US Masters goes to Vladimir Belous

by Elshan Moradiabadi
9/1/2017 – Twenty-four grandmasters turned out for the US Masters 2017, which took place from 23rd to 28th of August in Greensboro, North Carolina. This 6th edition was a very strong — one might say, “super Swiss” open — a gathering of titled players almost unheard of for a nine-round open tournament in the USA. Vladimir Belous took top honours winning a last round game that GM Elshan Moradiabadi calls, "just like Morphy!" | Photos: Davide Nastasio

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Grandmasters in North Carolina

We all know that chess is booming in the USA. If this 'fact' was in question few years ago, now it's beyond doubt: The US national team won the Chess Olympiad after 40 years and the top three American players are among top ten players in the world who are trying to earn a spot in the upcoming Candidates in order to earn the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen, for his coveted crown.

This advancement in top-level, thanks to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, is however, not the only story when it comes to the fast-growing chess movement in the United States. There are three factors underlying the growth of chess nationwide:

  1. US junior players take part in every World Cadet Championship and they are all strong competitors and candidates for the podium
  2. The existence of scholarships for chess players at various universities creates a great deal of competition among taleneted youngesters around the globe and attracts GM to come to study in the USA.
  3. Thanks to growing number of GM, nine-round tournaments offer a great deal of chance for norm-seekers

One of the finest international open tournaments in the US takes place in Greensboro, North Carolina: the US Masters 2017. For six days, at Embassy Suites hotel in Greensboro, no less than twenty-four grandmasters competed over nine-rounds.

Hotel lobby

Hotel lobby | Photo: Davide Nastasio

After five rounds, the Berlin-based GM Niclas Huschenbeth was on fire with 5/5 including two back-to-back wins against dangerous young Russian GMs Dmitry Gordievsky and Andrey Stukopin.

Huschenbeth is a Masters student in industrial / organizational psychology at the Free University of Berlin, but says he has "[become] ambitious with chess again, so trying to play lots of strong tournaments."

After a draw in round six, it seemed that the Huschenbeth was on his way to a very good tournament with a full-point lead. However, his fairy-tale ended as he succumbed to a creative plan of another very aggressive Russian, Grandmaster Vladimir Belous:


After this nice victory, Belous and Huschenbeth went shoulder-to-shoulder to the final round after being caught by Alexander Shabalov. Huschenbeth drew with Sam Shankland in the penultimate round while Belous drew with Cuban GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez.


Sam Shankland (left) drew with Niclas Huschenbeth, as Vladimir Belous looks on | Photo: Davide Nastasio

In the ensuing final pairings, Huschenbeth fell at the hand of one of the top seeds, Yaroslav Zherebukh while Belous once again prevailed in a somewhat easy Queen's Gambit Accepted where Shabalov went astray as early as move 12:


The Queen's Gambit Accepted: A Repertoire for Black

In this DVD Sam Collins presents a repertoire for Black based on the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4. Rather than get involved in the heavy theory of the Classical Main Line, the lynchpin of the repertoire is the active development of the queen’s bishop. The resulting positions have close similarities to the Nimzo Indian and Slav Defences, and Collins explains the way for Black to approach the middlegame with confidence based on a blockade and light square strategy. The resulting repertoire is solid, reliable, and suitable as either a main weapon or an occasional surprise choice. Video running time: 3 hours 30 min

A GM norm denied

In other important final round games, top seed Sam Shankland put an end to Advait Patel's stellar performance and denied him GM norm, although Advait did succeed in earning the IM title right after this event. At 2434 and only 15 years of age, Advait is definitely in a hot pursuit for GM title.


Advait Patel seals the deal for his IM title by beating Paraguayan IM Guillermo Vazquez | Photo: Davide Nastasio

ZherebukhShankland finished tied for second overall, but an Armageddon match with GM Yaroslav Zherebukh (right) was needed to clarify the top US player of the event. Zherebukh won that, but it was Belous who ran-away with big money for his efforts.

Walter High, the chief organizer of the event, has robust measures to ensure chances for norm-seekers: There were no players under 2000 (unless they were very young). Thus, no players ended up having a low-rating average, which made the tournament an excellent place for norms.

In addition to the high grandmaster turnout, numerous international masters and other titled players also participated. Thanks to the organization, every non-US IM and GM could enjoy accomodation (a shared room with breakfast), and the hotel provided players with shuttle service to and from the airport. The tournament had a skittles room where players could go over their games while enjoying a beer, soda or other complimentary beverages and snacks.

The tournament is part of the "Caronlinas Chess Initiative" tournaments along with the North Carolina Open and scholastic open.

NC Open players

A pair of junior players in the NC Open | Photo: Davide Nastasio

Final Standings (Top 20)

# Name Rtg. Fed. Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6 Rd 7 Rd 8 Rd 9 Tot Prize
1 GM Vladimir Belous 2554 RUS W32 D29 D21 D59 W31 W22 W9 D7 W10 7.0 5000.00
2 GM Sam Shankland 2671 USA W31 W19 D17 D16 W10 D4 D11 D9 W21 6.5 1966.67
3 GM Yaroslav Zherebukh 2627 USA D23 W43 D13 W17 D16 L11 W22 W18 W9 6.5 1966.67
4 GM Dmitry Gordievsky 2613 RUS W42 W37 W28 L9 W26 D2 D6 D11 W16 6.5 1966.67
5 GM Ray Robson 2653 USA D30 W54 L14 W41 D35 D38 W46 W34 D8 6.0 290.00
6 GM Kamil Dragun 2625 POL D41 W24 W27 D12 D38 D14 D4 W19 D11 6.0 290.00
7 GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez 2624 CUB W59 D36 D26 D21 D29 W23 W17 D1 D12 6.0 290.00
8 GM Benjamin Gledura 2600 HUN D43 W23 W36 D22 W20 D9 D10 D16 D5 6.0 290.00
9 GM Niclas Huschenbeth 2575 GER W60 W20 W18 W4 W15 D8 L1 D2 L3 6.0 290.00
10 GM Alexander Shabalov 2561 USA D68 W73 W41 W35 L2 W12 D8 W33 L1 6.0 290.00
11 GM Ioan-Cristian Chirila 2552 ROU L61 W68 W44 D30 W46 W3 D2 D4 D6 6.0 290.00
12 GM Awonder Liang 2540 USA W44 D21 W29 D6 D22 L10 W40 W38 D7 6.0 290.00
13 IM Andrey Gorovets 2527 BLR D73 W74 D3 D39 D30 W52 D38 D14 W33 6.0 290.00
14 GM Bartlomiej Macieja 2514 POL W33 D46 W5 L15 W59 D6 D21 D13 W28 6.0 290.00
15 GM Andrey Stukopin 2600 RUS D53 W77 W52 W14 L9 D16 D18 D20 D17 5.5  
16 GM Julio J Becerra 2539 USA B--- W38 D35 D2 D3 D15 W29 D8 L4 5.5  
17 GM Magesh Panchanathan 2475 IND W64 W55 D2 L3 D39 W61 L7 W29 D15 5.5  
18 IM Nicolas Checa 2454 USA W81 W61 L9 D62 W60 D25 D15 L3 W39 5.5  
19 IM Kaiqi Yang 2441 CAN W66 L2 L61 W55 W44 W39 D25 L6 W40 5.5  
20 GM Bryan G Smith 2419 USA W49 L9 W54 W61 L8 W62 D34 D15 D25 5.5  


Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.


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