by Sam Sloan

Many surprising things have happened in chess, but never have the representatives of one tiny nation swept so decisively such a diverse event as the 1998 New York Open, which was held from March 14 to March 22.

In the final round, on board one, Artashes Minasian of Armenia defeated Kiril Georgiev of Bulgaria. On board two, Smbat Lputian of Armenia defeated Vadim Milov of Switzerland. On board three, Vladimir Akopian of Armenia defeated Suat Atalik of Turkey. On board four, Sergei Movsesian of Armenia could only draw Julio Granda-Zuniga of Peru.

Artashes Minasian
Winner of 1998 New York Open Chess Championship
The event was won by Minasian with 8-1, followed by Lputian with 7.5-1.5, followed by Akopian and Vladimir Epishin (Russia) with 7-2, followed by Evgeny Bareev (Russia), Kiril Georgiev (Bulgaria), Vadim Milov (Switzerland), Julio Granda-Zuniga (Peru), Aleks Aleksandrov (Belarus), Alexander Shabalov (USA), Zbynek Hracek (Czech Republic), Alexander Onischuk (Ukraine), Sergei Movsesian (Armenia), Ilya Smirin (Israel), Luis Comas (Spain), and Sarunas Sulskis (Lithuania) with 6.5-2.5. After that, came Alexander Chernin (Hungary), Sergei Tiviakov (Russia), Alexander Nenashev (Uzbekistan), Jaan Ehlvest (Estonia), Valerij Filipov (Russia), Suat Atalik (Turkey), Ildar Ibragimov (Russia), Evgeny Pigusov (Russia), Yuri Yakovich (Russia), Sergey Kudrin (USA), Andrei Kharlov (Russia) and Ronald Schmaltz (Germany) with 6-3.

Following them were Alexander Khalifman (Russia), Alex Yermolinsky (USA), Joel Benjamin (USA), Emil Sutovsky (Israel), Anatoly Vaisser (France), Boris Gulko (USA), Victor Bologan (Moldova), Ian Rogers (Australia), Kevin Spraggett (Canada), Pavel Blatny (Czech Republic), Karen Asrian (Armenia), Igor Novikov (Ukraine), Dmitry Gurevich (USA), Gregory Serper (USA), Ashot Anastasian (Armenia), Jorge Magem Badals (Spain), Evgenij Agrest (Sweden), Daniel Campora (Argentina), Alexander Fishbein (USA), Pablo San Segundo (Spain), Normunds Miezis (Latvia), John Fedorowicz (USA), Julen Arizmendi (Spain), Alexander Stripunsky (Ukraine), Josh Waitzkin (USA), Boris Kreiman (USA), Igor Shliperman (USA), Lawrence Kaufman (USA), Richard Delaune (USA), Thomas Assmann (Germany), Paco Jimenez (Spain) and George Sikharulidze (Republic of Georgia) with 5.5 - 3.5.

The winner, Artashes Minasian, won a first prize of $14,000. Minasian was previously best known for being the last champion of the Soviet Union. A total of $215,000 in guaranteed cash prizes were paid.

61 grandmasters played in the open section. Three grandmasters played in the under-2400 section.

There were so many things going on with so many strong players assembled in one place that it is difficult to decide what most bears mentioning. A cute, previously unknown girl from Mongolia named Battsetseg Tsagaan wowed the spectators by playing International Master and professional chess hustler Asa Hoffmann for $5 per game. Battsetseg Tsagaan is only rated 2235 by FIDE but drew International Master Ronald Schmaltz and scored an even 4.5 - 4.5 in the Open Section. Asa Hoffmann was giving Battsetseg Tsagaan 5-4 time odds on the clock. Battsetseg Tsagaan won $10 from Hoffmann in a marathon session of blitz chess.

Hoffmann did not play in the New York Open. He decided that he could make more money by taking on all comers at $5 per game between rounds.

The Under-2400 Section was won by a previously even more unknown player named Ilye Figler, who entered the tournament with an unimpressive USCF rating of 2208 and no FIDE rating at all. Figler turned out to be somewhere between 300 and 400 points underrated.

I asked him a few questions about this. He finally allowed that he was once the champion of Moldova. "But what is Moldova?" he said.

Figler earned an IM norm for this event, an exceptional result for an unrated player. Emory Tate and Yurij Lapshun also achieved IM norms.

Top prize winners in the Under-2400 section were: Ilye Figler, GM Avigdor Bykhovsky and Jorge Clavijo tied for first with 7.5 - 1.5, followed by Ashot Nadanian, Emory Tate, Mladen Vucic and Yurij Lapshun with 7-2.

On his route to victory, the 2208 rated Figler defeated Gregory Markzon (2290), drew Richard N. Bauer (2275), defeated Boris Baczynskyj (2305) and WGM Anjelina Belakovskaya (2385), lost to Ismael Teran (2375), defeated Alvaro Garcia (2315), IM Slavisa Peric (2365), IM Vladimir Poley (2395) and IM Nikolai Borge (2390). These are all FIDE ratings, except for the rating of Figler, who is unrated by FIDE.

As happened last year, this tournament was marred by a controversial forfeit. Last year, Carol Jarecki forfeited Emory Tate for bad behavior during a last round time pressure scramble with a prize at stake. This year, Jarecki kicked top rated junior Jorge Zamora out of the tournament with three rounds remaining, for failing to return a chess set promptly and for using foul language. (We did not think Carol Jarecki understood what those words mean.) This is all disturbing to those of us who believe that the results of a chess event should be decided by the moves on a chess board.

I have long felt that tournament organizer Josť A. Cuchi does not get the appreciation he deserves for his great works. Not only was this year's New York Open the strongest open tournament held in the entire world this year, as it was last year, but this was not just a strong tournament.

This tournament was made possible by Mr. Cuchi's year long effort to bring some of the strongest players in the world to America. He not only supplied them with free hotel rooms and airline tickets, but he arranged visas and solved other problems which they might have. Probably, a majority of the top rated players in this New York Open had never even been to America before. Their opportunity to come here and the opportunity of America to see these great and famous chess players was due entirely to the efforts of Mr. Cuchi.

Sam Sloan

Results of the 1998 New York City Blitz Chess Championship .

Here is a link: In the 1997 New York Open Chess Championship, a nine year old boy won a prize of $8,000. Here is my report of that event: Krasenkow and Bologan Win New York Open . Here are the results of the New York City Blitz Chess Championship Four Grandmasters Tie for New York City Blitz Championship .

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