Nyzhnyk Wins World Open

Jamaal Abdul-Alim interviews Illia Nyzhnyk, Photo Daaim Shabazz 
PHILADELPHIA — Even before GM Illia I. Nyzhnyk found himself on track to clinch first place at the 2018 World Open this past weekend, he was no stranger to the winner’s circle at the premier chess tournament. Indeed, Nyzhnyk — who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from Webster University — tied for first at the World Open in 20142015 and 2016. But this year marked a new high for Nyzhnyk at the World Open. Specifically, this is the first time that the young Ukrainian grandmaster won clear first place, which came with a prize of $20,000. Even though he practices up to seven hours a day, regularly practices with his teammates at Webster and spends considerable time on openings, Nyzhnyk harbors no illusions about the role that luck played in his ascension to first place at this year’s World Open, which – as it has in years past – drew more than a thousand players from throughout the country and around the world to the City of Brotherly Love on the Fourth of July holiday weekend. “I’m really happy that this happened,” Nyzhnyk said of winning first place. But he was quick to add how he got “extremely lucky” in his penultimate game against his former teammate at Webster, GM Le Quang Liem. “My position was really bad throughout the whole game,” Nyzhnyk said of his Round 8 game against Liem. “As he was about to finish me off, he made a terrible blunder and lost the game in one move,” Nyzhnyk recounted of 84. g4, after which Liem would either lose his queen by force or be checkmated in the following game:

[Event "46th World Open"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.07.08"]
[White "Le, Liem"]
[Black "Nyzhnyk, Illia"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D17"]
[WhiteElo "2728"]
[BlackElo "2605"]
[PlyCount "168"]
[EventDate "2018.07.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. c4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Nh4 Bc8 7. e3 e5 8. Bxc4
exd4 9. exd4 Be7 10. O-O O-O 11. Re1 Na6 12. Qb3 Nd5 13. Nf3 Nab4 14. Bd2 a5
15. Nxd5 cxd5 16. Bb5 Bf5 17. Rac1 Bd6 18. Rc3 Qb6 19. Be3 Be4 20. Nd2 Bg6 21.
Nf1 Na6 22. Rec1 Nb4 23. f3 Be7 24. Ng3 Bd6 25. Ne2 f6 26. Nf4 Bxf4 27. Bxf4
Qxd4+ 28. Be3 Qe5 29. Bf2 Bf7 30. Rc7 Rab8 31. Bg3 Qd4+ 32. Kh1 Qb6 33. h3 Rbd8
34. Re7 Rc8 35. Bc7 Qd4 36. Ree1 Nc6 37. Bxc6 bxc6 38. Rxc6 Rfe8 39. Rec1 h5
40. Qb5 Qf2 41. R6c2 Re1+ 42. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 43. Kh2 h4 44. Re2 Qc1 45. Bxa5 Qf4+
46. Kh1 Rc1+ 47. Re1 Rc2 48. Bc3 d4 49. Qd3 Rc1 50. Bd2 Rxe1+ 51. Bxe1 Qc1 52.
Qe2 d3 53. Qf2 Be8 54. a5 Bb5 55. Kh2 Qf4+ 56. Kg1 Qc1 57. f4 Kf7 58. b4 Bc6
59. a6 Qc4 60. a7 Qe4 61. Kh2 Kg6 62. b5 Bxb5 63. Qxh4 Bc6 64. Qg3+ Kh7 65. Qf2
Kg6 66. Bd2 Kf7 67. Kg3 Qg6+ 68. Kh2 Qe4 69. f5 Qe5+ 70. Qg3 Qe4 71. Qg4 Qe5+
72. Bf4 Qd5 73. Bd2 Qe5+ 74. Qf4 Qd5 75. Qg3 Qe4 76. Qf2 Qe5+ 77. Kg1 Qe4 78.
Kh2 Qe5+ 79. Qf4 Qd5 80. Qg3 Qe4 81. Bc3 Bd5 82. Qg4 Qe7 83. Qd4 Qb7 84. g4
Qc7+ 0-1[/pgn]
“It didn’t really make me happy or anything,” Nyzhnyk said of his fortune in Round 8. “I believe I deserved to lose the game. It shouldn’t have happened but it happened anyway so I got rewarded.” At the same time, it’s not as if preparation didn’t come into play for Nyzhnyk at the World Open. Nyzhnyk says he was motivated to improve after his lackluster performance at the Chicago Open earlier this year. “I lost rating points. I didn’t win any prizes or anything,” he says of having scored 5.5 out of 9 points in Chicago earlier this year. The hard work paid off in multiple ways. For instance, Nyzhnyk scored his first victory against GM Samuel Sevian, whereas previously he had only drawn or lost to the 17-year-old Sevian. Nyzhnyk says he prepared specifically for Sevian. “It worked out and I got a better position out of the opening even though I wasn’t playing accurately afterwards,” Nyzhnyk says of his game against Sevian.

[Event "46th World Open"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "2018.07.07"]
[White "Nyzhnyk, Illia"]
[Black "Sevian, Samuel"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A45"]
[WhiteElo "2605"]
[BlackElo "2624"]
[PlyCount "153"]
[EventDate "2018.07.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Bg7 5. h4 c6 6. Be2 h5 7. Nf3 Qb6 8. a3 Bg4
9. Qd2 Nbd7 10. O-O-O Ne4 11. Nxe4 dxe4 12. Ng5 Bf5 13. f3 exf3 14. Bc4 f6 15.
Ne6 Bxe6 16. Bxe6 Nf8 17. Bb3 Bh6 18. gxf3 Bxf4 19. exf4 O-O-O 20. Rhe1 Qc7 21.
Re4 Rh7 22. Qe3 Kb8 23. c3 Rg7 24. d5 c5 25. Ba4 Rc8 26. Re1 Qd6 27. c4 Rc7 28.
Be8 a6 29. Kb1 Ka8 30. Ka2 Kb8 31. Rg1 Rc8 32. Ba4 Rf7 33. Rb1 Ka8 34. b4 Rg7
35. b5 axb5 36. Bxb5 e6 37. Rd1 Rgc7 38. Qe2 Rd8 39. Qb2 Qe7 40. Ree1 Rd6 41.
Rd3 Qd8 42. Ba4 Re7 43. Rde3 Rc7 44. Rb3 Ra6 45. Bb5 Rd6 46. Rb1 Rb6 47. Qc3
Kb8 48. Qa5 Qd6 49. Bc6 Rxb3 50. Rxb3 exd5 51. Bxd5 Re7 52. Qb6 Re2+ 53. Kb1
Qxb6 54. Rxb6 Nd7 55. Rxb7+ Kc8 56. a4 Re1+ 57. Kc2 Re2+ 58. Kd3 Ra2 59. Ra7
Ra3+ 60. Kc2 Nb6 61. a5 Nxd5 62. cxd5 Kb8 63. Ra6 f5 64. d6 Kb7 65. d7 Kc7 66.
Rd6 Kd8 67. a6 c4 68. Kb2 Rb3+ 69. Kc1 Rc3+ 70. Kd2 Ra3 71. Kc2 Rxf3 72. a7 Ra3
73. Rxg6 Kxd7 74. Rg8 Kd6 75. a8=Q Rxa8 76. Rxa8 Kd5 77. Re8 1-0[/pgn]
Nyzhnyk – the only player who entered the ninth and final round with seven points — says he agreed to a quick draw against his current teammate and good friend, GM Alex Shimanov. “I was too tired from the first game (earlier in the day). I only had like a 20-minute break after the first game, so I was like it will just be safer if I take what is given to me,” he said.
Photo Betsy Dynako
Nyzhnyk – who plans to return to Webster this fall to pursue a master’s degree in cybersecurity. He says he is thankful to Webster University for sponsoring his participation in the World Open and grateful for the support of his coach at Webster, GM Susan Polgar.
Oliver and his girlfriend after a successful weekend
Gratitude for chess coaches was easy to find among winners at the World Open. Oliver Lombardi, 28, a bartender from Jersey City, New Jersey, took clear first place and $12,000 in the U2000 section after scoring 8.5 out of 9 points. He says he never would have excelled at chess were it not for his high school coach, Larry Bias, of Pocono Mountain East High School. He also credited GMs and blitz with friends and associates with helping him to win. “The preparation for me is not like for most chess players,” Lombardi said. “I usually just look at Grandmaster games online and play a lot of blitz,” adding that he also plays blitz against the Shredder computer chess app. Lombardi says winning first place was a welcome change from when he played the World Open in 2012 back and only scored 6.5 out of 9 in the U1800 section. “I just got into the rhythm and stayed focused,” Lombardi said. Find full standings of the World Open and look for an update to this article on norm-finishes.  Jamaal Abdul-Alim is a frequent contributor to US Chess and a former Chess Journalist of the Year. He is the Education Editor at The Conversation US.  Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/dcwriter360.

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