US Ch: Kamsky beats Ramirez in playoff

5/14/2013 – The 2013 U.S. Championship went extra innings on Monday in a gripping tiebreak final. After splitting a pair of rapid games, GM Gata Kamsky won $30,000 and his fourth title in an Armageddon game against GM Alejandro Ramirez, who was seeking his first title. The entire playoff was broadcast live, with running GM commentary. Highlight was a wonderful stalemate defence by Ramirez.

US Championships: Kamsky beats Ramirez in playoff

Report from Saint Louis by FM Mike Klein

In all three hours of competition, and for more than 150 moves, Gata Kamsky (above) was the aggressor. Despite the constant pressure, he could not break through the stalwart and creative endgame defense of Ramirez until the waning moments. “It feels a bit awkward,” Kamsky said. “I consider us equals. Someone just got luckier than the other.”

The two went into a playoff by virtue of being tied after nine rounds of classical chess. Both players had 6.5/9; they drew their face-to-face battle in round eight. Kamksy was undefeated with four wins and five draws, while Alejandro Ramirez (above) had a loss but also one more win, thus necessitating Monday’s action.

Top final standings (after nine rounds)

Rnk Name Pts Rtng TPR W-We SB
1 GM Kamsky, Gata 6.5 2741 2733 +0.01 34.75
2 GM Ramirez, Alejandro 6.5 2551 2737 +2.25 29.75
3 GM Onischuk, Alexander 6.0 2666 2670 +0.06 29.75
4 GM Gareev, Timur 6.0 2674 2690 +0.19 28.0
5 GM Holt, Conrad 5.5 2513 2679 +2.02 27.75
6 GM Christiansen, Larry M 5.0 2579 2623 +0.52 21.5
7 GM Shabalov, Alexander 5.0 2544 2626 +0.98 20.0
8 GM Robson, Ray 5.0 2620 2613 -0.10 19.75
9 IM Troff, Kayden W 5.0 2421 2614 +2.21 19.25
10 GM Benjamin, Joel 5.0 2534 2644 +1.30 24.0
11 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 5.0 2616 2554 -0.75 19.75

The playoff

Games one and two were played at a time control of 25 minutes per player with a five second increment per move. Ramirez seemed determined not to get behind on the clock, but an early misstep allowed Kamsky to embed a knight on d5. Shortly after, Black’s pawns were crippled, but Ramirez found all the necessary countermeasures to prevent any white pawn from reaching paydirt. Of the many players who were spectating, GM Robert Hess said Kamsky did not need to be so quick to exchange his best piece.

Live video coverage of the games, with Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan commenting

Maurice Ashley was providing computer and human brain assisted evaluations

Things getting really tense – Kamsky attacking, Ramirez defending precisely

[Event "ch-USA Playoff 2013"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2013.05.13"] [Round "1"] [White "Kamsky, Gata"] [Black "Ramirez, Alejandro"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A46"] [WhiteElo "2741"] [BlackElo "2551"] [PlyCount "126"] [EventDate "2013.05.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. g3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O O-O 7. c4 Qc7 8. Na3 d6 9. b3 a6 10. Bb2 Nc6 11. Qd2 Bd7 12. Rac1 Nxd4 13. Bxd4 Bc6 14. Nb5 Qd7 15. Nc3 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 b5 17. Bxf6 Bxf6 18. Nd5 Rac8 19. cxb5 Qxb5 20. Nxf6+ exf6 21. e3 Rc6 22. Rxc6 Qxc6+ 23. Kg1 Rc8 24. Rd1 Qc2 25. Qxc2 Rxc2 26. a4 Rc6 27. Rd4 Kf8 28. Rb4 Ke7 29. Rb7+ Ke6 30. a5 Rc2 31. g4 h5 32. gxh5 gxh5 33. Kg2 f5 34. Rb6 Rb2 35. Kf3 Ke5 36. Rxa6 Rxb3 37. Ra8 Ra3 38. a6 f4 39. a7 Kf5 40. Ke2 fxe3 41. fxe3 h4 42. h3 Ra4 43. Kd3 Kf6 44. Kc3 Ke7 45. Kb3 Ra1 46. Kc4 Ra5 47. Kb4 Ra1 48. Kb5 Rb1+ 49. Kc6 Rc1+ 50. Kd5 Rc5+ 51. Ke4 Ra5 52. Kf4 Kf6 53. Kg4 Ra4+ 54. Kh5 Kf5 55. e4+ Kf6 56. Kxh4 d5 57. Kg3 dxe4 58. Kf4 Kg7 59. h4 Kh7 60. h5 Kg7 61. h6+ Kh7 62. Ke3 f5 63. Kf4 Ra6 1/2-1/2

Draw agreed in game one

After a short break, they switched colors and resumed the rapid play. This time Kamsky broke through on the queenside, and probed Ramirez’s position with his rook. The minor pieces traded and another rook-and-pawn ending was reached, with Kamsky having all the chances.

One again Ramirez was up to the task, using a stalemate tactic to extend the tiebreak

The rare ending to a grandmaster game caused the supremely focused Kamsky to look at the crowd and laugh. Later, he said he had almost the same ending at the World Cup in 2011 against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, but was able to win that game.

[Event "ch-USA Playoff 2013"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2013.05.13"] [Round "2"] [White "Ramirez, Alejandro"] [Black "Kamsky, Gata"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C88"] [WhiteElo "2551"] [BlackElo "2741"] [PlyCount "127"] [EventDate "2013.05.13"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 Bb7 9. d3 d6 10. h3 Qd7 11. Nc3 Na5 12. Ba2 b4 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. Bxd5 c6 15. Ba2 c5 16. c3 Bc6 17. Bd5 bxc3 18. bxc3 Bxd5 19. exd5 Rab8 20. c4 Nb3 21. Rb1 Nxc1 22. Qxc1 Qxa4 23. Ra1 Qb3 24. Ra3 Qb7 25. Qa1 f5 26. Rxa6 Ra8 27. Ra2 Rxa2 28. Qxa2 Ra8 29. Rb1 Rxa2 30. Rxb7 Bf6 31. Rb8+ Kf7 32. Rb7+ Ke8 33. Rb1 Kd7 34. Rd1 h5 35. g4 hxg4 36. hxg4 e4 37. dxe4 fxg4 38. e5 gxf3 39. exf6 gxf6 40. Rc1 f5 41. Rc3 Ke7 42. Re3+ Kf6 43. Re6+ Kg5 44. Rxd6 Rc2 45. Rc6 Kf4 46. Rh6 Kg5 47. Rh8 Rxc4 48. d6 Rd4 49. Rc8 Rxd6 50. Rxc5 Kg4 51. Rc4+ Kh3 52. Rc1 Rg6+ 53. Kh1 Rg2 54. Rc2 Rg7 55. Rc3 Kg4 56. Rc4+ f4 57. Rc8 Kf5 58. Rc3 Ke4 59. Rc4+ Kd3 60. Rxf4 Ke2 61. Ra4 Kxf2 62. Ra2+ Kg3 63. Kg1 Rb7 64. Rg2+ 1/2-1/2

The rules dictated that in case of a 1-1 tie, the playoff would end in an Armageddon match, where players bid for time and color. In sealed envelopes, Ramirez wrote the time 19:45, while Kamsky’s envelope read 20 minutes even. Ramirez thus got 19:45 to Kamsky’s 45 minutes, while Ramirez had black and draw odds.

The two reprised the opening from their first rapid game. Kamsky, needing to win, decided to keep all the minor pieces on the board this time. He slowly increased his square domination while Ramirez listlessly shuffled pieces round the last two ranks. Eventually Kamsky pushed forward, and Ramirez, getting low on time, decided to take his chances in an opposite-colored bishop endgame.

With Ramirez playing only on increment, he could not defend once Kamsky got his third passed pawn. Ramirez resigned after Kamsky denuded black’s best defenders. After the game, Kamsky told Ramirez that 37…e5 was the critical mistake, without which Black should hold. Ramirez agreed, explaining that he did not see 39…g4 in his calculations. “I was starting to get really nervous,” Kamsky said. “It wasn’t clear until the last move.”

[Event "ch-USA Playoff 2013"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2013.05.13"] [Round "3"] [White "Kamsky, Gata"] [Black "Ramirez, Alejandro"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A46"] [WhiteElo "2741"] [BlackElo "2551"] [PlyCount "103"] [EventDate "2013.05.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. g3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O O-O 7. c4 Qc7 8. Na3 d6 9. Ndb5 Qd8 10. Bg5 Nc6 11. Qd2 a6 12. Nc3 Bf5 13. e4 Be6 14. Nd5 Nd7 15. Rac1 Rc8 16. b3 Re8 17. h3 Nde5 18. Kh1 Rb8 19. Nc2 Qd7 20. Nb6 Qd8 21. Be3 Nd7 22. Nd5 Nc5 23. f4 b5 24. cxb5 axb5 25. f5 Bxd5 26. exd5 Ne5 27. Nb4 Qa5 28. Bxc5 dxc5 29. Rxc5 Rbc8 30. Rxc8 Rxc8 31. fxg6 hxg6 32. Qf4 Qc7 33. a4 bxa4 34. bxa4 f5 35. Nc6 Nxc6 36. Qxc7 Rxc7 37. dxc6 e5 38. Bd5+ Kf8 39. g4 Ke7 40. gxf5 gxf5 41. Rxf5 Kd6 42. Bf3 Ra7 43. Rg5 e4 44. Bxe4 Be5 45. Rg6+ Kc5 46. Bf3 Kb6 47. Rg5 Ra5 48. h4 Kc7 49. h5 Kd6 50. h6 Rxa4 51. Rxe5 Kxe5 52. c7 1-0

Ramirez said the experience of playing worse positions was “torture”, then he was reminded that he still pockets $20,000. “I’ve never won that much in chess, ever,” he said.

After the tense playoff, Kamsky (above being interviewed by Maurice Ashley after the playoff) seemed more relieved than elated. He flew in from a tournament in Switzerland just days before the championship, and he has less than one week until he competes against the world’s best in Greece. “I just want to get some sleep,” he said.

All photos by Tony Rich, Saint Louis Chess Club

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Feedback and mail to our news service Please use this account if you want to contribute to or comment on our news page service


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register