2011 US Championships: Finals all set to go

4/26/2011 – It had promised to be a change of the guard, but in the end the veterans Kamsky and Shulman had the last word, as they setup to decide the title once more. In the women's championship, Zattonskih confirmed her rise from the ashes as she overcame Krush in a very tense playoff. She meets Abrahamyan in the finals. The live commentators had a surprise interview with Garry Kasparov.

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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 Semifinal 1
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Gata Kamsky
2733
½.
1
-
-
-
1.5
Sam Shankland
2512
½.
0
-
-
-
0.5
US Championship Semifinal 2
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Robert Hess
2565
½.
½.
½.
0
-
1.5
Yury Shulman
2622
½.
½.
½.
1
-
2.5
US Women's Championship Semifinal 1
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Anna Zatonskih
2499
1.
0
0
1
1
3.0
Irina Krush
2472
0
1
1
0
0
2.0
US Women's Championship Semifinal 2
Name
 Rtg
G1
G2
Rpd1
Rpd2
Armg
Tot.
Tatev Abrahamyan
2326
0.
1
1
1
-
3.0
Camilla Baginskaite
2342
1
0
0
0
-
1.0

Semifinal Game 1: Women's Games Decisive, Men Decide Nothing

By FM Mike Klein

After the first round of semifinal games of the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women’s Championship, two ladies emerged victorious while all four men agreed to peace. IM Anna Zatonskih outplayed IM Irina Krush in the opening to score the point, while WGM Camilla Baginskaite used a timely pawn sacrifice to produce a dangerous initiative against WFM Tatev Abrahamyan. Baginskaite capped the game with a crushing tactic.

Krush will need to win as White tomorrow to extend her match into Monday’s tiebreak. She has only defeated Zatonskih once in her career, but that victory came earlier in the Championship. For Zatonskih, yesterday’s win was her fifth consecutive in the tournament. She got a decisive advantage early that she used to pick off Krush’s a-pawn.
“It was a surprise to me that my opening was a surprise for Irina,” Zatonskih said of her choice of variation in the Sicilian Alapin. “I’ve played Na3 many times.” The two played similarly in 2006, but Krush chose to deviate from that game by playing 2…d5.

Abrahamyan repeated her Evan’s Gambit against Baginskaite from earlier in the event. “I didn’t expect her to repeat (openings),” Baginskaite said. “In women’s chess, we’re always trying to surprise everybody.” She explained that late in the game she sacrificed her b-pawn on purpose, believing that Black’s initiative warranted the offer. She was not sure what to do, she said, after 32. Ne3, but found 32…f6. The move forced a bind in White’s pieces which led to Baginskaite’s mating patterns and subsequent finishing tactic.


Yury Shulman set up a repeat of history as he meets Kamsky for the title as last
year, but that is as far as he hopes they will repeat.

For much of the day, the audience could reasonably have expected all four games to produce winners, but the men did not oblige. GM-elect Sam Shankland found himself with big problems early against defending champion GM Gata Kamsky. After eschewing the chance to win a pawn, Kamsky went into a deep think, spending more than 30 minutes analyzing a speculative sacrifice that would open up his opponent’s king. Eventually he went for the continuation, but overlooked Shankland’s only saving resource, a queen sortie whereby she descended a staircase from e4 to f3 to f4 to h2.

“I went for the sacrifice and he out-calculated me,” Kamsky said. “After I saw Qe4, I realized I was in big trouble.” Kamsky thought that had he not attempted the variation he could enjoy a small plus, but because Shankland allowed such a tempting move, it was hard not to try to win the game outright. “It was a great psychological trick.”

GM Yury Shulman matched with GM Robert Hess, the overall top point scorer in the U.S. Championship. After Shulman’s anti-developing move 13.Nb1, paradoxically netting him a space gain, Hess had to go through contortions to give his minor pieces maneuvering room. Later, he once again threatened to ensnare one of Hess’ bishops with the blocking 37. b5. But with his time slipping away, Shulman accepted Hess’ draw offer with only five seconds left on his clock and two moves short of the time control. Both players admitted to the fears that prompted them to draw the game.


Gary Kasparov speaks with color commentators Maurice Ashley and Jennifer Shahade via Skype

Semifinal Game 2: Kamsky Advances, Others Need Tiebreak

By FM Mike Klein

In round two of the 2011 U.S. Championship semifinals, defending champion GM Gata Kamsky pressed his initiative and broke through against GM-elect Sam Shankland to become the first player to advance to the finals. GMs Robert Hess and Yury Shulman played another game devoid of wild swings and postponed their fates for another day.

Kamsky’s game was the first to finish. He said his goal going in to the game was to “have some simple position with a little bit of pressure, and I got an ideal position.” His two bishops and open files for his rooks were enough to overcome his crippled queenside pawns, which were never in any danger of being lost. All players, including grandmasters in the audience, agreed that Shankland’s problems began by trading queens. Kamsky said he realized Shankland might have some endgame weaknesses, which became evident to him in their first semifinal game. He said it was a big mistake for Shankland not to press for the win more yesterday.

“I’m still very happy with my result,” Shankland said. “Just because I’m not in the running for first place doesn’t mean the tournament is over.” He will go on to play a consolation match against the loser of the Hess-Shulman playoff. “Plus third place sounds cooler than fourth. You can call it a bronze medal.”

The other 19-year-old in the semifinals, GM Robert Hess, got very little out of the opening with White. “At first I thought I was comfortable but then I played a lot of loose moves,” Hess said. When pressed for where his substandard moves were, Hess replied, “Just about everywhere!” Shulman said he got a slight plus after Hess shuffled his pieces too much. Eventually Hess’ White pieces regrouped back to the center to liquidate the position and nullify any thoughts of Shulman’s a-pawn march.


Zatonskih continued her remarkable return after facing early elimination from the
tournament, and is now a favorite for the title.

The U.S. Women’s Championship produced two decisive games in the first game of the semifinals, but in the second game both trailing women exacted revenge, forcing a playoff. IM Irina Krush dramatically came back in her match against IM Anna Zatonskih. After playing an abysmal game in round one of the semifinals, she took over both sides of the board and sacrificed a bishop on g6.

After yesterday’s dispiriting loss, Krush seemed elated to get a fresh start today. “I was very grateful to get this position and have something to play for,” Krush said. “I’m happy to have earned myself a chance to keep playing.”
WFM Tatev Abrahamyan was in an even direr situation than Krush. Not only did she have to win today, she also had Black against one of the most solid players in either field, WGM Camilla Baginskaite. Playing the longest game of the day, Abrahamyan managed a near zugzwang in a rook-and-pawn endgame, and eventually invaded and won.


The second finalist, Yury Shulman, on beating Hess and his new baby born yesterday!

Semifinal Playoffs: Finals Begin Tomorrow

By FM Mike Klein

After much talk of the youth movement at the 2011 U.S. Championship, the veterans will have the final say. GM Yury Shulman won the second game of the two-game tiebreak today against teenage GM Robert Hess, setting up a repeat of last year’s final with GM Gata Kamsky. At the 2010 Championship, Kamsky defeated Shulman in a one-game draw-odds playoff, which ended in a draw, giving Kamsky the title. This year, the two will play a two-game match, starting Tuesday, under classical time controls.

The loss was Hess’ first of the tournament and follows a series of three draws against Shulman. They drew two games in the last two days and added a third during the first rapid game today. “To Yury’s credit, he played really well,” Hess said.

Hess’ tournament is not over. He will play fellow 19-year-old GM-elect Sam Shankland in a similar match for third place. Shankland lost to Kamsky yesterday which gave Kamsky the day off today.


Tatev Abrahamyan fought her way into the playoff and then took both rapid games

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, one player got through to the finals in the rapid games, while another had to go past even that. WFM Tatev Abrahamyan won both her games today against WGM Camilla Baginskaite to advance to the finals. Yesterday she won the second of two games against Baginskaite just to earn the right to advance to today. “I don’t know how that happened!” Abrahamyan said of her three consecutive wins. “After I lost (Saturday) I sort of relaxed.” She was asked if she was now the torch-bearer for the young players remaining in the tournament. “I didn’t know I’m still in the ‘young’ category, but that’s good to know!” Abrahamyan is 23. She is the youngest woman still remaining in the field.

IMs Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih split their head-to-head match with one win each, and required a final Armageddon match to decide a winner. The two entered secret bids to determine colors and starting times. Krush bid 45 minutes, the maximum allowable, all but securing her chance to play White. Zatonskih bid much lower – 27 minutes – and earned the right to pick Black with draw odds. The two repeated their previous two games with the same colors, until Zatonskih used the prepared move 13…Nd3+ to force off a few pieces. “Psychologically it would be difficult to play opposite-colored bishops,” Zatonskih explained. Krush’s central advance never materialized and she eventually found her king in the middle of the crossfire. “With this match it seems whoever gets the better position loses,” said GM Hikaru Nakamura. After move 35, there was nothing left and Krush resigned, giving Zatonskih the right to challenge Abrahamyan for the national championship.

 
Interviews with Robert Hess and Tatev Abrahamyan

In tomorrow’s finals, colors were drawn randomly by IA Carol Jarecki. Kamsky will take White against Shulman and Abrahamyan will have White versus Zatonskih. In the third-place games, it will be Shankland-Hess and Baginskaite-Krush. All players will switch colors for Wednesday’s games, with Thursday set aside for any necessary tiebreaks. The awards ceremony will be Thursday night.

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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