Google Chess All Day: the 119th US Open is Underway

They were all traveling on the same day that more people than ever before in history were seeing chessboards and pieces.

On Friday, the ubiquitous Google Doodle displayed king, rook, knight, and pawn—celebrating chess by remembering second Women’s World Chess Champion Lyudmila Rudenko—while a new young crop of potential future champs crowded into planes and vans on their way to Middleton, Wisconsin. The US Open Chess Championship, with all its heritage and innovation, began on Saturday.

It’s remarkable how the event, dating back to 1900, has kept up with the times while preserving its heritage. This year two new events helped kick off the main event.

US Junior Champ opens with a simul

First up was a new simultaneous exhibition. GM Awonder Liang, the 15-year-old wunderkind fresh from his second US Junior Championship title in St. Louis, led off the activities with a simul against 23 players who would in a few hours play in one of the junior invitationals—the GM Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions, the Dewain Barber Tournament of K-8  Champs, and the National Girls Tournament of Champions. Liang, a Madison native, handled his task smoothly as the local NBC camera rolled for the evening news. In the end, Liang gave up only one loss, when Tinh Son Nguyen, representing Utah in the Denker, popped down a knight fork on queen and rook and went on to hold the win the Exchange up. The honor of the very last game going went to Amanda Lossef, representing D.C. in the Barber. Nguyen and Lossef earned bookstore rewards.

Liang is competing in the US Open, which, besides a $50,000 projected prize fund, offers a spot in the US Invitational Championship. Happily for some of the other top players competing, Awonder has already secured his spot with his US Junior Champs victory.

New Senior Invitational

The other new attraction was the Senior Tournament of Champions, modeled after the three junior invitationals—all six-round Swisses that begin on Saturday and end on Tuesday, allowing the opportunity for contestants to then join the US Open’s six-day schedule.

GM Alex Fishbein (New Jersey) tops the leaderboard of 42 competitors in the Senior. Fishbein is a direct link to the progenitor of all four invitationals. Back in 1985, he won the very first Denker championship (then the only junior invitational at the US Open). He’s one of 14 Denker “graduates” who went on to make GM. This year it’s a father-son event for the Fischbeins. Alex’s son Mitch is playing in the Denker.

Ages in the Senior range from Fishbein, who comes in at the minimum 50, to 81-year-old NM Klaus Pohl (South Carolina), who at seven survived the WWII firebombing of his native Dresden. Ratings mirror that age spread, with players ranked from GM to C-player. GMs besides Fishbein include Enrico Sevillano (S. California), GM Alonso Zapata (Georgia) and Michael Rohde (New York).

Two FMs and 17 NMs make it a punishing gauntlet. But beware the hungry Expert! First-round spectators always keep an eye out for the shaping up of a top-board upset. Round 1 of the senior gave them one. Expert Brian Lilly was Wisconsin’s alternate. (The home state gets one.) And since there would have been an odd number of contestants without him, he was in. He immediately made the most of his opportunity!

Younger champs vie for scholarships

Advait Patel Photo Henk Prinsloo

The Denker Championship attracted 48 state representatives. IM Advait Patel (Oklahoma) is top seed. But it’s a power-packed event also including IMs Joshua Sheng (S. California), Praveen Balakrishnan (Virginia) and eight FMs— including US Junior Girls Champ Carissa Yip (Massachusetts) and 4th-place finisher Maggie Feng (Ohio), as well as WIM Emily Nguyen (Texas). Will we have our first female Denker winner since Abby Marshall (Virginia) became the first in 2009? Top prize is a $5,000 College scholarship sponsored by the US Chess Trust.

Emily Nguyen and Carissa Yip, Photo courtesy Emily Nguyen

Fifty young champs began the Barber Championship. FM Shunkai Peng (Oregon) is top-rated, just ahead of FMs Anthony Bi He (Washington) and Arthur Guo (Georgia). Altogether, the K-8 event features four FMs, WFM Nastassja Matus (Minnesota) and two NMs. Top prize is a $5,000 College scholarship sponsored by the US Chess Trust.

Martha Samadashvili, Photo Henk Prinsloo

WFM Martha Samadashvili (New York) tops the list of 44 entries into the NGTOC. Altogether, the group includes three WFMs, two WIMs, and three WCMs. Top prize is a $5,000 scholarship funded by Robert and Barbara Schiffrin. The winner will also qualify for the 2018 World Youth or World Cadet Championship, if the player is eligible to join the US Chess delegation. She will also be seeded into the US Girls Closed Championship, if she qualifies, and will also receive a scholarship and prizes.

The first round of the Barber offered a no-holds-barred upset-battle on Board 1, with 1900-player Max Egan (Indiana) showing respect but no quarter for FM Shunkai Peng. The result was a draw. But that was no fault of either player!

There’s still time to enter the main event!

The 119th Annual US Open Championship offers three different schedules. Only the nine-day has begun. It’s called the “Traditional” schedule, although 12-days was the tradition for many years—but fewer and fewer had the time for such a chess stretch. There’s also a six-day schedule that starts on Tuesday, and even a four-day option starting on Thursday.

Currently, the top-rated is GM Alexander Ipatov in the Open. About 300 players are so far signed up. There’s plenty of room left in the very inviting playing room, where all the contestants play together in the historic event. You still have time to join them!

The US Chess Championship is a National Championship organized and played under the auspices of US Chess.

Find the live game link here, and join in the conversation on using the hashtag#USOpenChess. 

Look up info, results and pairings here, and learn more about our twitch streaming Monday-Tuesday nights here. 


  1. You mean the Google Doodle wasn’t for the US Open in Wisconsin???

    Mike Nietman
    Wisconsin Chess Association President

    • Hi Mike! Health issues precluded my playing in this year’s U S Open. I was the only Connecticut player in the 2013 U S Open(with a score of 4 out of 9). I think at least one of the Connecticut players in this year’s U S Open will surpass that score.

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