2011 US Championsips: Kamsky and Zatonskih are champions!

by Albert Silver
4/29/2011 – In the men's section, Kamsky showed that he was in a category of his own as he secured the 2011 title of US Champion, 20 years after winning his first, never requiring a tiebreak. In contrast, Zatonskih and Abrahamyan went to the wire for a thrilling sprint to the title. Zatonskih showed incredible perseverance and stamina as she took 19 games to become champion. Final report and videos.

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Prize fund: US$166,000 total divided as 1st $40,000, 2nd $30,000, 3rd $20,000, 4th $15,000. The runners-up of the round robin tourneys: 3rd $8,000, 4th $6,000, 5th $5,000, 6th $4,000, 7th $3,000, 8th $2,500. $2,000 to the winner of each round robin tourney. Additionally, $5,000 will be set aside to award Best Game Prizes throughout both the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women's Championship.
Time control: 90 minutes/40 moves + 30 minutes + 30 seconds/move starting with the 1st move
Game start: 21:00 server time (3:00 PM NYC time, 2:00 PM STL time). on 27th final place 3 at 19:00 (tiebreak at 02:00 AM). 28th April tiebreak if needed at 19:00
Rest day: April 22 and 25 (tiebreak day)
Tiebreaks: Semifinals and finals tiebreaks will consist of a two-game rapid match (G/25+5 second increment). If the contest is still undecided, the match will go to a rapid Armageddon bidding game with a base time of 45 minutes for each Player. Black will have draw odds. Each Player shall bid an amount of time (minutes and seconds, a number equal to or less than 45:00) they are willing to play with in order to choose their color. The Player who bids the lowest amount of time chooses his color and begins with that amount of time; the other Player receives 45:00. If both Players bid exactly the same amount of time, the Chief Arbiter will flip a coin to determine who shall choose their color.

US Championship Final
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Gata Kamsky
2733
1
½
-
-
-
1.5
Yury Shulman
2622
0
½
-
-
-
0.5

US Championship 3rd place
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Robert Hess
2565
0
0
-
-
-
0.0
Sam Shankland
2512
1
1
-
-
-
2.0
US Women's Championship Final
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Anna Zatonskih
2499
½
½
1
0
½
2.5
Tatev Abrahamyan
2326
½
½
0
1
½
1.5

US Women's Championship 3rd place
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Irina Krush
2472
1
½
-
-
-
1.5
Camilla Baginskaite
2342
0
½
-
-
-
0.5

 

Finals game one: Kamsky Edges Shulman; Zatonskih, Abrahamyan Draw

By FM Mike Klein

At the 2011 U.S. Championship, the defending champion took a large step Tuesday toward retaining his title. GM Gata Kamsky unearthed a win from seemingly infertile ground against GM Yury Shulman in the first game of their two-game title match.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, WFM Tatev Abrahamyan took White and played much sharper, but in the end she had to bail out into a draw against IM Anna Zatonskih. Tomorrow colors will reverse and any decisive game will produce an automatic champion.

Kamsky’s game seemed headed for placid equality until Shulman started experimenting on the kingside. After 32…f5, Kamsky said he began to have thoughts of playing for a win. The sequence of pawn exchanges three moves later confirmed his decision to keep fighting. “After he took twice on g4, I thought it was already unpleasant for Black”, Kamsky said. “Before that it was equal. He helped me a lot – self-destruction.

Later, Kamsky found the nifty rook retreat 45.Rd8+ and 46.Rd3. This forced Shulman to exchange rooks and the resulting bishop-and-pawn endgame made the task even easier. After White’s 58th move, Shulman saw no way to stop the passed a-pawn and duly resigned.

 
Interview with Gata Kamsky after his win over Yury Shulman

For the women’s tournament, Abrahamyan entered the finals as a large underdog. She played unrestrained chess – sacrificing a pawn at the outset and then employing a sideline variation. Zatonskih thought for fifteen minutes, then made a trade and tried all game to try to consolidate her extra pawn. With grandmasters in the audience preferring Zatonskih’s material advantage, Abrahamyan kept up the pressure and eventually engineered a three-fold repetition of the position.

Afterward, Zatonskih learned that GM Daniel Friedman, her husband who was watching the game online, found the winning tactic 23…fxe5 24. Nxe5 d4! The discovered attack on her opponent’s centralized knight would have netted Zatonskih an extra piece. “Oh my god…” Zatonskih said as she learned of the opportunity. “Unbelievable.

In the third-place matches, WGM Camilla Baginskaite played an awkward queen maneuver early and IM Irina Krush slowly punished the idea. Baginskaite’s attempt at counterplay only resulted in the weakening of her own position and Krush soon earned the win. Krush will only need a draw tomorrow to secure third place. “All the stress went away yesterday”, Krush said, referring to her lengthy match loss to Zatonskih.

GM-elect Sam Shankland matched up with his peer GM Robert Hess for third place in the U.S. Championship. Shankland had the advantage of coming off a rest day, but it was not enough to get the better of Hess. A weak c-pawn could have become a target for Shankland to attack, but the plan never came to fruition and in the end he had to play a series of careful moves to ensure a draw. “I’d rather be in the final, but I’d also rather not be at home”, Shankland said. The two will play again tomorrow with Hess having White. The winner will take third.

Finals game two: Kamsky Repeats, Women Head to Tiebreak

By FM Mike Klein

After an opening miscue led to a struggle for equality, GM Yury Shulman conceded a draw to GM Gata Kamsky and with it the title of 2011 U.S. Champion. Kamsky also won the title last year in another final-round game with Shulman. Kamsky won $40,000 for first place, plus $2,000 more for winning his preliminary group. His first title was in 1991.
Kamsky won yesterday in the first game of their match, putting Shulman in a must-win situation today, but he never seriously pressed. “I had to survive all game”, Shulman said. Shulman, the 2008 U.S. Champion, earned $30,000 for his second-place finish this year.

He should have done what he did last year against me in the rapid game – played slowly to build up pressure”, Kamsky said. “After he played e4, I realized it was almost done.” Shulman agreed that his seventh move was imprecise. “I should have shown some fight”, Shulman said.

Prior to Kamsky, the last American to successfully defend his national championship was GM Lev Alburt in 1984-1985.

 
Live interview with 2011 US Champion Gata Kamsky

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, IM Anna Zatonskih and WFM Tatev Abrahamyan played more than five hours before the game ended in a draw. The two nearly played down to king versus king. Their two-game classical match ended in a 1-1 tie, leading to tiebreaks to decide the title. They will play a two-game rapid match (G/25 with five-second increment), followed by a G/45 Armageddon bidding match if needed. The winner will earn the title of U.S. Women’s Champion and $18,000. Second place earns $12,000.

I thought I was totally lost”, Abrahamyan said after the game ended. Players who had already finished their tournament were downstairs furiously analyzing the endgame. Few definite conclusions were made and the two women had a host of important decisions to make with less than two minutes remaining on their clocks. In fact the position was quite balanced until Zatonskih slipped with 57.Ne2 instead of 57.Ne6 and allowed Tatev to penetrate with her king with deadly effect. Suddenly White was on the ropes, and the fate of the title might have gone the other way had Abrahamyan played 65…Kxd3! instead of 65…Bxh4 which led to an easy draw, however with both players living off the increments, perfection could hardly be expected.


The nail-biter finish to game two of the US Women's Championship. Not to be missed.  

In the third-place matches, defending champion IM Irina Krush never faced serious problems in her game with WGM Camilla Baginskaite. “White has to be very precise for an edge, but that wasn’t my goal today”, Krush said. The drawn game follows Krush’s win yesterday to give her a match win and third in the U.S. Women’s Championship. She also qualified for the Women’s World Cup. After playing chess for two weeks with only a day’s rest, Krush left the press room and said, “This ordeal is over.” Krush won $9,500 for third place and an additional $1,000 for winning the round-robin. Baginskaite earned $7,000 plus a $500 round-robin bonus.

GM Robert Hess and GM-elect Sam Shankland followed their draw yesterday with another today. Shankland barely flinched as Black in playing his entire game by only using up one minute on his clock. A frustrated Hess reluctantly repeated the position to ensure he would not get a worse game, and IA Carol Jarecki allowed the early repetition after consulting with the players.

The third-place match had no rapid tiebreakers and went straight to an Armageddon decider. Shankland bid 20 minutes and Hess’ envelope was opened to reveal a bid of 19 minutes, 55 seconds. Hess took less time but had the Black pieces and draw odds. Shankland played a complicated system and the resulting imbalance left Hess with too little time to hold the position. With the win, Shankland earned $20,000 and easily his best finish in the U.S. Championship. Hess earned $17,000 for fourth place ($15,000 plus a $2,000 bonus for winning his preliminary group). In 2009, Hess finished in second place.


2011 US Champion Gata Kamsky

US Women's Championship tiebreaker: To the bitter end

by Albert Silver

After both games had ended in draws with both players having missed opportunities to secure the title, a rapid tiebreaker was in fact the just consequence.  Game one featured Abrahamyan as White in which she chose the Advance variation to counter Zatonskih’s French Defense. It very quickly proved to be a less than ideal choice as Black not only equalized quickly, but even obtained a nagging edge. The game swung one way and the next, but it was a blunder with 36.Rc2? that sealed the result of the game as Zatonskih notched the first win of the tiebreaker.
This placed a huge burden on Abrahamyan who was now not only in a must-win situation, just to be able to reach the Armageddon game, but having to do so with Black. Game two started like a dream for Zatonskih, who chose the 2.c3 variation as White against the Sicilian, and went from advantage to advantage to be up material and the position by move 25. Commentators and spectators all expected this to signal the end of the match and a hard fought win for Anna, however fate had its own plans, and a number of inaccuracies later, it was she who was on the ropes. Abrahamyan no longer let her nerves dictate the outcome and she slowly but surely tightened the noose to force a final Armageddon tiebreaker.


Tatev Abrahamyan facing Anna Zatonskih, who totaled 35 games together.

In a sense, this was more than just a logical continuation of the mini-match, but of the entire championship for both players.  Zatonskih had quite simply played almost as many games as allowed by the rules. She had had to play rapids against Foisor to squeeze into the semifinals, then took Krush all the way into the Armageddon where she had the last word, and now once more he had to play until the bitter end. All in all she had played eighteen games, with this being the nineteenth and last. Abrahamyan also had to play her share though with three fewer games than her opponent. With not a single day’s rest during the event, one can only congratulate them for their stamina.

Contrary to the Armageddon games seen in some international events decided by a blitz game with a one minute edge for White and drawing odds for Black, here both players secretly make a bid for the time they are willing to play, and the player who bids the most time (maximum 45 minutes) plays White, while the lower time gets Black and drawing odds. If both players make identical bids, the arbiter flips a coin. Zatonskih chose 20 minutes, which was the lowest bid, and faced a 25-minute deficit, as White automatically gets 45 minutes.

The game was an odd one, especially regarding White’s opening choice. Abrahamyan chose the exact same French Advance that had given her trouble in game one of the rapids with the exception of an extra backward pawn for her trouble. All the rest of the positional difficulties and lack of counterplay remained the same and commentators Ashley and Shahade were very critical of it since it gave Black very few difficulties or decisions, which pretty much neutralized any edge the time difference might yield. Ashley explained that a tense complex struggle should have been opted for, in which her opponent would face the greatest number of difficult decisions, and where the time would add to the problem. Instead a very stale position arose in which White was never able to drum up any play whatsoever, and despite trying to keep the game alive for as long as possible, the balance was never broken. With the draw IM Anna Zatonskih was finally crowned the 2011 US Women’s Champion.


Interview with the 2011 US Women's Championship

Links

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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