fischer’s close friend and confidante. But at the grand old age of 82, Saidy also took down GM Vladimir Belous in round three.


IM Saidy

Dr. Saidy getting ready to trounce his formidable opponent. | Photo: Rachael Li

Final standings (top 20)

Final standings

Full standings

All available games



Ruifeng is one of the top junior players in the world. He received his IM title in 2016 and the GM title in 2017. 2016 was one of the best years in his chess career. He won the North American Junior Championship, National Open, and Philadelphia Open, also tied for first at 26th Annual North American Open.


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