“Put it on your Calendar:” IM John Watson on the National Open

The National Open has been a premier US event since 1965, and this year’s edition, held on June 11 to 16th, brought with it a number of new features.

The Open is the centerpiece of the broader Las Vegas International Chess Festival, which included many tournaments, among them the U.S. Women’s Open, the International Youth Championship, the Youth Trophy Tournament, and a wide assortment of Blitz and Action tournaments. Numerous side events were also held, including a Grandmaster chess camp, simultaneous exhibitions by Grandmaster Fidel Corrales and WGM Jennifer Shahade, and lectures by leading players.

The Open was first established by Ed Edmondson in 1965 and moved to Las Vegas in 1983. Alan and Janelle Losoff organized this year’s event, Alan’s 29th consecutive effort, with co-sponsorship by the Las Vegas Chess Center. For the first time, the top section was a 9-round FIDE norm event, which attracted a number of extremely strong and ambitious younger players.

The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open was won by WIM Megan Lee, who scored 4.5/5 to take clear first. Second place was shared by WGM Carla Heredia, WFM Joanna Liu, and Nadiia Salakh. Lee’s decisive victory came in the last round versus last year’s Champion Saikhanchimeg Tsogtsaikhan:

Before moving on to the main event, I should mention some other results. The International Youth Championship was contested over two days in four sections. In the Under-14 main section, Kenneth Su and Daniel Li shared first prize, while in the Under-14 reserve section, John Pan won with a perfect 6/6 score. In the Under-9 main section, Emmanuel Dentchouk took clear first with 5.5/6, and in the Under-9 reserve section, Gordon Xu triumphed by a full point at 6/6.

Andrew Tang (photo Tim Hanks)

GM Andrew Tang won the Walter Browne Memorial Blitz tournament ahead of several GMs. Tang also finished second in the 10-GM round robin Spirit of Chess Blitz tournament, trailing winner GM Igor Kovalenko by two full points.

Eugene Yanayt (photo Tim Hanks)

In the Open Section, the first rounds saw a couple of notable upsets, with Annie Wang defeating Alexander Shabalov, and FM Eugene Yanayt defeating GM Andrey Baryshpolets in Round 1 as follows:

Illya Nyzhnyk (photo Tim Hanks)

The eventual winner showed his professional approach in the following Round 2 game, being perfectly willing to enter an even endgame and see what happens:

As is often the case, GM Timur Gareyev played some interesting and creative games, as in this Round 5 effort versus Ruud Janssen:

GM Arturs Neiksans was in the thick of things throughout and ended in the 8-way tie for second place with 6.5 points. Here’s a hard-fought Round 7 game with Tatev Abrahamyan, who played a tough schedule and emerged with 5.5 points.

Igor Kovalenko (photo Tim Hanks)

Another important contest from Round 7 pitted GM Chirila versus GM Kovalenko. Black played a strategically creative opening which led to complex play and finally, some nice tactics:

Going into the last round, seven players were tied for the lead. Five of the top boards drew their games, securing 2nd-9th place prizes which ended up being $1,138. Three other players shared that spot by winning their games. The most exciting contest of these contests was Shtembuliak- Baryshpolets, where both Ukranian players chose dynamic play over safety throughout. I’ve shown both of Baryshpolets losses, but he played impressively well throughout the tournament. Evgeny Shtembuliak capped a successful tournament with this nice win:

Nyzhnyk-Gareyev (photo Tim Hanks)

The ultimate beneficiary of top-board draws was Illya Nyzhnyk, who defeated Timur Gareyev and took first place alone. The game wasn’t terribly remarkable, but was nevertheless the most important one of the tournament:

Janelle Losoff, Nyzhnyk, Al Losoff (photo Tim Hanks)

This win was worth $8000 to Nyzhnyk. Illya is a Ukranian who graduated last year from Webster University. He plays a lot in the U.S., winning last year’s World Open, and has gained 50 FIDE rating points over the past 12 months. At only 22 years old, he will definitely be a player to watch as he contends with the world’s elite players over the coming years.

Amazingly, almost every other section of the main event (the Open) produced a clear winner. Joshua Grabinsky of Oregon took first in the Under-2300 section, earning $6000 in the process. Naran-Erdene Naranbaatar of Mongolia won the Under-2100 section, also taking home $6000. Felix Javier Chavez of California took home the Under-1900 prize and $5000. Froilan Araiz Daigan of California went 7/7 to win the Under 1700 prize and $4000. Peterson,Kevin of Illinois also scored a perfect 7/7 in the Under 1500 to win $3000. And Benjamin Mona of California, rated only 1097, won $2000 for winning the under 1300 section; he was tied at 6/7 with Nicholas Goetz of Russia, whose prize eligibility was limited by his provisional 1000 rating.

The Chief Tournament Director for this year’s National Open was International Arbiter Chris Bird, who has directed many national events and also been a website commentator and bulletin editor. International Arbiter Jon Haskel served as the floor chief; Jon has been an International Arbiter and prominent organizer for many years. David Hater was the bulletin editor (with Tim Hanks as photographer), and Enrique Huerta was the backroom chief.

Finally, and by way of conclusion, a big shout out to Anthony Saidy, age 82, and Jim Tarjan, age 67, who both scored 5 points to uphold the honor of the senior citizen contingent. This author cannot claim to have done so, but I definitely enjoyed this well-run tournament with its friendly environment and extremely professional staff. Consider putting it on your calendar for next year.


  1. Thanks for the kind words, John. And indeed, I am happy and proud to be able to play a decent game of tournament chess, in what is so evidently a young person’s sport these days.

    However, it was Tony Saidy’s tournament that was stupendous, and historical. 82 years old?? Tough pairings: he faced four grandmasters, with an even score, one win, one loss, two draws. He beat FIDE 2500+ GM Belous! Question for you chess historians: who else over 80 has ever beaten a 2500+ GM in a tournament game?

    Jim Tarjan

    • From Jude Acers/ New Orleans.. OH my goodness gracious! Grandmaster Tarjan..greetings. Also there is a truly feisty wonderful world class person…a half century chess survivor/USA grandmaster IN RETIREMENT YEARS WHO JUST DEFEATED A CERTIFIED WORLD CHESS CHAMPION KRAMNIK/WORLD TOP TEN IN CHESS HISTORY/ IN WORLD RATED PLAY. . Be on the lookout for this remarkable small finesse/bob and weave ferocious chess mind and practical player el supremo… YOU WILL BE AMAZED AT HOW CLOSELY HIS PLAY CLOSELY RESEMBLES…. YOURS.

  2. Both Smyslov and Korchnoi have beaten 2500’s at 80, but not at 82. Congratulations to Mr.Saidy!


  3. Well organized tournament this year. Maybe a Senior Event in the future that coincides with the Women’s tournament? Just a thought…

    • Looks like the 2020 U.S. Senior Open will be held June 5 – 7, 2020 at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel (Pomona, CA), coincident with the U.S. Junior Open.

      Pomona, CA is approx 3-1/2 hours driving distance from Las Vegas.

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