Youth Movement: Sevian wins Chicago Open, IM Awonder Liang Scores Final GM Norm

Chicago Open Champion, Samuel Sevian. Photo: Betsy Dynako Zacate

The recently-concluded 26th Annual Chicago Open saw seven players achieve a FIDE norm while 17 year-old GM Samuel Sevian won the overall top prize with a clear first score of 7.5/9. Sevian’s only dings came in the form of draws against fellow GMs Boris Avrukh (round 5), Joshua Friedel (round 8) and Ilia Nyzhnyk (round 9). Sevian’s victory netted him the first place haul of $10,000 and also bumped his USCF rating up to a personal best of 2719.

Awonder Liang. Photo: Betsy Dynako Zacate

Leading the pack of norm-getters, IM Awonder Liang achieved his third and final grandmaster norm with a score of 6.5/9. Liang’s only loss came to GM Boris Avrukh in round 3. Once Liang’s GM title is officially awarded, he will become one of the youngest American players to ever achieve the FIDE title.

Some of the notable class section scores included an undefeated 6.5/7 score in the U2300 by FM Andrew Hubbard. Ivan Nitkov, rated 1185 and son of Chicago-area local Nikola Mitkov, also scored an undefeated 6.5/7 to take home clear first in the u1300 section. Combined between the eight sections, 987 players converged on, once more, the Westin Chicago North Shore, where the event has been held for the past several years.

The Sunday night blitz side event was topped by GM Varuzhan Akobian with 9/10, followed closely by GM Andrey Stukopin with 8.5 and, taking clear third, Chicago’s own Gopal Menon, who finished a half-point ahead of the rest of the field at 7.5.

Games from the open section were broadcast live to a large screen in the main playing hall where spectators were treated to several exciting encounters. Once such battle happened between two players who ultimately both were able to finish with a norm, IM Michael Brown and Robert Perez, who met in round 3 in a quick and violent Grunfeld clash.

IM Awonder Liang needed every point he could grab to achieve his final GM norm, including his early second round matchup with Anthony He which escalated quickly in the middlegame, resulting in some nice tactics that favored white.

Samuel Sevian vs. Joshua Friedel. Photo: Betsy Dynako Zacate

Tournament winner and Chicago Open 2017 champion GM Samuel Sevian ran strong all tournament long, but it was arguably his 6th round encounter against then-tournament-co-leader GM Holden Hernandez that may have proved most crucial. After an ill-advised bishop trade, Hernandez found himself in a difficult position, which Sevian was able to finish off with a very nice coup-de-grace.

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