U.S. Open and Invitational Tournaments Have Begun

The first thing chess players will notice when they arrive at the U.S. Open? This place is huge!

The DeVos Place is a lovely convention center in the heart of Grand Rapids, right next to the Grand River. Our home for the next nine days is not ours alone. Case in point: last night the first round of the traditional schedule U.S. Open had to be moved from our usual Ballroom to a smaller space near chess control. The reason? A rambunctious boxing event in an adjoining ballroom would have destroyed all of our concentration! (Too bad we didn't know in advance - chessboxing, anyone?)

There are plenty of great games —and a few surprising results —from the National invitationals. So, let’s get to it:



With most pairings featuring matchups between players rated between 300 and 500 points apart, the first round of the Denker Tournament of High School Champions did not look like the epicenter of the day’s drama. On paper, that is.

Every player here is representing their state for a reason and, indeed, players in some states have significantly fewer chances to boost their rating and play top-level competition. So it wasn’t entirely a shock to see two upsets and two draws in the first round.


board one
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All eyes on Chen-Chen Ye (R) as he left IM Jason Wang without any winning chances from the start (photo Daniel Day)


But nobody could have predicted one of the upset draws to take place on board one. Top-seeded IM Jason Wang (2548) from Ohio was held to a draw by Maryland’s Chen-Chen Ye (2095).



The other top seeds survived the first round, including the five other players rated over 2400: IM Arthur Guo (GA), IM Evan Park (PA), IM Maximillian Lu (CT), FM Gus Huston (NY), and FM Sharvesh Deviprasath (TX).


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Wait...why is Deviprasath's hand going towards the a-pawn? (photo Daniel Day)


The first surprise of the event came on move one, as both Lu and Deviprasath elected to take their opponents out of book with the odd opening move of 1. a3!?




In a victory for the smaller states (chess-wise, at least), Mississippi’s Landon Zhidi Tu (1894) and Montana’s Alex Karns (1798) both brought home upset wins against master-rated players. Colorado’s Neil Bhavikatti (2265) and Michigan’s Adhvaith Rajanish (2229) were the victims of Tu and Karns, respectively, but there is plenty of chess left to fight for. New Hampshire’s Dylan Jiang (1767) also held Jayden Lee (2211) from Arizona to a draw.



The Barber Tournament of Middle School Champions also saw the top-seed put up only half a point in round one, but in significantly less dramatic fashion. FM Brewington Hardaway (2432) of New York had a first-round bye.



The other 2400+ player in the field, Pennsylvania’s FM Erick Zhao (2403), brought home the full point in the last minute of a game that looked to be headed towards another shock draw for several hours.



There were no upset losses in the Barber, but Colorado’s Vedant Margale (1780) and Kentucky’s Pasha Dashti (1693) held expert-rated players Vaibhav Kalpaka (2182, MN) and Anjaneya Rao (2078, IL) to draws.

With the vast majority of winners rated over 2000, competition will heat up this morning in round two.



The girls are all right! With no upsets on the top boards of the Haring Tournament of Girls Champions, it was business as usual for the pair of Californians atop the leaderboard. FM Ruiyang Yan (CA-N) and Esther Jou (CA-S) both outclassed their opponents right out of the opening and never looked back.




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Defending champ FM Ruiyang Yan (photo Daniel Day)



The one upset in the Haring was thanks to Hawaii’s Aurelia White (1104), knocking off Massachusetts’ Sophia Rosenholtz (1745). The 641-point upset is the largest so far in any of the invitationals this year, and there’s a decent chance White will hold onto the record.  



It had to happen somewhere. And it makes sense that it would happen in the Irwin Tournament of Senior Champions, since the Irwin boasts such a strong and experienced “bottom half” of competitors. But did anybody see defending co-champion — and one of only four grandmasters in the invitationals — GM Enrico Sevillano (2418) losing in round one? Washington, D.C.’s Salvador Rosario sure did:



Three other masters —including FMs Chris Land (TX) and Lester Vanmeter (IN) —also lost their first game. Congratulations to James Altucher (GA) and Kenneth Sarner (KS), respectively, over their wins over the aforementioned FMs. Valeriy Kosokin (IA) also lost at the hands of Ohio’s Michael Sheaf.


Fan favorite GM Jesse Kraai of the Chess Dojo (L) had a nice day at work (photo Daniel Day)


At the top of the standings, GM Jesse Kraai (MD) and GM John Fedorowicz are the players to beat. The fourth grandmaster, GM Sergey Kudrin, had taken a half-point bye. Enjoy Kraai’s smooth French victory:




The Rockefeller Tournament of Elementary School Champions also saw a major upset, this time on board two. CM Eshaan Hebbar (2173), the New Jersey representative, saw a promising attack evaporate against Tennessee’s Yi Sun (1583). The 615-point upset was the closest to Aurelia White’s upset in the Haring.



The top seed, Aiden Liu (CA-N), didn’t get off to as promising of a start in his game, but he slowly outplayed his opponent out of an equal position to earn the victory.







FM Terry Huo (DE) and FM Gus Huston (NY) split top honors in the top section of the Weeramantry blitz tournament, both finishing 6½/8. Congratulations to both Denker representatives!

In the 1800-2199 section, Eric Feng (MA) finished clear first with a 7/8 score. That’s one for the Barber!

In the 1400-1799 section, Kushagra Bhargava (CT) ran the tables to go 8/8 and deliver one championship on behalf of the Rockefeller.

In the under 1400 section, Varun Venkat Iyengar (OR) also went 8/8 and brought a second blitz victory to the Rockefeller camp.


The Open

The traditional nine-day schedule of the U.S. Open also kicked off, with 156 players running the marathon. At the top, IMs Jason Liang, Joshua Posthuma, and Kostya Kavutskiy join established GMs Dmitry Gurevich and Rahul Srivatshav as the frontrunners. Every player rated 2200 or higher managed to hold on and win their first game, as well.



While some players are focusing exclusively on one event in Grand Rapids, US Chess Executive Board member Kevin Pryor is taking advantage of his time in Grand Rapids by playing in not one, but three events! After his first games in the Weekend Swiss, he sat down last night for round one of the traditional schedule. Playing at night while doing his governance work, Kevin is also scheduled to compete in the Monday quad.

Another fun pairing featured Chess Life Editor John Hartmann, playing his seventh U.S. Open to date. After making the 630-mile trip, his first-round opponent was Clover Hengen, a ten-year-old from... Omaha who plays weekly at the club Hartmann directs! 


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Clover Hengen (R) traveled 630 miles just to get paired up with her hometown TD: Chess Life Editor John Hartmann (photo courtesy of the subject)


Long-time US Chess members may remember the name Jessica Ambats, one of our leading juniors in the 1980s, and one of the subjects of our December 1987 cover story on the World Youth Championships. (She's top right, next to IM Jimmy Sherwin.)




Jessica was on-site with her daughter, Ella, who is playing the weekend scholastic. Her years away from the board have not dulled her love for the game, and I'm told that Jessica will meet up here in Grand Rapids with her old coach at Hunter, FM Sunil Weeramantry. Is an over-the-board return in the cards? Let's hope so!

In the time being, you can read the full story here and find the full issue in our digital archive

There were no games broadcast live for the first round of the Open this year. At the time of publication, our understanding is that the DGT boards will be used exclusively for the invitationals until the fourth round of the traditional schedule on Tuesday night.



Coverage of the second round of the invitationals is live now on Twitch.

Quick Links:

Main event page

Round-by-round coverage

Pairings page

Live games on uschess.live

US Chess Twitch channel

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