Bay Area teenager FM-elect Sam Shankland (photo on left) has always been known to play well against higher rated opponents. He took it to a new level tonight in the first round of the World Open against last year's US Champion Alexander Shabalov (photo on right), winning in style in 35 moves! This win puts Sam on the early track to earn a norm.
Playing the black pieces against a passive anti-Sicilian setup, Sam gained tremendous space on the kingside and was able to open up the white king. Shabalov's position began to unravel with the overly optimistic pawn push 27.f4, further weakening the kingside. The key black move was 29... h3!; for example, 30.Qxh3 allows Rh8, but even stronger is Bd4+ 31.Be3 Nxf4 32.Qf3 Nxe2+ winning the exchange. In the final position, white can't save the bishop on g4, e.g. 36.Bf5 Qxh2+! 37.Kxh2 g1=Q+.
Good luck to Sam and the rest of the Northern California delegation at the World Open, including GM-elect Josh Friedel, IM David Pruess, FM Danya Naroditsky, WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs, Steven Zierk, Rohan Agarwal and Alan Naroditsky. Check for games throughout the 4th of July weekend on the MonRoi website.
Update on midday Thursday: FM-elect Sam Shankland defeated IM Rajaram Laxman (2488 FIDE) in round 2.