By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS- Another Filipino chess prodigy is making waves in the 24th North American Open chess tournament at the Bally’s Resort Casino.
Eight-year old Alekhine Nouri jumped sections to a higher level after he scored two straight wins in the Under 1700 he was originally entered.
He won four more games and is among the front-runners in the Under 1900 section, although he was credited with only half points each with his two victories in the under 1700 section.
With five points, he is only a point behind the leader Corbin Gustafson with six points after six rounds.The first prize winner receives $7,000.
Meanwhile, Wesley So was held to a draw after six straight to continue to hold the solo lead in the prestigious Open section.
With the white pieces, So maintained a slight advantage but decided to halve the point with the second seed, Chinese grandmaster Bu Xiangzhi whose rating of 2691, just behind the Filipino’s top-rated 2772.
The draw momentarily stopped the streaking So, who seemed invincible more than half-way through the five-day 9-round Swiss system tournament.
Two rounds are played each day in the tournament which offers $10,000 to the first-place winner, a nice pocket money for So, if he wins, for the Tata Steel super-tournament in the Netherlands.
World champion Magnus Carlsen is playing there, along with some of the best chess players in the world, which promises to be a tough test for So, unlike so far here in Las Vegas.
In the fifth round, playing black, he defeated American grandmaster Sergey Erenburg in 49 moves of a French Defense, Tarrasch Variation.
With white, he next chopped down a grandmaster from China, Zhou Jianchao, in 52 moves a Roy Lopez opening in the sixth round.
Grandmaster Enrico Sevillano is the second-best Filipino participant with five points while IM Ricardo de Guzman has 4.5 points.
Sevillano and de Guzman are both instructors at the NorCal House of Chess in California, where Nouri is a student.
Born in Negros on December 12, 2005, and named after the great Russian grandmaster Alekhine, Nouri started playing chess at five under the tutelage of his father, Hamed Nouri, himself a FIDE master.
To give his son full attention, Hamed quit his job and moved the family to Metro Manila, where Alekhine earned a scholarship at Far Eastern University.
In June 2013, during the Asean Age Group Chess championships in Thailand, Nouri earned an outright FM title with his victory in the Open 8-under category, making him the youngest Filipino FIDE Master and the youngest FIDE Master in the world.
He and his father moved to California last year and his participation in the Las Vegas tournament is part of his preparations for the World Youth championships next year.