philly open and a visit to the best chess club

Last year’s Philadelphia open was a successful tournament. Despite my last round loss I still shared 3rd, packed about a dozen rating points, and a decent check. This year was much better than that! I have to admit that my chess preparation for this tournament has been anything but professional. My work was not very organized and I spent a lot of time on different other projects, therefore my only hope was to play a decent tournament and not throw too many rating points in my opponent’s direction.I got to Philly a day before the start of the event at about 7PM, completely exhausted after almost 12h in between airports (connection flight and a 4h layover in Vegas…I didn’t gamble). The only good thing about the trip is that I was not alone throughout this torture, I had a friend with me. After checking in at the hotel, I decided that a few minutes in the gym should help with my mood and energy levels. I was only partially right, I came back to the room with a more optimistic view on life but my energy levels simply collapsed soon after. I took a shower and passed out.


this is Spartaaa!


giant ludo pieces


knight capture


giant domino

Its 5 AM Day 1 of the tournament and my body decides that no more sleep is needed, it was in vain to try convincing it that I don’t need to catch any flights and that the bed is extremely cozy. I resigned to the idea and decided to do something useful without waking up my roommate, so gym seemed again like the best option. It was probably because of this extremely unnatural energy boost that I got during that 45 minute workout that got me through the day. I visited Philadelphia for a few hours, and played round 1, which started at dinner time around 7 PM.    

I win the game and my tournament was off to a good start. Day 2 of the open started just like it did a year ago, I drew as white against a promising junior 200 rating points below me. I felt quite disappointed with my modest play; my opening choice was  bad, my middle game was not very creative, and towards the end I was the one fighting for a draw. The evening game was much worse! I got a completely crushing advantage out of the opening but misplayed the middle game and allowed my opponent to set up a piece blockade in the ensuing endgame. This didn’t happen last year, I was already feeling that my pre tournament premonition was turning into reality. Day 3 started on a better note, I played with the talented Joshua Colas, who made significant improvement in the last year, proving that he is a name to look after in the next years. Again my play was not convincing but my opponent failed to spot a powerful tactic in a crucial middle game position and soon the game was over.

Philadelphia rd.4

The evening round did not end up in a win but made me feel better about my play. My opponent was the underrated Eric Rosen. I believe Eric’s play is at least at a solid IM level, definitely not 2320.

Philadelphia rd.5

At the beginning of day 4 I was already on a clumsy -10 rating points and I knew that if I wanted to have any chance for a good final standing I had to start winning games. My opponent was WGM Pourkashiyan, a strong player that was performing very well up to that point. I view this game as the turning point in my tournament, it was a very complex strategic battle in which I had to grind for 6h and overcome many obstacles before overpowering her defense.

Philadelphia rd.6

The evening round proved to be a much calmer affair, and I defeated my opponent with precise play after an opening inaccuracy by him. In the last day of the tournament I knew that a plus score will allow me to catch the top prizes, I had white the morning game and my intentions were not peaceful. I was playing Jeffery Xiong, one of the many prodigies that American chess has produced in the last few years and a known opponent for me (I played Jeffery at least 10 times and the score is quite balanced). I win that game and managed to catch the leader at 6.5/8.

Philadelphia rd.8

The final game was quite a peaceful affair, my opponent offered an early draw and with that we secured the tie for first place. Ensuing draws on the next 3 board allowed us to maintain our lead and finish on a two way tie for first place. With over 500 players at the start of the competition, Philadelphia open is without a doubt among my most important tournament victories of my career, and more importantly a motivating factor to work harder and organize my preparation much better in the future. These type of results will definitely not be a constant if I don’t adjust my pre tournament routine. After a night of fairly debaucherous behavior, I flew to St. Louis to assist at the most important tournament of the year in American chess, the US Championship.


travel kit


The nation’s leading grandmasters are competing for the laurels and the return of Hikaru Nakamura (#3 in the world), as well as the addition of Wesley So (#8 in the world) will make this event a memorable one. After 7 rounds Nakamura is in the leaders seat, while Wesley has faced a few setbacks and only stands in the third place. Nevertheless knowing Wesley’s determination I expect him to make a strong comeback and challenge the leader’s authority until the end. Another name not to be forgotten is Ray Robson, he is chasing the Nakamura machine and proved with his play that he is one of the main title contenders. We are now entering the last 5 games, the tournament is heating up!


St.Louis Hall Of Fame


infiltrated into US Champ commentary room