Fast closing in now on its half-century, the quintessential American tournament, the World Open, offers the largest prize fund (this year, a guaranteed $225,000) of any open Swiss event anywhere in the world, attracts a veritable United Nations’ of grandmasters, and has been traditionally held over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and fittingly in the cradle of liberty itself, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The event was started in 1973 by the redoubtable US Chess Hall of Famer Bill Goichberg and held through his organisation, the Continental Chess Association. And through its long and storied history, the 1975 edition with 815 players, including five grandmasters and one international master, witnessed one of the most memorable upset in chess history when 19-year-old Brookline High and Dartmouth College student Alan Trefler – who went on to become the CEO and founder of Cambridge software company Pegasystems – an expert (2045) with a lowly tournament ranking of 115th, tied for first with the famous grandmaster Pal Benko.
The latest edition, the 46th, proved as popular as ever, with 1,223 players spread over nine sections, with 200 in the Open section (that included 32 GMs and 24 IMs), and held from July 3-8, at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown hotel. And with so many hungry GMs in the field, usually it all ends in a logjam at the top and a playoff for the bragging rights to the title – but not this year!
In the past four editions, GM Illia Nyzhnyk, 21, from Ukraine has shared first place and the spoils on three occasions, but alas not the title. But this year, the Webster University senior went one better, turning in a big undefeated score of 7.5/9 to not only take the title a half point ahead of the chasing pack but, with it, also the lucrative outright winner’s bonus of the $20,500 first prize.
Final top standings:
1. GM I. Nyzhnyk (Ukraine) 7.5/9; 2-5. GM L. Bruzon (Cuba), GM A. Shimanov (Russia), GM A. Lenderman (USA), GM T. Petrosian (Armenia) 7; 6-14. GM L. Quang Le (Vietnam), GM D. Swiercz (Poland), GM A. Ipatov (Turkey), GM S. Sevian (USA), GM I. Smirin (Israel), GM A. Liang (USA), GM J. Burke (USA), GM I. Krush (USA), IM J. Sheng (USA) 6.5.
Photo: Finally, the World Open title for Webster senior GM Illia Nyzhnyk! | © Webster University Chess
GM Illia Nyzhnyk – GM Sam Sevian
46th World Open, (7)
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 g6 3.Nc3 The “Barry” is a line developed and pioneered by Mark Hebden as a way of avoiding the King’s Indian Defence – and indeed, the veteran English GM gave it its first moment of respectability when he managed to defeat Dr. John Nunn (and avoid his King’s Indian Defence) in two successive games. However, Hebden’s normal move order is normally 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4. 3…d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.h4 c6 6.Be2 The essence of this often blunt system is often to play Be2, Ne5 followed by h4, taking direct aim at the Black king – and thus an ideal opening system in the notorious US Swiss circuit. 6…h5 7.Nf3 Qb6 8.a3 This seemingly innocuous little move is vital, as now 8…Qxb2 sees the queen being trapped after 9.Na4! 8…Bg4 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Ne4 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Ng5! Much stronger than the usual ploy of Ne5, as it targets the loose e4 pawn and opens up threats to f7. 12…Bf5 13.f3 The game is opening up to White’s advantage – and Black fear, as he has to tread carefully here, as one false move and his king will come under a brutal attack. 13…exf3 14.Bc4! f6 This is a serious concession to have to make, but after 14…e6?? 15.gxf3 the threat of e4 is too difficult for Black to have to meet. 15.Ne6 Bxe6 16.Bxe6 Nf8 17.Bb3 Bh6 Black is in a bind and rightly worried about White’s menacing bishop-pair, so looks to trade to relieve the pressures on his position – but it is too compromised already. 18.gxf3?! This is too cautious. White retains the advantage, but far stronger was 18.Bh2! fxg2 19.Rhe1! leaving Black to have to deal with all his chronic weaknesses. 18…Bxf4 19.exf4 0-0-0 20.Rhe1 Qc7 21.Re4 The White pressure down the e-file coupled with the misplaced Nf8 and kingside rook and leaves Black in a bad way – but Sam Sevian makes a good fist of trying to stay in the game. 21…Rh7 22.Qe3 Kb8 23.c3 Rg7 24.d5! The game is now opening up to White’s advantage. If 24…cxd5 25.Bxd5 the threat of Rb4 leaves Black king riddled with holes. 24…c5 25.Ba4 Rc8 26.Re1 Qd6 27.c4 The grip Nyzhnyk has on the e-file is a big game-winner – he just has to remain patient and wait for the right moment to strike. 27…Rc7 28.Be8 a6 29.Kb1 Ka8 30.Ka2 Kb8 31.Rg1 Rc8 32.Ba4 Rf7 This is a really tough position for Black to hold – but kudos to Sevian for hanging in and never giving up. 33.Rb1 Ka8 34.b4!? While all of Black’s pieces are awkwardly placed, Sevian at least has everything covered – so now Nyzhnyk looks to open the game further to seek a breakthrough. 34…Rg7 35.b5 The time control is looming, and short of time, it looks like Nyzhnyk missed the clinical kill with 35.bxc5! Rxc5 (The only move. If 35…Qxc5? 36.Bc6! wins.) 36.Qb3 Qc7 37.d6 exd6 38.Re8+ Ka7 39.Rxf8 that looks decisive. 35…axb5 36.Bxb5 e6 37.Rd1 Rgc7 38.Qe2 Rd8 39.Qb2 Qe7 40.Ree1 Rd6 41.Rd3 In the rush to make the time scramble, Nyzhnyk has lost a little of his big advantage – but he still holds the key to ‘re-win’ the game. 41…Qd8 42.Ba4 Re7 43.Rde3?! There was nothing to fear, and 43.Qxf6! was winning, as 43…e5 is answered by 44.Qg5 Nh7 45.Qg1! exf4 46.Rb3 Rxe1 47.Qxe1 Nf6 48.Qc1 Nd7 49.Bxd7 Qxd7 50.Qxf4 Qe7 51.Qe4 is just good and strong for White. 43…Rc7 44.Rb3 Ra6 45.Bb5 Rd6 46.Rb1 The pressure on the e-file has now transferred to the b-file – and crucially, that’s more deadly, as the Black king is now vulnerable. 46…Rb6 47.Qc3 Kb8 48.Qa5 Winning more or less on the spot was 48.Bc6! – Nyzhnyk spots it, but only a few moves later when it is less lethal. 48…Qd6 49.Bc6 Rxb3 50.Rxb3 exd5 51.Bxd5 Re7 52.Qb6 Quicker and easier was 52.Rb6! Qxf4 53.Qxc5 Re2+ 54.Kb3 Qe3+ 55.Qxe3 Rxe3+ 56.Kb4 Nd7 57.Rxb7+ Kc8 58.a4 Re2 59.Rb5 as White gets a similar but better position as in the game, only with both the passed c- and a-pawns and supported by the king. 52…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 If it wasn’t for the d6-pawn, Black would have excellent drawing chances in the rook and pawn ending – but the d6-pawn is key to the win. 62…Kb8 63.Ra6 f5 64.d6 Kb7 There’s nothing else. If 64…Kc8 65.Ra7 Kd8 66.a6 Rxf3 67.Ra8+ Kd7 68.a7 Ra3 69.Kb2 Ra4 70.Kb3 Ra1 71.Rh8! wins. 65.d7 Kc7 66.Rd6! [see diagram] A nice finesse, as now the d-pawn makes all the difference, as it gives White the needed time to push the a-pawn further up the board. The rest is just good technique now from Nyzhnyk. 66…Kd8 67.a6 c4 68.Kb2 Rb3+ 69.Kc1 Rc3+ 70.Kd2 Ra3 71.Kc2 Rxf3 72.a7 Ra3 73.Rxg6! Taking either of the d7- or a7-pawns will lose Black a whole rook – resignation is imminent now. 73…Kxd7 74.Rg8 Kd6 75.a8Q Rxa8 76.Rxa8 Kd5 77.Re8 1-0