Awonder Liang vs. Alex Ostrovskiy, Photo Neot Doron-Repa
IM Alexander Ostrovskiy pulled off the hat trick by winning (almost) everything in sight at the 48th Annual Liberty Bell Open. He tied for first with GM Alexander Shabalov and IMs Thomas Bartell and Igor Khmelnitsky to win $1022. Finally, Alex won the bonus prize for best tiebreaks which was another $102. He also won the mixed doubles competition with Adia Onyango, who also scored 5 1/2 points. This was also worth $1022, but he had to share this! $1635 is not a bad haul for the weekend! The only thing Alex didn’t win is the Blitz tournament and that may only because he didn’t play.
Adia Onyango, Photo Neot Doron-Repa
In the Main event, Alex had to come from behind because he lost to co-champion Khmelnitsky in round four, but he scored 2 1/2 out of 3 in the final stretch. Alex tied with GM Alexander Shabalov on the first tiebreak system and won in “double overtime!” on the second tiebreak. This year marks two years in a row that the New York State Chess Champion won the Liberty Bell Open as GM Gata Kamsky won both events last year! Ostrovskiy was recently an honored guest at the Greater New York Scholastics representing winners from this decade. Alex won the Greater NY Scholastic in 2014. Alex’ best game of the tournament was his win over IM Alexander Katz in round 3.
IM Igor Khmelnitsky vs. GM Alexander Shabalov, Photo Eduardo Bauza
Honorable mention for the hat trick goes to IM Igor Khmelnitsky. He was also in the tie for first taking $1022. He and his daughter took 2nd mixed doubles prize winning $613 for the team. Finally, his daughter tied for 5th in the Under 1250 section winning $17. The Khmelnitsky family outpaced Ostrovskiy, but it took them two players to do it! Igor may not be familiar to most readers because his day job as an actuary for Aetna gets in the way of his chess playing. He only recently returned to top level competitive chess playing after taking a decade off from top level tournaments. However he has played in three past US Championships (95, 96, 02), and in my humble opinion he would be a GM were it not for his day job. I first met Igor in 2005 when he generously donated his award winning book “Chess Exam” to deployed service members in Iraq. I am a huge fan of his work and I am now taking lessons from him. If he can teach me, he can teach anybody! Khmelnitsky finished undefeated. He took two half point byes and finished 4 1/2 out of 5 in played games drawing Shabalov and defeating Ostrovskiy and IM Jay Bonin. Here he shares his thoughts about the tournament and one of his significant games:
GM Alexander Shabalov, Photo Eduardo Bauza
The tournament’s number one seed also tied for first. GM Alexander Shabalov gave up a first round draw to Runya Xu. This caused him to get non-master opponents in rounds 2 and 3 hurting his tiebreaks. However, he defeated IMs Katz and Bartell and drew IMs Khmelnitsky and Liang to join the winner’s circle. Shabalov has been on a tear lately. The previous weekend he won the Boston Chess Congress and he recently took clear second in the Eastern Open. More significantly, as many readers know, he qualified for the US Championship by winning the US Open. Here is his round 6 win over IM Alexander Katz. In typical, Shabalov fashon there are fireworks right out of the opening!
The final co-champion is IM Thomas Bartell. Bartell started the slowest of the four champions, but finished the last rounds 3-0 including a last round win over IM Alexander Katz. Bartell’s only loss was to Shabalov.
This year’s Liberty Bell drew 340 players (plus 11 re-entries). The prize fund was increased for the 11th year in a row! Some trivia regarding tournament history, this is the 48th Liberty Bell Open, but the first few were not organized by CCA, but by Jim Politowski. More factoids are that the Empire City Open and Manhattan Open are older than 48, but skipped several years. And the last trivial pursuit question is that the oldest continually running CCA event is the National Chess Congress which turns 47 this year.
One contrast this occurs frequently is that the top section is won by a lower score than the under sections and there are often more clear winners in under sections. That occurred this year. All under section had clear winners at 6 or 6 1/2 points.
Alex Ostrovskiy and Adia Onyango, Photo Neot Doron-Repa
The under 2100 section was won by William Del Castillo with a score of 6-1 for clear first worth $1226. All his games were decisive and he wound up playing 3 of the top 10 players (by score) in his section.
The Under 1900 section was won by frequent competitor Augusto Guiteerrez with a score of 6-1 earning $1226. He started with a half point bye, won 5 straight and drew his last round game for first place. Augusto has been rapidly improving and racking up CCA wins in his last few tournaments. He has picked up over 100 points recently and has cashed in the Boston Chess Congress, the Empire City Open, and the Eastern Chess Congress.
The under 1700 section was also won with a 6-0 score as Vivek Srinivas drew the first and last rounds and won the rest to win $1226 . Elliott Wu won the Under 1500 section with a score of 6 1/2 to win $1022. Five of his 7 games were played against top ten finishing players. The Under 1250 section was won by Jonathan Xu with 6 1/2 points. He won $715 .
The blitz finished in a 6 way tie for first! IM Alexander Katz, Mikhail Sher, Andrew Ardito, Gennadiy Geyler, Jack Hutton, and Mauricio Camejo all scored 6 1/2. Camejo won the $114 Under 2100 prize while the others split 1st and 2nd and won $57. The blitz prizes were nearly doubled as 38 players played!
Steve Immitt directed for Continental Chess assisted by Harold Stenzel, Jabari McGreen, Brian Yang and Andy Rea.