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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 followchess.com.
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 http://chessevents.com/worldopen.
Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at http://www.chesstour.com/cross.html.