US Championships: Kamsky and Krush lead

5/10/2013 – After four rounds Gata Kamsky was leading with 4.0 points, and was the only contender for the $64,000 Fischer Prize for an unblemished 9-0 score. In round five he was held to a draw by Joel Benjamin. Irina Krush held on one round longer and had 5.0/5 before she drew her first game in round six. The Fischer Prize is, however, not available in the women's section. Pictorial report after round six.

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US Championship: Kamsky leads

Round three

Two premium matchups were the top layer on a chess cake that featured 13 winners in 17 games in round three of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship. The only two men with perfect scores, GMs Gata Kamsky and Larry Christiansen, took center stage for the main championship. The ladies enacted their yearly fan-favorite ritual of numbers one versus two – IMs Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush.

Both games went into the sixth hour before two winners emerged. Both Krush and Zatonskih drained their clocks down to less than one minute before Zatonskih’s king was caught in a mating net and she resigned. The final dozen moves of the game, she could do nothing but shuttle her pieces aimlessly, waiting for Krush to find a plan to break through. “You can’t blame her,” Krush said. “She didn’t have much to do in that position.”

Finishing just minutes before was Kamsky-Christiansen. The underdog Christiansen promised to bring the fight to top-rated Kamsky, but after 75 moves of creative play, Kamsky liquidated the last of black’s drawing chances. “I missed some of his strong moves and I was thinking, ‘Damn, this is going to be a really, really hard game,’” Kamsky said. Still, just days after flying back from a super-tournament in Switzerland, Kamsky said he chose to rest more than study. “I was sleeping all day and not really preparing. Against Larry, I knew we were going to play a long game.”

The win made Kamsky the only player on 3-0 and thus the last contender for the $64,000 Fischer Prize for an unblemished 9-0 score.

Round four

A pair of runaway trains kept up their furious pace in round four, with both tournament leaders, GM Gata Kamsky and IM Irina Krush, winning their fourth consecutive games to maintain their respective leads.

Kamsky (above) took black against the fearless upstart GM Conrad Holt, who kept up his usual stoicism despite his first-ever game against the three-time champion. Kamsky said after some opening troubles in his first three matches, he wanted to get back to his comfort zone. “I decided to play something I know,” Kamsky said. “In the opening white posed me no problems.” The win put Kamsky at 4-0, and still eligible for the $64,000 “Fischer Prize” for a perfect score. He is the only player to remain unblemished for this many rounds since the prize was first introduced in 2009. For his part, Kamsky insisted the award is so far-fetched, he did not even read the amount. “I heard something about if you go 9-0, you get something super-duper? But I don’t think it’s possible this day in age. Back in Fischer’s time it was possible.”

In the women’s tournament, pre-round leader Krush kept up her own streak. She dispatched three-time champion WGM Anjelina Belakovskaia in what Krush called an “interesting, strategic game.” The finish was worthy of an endgame study.

Round five

The push and pull of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship continued in round five, but this time the men pulled closer to the leader, while the leading lady began to push away from the field.

GM Gata Kamsky again did not get any advantage in the beginning moves. This time it was GM Joel Benjamin who equalized and even had the slightly better chances. After simplifying into a bishop endgame, an impasse was reached and the game was agreed drawn. Afterward, Kamsky chastised himself for forgetting that Benjamin played a solid variation against the London System. “That’s kind of amazing to me,” Benjamin said about the memory lapse. “It’s the only game I ever won against him! Maybe it was a more important game to me.” The game in reference was played at the 1991 U.S. Championship. Despite the loss, Kamsky went on to win the first of his three U.S. Championships.

Besides Kamsky, Onischuk and Benjamin, the only other player that is at least +2 is the most surprising of the bunch – GM Alejandro Ramirez. After a poor showing in 2012, he said he did not have that much time to prepare for this year’s iteration. Paradoxically, that did not stop him from winning again today over the well-studied GM Sam Shankland. “Shankland is known as a very booked-up player,” Ramirez said. “So I wanted to get him out of theory as soon as possible.” Ramirez said he knew the plan was working when they were both spending five minutes on every move.

The last perfect score in Saint Louis was IM Irina Krush, who won her fifth straight game and increased her lead in the women’s tournament to a full point over WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, who drew IM Anna Zatonskih today. There is no Fischer Prize for the ladies, but the manner in which she won today was reminiscent of a game Fischer won during his famed 20-game winning streak leading up to his world championship match. In their 1971 Candidates Match, GM Mark Taimanov could have ended the streak but inexplicably hung a rook in an equal position; today WFM Sarah Chiang, still winless, hung a piece to a similar two-move fork. Krush said the position was still “unpleasant” for White, even without the blunder. “I’m clearly playing for a win. The b-pawn doesn’t play,” she said.

Round six

The report by FM Mark Klein is still being written and will appear on the official news page here. We need to report that Gata Kamsky drew a black game agains Alexander Onischuk, while Alejandro Ramirez beat Joel Benjamin. Alejandro faces Gata with the black pieces on Friday, to decide his future as a permanent editor of the ChessBase news page (just kidding!).

Ranking after round six (Friday, 10 May 2013)

Rank Name Score Rating TPR W-We
1 GM Kamsky, Gata 5.0 2741 2816 +0.51
2 GM Onischuk, Alexander 4.5 2666 2763 +0.72
3 GM Ramirez, Alejandro 4.5 2551 2719 +1.30
4 GM Holt, Conrad 4.0 2513 2711 +1.58
5 GM Gareev, Timur 3.5 2674 2592 -0.61
6 GM Robson, Ray 3.5 2620 2585 -0.24
7 GM Benjamin, Joel 3.5 2534 2698 +1.35
8 FM Bryant, John Daniel 3.5 2442 2649 +1.67
9 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 3.0 2616 2500 -0.92
10 GM Shankland, Samuel L 3.0 2612 2520 -0.74
11 GM Kaidanov, Gregory S 3.0 2593 2493 -0.81
12 GM Christiansen, Larry M 3.0 2579 2581 +0.02
13 GM Stripunsky, Alexander 3.0 2570 2527 -0.35
14 GM Shabalov, Alexander 3.0 2544 2585 +0.33
15 Norowitz, Yaacov 3.0 2451 2576 +1.01
16 IM Troff, Kayden W 3.0 2421 2573 +1.15
17 GM Shulman, Yury 2.5 2570 2483 -0.73
18 GM Finegold, Benjamin 2.5 2505 2506 -0.05
19 FM Sammour-Hasbun, Jorge E. 2.5 2463 2467 +0.00
20 GM Hess, Robert L 2.0 2595 2396 -1.60
21 GM Khachiyan, Melikset 2.0 2518 2470 -0.38
22 FM Sevian, Samuel 2.0 2371 2390 +0.15
23 GM Ivanov, Alexander 1.5 2529 2336 -1.51
24 GM Arnold, Marc T 1.0 2538 2283 -1.85

In the women's section the remarkable Irina Krush conceded her first draw, playing black against WGM Sabina Foisor, who is rated 170 points below her on the rating scale. That left the many-time US Champion in the lead, but just half a point ahead of her nearest rival (WGM Tatev Abrahamyan). In spite of her success Irina has promised to continue her pictorial reports for ChessBase.com, which include this memorable one on Tbilisi and this one on Batumi. Not to forget this beautiful photo documentation on China.

Ranking after round six

All photos by Tony Rich, Saint Louis Chess Club

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