Winning the world open: Strategies for success at america’s most prestigious open chess tournament
Authors: GM Joel Benjamin and Harold Scott
343 Pages. New In Chess, 2021
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An Uniquely American Phenomenon
There is no chess event quite like the World Open.
The first thing that stands out is the massive prize fund, and chess hopefuls from around the world show up hoping to win their share. For example, the 50th edition (Summer 2022) will guarantee $225,000! First prize in the Open section is $20,000. First prize in most of the class sections (Under 2000, Under 1800, etc.) is $10,000.
A few other events have popped up over the years offering huge prizes, but none have lasted.
Many players only play this tournament and a few others each year; the World Open has the toughest competition most players will ever face. Many players relish that challenge.
It’s not cheap, either: there are no sponsors, and the prize fund is made possible entirely by the entry fees collected from players. The lowest entry fee for the upcoming edition was $308; if you enter on-site, you’ll pay $350! Factor in travel, hotel, and food as well…
In some ways, I think this boosts the popularity of the event! The 2019 edition (the last before COVID-19) drew 1,348 players.
A Fruitful Collaboration
Readers of NYSCA‘s Empire Chess already know that Harold Scott is one of the best chess journalists we have in the United States currently. He is also a chess Expert and an experienced tournament director.
GM Joel Benjamin hardly needs an introduction; the three-time U.S. Champion (1987, 1997, 2000) reached the Top 25 in 1987 and has been writing chess books and magazine columns for decades.
What’s the result? High-quality writing and analysis! You get insightful prose commentary, and not an endless stream of computer lines.
The first World Open was held in New York City in 1973, and the book has a chapter on each decade of the tournament’s existence. It also features one chapter for each of 16 previous winners, including Larry Christiansen, John Fedorowicz, Gata Kamsky, Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Shabalov, Alex Yermolinsky, and co-author Benjamin himself.
The last two chapters of the book contain 30 quiz positions from critical World Open battles, and their solutions.
I Almost Forgot…
The World Open is infamous for players attempting to cheat in various ways to win prizes: human and electronic assistance, intentionally mis-marking results and doctoring scoresheets, even hiding or changing their identity…
The book contains an amazing chapter recounting some of the skulduggery attempted over the years. I was present for the 2006 incident but didn’t deal with it directly, as I was chief of the Under 1400 section…though I did get an anonymous phone tip(!) about a player in my section!
Yeah…welcome to the World Open!
Winning the World Open is a must-buy for anyone interested in this most unique chess tournament. You get important historical background on Bill Goichberg and the Continental Chess Association; the World Open itself decade-to-decade; fascinating interviews with more than a dozen winners; and a selection of well-annotated games.