World Open Superstars

by admin on July 10, 2015

Last weekend the World Open, the second-biggest open event of the year in terms of prize money, took place in Arlington, Virginia. I didn’t go to it this time. (The last World Open I went to was twenty years ago, and interestingly enough it was the last event that I began and ended with a rating over 2200.) However, something curious happened: two people with whom I have a very slight connection both had incredible tournaments, and so I thought I would mention them here.

Of course, we all hear about the winners of the tournament. This year’s World Open ended in an eight-way tie between a bunch of grandmasters, all familiar or somewhat familiar names. It was a good year to be named Ilya, as two of the winning players were Ilya Smirin and Illia Nyzhnyk, with 7 points out of 9. (They have the same name in Russian, they’ve just chosen different ways to transliterate it.)

If you scroll down the results table to number 47, you’ll see somebody who isn’t such a household name: Craig Hilby. I’ve never met this person, but he happens to be a Facebook friend of a Facebook friend. On Facebook he goes by “Craig Nom Nom.” (I thought that pseudonyms were forbidden on Facebook, but perhaps their computers can’t tell the difference in this case. You might call it a nom nom de plume plume.)

Anyway, our mutual friend is Mike Zaloznyy, and around round six Mike started notifying all of his friends that Craig was having a tournament for the ages. For a player rated 2374, he went on an unbelievable run. Round 2: Beat GM Conrad Holt. Round 3: Drew GM Artur Yusupov. Round 4: Drew GM Sergey Erenburg. Round 5: Drew GM Alexander Stripunsky. Round 6: Drew GM Irina Krush. Round 7: Beat GM Alexander Shabalov. Round 8: Drew GM Leonid Yudasin. Mike wrote on his Facebook page after the last game, “Congratulations to GM Yudasin on not losing to Craig Nom Nom!”

Are you kidding me?! Seven games in a row against grandmasters, with two wins, five draws, and no losses? The funny thing is that even Craig wrote on his Facebook page, “I don’t even know what I did different. I need to figure that out so I can, like, keep on doing this.”

Craig’s result through eight rounds was so sensational that he had already clinched an International Master norm and needed only a draw in the last round to clinch a Grandmaster norm! Alas, Craig’s reward for playing so well was one more game against a Grandmaster. This one is probably one you’ve never heard of: Felipe el Debs, from Brazil. El Debs just plain outplayed him, and so Hilby ended with a score of 5½ out of 9. Still a great result, but no GM norm, not even a prize for top player under 2450. However, his rating rocketed from 2374 to 2421, an amazing rating gain at that level.

The other guy I wanted to mention also traveled from California to Virginia for the World Open. His name is Leo Creger V, and he finished in a tie for first in the under-2200 section with 7½ out of 9. I have never met him, but something about the name sounded familiar. Sure enough, when I looked up the results of the National Open I knew why. He was one of the co-winners of the under-2200 prize there, too. Even though I didn’t meet him, I momentarily sat next to him in the final round. (Not for long, though, because his game was drawn in less than five minutes.)

I wonder whether anybody has ever won the same class prize in the National Open and the World Open in the same year? It’s quite an impressive feat from the monetary point of view. Creger won $1685 in Las Vegas, and if the prizes were as advertised he won $7000 in Arlington. Almost $9000 in one month! That’s a pretty good summer job, if you ask me. (He’s 17 years old.)

Now, of course, it gets harder for Creger, because I don’t think he’ll be able to win any under-2200 prizes any more. His rating in those two tournaments went from 2179 to 2207 to 2227.

Congratulations to both Hilby and Creger for living the dreams of all of us weekend warriors!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward July 10, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Doesn’t Hilby play Nor Cal tournaments? It’s surprising you were never paired against him.


admin July 10, 2015 at 3:40 pm

I think he’s from southern California. Anyway, I’ve never played him.


Matt July 15, 2015 at 8:54 am

I’ve played Craig Hilby a couple of times, the most recent being earlier this year. He snatched a pawn in the opening and played in a way that I thought he couldn’t possibly get away with (way behind in development). When I later put the game on the computer, almost all of Craig’s moves were the computer’s top choice. A couple of the moves he played in the middlegame were amazing, really “computer type” only moves to keep his advantage. It was really quite instructive for me to see. Of course, he eventually wound up winning!

In this day and age, the kids are so booked up and use computers to find these crazy lines. I am not “old” per se at 36 but old enough to have not grown up with strong chess computers, so it’s always astonishing to me how the kids today have memorized all of these computer variations. Not sure if that’s what happened in my most recent game with Hilby; in reality, he probably just calculated that he could get away with grabbing the pawn and then just proceeded to totally outplay me.

There is a kid named Anthony Ge who plays at my club. He is 11 or 12 and already a high expert. I think his high rating is something like 2160, although he has since slipped a little to around 2120. I have played him quite a few times but my results against him are getting worse and worse! I played him quite recently (ironically, in a weekend tournament and not in a club game) and, after more than 20 moves, we had a wild position where he had sacrificed his queen and I only had 30 minutes left on the clock. He had only used 7 minutes in total! I couldn’t believe it. One would think a queen sac would require careful consideration, especially as the material compensation was unclear (rook and bishop for the queen). When I later put the game on the computer, it loved all of his moves, including the queen sac, so I think I must have fallen into some crazy computer line that he knew and I didn’t. It’s just amazing how dangerous these kids are. It’s quite depressing for the rest of us really!


Richard Robinson July 25, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Well, what a coincidence. I read this post today, July 25, 2015 and on the same day I find that I am paired against in a game that is just beginning. It sounds like I am in for one very tough time if I expect to win or even draw this game. These are games with a time limit of 3 days per move BTW.

Sometimes I wonder about the true strength of the some of my opponents. I drew two games against an IM recently. I was never close to better but I was also never too far away from equal. Maybe he, like I, was well past his prime. Maybe he just did not spend any serious time on the game. Maybe he faked his IM title to But an IM should beat me given two chances.

It sounds like my only chance here will be if Craig does not spend enough time on the game. And I do.

I will not hold my breath but I will consider it a great feat if do not lose.



Richard Robinson July 25, 2015 at 4:08 pm

BTW, the game can be seen here and it looks like I get Black. Dooooomed.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: