Grandmasters Beware: Top Titles Stumble Early in National Invitationals

The 2021 U.S. Open is underway in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, including five invitational events for national championships that got off to a fast start over the weekend - the GM Arnold Denker (“Denker”) Tournament of High School Champions, the Dewain Barber (“Barber”) Tournament of Middle School Champions, the WIM Ruth Haring (“Haring”) National Girls’ Tournament of Champions, the John D. Rockefeller III (“Rockefeller”) National Tournament of Elementary School State Champions, and the John T. Irwin (“Irwin”) National Senior Tournament of Champions. 

 

Irwin

The Grandmaster title is not safe in the Irwin Tournament of Senior State Champions.  

The only two GMs in the 40-player field of state champions aged 50+ have slid down the standings after the opening weekend, including Georgia GM Ben Finegold who dropped his second-round game against Missouri FM Doug Eckert on Sunday afternoon. 

 

Image
FM Doug Eckert
Image Caption
Missouri FM Doug Eckert scored 1.5 points off of two GMs in the 2021 Irwin of Senior State Champions. // photo Iredia Ekhato

 

Eckert annotates his big second-round win against a familiar foe from St. Louis: 

[pgn][Event "Irwin Senior Championship"] [White "Eckert,Doug"] [Black "Finegold,Benjamin"] [Site ""] [Round "2"] [Annotator "FM Doug Eckert"] [Result "1-0"] [Date "2021.08.01"] [WhiteElo "2266"] [BlackElo "2560"] [PlyCount "51"] {[Ben and I have a long history of games. Ben has beaten me many many many times. It has not mattered if I have had good positions, bad positions, OK positions, Ben has generally won. The exception was the 1984 U.S. Junior Championship and now this game. Ben was gracious enough to joke about that after the game, that I wait for a U.S. Championship to win my games...]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Be7 6. g3 0-0 7. Bg2 Ne8 8. Nge2 g6 9. Bh6 Ng7 10. Qd2 Nd7 11. 0-0 f5 12. exf5 (12. f4 { [Before the game, I had looked at set-ups with f4. During the game, I became concerned about 12...exf4 for Black. But it is not very good. Ben plays lots of openings, so it is not possible to prepare too deeply for him. Therefore, this preparation was more of glancing at some ideas rather than looking at anything very deeply.]} exf4 13. Nxf4 Ne5 14. Ne6 Nxe6 (14... Bxe6 15. dxe6 Nxc4 16. Qe2 Ne5 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. exf5 gxf5 19. Nd5 $18 )15. dxe6 Rf6 16. Nd5 Rxe6 17. exf5 $18 )gxf5 13. f4 Nf6 $146 14. h3 $2 ({[White should immediately inflict hanging pawns on Black. This was my only real mistake in the game and it is not a terrible mistake.]} 14. fxe5 dxe5 15. Rad1 Bd6 $18 )Kh8 $2 {[Black gives White another opportunity.]} (14... e4 15. Nd1 $11 (15. g4 fxg4 16. f5 $13 {[This is a crazy suggestion by the computer that I would not have played. After it thinks for a while, it does not think White is doing that great.]} ))15. fxe5 $18 {[In the on-line commentary, this moved was called controversial and that the Black pawn due is fine and Black has a blockading square on d6. However, Black is not in time getting to d6. Giving up the dark squared bishop leads to a decisive weakness on the Black squares.]} dxe5 16. Rad1 {[Sam Shankland wrote two outstanding books on pawn play. In particular the second one, which focuses more on middle game strategy is incredibly instructive. Whenever I get a position like this, I think back to reading the lessons from the books. I have found approximatley 50% of my games reach positions where understanding how to take advantage of pawn transformations and identifying when the transformation is actually weakening your opponent rather than strengthening their position. I highly recommend any serious player to study these books.]} Bd6 (16... Nfe8 17. Qe3 Nd6 (17... Bf6 18. d6 $18 )18. Qxe5 $18 {Its that simple, Black is not in time.} )17. Nb5 Rg8 $2 (17... Nfe8 18. Qe3 Rf7 19. g4 f4 20. Nxf4 exf4 21. Nxd6 Nxd6 22. Bxf4 { [Even a piece down, Stockfish thinks White is +5. Black cannot move. A sample finish is.]} Nxc4 23. Qc3 Nd6 24. Bxd6 Rxf1+ 25. Rxf1 Qxd6 26. Rf7 $18 )18. Bg5 a6 $6 19. Nxd6 Qxd6 20. g4 $1 Nfe8 {[After the game, Ben told me he thought he had tricked me into making a bad weakness with 20 g4.]} 21. Ng3 fxg4 22. h4 $1 {[The live commentators liked my position, but did not come to grips with just how strong it is. White's idea is Rf7, Be4 followed by h5 and h6 winning. As attractive as Ne4 looks, and it is probably also winning, it is better to leave the knight on g4 and prevent Black from putting a piece on f5. Black is totally helpless. I expected his next move, Qd7, since it is the only way to stop the deadly Rf7. The only other alternative for him to try is e4.]} Qd7 (22... e4 23. Bf4 Qe7 24. h5 e3 25. Qc3 e2 26. Nxe2 Qxe2 27. Rde1 $18 )23. Qc3 Qd6 24. Rde1 {[Simple chess, Black cannot defend the dark squares.]} h6 25. Bd2 Nf6 26. Rxe5 {[Ben's time ran down to about 20 seconds here before he resigned. The commentatories were surprised he did. The plan for White is very simple, play Qe3 and attack the newly created weakness on h6. If Nfe8 in response, Re6 is an interference move that mates. Black's only way to stop mate is to play Re8 but after Bf4, Black is going to shed lots of material.] [Also, do not take my comments as being critical of the commentators. Katerina and Kostya are strong players and good friends. It is hard to be commentating on a lot of games and see anything deeply. Especially in a game like this where the obvious move, such as Ne4 after the h4 idea, is not the strongest move. That is why we have time to think during the tournament games, to find the right ideas.]} 1-0 [/pgn]

Eckert went on Sunday evening to nick the tournament’s other GM – New York’s John Fedorowicz – for a draw in the third round, joining a five-player tie in third place with 2.5/3. Fedorowicz, 2445, has now been hit with two half-points through the first three rounds, including a first-round draw with Wyoming’s Daniel Joelson, 2082, and joins Finegold and seven other players in eighth place at 2/3. 

In fact, the pre-rankings of the Irwin in general have been mostly thrown to the wind, as Texas IM Douglas Root, the field’s top seed at 2556, was also served a loss in the opening weekend. Root lost as Black to Maryland IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat, who stays perfect at 3/3 along with Pennsylvania IM Igor Khmelnitsky in first place. Enkhbat and Khmelnitsky are paired in the fourth round on Monday.

 

Denker 

 

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IM Carissa Yip
Image Caption
That's Massachusetts IM Carissa Yip under that hat, in the lead of the 2021 Denker Tournament of High School State Champions. // photo Iredia Ekhato

 

The top seeds are doing just fine in the Denker Tournament of High School State Champions -- problem is, the opening weekend didn’t separate anyone. Nobody in the 48-player field is perfect after three rounds, as top-seeds GM Awonder Liang from Wisconsin and IM Carissa Yip from Massachusetts maintain the lead -- along with 10 other players tied at 2.5/3. 

A few players are playing out of their performance zone after the opening weekend: Vermont’s Luca Mikulis-Borsoi, 1379, is at 1.5/3 after following a win over a Class A player with a draw against an Expert. And the pairings have been cruel to New Jersey NM Merric Hu: After losing the first round to Washington D.C.’s Ben Nemelka, 1855, Hu was shown no mercy in the second round, paired against NM Milind Maiti, 2230. Maiti had an opening draw with Kentucky’s Liam Chesemore, 1846, but has now recovered to 2.5/3. 

Here's how Yip was knocked from perfection, settling for a draw as Black against Maryland NM Bijan Tahmassebi in the second round:

[pgn][Event "Denker 2021 "] [Site "Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill, Uni"] [Date "2021.08.01"] [Round "2.5"] [White "Tahmassebi, Bijan"] [Black "Yip, Carissa"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2199"] [BlackElo "2506"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 10,121,50,-8,59,-3,-8,-27,-40,-40,-47,-111,-62,-62,-62,-57,-49,-77,-77, -77,-42,-54,20,7,2,-16,-16,-17,-14,-26,163,155,163,150,168,173,266,146,154,154, 148,117,232,120,117,117,117,91,96,86,110,93,93,89,95,95,109,107,107,0,97,55, 107,58,96,94,134,131,177,121,192,192,229,200,211,200,189,197,202,141,140,136, 142,144,146,133,129,129,132,46,46,41,42,44,71,39,78,37,46,39,40,22,22,22,22,22, 22,22,27,22,29,22,34,30]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 h6 5. O-O d6 6. c3 (6. h3 $14) 6... g5 (6... Be7 $11) 7. Re1 (7. Be3 $14) 7... g4 $11 8. Nfd2 h5 {Black has an edge.} 9. Nf1 h4 10. f4 (10. Na3 $15) 10... exf4 (10... Bd7 $17) 11. Bxf4 $15 Nh5 12. Be3 Ne5 13. d4 Nxc4 14. Qa4+ {[%mdl 64] Double Attack } Qd7 (14... c6 {seems wilder.} 15. Qxc4 h3 16. g3 Bg7 17. Na3 O-O) 15. Qxc4 Qc6 (15... Bg7 $15) 16. Qxc6+ bxc6 17. c4 Rb8 18. b3 Bg7 19. Nc3 Nf4 $2 20. Bxf4 $18 Bxd4+ {[#]} 21. Re3 $1 Be6 (21... Bxe3+ 22. Bxe3) 22. Rd1 Bc5 (22... Bxe3+ {keeps fighting.} 23. Bxe3 a5) 23. Na4 (23. e5 $18) 23... Bxe3+ $16 24. Nxe3 Rh5 25. c5 dxc5 (25... Rb4 $16) 26. Nb2 (26. Rc1 $18) 26... Rd8 27. Rxd8+ Kxd8 28. Nbc4 f6 29. Kf2 {[%mdl 1024] White has strong compensation.} Kc8 30. Ke2 Rh8 31. Kd3 Rd8+ 32. Kc3 Rd4 33. Nd2 Rd8 34. Ndc4 ({Better is} 34. Nd1 $16) 34... Re8 (34... Rd4 $11) 35. Nd2 (35. e5 $16) 35... Rg8 ({Black should play} 35... Rd8 $14) 36. Kd3 (36. Nec4 $16) 36... Kb7 37. Nec4 Rd8+ 38. Kc3 Rd7 {[#]} (38... Bxc4 $16 39. Kxc4 (39. Nxc4 Re8 $16) 39... f5) 39. Be3 ({White should try} 39. Nb2 $1 $18) 39... Rh7 (39... Rg7 $16 {was worth a try.} 40. Bf2 (40. Bxc5 g3 $16) 40... Bxc4) 40. Bxc5 $18 Ka6 41. Ne3 Rh5 42. Bd4 f5 43. exf5 Bxf5 44. Nxf5 Rxf5 45. Kd3 Rf7 46. a4 Kb7 47. Ke2 Re7+ 48. Be3 c5 49. h3 (49. Kd3 $16) 49... gxh3 $14 50. gxh3 Kc6 51. Nf3 Kd5 52. Kd3 Re4 {[#]} 53. Nd2 (53. Bxc5 $1 $16 Rf4 54. Ng5) 53... Rb4 54. Kc3 Rb8 55. Bg5 Rg8 56. Bxh4 Rh8 57. Bg5 {Black must now prevent h4.} Rxh3+ 58. Kc2 Rh5 59. Be3 Rh8 60. Nc4 Rb8 61. Kc3 {Black defended with fortune. Weighted Error Value: White=0.23/Black=0.29} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Haring 

 

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WCM Ruiyang Yan
Image Caption
California's WCM Ruiyang Yan is perfect through three rounds and leads the 2021 Haring Tournament of Girls State Champions. // photo Iredia Ekhato

 

Fresh off an excellent second-place showing last month’s 2021 U.S. Junior Girls Championship, WCM Ruiyang Yan from Northern California is perfect through three rounds as the top-seed in the Haring Tournament of Girls State Champions. She sits in a three-way tie for the lead along with New York WFM Yassamin Ehsani and Virginia WCM Aasa Dommalapati. 

The field’s second seed, New Jersey WFM Sanjana Vittal, 2182, suffered this loss to Washington’s Sophie Tien, 1916 in the second round. 

[pgn][Event "Haring 2021"] [Site "Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill, Uni"] [Date "2021.08.01"] [Round "2.10"] [White "Vittal, Sanjana"] [Black "Tien, Sophie"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2182"] [BlackElo "1916"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "94"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 14,94,-17,-24,-29,-25,-10,0,-17,-18,23,0,33,29,32,33,61,61,67,61,61,61, 70,61,61,61,61,42,44,-7,-7,-7,-6,-7,0,-3,-3,-10,-4,-6,-9,-9,0,-9,0,-14,-11,-40, -25,-38,-14,-121,-111,-146,-165,-270,-270,-270,-251,-395,-395,-478,-504,-504, -444,-491,-456,-1657,-810,-2025,-29978,-2032,-29982,-29980,-29981,-29984, -29985,-29993,-29994,-29994,-29995,-29995,-29996]} 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. f4 d6 6. Nf3 a6 7. f5 Na5 8. Bg5 b5 9. Bb3 Nxb3 10. axb3 Bb7 { The position is equal.} 11. Qe2 Qd7 (11... O-O $142) 12. Be3 Qe7 13. Bxc5 dxc5 14. O-O O-O-O 15. Qf2 Rhg8 16. h3 Qd6 17. Kh1 h5 18. Qg3 Rde8 19. Qg5 Kb8 20. Nd2 g6 21. Qe3 (21. fxg6 $1 $14 Rxg6 22. Qh4) 21... g5 $11 22. g3 $1 Nd7 23. Kh2 f6 24. Ra2 Nb6 25. Rfa1 Rd8 26. Qe2 h4 27. g4 Qc6 28. Re1 Rd7 29. Raa1 Rgd8 {Threatening ...c4!} 30. Rad1 b4 31. Ncb1 a5 32. Nf1 (32. Rc1 $11 {remains equal.}) 32... a4 $17 {Black converts the advantage convincingly.} 33. bxa4 { [#]} c4 $1 ({But not} 33... Nxa4 34. b3 $15) 34. Ne3 (34. b3 {was necessary.}) 34... cxd3 $19 ({And not} 34... Qxa4 35. Nxc4 Nxc4 36. b3 $11) 35. cxd3 Nxa4 36. Nc4 (36. Nd5 $142) 36... Nc5 {[%cal Rc5d3]} 37. Rd2 Nxd3 38. Na5 Qa4 39. Nxb7 Kxb7 40. Qe3 (40. Red1 $142) 40... Nf4 (40... Nxe1 $142 41. Rf2 Nd3) 41. b3 Rxd2+ 42. Nxd2 Qa2 43. Rd1 {Black mates.} Qc2 44. Qe1 Rd3 45. Kh1 Rxh3+ 46. Kg1 Qc5+ 47. Qf2 {[#]} Rh1+ $1 {[%mdl 512] Weighted Error Value: White=0.51/ Black=0.17} 0-1 [/pgn]

Delaware NM Terry Luo, 2232, is the only perfect player after three rounds in the Barber Tournament of Middle School State Champions. He leads top-seed FM Nico Werner Chasin, 2411 from New York, and seven other players at 2.5/3. And the Rockefeller Tournament of Elementary State Champions has three perfect players through three rounds: Northern California’s Henry Deng, Connecticut’s Jasmine Zhixin Su, and Oregon’s Austin Tang. 

[pgn][Event "Rockefeller 2021 "] [Site "Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill, Uni"] [Date "2021.08.01"] [Round "2.12"] [White "Zhuang, Kyle"] [Black "Su, Jasmine Zhixin"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "1648"] [BlackElo "1944"] [PlyCount "129"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] 1. e4 {[%emt 0:00:11]} c5 2. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:07]} Nc6 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 3. Bb5 { [%emt 0:00:08]} Nd4 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 4. Bc4 {[%emt 0:00:11]} e6 {[%emt 0:00:18] } 5. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:54]} Nf6 6. d3 {[%emt 0:00:59]} d5 {[%emt 0:00:53]} 7. Bb3 {[%emt 0:02:48]} Nxb3 {[%emt 0:01:31]} 8. axb3 {[%emt 0:01:33]} Be7 9. O-O O-O {[%emt 0:01:13]} 10. e5 {[%emt 0:01:53]} Nd7 {[%emt 0:00:27]} 11. Re1 {[%emt 0: 01:21]} b6 {[%emt 0:02:30]} 12. d4 {[%emt 0:00:22]} a5 {[%emt 0:02:56]} 13. Bf4 {[%emt 0:02:29]} Ba6 {[%emt 0:01:17]} 14. Ne2 {[%emt 0:12:49]} Rc8 {[%emt 0:06: 11]} 15. c3 {[%emt 0:03:42]} Bxe2 {[%emt 0:05:57]} 16. Qxe2 {[%emt 0:00:16]} Nb8 {[%emt 0:02:58]} 17. Rac1 {[%emt 0:04:29]} Nc6 {[%emt 0:01:41]} 18. Red1 { [%emt 0:04:41]} Qd7 {[%emt 0:06:52]} 19. Qb5 {[%emt 0:09:05]} Nxe5 {[%emt 0:04: 31]} 20. Qe2 {[%emt 0:06:27]} Nxf3+ {[%emt 0:02:53]} 21. Qxf3 Bf6 {[%emt 0:00: 31]} 22. Be3 {[%emt 0:01:42]} Qe7 {[%emt 0:03:02]} 23. c4 {[%emt 0:02:47]} cxd4 {[%emt 0:06:54]} 24. Bxd4 {[%emt 0:01:22]} Bxd4 {[%emt 0:00:43]} 25. Rxd4 { [%emt 0:00:26]} b5 {[%emt 0:01:29]} 26. Qe3 {[%emt 0:09:14]} Qc5 {[%emt 0:06: 28]} 27. Rc3 {[%emt 0:01:36]} dxc4 {[%emt 0:03:02]} 28. bxc4 {[%emt 0:00:15]} bxc4 {[%emt 0:02:39]} 29. b3 {[%emt 0:03:59]} Rcd8 {[%emt 0:09:50]} 30. Rcxc4 { [%emt 0:01:43]} Rxd4 {[%emt 0:00:36]} 31. Qxd4 {[%emt 0:00:55]} Qf5 {[%emt 0: 01:25]} 32. Rc1 {[%emt 0:04:13]} h6 {[%emt 0:01:34]} 33. Qc5 {[%emt 0:02:44]} Rb8 {[%emt 0:02:18]} 34. Qc3 {[%emt 0:05:23]} Qd5 {[%emt 0:03:19]} 35. Rb1 { [%emt 0:02:28]} a4 {[%emt 0:04:37]} 36. b4 {[%emt 0:01:30]} Qa2 {[%emt 0:00:47] } 37. Qd3 {[%emt 0:03:43]} Rc8 {[%emt 0:04:56]} 38. b5 {[%emt 0:02:56]} Rc2 { [%emt 0:00:45]} 39. Rf1 {[%emt 0:00:11]} Qb3 {[%emt 0:02:09]} 40. Qe4 {[%emt 0: 02:05]} Rc4 {[%emt 0:01:09]} 41. Qb1 {[%emt 0:01:17]} Rb4 {[%emt 0:00:18]} 42. Qxb3 {[%emt 0:02:20]} axb3 43. Rb1 Rxb5 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 44. Kf1 {[%emt 0:00: 36]} b2 {[%emt 0:00:30]} 45. Ke2 {[%emt 0:00:07]} e5 {[%emt 0:00:25]} 46. Kd3 { [%emt 0:00:12]} f5 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 47. Kc4 {[%emt 0:00:54]} Rb8 {[%emt 0:00: 15]} 48. f3 {[%emt 0:01:26]} Kf7 {[%emt 0:00:41]} 49. h3 {[%emt 0:00:51]} Ke6 { [%emt 0:00:10]} 50. g4 {[%emt 0:00:26]} g6 {[%emt 0:00:20]} 51. h4 {[%emt 0:00: 42]} fxg4 {[%emt 0:01:35]} 52. fxg4 {[%emt 0:00:11]} h5 {[%emt 0:00:13]} 53. gxh5 {[%emt 0:00:07]} gxh5 {[%emt 0:00:15]} 54. Kd3 Kf5 {[%emt 0:00:27]} 55. Ke3 {[%emt 0:00:14]} Kg4 {[%emt 0:00:46]} 56. Ke4 {[%emt 0:00:17]} Rb5 { [%emt 0:00:40]} 57. Ke3 {[%emt 0:00:17]} Kxh4 {[%emt 0:00:17]} 58. Kf3 { [%emt 0:00:07]} Kg5 {[%emt 0:00:36]} 59. Kg3 {[%emt 0:00:27]} h4+ 60. Kh3 { [%emt 0:00:19]} Rb3+ {[%emt 0:00:26]} 61. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:19]} Kg4 {[%emt 0:00: 32]} 62. Kf2 h3 {[%emt 0:00:14]} 63. Kg1 {[%emt 0:00:12]} e4 {[%emt 0:00:40]} 64. Kf2 {[%emt 0:00:12]} e3+ {[%emt 0:00:04]} 65. Ke2 0-1 [/pgn]

The traditional schedule of the 2021 U.S. Open is staying very true to seed through two rounds, with titled players naturally finding their way to the top. All five GMs in the section are at 2/2: Missouri’s Lazaro Batista and Ben Gledura, New York’s Alex Lenderman, New Jersey’s John Burke and Tennessee’s Alexander Fishbein. 

 

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GM Alex Fishbein
Image Caption
Tennessee GM Alex Fishbein, winner of the 2020 Irwin Tournament of Senior Champions, has moved to the U.S. Open in 2021. // photo Iredia Ekhato

 

And the Weeramantry Blitz Tournament of State Champions produced the first official national champion to come out of Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 2021 – GM Awonder Liang. Warming up for his run at the Denker, Liang was nearly perfect in the Weeramantry over the weekend, scoring 7/8 and winning the 2200+ section clear. 

 

Other Weeramantry section winners are: 

1800-2199: WCM Ambica Yellamraju, Texas; and Arnav Tamnash Gupta, Virginia - 7/8 

1400-1799: Lucas Flach, Nevada - 7.5/8 

U1400: Andrew Jing, Delaware - 7.5/8 

 

Image
GM Awonder Liang
Image Caption
Wisconsin GM Awonder Liang (left) is the 2021 Champion of the Sunil Weeramantry National Blitz Tournament of State Champions. // photo Iredia Ekhato

 

If you can’t make it to Cherry Hill, you can follow the action on the US Chess Twitch channel, where IM Kostya Kavutskiy and WGM Katerina Nemcova will headline the coverage.

TWITCH SCHEDULE

Invitational Tournaments

August 2, 12 noon and 7pm EDT: IM Kostya Kavutskiy 
August 3, 12 noon: IM Kostya Kavutskiy

US Open – Final 3 Rounds

August 6, 7pm: IM Kostya Kavutskiy and WGM Katerina Nemcova
August 7, 7pm: IM Kostya Kavutskiy and WGM Katerina Nemcova
August 8, 7pm: IM Kostya Kavutskiy and WGM Katerina Nemcova

Live games will also be broadcast on uschess.live.

Keep up with all the action here on Chess Life Online, where we will have daily coverage, and subscribe to our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages, where we will post updates from the playing site. Be sure to use the Twitter hashtag #usopenchess to share your photos and thoughts!


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