The Merge: Day 7 from Orlando

Everyone who has played a U.S. Open knows about “The Merge.”

Trying to accommodate as many players as possible, US Chess offers three schedules for the Open: a 9-Day (one round a day), a 6-Day (two rounds a day), and a 4-day (up to four games a day). All three schedules are merged for Friday night’s Round 7.

Today’s Open player is used to seeing pairings up on well before their rounds start. With the Merge, however, pairings are sometimes delayed, posted right before games start at 7pm or (if memory serves) even just on paper in the ballroom. For information junkies like me, this can feel utterly nervewracking.

But this year’s Merge was different. It was efficient. It was prompt. It was easy. And that has everything to do with the hard work in the backroom, headed by Backroom Chief Joe Yun. Here Joe explains that, contrary to this club TD’s understanding, the Merge is actually not that difficult to pull off.

Heading into the Merge, four players were at 5.5/6. GM Illia Nyzhnyk was one of them, continuing his impressive run of form in the Six-Day with this demolition of IM Justin Sarkar’s defenses in Friday’s afternoon round.

Nyzhnyk-Sarkar (photo Hartmann)

Three players from the 4-Day – GMs Dariusz Swiercz, Lazaro Bruzon Batista, and Timur Gareyev – also got to the Merge with 5.5 points. The two top seeds from the 9-Day, GMs Kamil Dragun and Victor Mikhalevski, were in the large pack of players a half-point behind at 5.0/6.

Top board pairings for Round 7 were:

Bruzon Batista – Nyzhnyk
Gareyev – Swiercz
Burnett – Dragun
Mikhalevski – Zhang
Moradiabadi – Proleiko
Mitrov – Paul

(photo Hartmann)

Bruzon Batista and Nyzhnyk, both linked to the Webster chess program, drew fairly quickly.

(photo Hartmann)

The Gareyev-Swiercz game was also drawn, although it took quite a bit longer. Swiercz was down to 4 seconds before making his last move.

With these two draws, the four players enter tonight’s round 8 with 6/7. They are joined there by seven others: GMs Kamil Dragun, Victor Mikhalevski, Elshan Moradiabadi, and Robert Hungaski; IMs Daniel Fernandez and Bryce Tiglon, and FM Justin Paul. Of these eleven, Swiercz, Gareyev, Moradiabadi, Hungaski, Fernandez, Tiglon and Paul are eligible to win the seat in the 2020 U.S. Championship.

Perhaps Moradiabadi (who nearly lost in Round 6, saving a draw against Tiglon), Paul, and Fernandez had the most interesting battles among the games broadcast on

Tonight’s tenative pairings (subject to change, although top boards rarely do): Nyzhnyk – Mikhalevski, Swiercz – Moradiabadi, Tiglon – Bruzon Batista, Hungaski – Gareyev, Dragun – Paul, and Shabalov – Fernandez. You can watch all the action on the US Chess livestream with IMs Kostya Kavutskiy and Eric Rosen on our Twitch channel.

(photo Hartmann)

But wait, there’s more…

While chess fans will certainly be focusing on the final two rounds of the Open, there’s a lot more going on here in Orlando.

The Delegates continued their schedule of Committee meetings yesterday here at the Rosen Centre, and as this goes to press, today’s Delegates Meeting is nearing its day’s end.

Han Schut gave a well-attended seminar on the Stappenmethode (“Steps Method”), the official teaching system of the Dutch Chess Federation, and increasingly used across Europe and here in the States. Schut is a certified instructor in the Method.

And eight players took part in a U.S. Open Tennis tournament, as Senior Director of Strategic Communications Dan Lucas tells us in his piece on the event.

It’s shaping up to be an exciting final weekend here in Orlando, for players, friends, and fans alike. Keep up with all the results at, and be sure to check in with the livestream tonight at 7pm EDT to watch the Round 8 action!

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