CCA Returns to OTB Chess with 30th Chicago Open 

30th Annual Chicago Open
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The 30th Annual Chicago Open was held on the 2021 Memorial Day weekend after a 15-month break. // photo Sean Sean Hennessy


Over the 2021 Memorial Day weekend, Grandmaster Dariusz Swiercz won the 30th Annual Chicago Open and the Continental Chess Association’s (CCA) return to Over-The-Board chess in Wheeling, Illinois.  

The last OTB event prior to the Chicago Open was the Western Class Championship nearly 15 months ago! Just as players may have had to shake some rust off their play, tournament directors also needed to regain some skills that may have declined. 

CCA President Bill Goichberg commented that very difficult decisions were required when shutting down OTB chess, but even more difficult was deciding how and when to bring it back again. Balancing COVID protection and regulations with players’ comfort and convenience was a constant challenge for the organizer and directing staff. While most players were appreciative that OTB chess had returned, there was a split between those who felt the event went too far with COVID restrictions, and others not enough. Masks were required and social distancing was encouraged, with most players accepting these as necessary regulations. On the bright side, everyone played at their own six-foot table, so playing conditions were very spacious!  

Restarting a major event under such unique conditions was a challenge, the least of which was planning how many people would come to Chicago to play. While COVID conditions have trended mostly better over the past months, advertising changed as new details were learned. One game per table meant twice as much space, and planning new details with the hotel, in turn, meant coordinating with local government to determine necessary protections. 

Despite these challenges, the 30th edition of the Chicago Open was held with 559 total players, battling over chess boards for $100,000 in prizes. The Open section featured 69 players, including 8 Grandmasters, 9 International Masters, and 14 FIDE Masters. Champion Swiercz entered as the highest-rated player and led the event in its entirety, playing every round on Board 1 and finishing undefeated 7/9. He scored five wins, including victories over second-place finisher GM Christopher Repka and three IMs Praveen Balakrishnan, Sam Schmakel and Josiah Stearman. 

30th Annual Chicago Open Final Standings
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The 30th Annual Chicago Open Final Standings


There was little drama in the first round, with all titled players scoring full points. GM Oleksandr Bortnyk, who would go on to tie for second place, played a nice tactic to bring home the full point. Can you find the winning combination? 


GM Oleksandr Bortnyk - FM Matthew Stevens at the 30th Annual Chicago Open
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GM Oleksandr Bortnyk - FM Matthew Stevens after 20. ... Nxf6 -- can you find the winning combination for White?


Grandmasters were being paired with International Masters by Round 2, and most of the GMs made it to 2-0 – though not all. FM Justus Williams knocked off GM Awonder Liang on the top board, and FM Joshua Posthuma nicked GM Alexander Shabalov for a draw on Board 3. Williams went on to score 6/7 and tie for the U2400 FIDE prize with an IM-worthy performance, though he did not receive a norm because he did not play enough players from a foreign federation. 

[pgn][Event "Chicago Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.05.31"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Liang, Awonder"] [Black "Williams, Justus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2592"] [BlackElo "2328"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 e6 6. Bg5 Qc7 7. Nc3 a6 8. Bxd7+ Bxd7 9. O-O-O Rc8 10. Kb1 e5 11. Qd3 Be6 12. Nd2 h6 13. Bh4 b5 14. f4 exf4 15. Nd5 Bxd5 16. exd5 Be7 17. Rde1 Kf8 18. Bf2 Bf6 19. g3 Ne7 20. Ne4 Nxd5 21. Nxf6 Nxf6 22. Bd4 Qc4 23. Qd2 f3 24. b3 Qc6 25. Qd3 d5 26. Rhf1 Ne4 27. Rxf3 f6 28. h4 Kf7 29. g4 Rhe8 30. Ref1 Re6 31. Rf5 Ng3 32. g5 Nxf5 33. Qxf5 Re4 34. c3 Qe6 35. gxf6 Re1+ 36. Kb2 Rxf1 37. Qxf1 gxf6 38. Qf4 h5 39. Ka3 a5 40. Qf2 Rg8 41. b4 axb4+ 42. Kxb4 Qc6 43. Be5 Ra8 0-1 [/pgn]


In this equal position, NM Mike Zaloznyy made the natural-looking 15. … Ne7, but his opponent NM Andrew Titus showed the positional move fails to a tactic. 


NM Andrew Titus – NM Mike Zaloznyy in the 30th Annual Chicago Open
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NM Andrew Titus – NM Mike Zaloznyy after 15. … Ne7. Black saw 16. Qc3 and intended Nxd5, however that fails to 16. Qc3 Nxd5 17. Nf5! And black gets mated.


More GMs paired with IMs in Round 3, with only one draw on the top boards. GM Swiercz recounts this win over IM Schmakel as one of his best games of the event. In the game, he gives up an exchange but stays better despite the material deficit, ultimately earning the full point. 

[pgn][Event "Chicago Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.05.28"] [Round "3.1"] [White "Schmakel, Sam"] [Black "Swiercz, Dariucz"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2435"] [BlackElo "2649"] [Annotator "Hater,David"] [PlyCount "96"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 0,96,18,27,57,47,44,-10,19,14,12,18,9,-12,3,-6,20,15,19,-10,-30,56,56, 56,56,56,48,23,35,31,65,44,38,8,13,20,35,52,37,31,38,34,26,24,26,5,-9,-8,4,-5, -12,-20,-27,-24,-25,-21,0,-35,-35,-114,-140,-153,-153,-153,-153,-153,-153,-156, -122,-120,-109,-106,-106,-113,-113,-113,-98,-90,-78,-165,-165,-195,-190,-170, -165,-182,-176,-169,-310,-383,-445,-536,-623,-683,-705,-1040,-1040,-830,-972]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 6. N1c3 a6 7. Na3 Be6 8. Nc4 Rb8 9. Be3 b5 10. Nd2 Nf6 11. a4 b4 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 Bxd5 14. Bxa6 Be7 15. Nb3 Be6 16. a5 O-O 17. O-O d5 18. Bb6 Rxb6 19. axb6 Qxb6 20. Be2 e4 21. Ra6 Qc7 22. Qa1 Bf6 23. Ra8 Nd4 24. Rxf8+ Kxf8 25. Nxd4 Bxd4 26. Qa8+ Ke7 27. Qa4 Qc5 28. Qb3 g6 29. Kh1 Bxf2 30. c3 d4 31. cxd4 Bxb3 32. dxc5 Bxc5 33. g4 Be6 34. Bc4 f5 35. Bxe6 Kxe6 36. gxf5+ gxf5 37. Kg2 Bd4 38. b3 Ke5 39. Kg3 Bc3 40. Rd1 f4+ 41. Kg2 Bd4 42. h3 h6 43. Rc1 Bc3 44. Rd1 h5 45. Rd8 f3+ 46. Kf2 Bd4+ 47. Ke1 e3 48. Re8+ Kf4 0-1 [/pgn]

Only five players remained with perfect scores after three rounds: GMs Dariucz Swiercz, Olexandr Bortnyk, Hans Niemann, Christopher Repka and IM Robby Kevlishvili. GM Repka was served his only loss of the tournament, to the champion. Here, Swiercz has been winning for many moves and Repka’s position is desperate, though Black has a miracle defense that could have saved equality. 

[pgn][Event "Chicago Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.05.29"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Swiercz, Dariucz"] [Black "Repka, Christopher"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D41"] [WhiteElo "2649"] [BlackElo "2497"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2 O-O 11. Bc4 Nd7 12. O-O b6 13. Rfe1 Bb7 14. Rad1 Rc8 15. Bb3 h6 16. Re3 Qf6 17. Qe2 Qf4 18. d5 Nc5 19. Nd4 Nxb3 20. axb3 Rfd8 21. g3 Qe5 22. f4 Qd6 23. f5 e5 24. Nf3 Rc7 25. g4 Rdc8 26. h4 Rc2 27. Rd2 Rc1+ 28. Kg2 f6 29. Qf2 Ba6 30. Ra2 Bb5 31. Re1 R1c3 32. Re3 Qb4 33. Rxc3 Rxc3 34. Rc2 Rxb3 35. Nd2 Rd3 36. g5 Ba4 37. Rc8+ Kf7 38. Nc4 Ke7 39. d6+ Kd7 40. Rc7+ Kd8 41. Rxa7 Bc6 42. Rxg7 Bxe4+ 43. Kh2 hxg5 44. hxg5 1-0 [/pgn]

White has many threats and it looks like Black might be lost, but he has a defense. 44. … Rd4 45. gxf6 Bd5 saves the game for black.  

Swiercz slowed his pace with a draw in Round 5, allowing GM Niemann back into a first-place tie with this win over GM Shabalov.  

[pgn][Event "Chicago Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.05.29"] [Round "5.3"] [White "Shabalov, Alex"] [Black "Niemann, Hans"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2528"] [BlackElo "2546"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Rd1+ Ke8 10. Nc3 Be7 11. h3 h5 12. a4 Nh4 13. Nd4 Nf5 14. Nde2 Be6 15. b3 Rd8 16. Bb2 h4 17. Kf1 a5 18. Rxd8+ Kxd8 19. Nf4 Bd7 20. Rd1 Kc8 21. Ne4 Re8 22. c4 b6 23. Ke2 Bd8 24. Kf3 c5 25. Nd5 Bc6 26. Kg4 Bd7 27. Kf4 Be6 28. Kf3 Kb7 29. Nf4 Bc8 30. Nh5 Be7 31. g4 hxg3 32. fxg3 Bf8 33. g4 Nd4+ 34. Bxd4 cxd4 35. Kf4 Rd8 36. Ng5 Rd7 37. Ke4 c5 38. Nf4 g6 39. Nd5 Bh6 40. h4 Bxg5 41. hxg5 Rd8 42. Rf1 Be6 43. Rf6 Rd7 44. Rf4 Ka7 45. Kd3 Rxd5 46. cxd5 Bxd5 47. Kc2 b5 48. Rf2 Kb6 49. Rh2 c4 50. axb5 Be4+ 51. Kc1 c3 52. Rf2 d3 53. Rxf7 d2+ 54. Kd1 Bd5 * [/pgn]

GM Hans Niemann at the 30th Annual Chicago Open
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GM Hans Niemann at the 30th Annual Chicago Open. // photo credit Sean Hennessy


Niemann dropped from the leaders’ group after an uncharacteristic blunder in the opening of his Round 7 game against IM Praveen Balakrishnan, and Swiercz separated himself from the pack in Round 8, defeating Balakrishnan with the Black pieces after turning down an early draw offer. 

[pgn][Event "Chicago Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.05.31"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Balakrishnan, Praveen"] [Black "Swiercz, Dariucz"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C85"] [WhiteElo "2500"] [BlackElo "2649"] [PlyCount "136"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. d3 Nd7 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. Nc4 Bf6 10. b4 Qe7 11. Qd2 Re8 12. Bb2 c5 13. a3 b5 14. Ne3 Nb6 15. Rae1 Qd6 16. h3 h6 17. Ba1 Be6 18. Nf5 Bxf5 19. exf5 c4 20. Re4 cxd3 21. cxd3 Rad8 22. Rd1 Nc4 23. Qc1 Qd5 24. Ree1 Nd6 25. Qxc7 Rc8 26. Qb6 Nxf5 27. Qxa6 Rc2 28. Rd2 Rxd2 29. Nxd2 Nh4 30. Ne4 Be7 31. f3 f5 32. Nf2 Bd6 33. Rc1 Kh7 34. Qc6 Qe6 35. g4 Qg6 36. Qd5 Bb8 37. Kf1 Qg5 38. Re1 Qf4 39. gxf5 Nxf3 40. Bb2 Rc8 41. Qe6 Ba7 42. d4 Nh2+ 43. Kg2 Qf3+ 44. Kg1 Qg3+ 45. Kh1 Qf3+ 46. Kg1 Qg3+ 47. Kh1 Qxf2 48. Qg6+ Kh8 49. Rg1 Rg8 50. f6 Qxf6 51. Kxh2 Bxd4 52. Bxd4 Qf4+ 53. Qg3 Qxd4 54. Re1 Re8 55. Rg1 e4 56. Qg6 Qe5+ 57. Qg3 Qd4 58. Qg6 Rf8 59. Qg4 Qe5+ 60. Qg3 Qe7 61. Qg4 Rf2+ 62. Rg2 Qe5+ 63. Qg3 Qxg3+ 64. Kxg3 Rf3+ 65. Kg4 Rxa3 66. Re2 e3 67. Kf3 Rb3 68. h4 Rxb4 0-1 [/pgn]


Section winners for the 30th Annual Chicago Open: 

U2300: NM Caleb Denby, 6.5/7   

U2100:  Kameron Tolliver, 6.5/7

U1900: Stephen Jennings and Danilo Bucal, 6/7

U1700: Mohammad Khan, Theodore Epstein, and Aaron Marian, 6/7

U1500: Louisa Zhang, 6.5/7 

U1250: Nathan Melnikov, 7/7

Mixed Doubles: Badakhand Norovsambuu and Max Zinski; Nura Baala and Aditya Gupta,10.5/14 

Blitz: FM Aydin Turgut, 9/10

NTD Boyd Reed directed for Continental Chess assisted by David Hater, Steve Immitt, Jeff Wiewel, Jeff Smith, Tracey Vibbert, Terry Winchester, Chris Baumgarter, Adam Rubinberg, Harold Scott, Gary Janssen, Danny Rohde, and Steve Plotnick.  

Full tournament details can be found at Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at          


Solution to GM Olexandr Bortnykn - FM Matthew Stevens above: 21. Rxf6 Qxa1 22. Qxg6 Qc1 (22. …. Re7 23. Nf5) 23. Qf7+ Kh8 24. Rf5 Qh6 25. Rh5 Qxh5 26. Qxh5+ Kg8 27. Nf5 


FM Justus Williams already has his three IM norms and only needs the 2400 FIDE ratings to have title conferred. This tournament performance will help.

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