Gabuzyan Wins a Wintry North American Open

The 28th annual North American Open was again held at Bally’s Casino Resort in Las Vegas from December 26 through 30th. The pre-tournament attendance predictions called for a record smashing attendance and we did in fact break last year’s record. But the field would have been even bigger had Mother Nature not intervened. The mountains between California and Nevada suffered a winter snowstorm that cost the tournament not only one of our TDs, but perhaps as many as 50 players. We kept getting reports from players that the highway was closed… then open… then closed. The weather-induced chaos prevented the event from being a “super swiss” when some foreign players cancelled. It also caused us to be short handed on the TD staff side, led to a significant number of forfeits as players were trapped in the snow, and pressed your author into duty as a tournament reporter. Still, once the dust (or rather the snowflakes) settled, there were 873 players in seven sections. The flagship Open section was a nine round norm event, with 91 players. This was the fewest since 2013 and the first time in several years that the event was not a super Swiss. Still, the event was quite strong, with 6 GMs, 33 titled players, and 51 masters! In the early rounds, the top players mostly held serve and there were very few upsets on the very top boards.  The upsets that are featured also show tenacity as the titled players that were upset would eventually come back and tie for a top prize in the tournament. The most significant upset in round one occurred on board 7.  NM Ming Lu takes advantage of a tactical opportunity versus IM John Bryant. Bryant would eventually score 6.5 and tie for third. Can you spot the tactic?
Solution: 25. Nxf6 wins a pawn and gives white a dominating position which he quickly converts In round two there were again no upsets on the demo boards. The highest upset occurred on board six between NM Vijay Krishnamoorthy and IM Hans Niemann who also would eventually score 6.5 and tie for third. This game features a tactical opportunity for both sides.
Niemann has a nice simplification with 28. … Rg1 29. Qxg1 Nxg1 30. Kxg1 Qxb2 and black will have a queen for rook and a minor. However, Niemann thought he had more and plays 28. … Rxg3 and allows black a tactic: 29. Rc8 Rg8 30. Rxg8 Kxg8 31. Qxf3 and white is up a piece. In round three, again there were no upsets on the demonstration boards. There was however a very nice tactical miniature on board 10 as FM Todd Andrews defeated IM Florin Felican. Can you find the tactical finish?
Solution: 14. Nc7+! Qxc7 15. Bb5+ Nfd7 (15. … Kf8 16 Nxg6 wins the queen as does 15. … Ncd7 16. Nxd7 and similarly 15. … Bd7 16. Nxd7).  16. Nxd7 e5. Black’s best defense would be 15. … Qb7, but after 16. Nxc5 Qxb5 17. Qxd5 Bxb2 18. Rd1 he is down a pawn with a very bad position. We were down to six perfect scores after three rounds: GMs Hovhannes Gabuzyan, Zviad Izoria, Joshua Ruiz, & Nikola Mitkov, IM Alexander Costello and FM Spencer Lehmann.  The Round 4 pairings featured GM Gabuzyan – IM Costello on board one, GM Ruiz – Izoria on board two and FM Lehmann – GM Mitkov on board three. Ruiz and Izoria took a quick draw, while GM Gabuzyan defeated IM Costello and GM Mitkov defeated FM Lehmann.
[pgn]

[Event "29th North American Open"]
[Site "Las Vegas"]
[Date "2019.12.27"]
[Round "4.1"]
[White "Gabuzyan, Hovhannes"]
[Black "Costello, Alexander"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A05"]
[WhiteElo "2610"]
[BlackElo "2291"]
[PlyCount "51"]
[EventDate "2019.12.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 b6 3. Bg2 Bb7 4. O-O g6 5. d3 d5 6. c4 Bg7 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. e4
Nf6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Re1 c5 11. d4 cxd4 12. Nxd4 e5 13. Ndb5 Nbd7 14. b3 a6 15.
Nd6 Qc7 16. Nxb7 Qxb7 17. Be3 Rac8 18. Rc1 Nc5 19. Nd5 Nxd5 20. exd5 Qe7 21. b4
Nb7 22. Rc6 b5 23. d6 Qd7 24. Rxa6 Ra8 25. Bc6 Qc8 26. d7 1-0

[/pgn]
This left only two perfect scores at the (approximate) halfway point: Gabuzyan and Mitkov. They faced off in round five, and Mitkov pulled off the slight upset to emerge as the only perfect score. Both boards two and three ended in fighting draws, leaving Mitkov in first place a full point ahead of the field.
[pgn]

[Event "29th North American Open"]
[Site "Las Vegas"]
[Date "2019.12.28"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Mitkov, Nikola"]
[Black "Gabuzyan, Hovhannes"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B23"]
[WhiteElo "2508"]
[BlackElo "2610"]
[PlyCount "141"]
[EventDate "2019.12.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bd7 7. Be2 Nc6 8. Be3
Nf6 9. Nb3 O-O 10. O-O b5 11. Bf3 b4 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 Na5 14. Bd4 Bxd4+
15. Qxd4 Qb6 16. Qxb6 axb6 17. Rfe1 Nc4 18. Rxe7 Rfd8 19. Nd4 Kf8 20. Ree1 Nxb2
21. Reb1 Na4 22. Rxb4 Re8 23. Kf2 Ra6 24. Rab1 Rc8 25. R1b3 Nc5 26. Re3 Rca8
27. a3 b5 28. Nc6 Rxa3 29. Rxa3 Rxa3 30. Rxb5 Ra2 31. Rb8+ Kg7 32. Nd4 Bf5 33.
Rb6 Bxc2 34. Nxc2 Rxc2+ 35. Ke3 Rc3+ 36. Kd4 Ra3 37. Rxd6 Nd3 38. f5 gxf5 39.
Rd8 Ne1 40. d6 Rd3+ 41. Kc4 Rd2 42. Bc6 Rc2+ 43. Kb5 Rb2+ 44. Ka5 Nd3 45. d7
Ne5 46. Rg8+ Kh6 47. Ba4 Nxd7 48. Bxd7 Rd2 49. Bc6 Rb2 50. Ka4 Rb6 51. Bd5 f6
52. Ka3 Rb1 53. Bb3 Rh1 54. h3 Kh5 55. Kb2 Kh4 56. Kc3 Re1 57. Kd2 Re5 58. Bd1
h5 59. Rg6 f4 60. Rxf6 Kg3 61. Bf3 Ra5 62. Rg6+ Kh4 63. Rh6 Kg3 64. Rg6+ Kh4
65. Rd6 Kg3 66. Rd5 Ra2+ 67. Kd3 Ra3+ 68. Kd4 Ra4+ 69. Kc3 Ra3+ 70. Kc4 h4 71.
Rg5+ 1-0

[/pgn]
Entering round six, nine players trailed Mitkov by that full point: GMs Gabuzyan, Izoria, & Ruiz, IMs Niemann, Bryant, & Aldama, FMs Wang & Zhao and NM Jason Liang. All the top games ended in fighting draws except one, when GM Gabuzyan defeated FM Wang. This left the standings as GM Mitkov at 5.5, GM Gabuzyan at 5, and nine players at 4.5: GMs Izoria, & Ruiz, IMs Niemann, Bryant, Aldama, & Costello, FMs Mirai Aoshima & Ian Zhao and NM Jason Liang.
[pgn]

[Event "29th North American Open"]
[Site "Las Vegas"]
[Date "2019.12.28"]
[Round "6.2"]
[White "Gabuzyan, Hovhannes"]
[Black "Wang, Jason"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A06"]
[WhiteElo "2610"]
[BlackElo "2317"]
[PlyCount "103"]
[EventDate "2019.12.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 Nd7 4. d4 c6 5. Nbd2 Ngf6 6. O-O e6 7. Re1 Be7 8. e4
O-O 9. c3 Bh5 10. e5 Ne8 11. Nb3 Nc7 12. Be3 a5 13. Nc1 c5 14. Nd3 cxd4 15.
cxd4 b5 16. Nf4 Bg6 17. Nxg6 hxg6 18. Rc1 b4 19. Bf1 Nb6 20. b3 Qd7 21. Bg5
Rfc8 22. Bd3 Ne8 23. Kg2 Rxc1 24. Bxc1 a4 25. h4 axb3 26. axb3 Ra1 27. Re2 Nc7
28. Qd2 Qc6 29. Bb2 Ra8 30. Qf4 Nb5 31. Qg4 Nc3 32. Rc2 Ra2 33. h5 gxh5 34.
Qxh5 g6 35. Bxg6 fxg6 36. Qxg6+ Kf8 37. Bc1 Bd8 38. Rxa2 Nxa2 39. Bh6+ Ke7 40.
Qg7+ Ke8 41. Ng5 Be7 42. Qf7+ Kd7 43. Bf8 Nc8 44. Nh7 Kc7 45. Bxe7 Qd7 46. Bd6+
Nxd6 47. exd6+ Kxd6 48. Qf8+ Qe7 49. Qb8+ Qc7 50. Qa8 Nc3 51. Nf6 Qf7 52. Qb8+
1-0

[/pgn]
The standings were really shaken up in round seven when GM Izoria defeated GM Mitkov on board one.
[pgn]

[Event "29th North American Open"]
[Site "Las Vegas"]
[Date "2019.12.29"]
[Round "7.1"]
[White "Mitkov, Nikola"]
[Black "Izoria, Zviad"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B23"]
[WhiteElo "2508"]
[BlackElo "2599"]
[PlyCount "80"]
[EventDate "2019.12.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 d6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 a6 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. O-O g6 8. f4
Bg7 9. Kh1 O-O 10. Qe1 Nfd7 11. Be3 Nc6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Rd1 Re8 14. Na4 Qc7
15. b3 Bb7 16. Bd2 c5 17. Bc3 Bxc3 18. Nxc3 d5 19. e5 Rf8 20. Qg3 f5 21. Nb1
Rf7 22. Nd2 Nf8 23. Nf3 Qa5 24. Qe1 Qb6 25. c3 a5 26. Qf2 Rc7 27. Rb1 Ba6 28.
Bxa6 Qxa6 29. h3 c4 30. bxc4 Rxc4 31. Rb6 Qc8 32. Qh4 Rxc3 33. Ng5 Rb8 34. Rxe6
Rc1 35. Rxc1 Qxc1+ 36. Kh2 Rb1 37. Nf3 Nxe6 38. Kg3 Rb2 39. Qh6 Qf1 40. Nh4
Qf2+ 0-1

[/pgn]
This opened the door for many players to catch up, as five players tied for first at 5.5 heading into the penultimate round – GMs Gabuzyan, Izoria & Mitkov, FM Aoshima and NM Jason Liang – and eight players were at 5 points. White won on all three of the top boards as GM Gabuzyan defeated NM Liang, GM Izoria defeated FM Aoshima and GM Paragua defeated GM Mitkov.
[pgn]

[Event "29th North American Open"]
[Site "Las Vegas"]
[Date "2019.12.29"]
[Round "8.3"]
[White "Paragua, Mark"]
[Black "Mitkov, Nikola"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A06"]
[WhiteElo "2513"]
[BlackElo "2508"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2019.12.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 Nd7 4. O-O e6 5. d4 c6 6. Nbd2 f5 7. c4 Bd6 8. Qb3
Rb8 9. Re1 Ne7 10. Ng5 Nf8 11. cxd5 exd5 12. e4 h6 13. exd5 hxg5 14. Nc4 f4 15.
Bd2 Rh6 16. gxf4 cxd5 17. Bxd5 Ne6 18. Ne5 gxf4 19. Nxg4 Nxd4 20. Qa4+ Ndc6 21.
Nxh6 gxh6 22. Bxf4 Bxf4 23. Bxc6+ bxc6 24. Qxf4 Rb5 25. Rad1 Qc8 26. Rxe7+ Kxe7
27. Re1+ Kd7 28. Qf7+ Kd6 29. Qe7+ Kd5 30. Qe5+ 1-0

[/pgn]
In the last round, Gabuzyan and Izoria drew very quickly to finish at 7-2, guaranteeing themselves them a share of first place. GM Paragua could have joined them if he won, but he had black versus GM Ruiz and drew. All the other games on the top boards were decisive which produced a large tie for third place. FM Zhao defeated FM Aoshima to win clear first Under 2400 and $2300. The other players to finish at 6.5-2.5 were GMs Paragua & Mitkov, IMs Niemann, Bryant, and Katz. Each won $1220.
[pgn]

[Event "29th North American Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.12.30"]
[Round "9.7"]
[White "Aoshima, Mirai"]
[Black "Zhao, Ian"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D38"]
[WhiteElo "2361"]
[BlackElo "2320"]
[PlyCount "164"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. Qa4+ Nc6 8.
e3 O-O 9. Be2 dxc4 10. Bxc4 Bd7 11. O-O Bd6 12. Qd1 e5 13. d5 Ne7 14. Bd3 Bg4
15. Ne4 Qg6 16. Nxd6 Qxd6 17. e4 c6 18. dxc6 Nxc6 19. h3 Bxf3 20. Qxf3 Nd4 21.
Qg4 b5 22. Rfc1 Rfd8 23. Bf1 Rab8 24. Rc3 Qb4 25. Rb1 a6 26. Rg3 Ne6 27. Qf5
Rbc8 28. Qxe5 Rc5 29. Qf6 Qd2 30. Kh2 Qd6 31. Qh4 Rc2 32. Kg1 Qd2 33. Rf3 Ng5
34. Rf5 Rxb2 35. Rxb2 Qxb2 36. Rd5 Re8 37. e5 Qxa2 38. Qd4 Ne6 39. Qe4 Qa1 40.
f4 Qc1 41. f5 Nc7 42. Rd7 Qc5+ 43. Kh2 Rxe5 44. Qb7 Re7 45. Qc8+ Kh7 46. f6
gxf6 47. Bd3+ Kg7 48. Rd8 Qe5+ 49. Kh1 Re8 50. Rxe8 Nxe8 51. Qxa6 Nd6 52. Qb6
Nc4 53. Qf2 Qg5 54. Kh2 Ne3 55. Bxb5 Qxb5 56. Qxe3 Qe5+ 57. Qg3+ Kf8 58. h4 Ke7
59. Kh3 Qxg3+ 60. Kxg3 f5 61. Kf3 Ke6 62. Kf4 Kf6 63. g3 h5 64. Kf3 Ke5 65. Ke3
f4+ 66. gxf4+ Kf5 67. Kf3 f6 68. Ke3 Kg4 69. f5 Kxf5 70. Kf3 Ke5 71. Ke3 f5 72.
Kf3 f4 73. Ke2 Ke4 74. Kf2 f3 75. Kf1 Ke3 76. Ke1 Kf4 77. Kf1 Kg3 78. Kg1 Kxh4
79. Kf2 Kg4 80. Kf1 Kg3 81. Kg1 f2+ 82. Kf1 h4 0-1

[/pgn]
Unfortunately, there were no norms achieved this year. Blame the snow! The section winners were: U2300 Erick Zhao, 6.5-0.5 $7000 U2100 Bill Richards, Prasanna Borse, Ater Gorgis & Calvin Koo, 6-1, $3550 U1900 Artem Verdiyen, 6.5-0.5, $7000 U1700 Lily Deng, 6.5-0.5, $6000 U1500 Aleksander Mekhanik, 6.5-0.5, $5000 U1300 Artyom Atayan, 6.5-0.5, $1500 (Maximum prize under 26 games) Mixed Doubles Marlena Vardanyan & Artem Verdiyan and Emma Li & Edward Li, 11.5, $750 to each player Open Blitz IM Hans Niemann, 10-0, $500 U1900 Blitz Andrew Zhang and Carlos Salazar, 9-1. $310
NTD Bill Goichberg directed for Continental Chess assisted by David Hater, Al Losoff, Tom Brownscombe, Enrique Huerta, Aris Marghetis, Juan Juaregui, Stephen Plotnick and Sabrina Juaregui. Full tournament details including many games can be found at www.northamericanopen.com. Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at http://www.chesstour.com/cross.html.

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