GM Samuel Sevian wins Continental Championship

GM Sam Sevian, our new Continental Champ Photo Federación Colombiana de Ajedrez.

GM Sam Sevian won the 2017 Continental Championship held in Medellin, Colombia from June 9-19. With his historic victory, Sam earns a spot at the next FIDE World Cup.  At age 16, Samuel becomes the youngest Continental Champion ever.  He was the 8th seed in a field of 258 players, probably the largest Continental Championship ever.  And, with 29 GMs, 1 WGM, 41 IMs and 9 WIMs, this was also likely the strongest Continental. Here are two victories by Sam from the event, both on the White side of the Sicilian.

[pgn] [Event "2017 Continental Championships"] [Site "?"] [Round "?"] [White "Sevian, Sam"] [Black "Vazquez, Guillermo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [PlyCount "55"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f3 Be7 9. Qd2 O-O 10. O-O-O Nbd7 11. g4 b5 12. Rg1 Nb6 13. Na5 Rc8 14. g5 Nh5 15. Kb1 g6 16. h4 Qc7 17. Nd5 Nxd5 18. exd5 Bd7 19. c4 Bd8 20. Nc6 Bxc6 21. dxc6 Qxc6 22. cxb5 axb5 23. Rc1 Qb7 24. Rxc8 Qxc8 25. Qxd6 Bc7 26. Qc6 b4 27. Ba6 Qa8 28. Rc1 1-0[/pgn]
[pgn] [Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Round "?"] [White "Sevian, Sam"] [Black "Vasquez Schroeder, Rodrigo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B66"] [PlyCount "53"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O h6 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Bf4 d5 11. Qe3 Bb4 12. Be2 O-O 13. e5 Nh7 14. Ne4 f5 15. exf6 Nxf6 16. Nxf6+ Qxf6 17. Be5 Bc5 18. Qc3 Qxf2 19. Bd3 Ra7 20. Kb1 Bb6 21. Qb4 a5 22. Qg4 Qe3 23. Qg6 Qxe5 24. Rhf1 Rff7 25. Qh7+ Kf8 26. Qh8+ Ke7 27. Rxf7+ 1-0[/pgn]
After 11 rounds, the event ended in an eight-way tie for first, with Sevian earning Gold on tie-breaks.  But, the final crosstable was far from set!  Normally, the Continental Championship awards four spots for the World Cup.  This year we had a unique situation because of the incredible strength of our U.S. Championship.  In odd-numbered years, our Championship doubles as our Zonal Championship, which awards five spots for the World Cup. Going into the US Championships, however, four players were guaranteed places at the World Cup – GM Jeffery Xiong who won the 2016 World Junior U20 Championship, and World Top Ten players, GMs So, Caruana and Nakamura, who qualify for the World Cup by rating. That left us with an additional five positions from the Zonal Championship, provided that the qualifiers score at least 50% at our Championship.  But, in a small field of 12, only three other players (Onischuk, Akobian and Zherebukh) attained the required 50% or better score.  So, in accordance with World Cup regulations, the two unused positions at our Zonal Championship passed on to the Continental Championship.  That meant this year’s event in Columbia awarded six positions to the World Cup!

Photo Federación Colombiana de Ajedrez.

Saving further complications was that among the eight players who tied for first in Medellín, three (GMs Cordova and Cori from Peru and Flores from Argentina) had already qualified. So all five of the others who were tied for first, including Sam, earned a spot. Half-a-point behind the eight-player group were seven other players…and only one WC spot remaining.  One of those players, GM Kovalyov from Canada, had already qualified. The other six players competed in a Rapid (G15 + 10) play-off to determine the last spot!  Among the six-player group were three Americans:  GMs Kaidanov and Hungaski.  GM Fier from Brazil won the playoff and earned the last World Cup spot. In addition to the four USA players already mentioned, GMs Shabalov and Erenburg, IM Andrew Tang, FM Gregory Markzon, Bob Holliman, Daniel Parmet and Douglas Cox were also in attendance.  The group of 11 USA players at this event appears to be our largest delegation ever at this event! Congratulations to all of our players, particularly to the youngest Continental Champion ever, GM Samuel Sevian!  To see Samuel’s post-tournament interview, please check the event's Facebook page.  For results, see where you can also find play-off results. For more games, see the live transmission record at