GM Sam Sevian wins Philadelphia International; Four IM Norms Achieved

GM Samuel Sevian at the Chicago Open. Photo: Betsy Dynako Zacate
GM Sam Sevian won the 12th annual Philadelphia International with an undefeated score of 7 ½ - 1 ½ pocketing $5000 for clear first.  Sevian started as the second seed, but the tournament would be far from easy.  There were 12 GMs, 17 IMs, 24 FMs, 3 WIMs and 3 WFMs in the 115 player field.   There were a total of 49 foreign players representing a total of 21 federations, so this was truly an international event.  The entry fee was structured to encourage only the stronger players to enter.  The strategy worked as only eleven of the 115 players were below 2000 in either USCF or FIDE rating. Round one did feature all competitive games as the pairing cut was 2245 FIDE.  In spite of the fact that virtually all the games were master vs. master, the stronger player won in almost all cases.  There were a handful of draws and only five upsets.  The biggest surprise of round one occurred on board four as Alexander King, FIDE 2236 had white versus GM Victor Mikhalevski, FIDE 2581 and pulled off the upset.  Mikhalevski had a reasonable tournament scoring 6-3 overall and tying for 9th, but that is clearly a disappointment for such a strong GM, though it probably shows just how tough the event was this year.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.06.28"]
[Round "1.4"]
[White "King, Alexander"]
[Black "Mikhalevski, Victor"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E53"]
[WhiteElo "2236"]
[BlackElo "2581"]
[PlyCount "47"]
[EventDate "2018.06.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. exd4
dxc4 9. Bxc4 b6 10. Bg5 Bb7 11. Re1 Nc6 12. a3 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Rc8 14. Bd3 Na5
15. Re3 Nc4 16. Bxc4 Rxc4 17. Ne5 Qd5 18. Qf1 Rc7 19. c4 Qxd4 20. Rd1 Qb2 21.
Bxf6 gxf6 22. Qd3 fxe5 23. Rg3+ Kh8 24. Qd8 1-0[/pgn]
In round two, the matchups were even more competitive, and the results showed.  On the top boards, there were several draws surrendered as GM Aleksandr Lenderman drew with WIM Jennifer Yu on board three, and GM Julio Sadorra surrendered a draw to Aaron Grabinsky on board six.  It would certainly be too early to talk about norm chances, but there would be several key upsets this round:  FM Brandon Jacobson defeated IM Gabriel Flom on board seven, FM Josiah Stearman defeated GM Abhimanyu Puranik on board eight, and Mark Plotkin defeated IM Vignesh Panchanathan on board 15 while his father FM Victor Plotkin defeated IM Joshua Sheng on board 18.  After only two rounds, the number of perfect scores had been whitled down to 18.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.06.29"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Jacobson, Brandon"]
[Black "Flom, Gabriel"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E10"]
[WhiteElo "2303"]
[BlackElo "2512"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "2018.06.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Nc3 exd5 6. cxd5 g6 7. h3 Bg7 8. e4
O-O 9. Bd3 b5 10. Nxb5 Re8 11. O-O Nxe4 12. Re1 a6 13. Nc3 Nxc3 14. bxc3 Nd7
15. Bg5 Nf6 16. c4 h6 17. Bd2 Bd7 18. Qc2 Nh5 19. Rxe8+ Bxe8 20. Re1 Rb8 21.
Qc1 Bb2 22. Qd1 Bg7 23. Qe2 Bd7 24. Qe7 Qxe7 25. Rxe7 Nf6 26. Bc3 Rb7 27. Re1
Nh5 28. Bd2 g5 29. Rb1 Rxb1+ 30. Bxb1 f5 31. g3 Kf7 32. h4 g4 33. Ne1 Bd4 34.
Kg2 Nf6 35. Bxh6 Ne4 36. Bxe4 fxe4 37. Bf4 Ke7 38. Nc2 Ba4 39. Nxd4 cxd4 40. h5
Bc2 41. h6 e3 42. fxe3 dxe3 43. Bxe3 Kf7 44. Kf2 Bb1 45. a3 0-1[/pgn]
In round three, there were no upsets on the top boards, but there were several games where norm seekers were making their presence known.  FM Brandon Jacobson drew with IM Evgeny Shtembuliak on board six and FM Victor Plotkin drew with GM Thal Abergel while Grabinsky defeated IM Daniel Gurevich  to also get to 2 ½ out of 3.   In an equal position, Gurevich makes a mistake.  Can you spot the tactic that enabled Grabinsky to win?

Aaron Grabinsky vs. IM Daniel G,urevich 

White to move.
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.06.28"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Grabinsky, Aaron"]
[Black "Gurevich, Daniel"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D00"]
[WhiteElo "2296"]
[BlackElo "2462"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/kpQ1Np2/p3q3/8/4p1pp/2P2nP1/PP3PKP/8 w - - 0 31"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]31. Nc8+ Ka8 32. Nd6 {and Black resigned. If} Qd5 33. Qd8+ Ka7 34. Nc8+ 1-0[/pgn]
Stearman got a good pairing as he managed to get paired down and defeated Rithwik Mathur to reach 2 points.  Some of the other norm seekers did not fare as well as Mark Plotkin lost to GM Abhimanyu Puranik.  After three rounds, there were only six perfect scores:  GMs Anton Kovalyov, Sam Sevian, Awonder Liang, Pavlo Vorontsov, & Abhimanyu Puranik and IM Nicolas Checa. The top players may have seemed to be in a peaceful mood in round four as all the games among the perfect scores were drawn, but several were fighting draws.  The more interesting news from this round would be from those seeking norms.  FM Plotkin drew with GM Nikola Nestorovic on board six while his son Mark lost to FM Andrew Hong.  Jacobson and Grabinsky would play on board seven and draw.  FM Stearman continued to stay in the hunt as he defeated IM Vignesh Panchanathan.  Due to the number of draws on the top boards, the leader board was quite crowded as now seven players stood at 3 ½ out of 4.  IM Evgeny Shtembuliak defeated FM Edward Song on board four and joined Kovalyov, Sevian, Liang, Vorontsov, Puranik, and Checa as the tournament leaders.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.06.30"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Panchanatham, Vignesh"]
[Black "Stearman, Josiah"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D12"]
[WhiteElo "2431"]
[BlackElo "2285"]
[PlyCount "122"]
[EventDate "2018.06.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Be4 7. f3 Bg6 8. Qb3
Qc7 9. Bd2 Be7 10. g3 O-O 11. Rc1 dxc4 12. Bxc4 Nbd7 13. Nxg6 hxg6 14. O-O e5
15. Bd3 exd4 16. exd4 Qb6 17. Qxb6 Nxb6 18. Rfe1 Rfe8 19. Be3 Rad8 20. Bf2 Rd7
21. Ne4 Nxe4 22. Rxe4 Red8 23. Rce1 Bf6 24. Re8+ Kh7 25. Rxd8 Rxd8 26. Re4 Nc8
27. b4 Nd6 28. Re2 Nf5 29. Bxf5 gxf5 30. Rd2 Rd5 31. Be3 Be7 32. Rb2 Bf6 33.
Rd2 Rb5 34. a3 a5 35. bxa5 Rxa5 36. Rd3 Be7 37. Bc1 Rd5 38. Rb3 b5 39. Be3 Bf6
40. Rc3 Rxd4 41. Rxc6 Rd3 42. Bc1 Rxf3 43. Kg2 Rb3 44. Rc7 Kg6 45. Rc6 Rc3 46.
Rxc3 Bxc3 47. h4 Kh5 48. Kf3 Be5 49. Bd2 Bd6 50. Bc3 f6 51. Bb2 g5 52. Bxf6 g4+
53. Kf2 Bxa3 54. Be5 Bc1 55. Bd6 f4 56. gxf4 Kxh4 57. Kg2 Bd2 58. Be7+ Kh5 59.
Kg3 b4 60. f5 b3 61. Ba3 Bc3 0-1[/pgn]
There was only one decisive game on the top boards in round five, so there would be a clear leader after round five.  GM Sevian defeated IM Checa on board two to emerge as the clear leader at 4-1. Puranik drew with Kovalyov, Liang drew with Vorontsov, and Shtembuliak drew with Mikhalevski.  Among the norm hunters, FM Jacobson drew with GM Abergel, and FM Stearman drew with FM Andrew Hong. FM Plotkin drew with IM Philip Lindgren, but his son Mark rebounded from the two losses by defeating Rithwik Mathur. Grabinsky defeated IM Christian Peterson and now trailed Sevian by just half a point!  In addition to these norm seekers, FM Nico Chasin was also making an impact.  He drew his first four games against IM Thore Perske, GM Billel Bellahcene, IM Farai Mandizha and FM Maggie Feng.  This round he defeated FM Christopher Shen to move to plus one against a strong field.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.06.30"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Plotkin, Mark"]
[Black "Mathur, Rithwik"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A05"]
[WhiteElo "2250"]
[BlackElo "2095"]
[PlyCount "71"]
[EventDate "2018.06.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 e6 4. O-O c5 5. d3 Nc6 6. Nbd2 g6 7. e4 Bg7 8. Qe2
O-O 9. Re1 a5 10. Nf1 b5 11. e5 Ng4 12. Bf4 f6 13. exf6 Qxf6 14. Bd6 Re8 15.
Bxc5 Qxb2 16. d4 Nxd4 17. Nxd4 Bxd4 18. Rab1 Qc3 19. Qxb5 Rf8 20. Bxf8 Bxf2+
21. Kh1 Kxf8 22. Qe2 Bxe1 23. Qxg4 Qe5 24. Qf3+ Kg7 25. Ne3 Bb4 26. a3 Bc5 27.
Ng4 Qf5 28. Qc3+ d4 29. Qd2 Ra7 30. h3 g5 31. Rf1 Qg6 32. Ne5 Qh6 33. Qd3 Ba6
34. c4 dxc3 35. Qxc3 Bxf1 36. Ng4+ 1-0[/pgn]
Since he was in clear first place and since he was playing black against a strong player, Sevian was in a peaceful mood.  He drew quickly with Vorontsov.  Kovalyov, Puranik, and Sadorra all won to catch up with Sevian at 5-1.  Grabinsky could have actually joined the tie for first – all he had to do was defeat GM Aleksandr Lenderman with the black pieces.  Grabinsky did fight valiantly, but eventually Lenderman won a K+Q vs K + R ending.  Lenderman acknowledged after the game that earlier in the game Grabinsky could have drawn, but Lenderman continued applying pressure and eventually Grabinsky succumbed.  Stearman also lost in round six to IM Thore Perske.  Jacobson defeated IM Harsha Raja,  Both Plotkins won as Mark defeated IM Pedersen, and Victor defeated IM Raven Sturt.  Chasin defeated Deepak Aaron to get to plus two and is definitely in norm contention.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.07.01"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Aaron, Deepak"]
[Black "Chasin, Nico"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B47"]
[WhiteElo "2338"]
[BlackElo "2123"]
[PlyCount "122"]
[EventDate "2018.06.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Nb3 a6 7. Bd3 b5 8. Qe2
Nf6 9. f4 d6 10. O-O Be7 11. Bd2 Bb7 12. Rae1 Nd7 13. Nd1 O-O 14. Rf3 g6 15.
Rh3 Rfe8 16. Nf2 Bf8 17. Ng4 f5 18. Nf2 Nf6 19. Bc3 Qf7 20. a3 fxe4 21. Bxe4
Bg7 22. Bxc6 Bxc6 23. Bxf6 Qxf6 24. Nd3 Bd5 25. Nbc1 a5 26. Kh1 Qf5 27. Rg3 Bf6
28. Rf1 h5 29. h3 Kh7 30. Qd1 h4 31. Rg4 Rac8 32. Ne2 Be4 33. Ne1 Qd5 34. Qc1
Bf5 35. Nf3 Rxc2 36. Qe1 Bxg4 37. hxg4 Qe4 38. g5 Qxe2 39. Qxe2 Rxe2 40. gxf6
Rf8 41. Ng5+ Kg8 42. f7+ Rxf7 43. Nxf7 Kxf7 44. b4 axb4 45. axb4 Re4 46. Kh2
Rxb4 47. Kh3 Kf6 48. Rd1 d5 49. g3 hxg3 50. Kxg3 g5 51. fxg5+ Kxg5 52. Kf3 Kf5
53. Ke3 Re4+ 54. Kd3 Rc4 55. Rh1 e5 56. Rh5+ Ke6 57. Rh6+ Kd7 58. Rb6 b4 59.
Ra6 Kc7 60. Re6 e4+ 61. Kd2 b3 0-1[/pgn]
Round seven saw all the tournament leaders draw as Sevian got his second black in a row and drew Kovalyov, and Sadorra drew with Puranik.  FM Jacobson and FM Poltkin were only half a point out of first, but they both lost this round as Plotkin lost to IM Shtembuliak on board six, and Jacobson lost to GM Bellahcene on board seven.  Grabinsky and Stearman were a point back, but they both fared much better as Grabinsky defeated GM Mikhalevski, and Stearman defeated IM Farai Mandiza.  Mark Plotkin lost to FM Martin Lokander.  Peng Chen has also been having a good tournament and defeated IM Joshua Sheng to get to 5-2 and stay in contention for an IM norm.  Chasin drew with IM Vignesh Panchanathan to continue his quest for the IM norm.  After round seven there was a logjam among the leaders as eight players all had 5 ½ points:  GMs Kovalyov, Sevian, Vorontsov, Erenburg, Puranik, Sadorra, & Bellahcene and IM Shtembuliak.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.07.01"]
[Round "7.13"]
[White "Sheng, Joshua"]
[Black "Chen, Peng"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B02"]
[WhiteElo "2411"]
[BlackElo "2397"]
[PlyCount "114"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d6 4. Bc4 dxe5 5. Qh5 g6 6. Qxe5 Nf6 7. Bf4 Nc6 8.
Qxc7 Qxc7 9. Bxc7 Nxd4 10. Na3 Be6 11. Bxe6 Nxe6 12. Be5 Bg7 13. Nf3 O-O 14.
O-O Rfd8 15. Rfd1 Nd5 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. c3 Rac8 18. Rd2 Nb6 19. Rc2 a6 20. Kf1
g5 21. h3 h5 22. g3 Na4 23. Re1 b5 24. Nb1 Nac5 25. Nbd2 Nd3 26. Rxe6 fxe6 27.
Nxg5 Rc6 28. Ndf3 e5 29. Ke2 Kf6 30. Ke3 Nb4 31. Rc1 Nd5+ 32. Ke2 Nb6 33. Nxe5
Rc7 34. f4 Nc4 35. Nd3 e5 36. Ne4+ Kf5 37. Nef2 exf4 38. g4+ hxg4 39. hxg4+ Kg5
40. Ne4+ Kxg4 41. Rg1+ Kh4 42. Rh1+ Kg4 43. Ndf2+ Kf5 44. Rh5+ Kg6 45. Rg5+ Kf7
46. b3 Nd6 47. Kf3 Nxe4 48. Nxe4 Rd1 49. Kxf4 Re7 50. Rg3 Ra1 51. Re3 Rxa2 52.
c4 bxc4 53. Nd6+ Kf8 54. Rxe7 Kxe7 55. Nxc4 Re2 56. Kf3 Re1 57. Kf2 Re6 0-1[/pgn]
Due to the congestion at the top, everybody knew that the next round would not be peaceful.  Due to work commitments, Sergey Erenburg had signed up for a bye before the tournament started, so he would not be playing round 8.   The GMs mostly made good use of their white pieces.  Sadorra defeated  Kovalyov and Sevian defeated Shtembuliak which pretty much knocked Shtembuliak out of GM norm contention.  Only board three was drawn as Vorontsov and Puranik drew.  Bellahcene was paired “down” to Liang and also drew, so going into the last round there would be two leaders: Sevian and Sadorra. In the norm hunt, Jacobson defeated IM Vignesh Panchanathan to secure his IM norm with a round to spare.  Grabinsky drew with Peng Chen to also secure his IM norm with a round to spare, but Chen would need a win in the last round to clinch his norm.  Stearman defeated IM Harshit Raja, but would still need another half point  Mark Plotkin defeated FM Ben Li but would also need to win the last round.  FM Victor Polotkin lost to IM Teddy Coleman which would make his norm chances much harder but he could also get there with a last round win.  Chasin lost to GM Mikhalevski which meant that he would need a win for his IM norm.  FM Yuanchen Zhang pulled off his first upset of the tournament at the right time.  By beating IM Joshua Sheng, Zhang could achieve an IM norm with a last round win.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.07.02"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Stearman, Josiah"]
[Black "Raja Harshit"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B23"]
[WhiteElo "2285"]
[BlackElo "2442"]
[PlyCount "43"]
[EventDate "2018.06.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 a6 3. g3 b5 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. d3 e6 6. f4 d5 7. f5 b4 8. fxe6 fxe6
9. Nce2 e5 10. Nf3 dxe4 11. Nxe5 Qe7 12. Nc4 Nd7 13. Bf4 Qe6 14. O-O O-O-O 15.
a3 Ngf6 16. axb4 cxb4 17. Ra5 exd3 18. Qxd3 Bc5+ 19. Nd4 Bxg2 20. Nd6+ Bxd6 21.
Nxe6 Nc5 22. Nxc5 1-0[/pgn]
I expected a quick draw on board one in the last round to tie for first and see who would catch them.  Sadorra had black and would have been amenable, but Sevian got a slight advantage with white and decided to try to maximize it.  He did so and finished in clear first place.
[pgn][Event "12th Philadelphia International"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.07.02"]
[Round "9.1"]
[White "Sevian, Samuel"]
[Black "Sadorra, Julio Catalino"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C17"]
[WhiteElo "2624"]
[BlackElo "2546"]
[PlyCount "99"]
[EventDate "2018.06.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Ba5 6. Bd2 Nc6 7. Nb5 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2
Nxd4 9. Nxd4 cxd4 10. Nf3 Ne7 11. Nxd4 O-O 12. f4 Nc6 13. Nf3 f6 14. O-O-O fxe5
15. fxe5 Bd7 16. Bd3 Qe8 17. Qg5 Qf7 18. Kb1 Qf4 19. h4 g6 20. Rh3 Qxg5 21.
hxg5 Kg7 22. Rh4 Rf7 23. Re1 Rh8 24. Reh1 Rff8 25. b4 Nd8 26. Ka2 a6 27. Kb3
Bb5 28. Bxb5 axb5 29. Nd4 Rf2 30. R1h2 Rf1 31. R2h3 Rb1+ 32. Ka2 Re1 33. Rc3
Rxe5 34. Rc7+ Nf7 35. Rf4 Rf8 36. Re7 Kg8 37. Nxe6 Rc8 38. Rfxf7 Rxe6 39. Rg7+
Kf8 40. Ref7+ Ke8 41. Rxb7 Kf8 42. Rxh7 Kg8 43. Rhc7 Rxc7 44. Rxc7 Re5 45. a4
bxa4 46. b5 Re6 47. Ka3 Kf8 48. Kxa4 Ke8 49. Ka5 Kd8 50. Rc5 1-0[/pgn]
As mentioned earlier, Jacobson and Grabinsky had already secured their norms.  Stearman needed a draw against GM Abergel to make his norm.  Stearmam offered an early draw, but  Abergel wanted to play.  In the end, the game ended in a draw and Stearman made his norm.  Mark Plotkin needed the win, and he got it against IM Harshit Raja.  Mark’s father Victor needed the win against IM Michael Mulyar, but that game ended in a very quick draw.  Chasin also needed a win against FM Justin Wang but could only draw.  Chen needed a win against IM Yiping Lou, but he also drew.  Finally, Zhang needed a win against IM Thore Perske, but he lost. This year there was an Under 2100 and an Under 1900 section.  The attendance was sparse so this experiment did not quite work out.  Despite a fairly generous prize fund, there were only 19 players in the Under 2100 section and only 9 in the Under 1900 section.  Elijah Logozar won the Under 2100 section with a score of 6 ½ - 2 ½.  That was good for $2500.  Noah Xu scored 6-3 in the Under 1900 section to take clear first and $2500. The top section of the main event of the World Open begins on July 4th.  You will be able to follow the games on Steve Immitt directed for Continental Chess Association.  He was assisted by David Hater and  Brian Yang.                  Full tournament details including a list of all winners can be seen at Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at