World Open: Petrosian wins, Abdumalik is sensation

by Vanessa Sun
7/8/2017 – Instead of watching fireworks or going to barbecues this American Independence Day Weekend, almost 1200 chess players flocked to Philadelphia to play in the World Open Chess Tournament. Over 30 grandmasters competed, eyeing the $20,000 first place open section prize and looking for a strong tournament to play in. Tigran Petrosian secured sole first for a very big payday, while 17-year-old IM Zhansaya Abdumalik tied for 2nd with a GM norm. | Photo: Tim Hanks

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No tiebreak needed

This tournament is one of those annual tournaments that essentially every relatively strong American chess player has been to at least once in their life. It is almost a pilgrimage of sorts, even for many players who are not at that level. With over $200,000 in the prize pool and many side events such as a blitz tournament and women’s championship, people were sure to travel from all over to spend a good three, four, five, or even six days playing chess!

The winner of the tournament was most likely going to be one of the stronger grandmasters. Many thought the winner would be GM Le Quang Liem, the top seed of the tournament and a strong 2700 FIDE player.

GM Le Quang Liem  | Photo: Vanessa Sun

However, GM Tigran L. Petrosian edged out Le Quang, and many other players, for first place. GM Petrosian achieved clear first with a score of 7.5/9 and only one loss total to GM Jeffery Xiong in the tournament. This is the second huge win for GM Petrosian, following his success as the winner of the National Open tournament, which took place in Las Vegas this past June.

GM Petrosian’s tournament win was not a given until the very end of the tournament.

Jamaal Abdul-Alim’s U.S. Chess article explores the grandmaster’s thought process going into the last round, knowing that if he drew against GM Oliver Barbosa, his last round opponent, there would be a big prize split. Although GM Yaro Zherebukh, one of the participants of the tournament, had a disappointing result himself, he offered to annotate GM Petrosian’s last game, which sealed the big prize money:

Tigran Petrosian - Oliver Barbosa (annotated by GM Yaro Zherebukh)

[Event "World Open"] [Site "Philadelphia"] [Date "2017.07.04"] [Round "9"] [White "Petrosian, Tigran L"] [Black "Barbosa, Oliver"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A11"] [WhiteElo "2595"] [BlackElo "2511"] [Annotator "Yaro Zherebukh"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "USA"] {By winning this game, GM Petrosian secured a sweet payday for himself: clear first place and US$20,500. His tournament path wasn't smooth, though. After losing to GM Jeffery Xiong in round 6, Tigran had to pull off a streak of three consecutive wins, which he did to his credit. A remarkable achievement!} 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 c6 4. c4 Bg4 (4... dxc4 5. O-O Nbd7 6. Qc2 Nb6 {is the most popular}) 5. Ne5 Be6 6. O-O Nbd7 7. cxd5 Bxd5 8. Nf3 c5 9. Nc3 Bc6 10. Re1 a6 $2 {Looks unnecessary, and clearly doesn't accomplish much.} (10... e5 11. d3 Be7 { and Black is in the endgame, even though I like White slightly better here.}) 11. e4 ({Tigran misses his chance. Two modest-looking pawn moves would've given him a considerable advantage.} 11. d3 $1 e5 (11... e6 12. e4 Be7 13. d4 $16) 12. e3 $1 {with an idea to break Oliver's center after d3-d4 on the next move. If I had Black here, I would've started thinking about how to console myself after the game.}) 11... e5 12. d3 Be7 13. a4 b5 $2 {Yet another mistake. In retrospect, I can easily suggest castling here.} (13... O-O 14. a5 Re8 {and Black is worse, obviously, but capable of defending the position.}) 14. Nh4 g6 15. Bh6 $1 {A fine move. The king on e8 won't see the sunlight ever since.} b4 $2 {Extending an invitation for White to come mate the Black's king.} (15... Bf8) 16. Nd5 $1 Bf8 17. Qd2 Ng4 18. Bxf8 Nxf8 (18... Kxf8 {and, at least, the king is safer, and the game isn't lost yet.}) 19. d4 $3 {A study-like idea, which basically finishes the game. Black's pieces are just too uncoordinated, and the king isn't good either.} cxd4 (19... exd4 20. Qf4 h5 21. Nf5 $1 $18 gxf5 22. exf5+ Kd7 23. Re7+) 20. Rac1 Bxd5 21. exd5 Nd7 22. Qxd4 h5 (22... Ngf6 23. f4 e4 24. Rxe4+ Kf8 25. Rc6 $18) 23. Qxb4 Rb8 24. Qa3 Qe7 25. Qxe7+ $6 { Prolongs the game significantly, but still doesn't change the evaluation: white is winning.} (25. d6 Qd8 26. Bd5 {was faster since besides the extra material and domiantion, white attack the king as well.}) 25... Kxe7 26. f4 Rb3 27. Nf3 f6 28. Nh4 Kf7 29. d6 Rb6 30. h3 Nh6 31. Be4 Rxd6 32. Bxg6+ Ke7 33. Bxh5 Rg8 34. g4 Rd3 35. Ng6+ Kd8 36. fxe5 fxe5 37. Rcd1 Rxh3 38. Nxe5 Rxh5 39. Rxd7+ Ke8 40. Rd2 Rh3 41. Nf3+ Kf7 42. Kg2 Rh5 43. Rd7+ Kf6 44. g5+ Rhxg5+ 45. Nxg5 Rxg5+ 46. Kf1 Nf7 47. Re2 1-0

Surprisingly enough, GM Petrosian did not have enough of chess and played in the World Open Blitz Championship side event. It was held after the ninth round of the tournament and he won that, too, with a 9.0/10 score!

Despite not winning the tournament, GM Le Quang Liem later commented on his experience more clearly for ChessBase readers: "This is the first time I played the World Open - I don't play a lot of open tournaments in the US - so getting used to the tight schedule was a big challenge. It was nice to see so many chess players and friends during the tournament. I didn't put any pressure on myself at the start, and just wanted to warm up after a long break (nearly three months) from chess. I think my performance was decent, but I definitely have to improve a lot for the upcoming tournaments."

Those tournaments are: the Danzhou Super GM tournament (July, China), the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz in the Grand Chess Tour (August, USA), and the World Chess Cup (September, Georgia).

GM Le Quang Liem shared some thoughts about his recent and upcoming activities

The Vietnamese grandmaster’s win over GM Jianchao Zhou was his highest rated of the event:

Le Quang Liem - Zhou Jianchao (annotated by GM Yaro Zherebukh)

[Event "World Open"] [Site "Philadelphia"] [Date "2017.07.02"] [Round "5"] [White "Le, Quang Liem"] [Black "Zhou, Jianchao"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A34"] [WhiteElo "2726"] [BlackElo "2595"] [Annotator "Yaro Zherebukh"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 c5 4. O-O g6 5. c4 Bg7 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Qa4 (8. Nxd5 Qxd5 9. d3 Nc6 10. Be3 {is more common. Black looks alright in any case.}) 8... Nb6 9. Qh4 e6 10. d3 Qxh4 11. Nxh4 Nc6 12. a4 Nd4 13. Be3 Rd8 14. Nf3 (14. a5 Nd5 15. Bxd4 Bxd4 16. Rfc1 Rb8 $11) 14... Nc2 15. Rac1 $2 (15. Bg5 Nxa1 16. Bxd8 Nb3 17. Bg5 $11) 15... Nxe3 16. fxe3 Bh6 17. Kf2 Nd7 $2 { Disapointing mistake. I would say it's one of the starting signs that Black is going to lose this game.} (17... Nd5 $1 18. Nxd5 exd5 19. d4 $1 (19. Rxc5 Re8 $17) 19... b6 $15) 18. g4 $1 {Le Quang Liem plays like a machine from here, all his moves are very natural.} b6 19. g5 Bg7 20. d4 Ba6 21. Rfd1 Rac8 22. Nb5 Bxb5 23. axb5 Kf8 (23... h6 $1 24. h4 (24. gxh6 Bxh6 $11) 24... hxg5 25. hxg5 Nf8 $1 26. Kg3 Nh7 27. Kg4 cxd4 28. Rxc8 Rxc8 29. exd4 Rc2 30. Bf1 Rxb2 31. e4 Rb4 32. Kf4 $11) 24. Ra1 Rc7 25. h4 Ke7 $2 {Unfortunate position for the king. White now has some tactical ideas, and it's hard for Black to release the tension after e6-e5.} (25... Kg8 {was enough to maintain the equality.}) 26. Rd3 Nb8 $2 {Poor knight... One of my students used to move his knights backwards all the time until I threatened to give him 15 tough puzzles every time he does it.} 27. Ra4 Rcd7 28. Kg3 cxd4 29. exd4 e5 $4 {A blunder.} (29... Rc8 $16 {and Black is still in the game, although a lot worse.}) 30. Bh3 Rc7 31. dxe5 Re8 32. Rc3 $1 1-0

The real superstar of the tournament, though, was IM Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan. Perhaps the most impressive result of the entire tournament was her win over Zherebukh in Round 8. The young woman had the strongest showing of all the non-GMs in the tournament, winning the top 2300-2449 prize. In fact, she played so well that she earned a GM norm!

Reflecting on her performance, Abdumalik said, "It is difficult for me to get used to the time control and the fact that most tournaments in America are held two rounds a day. My best game was against GM Yaro Zherebukh. I played reliably in it and the position was almost equal to the end of the game. Then he made a blunder that solved the result of the game. He was my first 2600+ GM win."

As to where she goes from here, Abdumalik will play Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games 2017 and the World Girls U-20 Championship. Many congratulations to IM Abdumalik, possibly the happiest player of the tournament.

17 year-old IM Zhansaya Abdumalik scored a GM norm and was one of the sensations at the World Open | Photo: Vanessa Sun

Other players, especially other grandmasters, did not fare so badly, either. GMs Jeffery Xiong, Yuniesky Quesada Perez, Jianchao Zhou, and Andrey Stukopin all scored 7.0/9, like GM Le Quang Liem.

Jianchao Zhou scored 7.0/9 and won $4000 | Photo: Francine Silver

GM Jeffery Xiong had a unique perspective about the event overall, "For the last 12 months, I mostly just play in one game per day round robins. The World Open gave me a chance to play in a faster paced tournament format. I needed to warm up for the Match of the Millennials (which is two games per day) and wanted to play good chess, just like every other chess player. I went to have fun and got to see a lot of friends from all over."

And playing good chess was certainly something he did. Here is one of his wins:

Jeffery Xiong - Aleksandr Lenderman (annotated by GM Yaro Zherebukh)

[Event "World Open"] [Site "Philadelphia"] [Date "2017.07.04"] [Round "8"] [White "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Black "Lenderman, Aleksandr"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A78"] [WhiteElo "2658"] [BlackElo "2585"] [Annotator "Yaro Zherebukh"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 $4 {Nooooo!! One thing you learn after being in chess for so many years is that you can't play Benoni against someone as good as Jeffery unless you are Topalov, who used to frequently play this opening against the world's best in the 90s. I almost looked at Lenderman apologetically at this point and sorry for his inevitable loss, as I was playing next to this game and, by the way, in the process of creating a major upset by eventually losing to 17 year-old IM Zhansaya Abdumalik.} 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Nd2 Bg7 8. e4 O-O 9. Be2 Re8 10. O-O Na6 11. Re1 Nc7 12. a4 b6 13. Qc2 Na6 $5 {An interesting and a new idea on a GM level, which roughly equalizes chances.} 14. Bb5 Nb4 15. Qd1 Re7 16. Nc4 {A wrong plan or rather a miscalculation.} (16. f3 $5 a6 17. Bf1) 16... Bb7 17. Bf4 a6 18. Bxd6 {[#]} axb5 ({Lenderman, Xiong, and Zherebukh overlooked} 18... Rxe4 $3 { during the game.} 19. Nxe4 axb5 20. axb5 Rxa1 21. Qxa1 Bxd5 22. Nxc5 (22. Nxf6+ Bxf6 23. Qa7 Bxc4 24. Qxb6 $1 Bxb5 25. Qxd8+ Bxd8 26. Bxc5 Nd3 27. Rd1 Bf6 28. Be3 $17 {Unsure if it's objectively winning for Black or not, but we can certainly agree on that White is going to be tortured.}) 22... bxc5 23. Qa5 Qxa5 24. Nxa5 Ne4 25. Bc7 Bxb2 26. b6 Bd4 27. Re2 Na6 28. b7 Bxf2+ 29. Rxf2 Nxf2 30. Kxf2 Bxb7 31. Nxb7 Nxc7 32. Nxc5 {Theoretically, it's a draw. Practically, a stronger side wins such positions once in a while.}) 19. Bxe7 Qxe7 20. Nxb6 Ra6 $4 (20... Rd8 21. axb5 Nd7 22. Nxd7 Rxd7 $13) 21. e5 Rxb6 22. exf6 Qxf6 23. Re8+ Bf8 24. Ne4 Qd4 25. Qxd4 cxd4 26. a5 (26. Nc5 $1 Kg7 27. Rxf8 $1 Bxd5 28. axb5 Rxb5 29. Rc8 $18) 26... Ra6 27. d6 Bxe4 28. d7 Nc6 29. Rxe4 Ra7 30. Rxd4 Be7 31. Rd5 b4 32. Rc1 {Jeffery started slipping, which eventually almost led to a draw.} (32. g4 $1 f6 33. f4 Kf7 34. Kg2 Ke6 35. Rd3 $18) 32... Nd8 33. g4 g5 34. Kg2 f6 35. f4 (35. Kf3 Kf7 36. Ke4 Ke6 37. h4 h6 38. h5) 35... gxf4 36. Kf3 Kf7 37. Kxf4 Ke6 38. Ke4 Ra6 39. Rc8 Nf7 40. Kd4 Bd8 41. h4 Ke7 42. Rc1 Re6 $4 {Inexplicable. Now Black's lost.} (42... Rxa5 43. Re1+ Ne5 44. g5 Ke6 45. Rxa5 Bxa5 {and a draw.}) 43. Ra1 Ne5 44. Kc5 Nxd7+ 45. Kxb4 Ne5 46. Kb5 Nc6 47. b4 Na7+ 48. Ka4 Ke8 49. Rad1 Be7 50. R1d4 Re1 51. Rc4 Rb1 52. Ka3 Bf8 53. Rh5 Re1 54. Rc7 Re3+ 55. Kb2 Re4 56. Rxa7 Rxb4+ 57. Kc3 Rxg4 58. Rhxh7 Bb4+ 59. Kb3 Bc5 60. Ra8# 1-0

Jeffery Xiong also tied for 2nd-6th with 7.0/9 | Photo: Vanessa Sun

According to one of the tournament directors, this year’s World Open tournament attracted players from more than 30 countries. These foreign players were not only traveling grandmasters, either. One astonishing success story unrelated to the successes of the top finishers in the open section was from an Indian chess player, Meet Puri, who traveled all the way from India to play in the U1800 section of the tournament. Meet also competed in the last installment of Millionaire Chess this past October, winning $3,000.

Meet Puri with GM Maurice Ashley at Millionaire Chess 3

The Indian chess player came back to play in the United States specially for the World Open, despite the doubts of a few friends. He tied for 2nd in his section and even tied for first place for Mixed Doubles with his partner, Saikhanchimeg Tsogtsaikhan. The other team that tied for first place for mixed doubles was none other than a brother and sister duo: GM Ruifeng Li and his sister, Rachael.

Li Ruifeng talks to Rachael before a game | Photo: Vanessa Sun

Even with these successes, many other players who may not have done so well in the tournament expressed disappointment over results at the World Open (myself included, but not due to my score performance or lack of prize). However, it is worth noting that the nine rounds were long for everyone — anyone who got through it, especially amateurs, should be proud of their hard work. Those who did well in the tournament are most likely still beaming with joy when people ask how their weekends went. Those who did not do as well hopefully still had fun or learned something to improve on their game.

GM Oliver Barbosa, who tied for 7-10th place and tied for 4th-5th place for mixed doubles | Photo: Francine Silver

A special thanks to GM Yaro Zherebukh for sharing his analyses with the readers

Final Standings

1 GM Tigran L Petrosian 2595 ARM 7.5 1st $20500.00
2 GM Liem Quang Le 2726 VIE 7.0 2nd-6th $3960.00
3 GM Jeffery Xiong 2658 USA 7.0 2nd-6th $3960.00
4 GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez 2624 CUB 7.0 2nd-6th $3960.00
5 GM Jianchao Zhou 2595 CHN 7.0 2nd-6th $3960.00
6 GM Andrey Stukopin 2577 RUS 7.0 2nd-6th $3960.00
7 IM Zhansaya Abdumalik 2397 KAZ 7.0 1st 2300-2449 $5000.00
8 GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista 2653 CUB 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
9 IM Dmitry Gordievsky 2613 RUS 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
10 GM Illia I Nyzhnyk 2612 UKR 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
11 GM Aleksandr Lenderman 2585 USA 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
12 GM Sergey Erenburg 2550 USA 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
13 GM Alexander Stripunsky 2536 USA 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
14 GM Oliver Barbosa 2511 PHI 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
15 IM Eylon Nakar 2476 ISR 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
16 GM Alexander Fishbein 2466 USA 6.5 7th-10th 288.89
17 GM Axel Bachmann 2653 PAR 6.0    
18 GM Yaroslav Zherebukh 2642 USA 6.0    
19 GM Julio C Sadorra 2589 PHI 6.0    
20 GM Ruifeng Li 2571 USA 6.0    

Click for complete standings

Special thanks to Francine Silver, Patrick Tang, and Tim Hanks for the pictures, GM Yaro Zherebukh for the annotated games, and GM Jeffery Xiong, GM Le Quang Liem, and IM Zhansaya Abdumalik for the quotes.

Vanessa is an avid chess fan and freelance chess journalist. She writes for Chess Life, Chess^Summit, US Chess, and more. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter | Photo: David Llada


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