Celebrating independence with chess
The biggest money tournament each year in the United States is the World Open. This annual event, which lasts several days, is held over Independence Day and features a guaranteed prize fund of more than $200,000.
When the tournament began in the ’70s, it was held in New York City, but for the past 30 years or so, it has taken place in Philadelphia. The tournament has already begun, and several grandmasters are participating. In fact, this event has more grandmasters than any other American tournament, and at least 30 are expected each year.
There are several sections for players of all levels, and even beginning players have a chance to win big money. The tournament finishes Sunday, July 8, just before the U.S. Junior Closed Championship is set to begin in St. Louis.
The first-place prize in the open section is $20,000. This is the largest first prize in the world for an open chess tournament. Normally the event gets upwards of 1,200 players all vying for a piece of the huge overall prize fund. In the past, I have played in a number of these events, but since I earned the grandmaster title, there is less reason for me to play. Players who have not yet earned the highest title can hope to earn a "norm" (a grandmaster performance) if they do well. In fact, my first grandmaster norm was in 2002 at this very event, where I scored seven points out of nine games (7/9) and tied for first place. I was beating and drawing all the grandmasters I faced in what was perhaps my best tournament performance ever.
Many of the participants in the 2012 U.S. Junior Championship, which takes place July 10-15 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center, are playing in the World Open as I pen this article. These top young players are all hoping to get a grandmaster norm and perfect their game before flying to St. Louis July 9. Scheduling of strong tournaments can be complicated, and the Chess Club made certain not to schedule the Junior Championship during the World Open so these rising stars would be able to attend the biggest open event in the country.
The opening ceremony for the U.S. Junior Closed Championship will take place in the evening of July 10, and tournament play begins the following day with two rounds each day.
To see standings and live games from the World Open, go to http://worldopen.com/