GM Shabalov Threepeats at Golden Anniversary of Liberty Bell Open

GM Alexander Shabalov at the 2015 US Open, Photo: Mike Klein

GM Alexander Shabalov won clear first at the Golden Anniversary of the Liberty Bell Open held from January 12-15 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This is the third year in a row that Shabalov has won or tied for first.  The last two years Shabalov tied for first with 5 ½ points.  This year, he scored 6-1 and won clear first.  He won $2104 for his efforts.

The tournament drew a total of 364 players (counting re-entries, house players etc.) in six  sections.  The Major section had four GMs, four IMs, four FMs, and a total of 26 players over 2200 among the 59 players vying for their piece of the $20,000 projected prize fund.  The prize fund was raised for the 12th year in a row because the tournament again drew more than the projected players.

GM Shabalov was kind enough to provide some light annotations for his games.  All his games will be presented with these notes, but before doing that, it is useful to look at how the tournament unfolded.

This tournament had a slightly unusual demographic for the Major section.  The Major section had both a 4 day schedule and a 3 day schedule.  Normally, the shorter schedule draws more of the top players, perhaps as they wish to save expenses.  This year though all the GMs and most of the IMs played in the 4 day schedule.

Round one was not that unusual.  Most of the top players won.  However, IM Justin Sarkar did surrender a draw to Zachary Martin.  This is the second year in a row that Martin played the role of spoiler in round one.  Last year, Martin drew with GM Ruifeng Li in round one.  Whoever plays Martin in round one in 2019 is now forewarned!

Almost half of the players in the Major 4 day schedule opted for first round half point byes! This coupled with a few first round draws led to the first GM vs GM pairing in round two!  On board one, top seeded Aleksandr Lenderman had white versus GM Dmitry Gurevich.  Lenderman won a game in which he tried to sacrifice his light squared bishop three times!  The bishop could not be taken and Gurevich did not take it the first two times.  The third time he didn’t have a lot of choice.  He took the piece and lost!

The merge occurred in round three, and there were only five perfect scores remaining.  The top three seeded GMs (Lenderman, Shabalov, and Sergey Erenburg) all had 2-0 along with Senior Master Mika Brattain and NM William Graif.  The top two boards were both long hard fought games.  Lenderman defeated Brattain while last year’s co-champions – Shabalov and Erenburg drew on board two and that game is presented below. Graif was paired down to the top 1 ½ pointer IM Alexander Katz and drew.

This left Lenderman as the only player at 3-0.  Erenburg and Shabalov led a group of eight players at 2 ½.  In round four, Lenderman and Erenburg drew.  Shabalov defeated NM Zachary Tanenbaum to catch up with Lenderman.  All the other games involving the players at 2 ½ were drawn so now Lenderman and Shabalov were alone at the top of the leader board.

Since Lenderman and Shabalov were the only players at 3 ½, they would face each other in round five.  Shabalov won a pivotal game to emerge as the clear leader after five rounds.  The game is presented below.

Round six pairings were interesting.  Since Shabalov had already played Erenburg, he played the only other player who had 4-1: IM Sarkar.  Erenburg played the top 3 ½ pointer GM Gurevich, and he won to stay with striking distance of Shabalov.

Going into the last round, Shabalov was the only player at 5 ½ points.  Erenburg was the only player at 5-1, and there were three players at 4 ½: IMs Thomas Bartell & Jay Bonin and SM Brattain.  Shabalov had white against Bartell and drew rather quickly to guarantee him at least a tie for first.  Last year, Erenburg and Shabalov shared first place with Erenburg having higher tiebreaks.  Erenburg again had a chance to be co-champion, but he drew with Brattain to take clear second place. Bonin was paired “down” to Lenderman and drew to tie for third place with Bartell, Brattain and IM Katz and FM Youn-Young Kim who both won their final round games to also finish at 5-2.

As noted, this is the third year in a row that Shabalov won the Liberty Bell Open.  The past two years he finished at 5 1/2 and tied for first, but this year he finished 6-1 and achieved a performance rating of 2804. He scored 2 ½ out of 3 against GMs and won the rest of his games with the exception of the last round draw to secure first.  GM Shabalov was kind enough to provide some annotations to his games.  Here are all his games:
Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 4:

Round 5:

Round 6:

Round 7:

The section winners were:

Under 2100

Nick Failon, 6-1, $1203

Under 1900

Ram Singh, $1203

Under 1700

Allen Stern, 6 ½ – ½, $1002

Under 1500

Robert Whiteside, Malina Pavlova, Will Luo, & Eric Li, 5 ½ 1 ½, $551.25

Under 1250

Aaron Torres, Aarush Tippa, & Nathaniel Schultz, 6-1, $468

Mixed Doubles

Malina Pavlova & Ethan Klein, 11-3, $501 each

Blitz Tournament

Mika Brattain, 6 ½ – 1 ½, $200

NTD Steve Immitt directed for Continental Chess Association assisted by Harold Stenzel, Jabari McGreen, Andy Rea & Harold Scott.

Full tournament details can be found at

Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at

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