Young Norm Winners Highlight 2016 Chicago Open

Luke Harmon-Vellotti IM Chicago Open 2016 By Betsy Dynako Zacate-1020

Luke Harmon-Vellotti, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate

The recently concluded 25th Annual Chicago Open was headlined by a quartet of young norm-seekers who all achieved their goal. The youth movement featured four competitors all under age 20: IM Luke Harmon-Velotti earned a GM norm while Michael Brown, Matthew Larson, and Zhaozhi Li all managed to achieve an IM norm during the 9-round event. The age of the norm-getters speaks to the grueling nature of the 9-round, 5-day event which at times felt more like an endurance test than a chess tournament.

FM Matthew Larson got off to a good start right away, defeating GM Ilia Nyzhnyk in the first round.


Last round of the Chicago Open, GM Elshan Moradiabadi vs GM Vladimir Belous on board one and GM Vasif Durarbayli vs. GM Illia Nyzhnyk on board two. Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate

The open section was won by GM Vladimir Belous, of the Russian Federation, who managed a clear first score (and thus an extra $300 in prize money) with an impressive 7.5/9 score. Belous’ most critical game came in the penultimate round, when his opponent, fellow Russian GM Andrey Stukopin made a fatal misstep in the middlegame of an f3 Nimzo-Indian.

Varushan Akobian GM Chicago Open 2016 By Betsy Dynako Zacate-1049

GM Varuzhan Akobian, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate

The second place score group, on 7.0/9, featured GMs Varuzhan Akobian, Vasif Durarbayli, and Wenjun Ju.

Wenjun Ju GM Chicago Open 2016 By Betsy Dynako Zacate-1055

GM Wenjun Ju, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate

Ju, one of the top female players from China, won her last round encounter with Ukranian GM Yaroslav Zherebuk to move into the second group.

The top seed, “Super” GM Yu Yangyi, sporting a 2737 FIDE rating, found his way into the third score group, with 6.5/9, after a rocky start. Yu lost his second round to the aforementioned norm-getter FM Michael Brown and also was held to a draw by local NM Gopal Menon before scoring 5 out of his final 6 to nearly make it all the way back to the top.

Yangyi Yu GM Chicago Open 2016 By Betsy Dynako Zacate-1029

GM Yu Yangyi, Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate

In the under sections, the most remarkable result was a perfect 7.0/7 by 14-year old WCM Thalia Cervantes in the U2100 category. Cervantes increased her US Chess rating by 95 points, from 2066 all the way to 2161. Another incredible performance from a young talent.


WCM Thalia Cervantes Photo Betsy Dynako Zacate

Rounding out the under sections, Chao Zhang, from Indiana, won the u2300 with 6.5/7, the U1900 saw a 4-way tie between Jack Hanson, Zvonko Juric, Nikolas Theiss, and William Stewart. Mikhail Tsiklauri won the U1700 with 6.5 while Vishal Meduri and Michael Lin, both also with 6.5, took top U1500 and U1300 honors, respectively. The shorter U1000 section was taken by Branden Wagner.

In total, the 25th edition of the Chicago Open featured a stunning 932 participants (not counting the marathon Sunday-night blitz tournament), which makes it one of the biggest events on the US circuit, a billing it lived up to with a preponderance of titled players in the Open section itself. I look forward to a strong 2017 showing!

Find full standings of the Chicago Open here. 


  1. nice to see one of the very best women players in the world, GM Wenjun Ju, playing in front of spectators in the usa and doing well.

  2. Her state is shown as “IL China” whatever that means. Nice to see her playing at the historic Marshall Chess Club in NYC as well.

  3. […] This will be Luke Harmon-Vellotti’s four appearance in a row at the championship, making him the most experience U.S. Junior Closed player in the field. In addition, he recently achieved one of his strongest tournament performances ever, earning his first GM Norm at the Chicago Open. […]

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