2011 US Championships: Hess and Krush first to finals

by ChessBase
4/21/2011 – Four and five were the number of straight wins that Hess and Krush respectively posted to secure their spots in the finals. Despite nervy play play from all, Hess showed his nerves were steadier than most, much as Krush who won five straight games after her initial loss. Foisor lost the lead after a slip though should make it. The final two rounds will be intense! Illustrated report with 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.

Round Robin 1 Round Robin 2
No. First Name Last Name  Rtg No. First Name Last Name Rtg
1. Gata Kamsky 2733 1. Alexander Onischuk 2678
2. Yury Shulman 2622 2. Yasser Seirawan 2636
3. Varuzhan Akobian 2611 3. Alexander Shabalov 2590
4. Jaan Ehlvest 2586 4. Larry Christiansen 2586
5. Alexander Stripunsky 2578 5. Gregory Kaidanov 2569
6. Alexander Ivanov 2540 6. Robert Hess 2565
7. Ray Robson 2522 7. Sam Shankland 2512
8. Daniel Naroditsky 2438 8. Ben Finegold 2500
Average Rating 2578.75 Average Rating 2579.5

Round five: Desperate Push for Qualification Continues

By FM Mike Klein

Round five of the US Championship produced the most fighting chess so far at the 2011 US Championship and US Women’s Championship. Players of the Black pieces won an astounding six games, and half of the games went into the sixth hour. Three quarters of the games ended with a winner, and even the defending champion could not get an easy day off.

GM Robert Hess stretched his lead by getting a chess “turkey”. He won his third game in a row to move to four points, the most of any player in the U.S. Championship. The young grandmaster chose a low-risk opening against GM Gregory Kaidanov where his pawn majority could be pressed. “I got exactly what I wanted with three against two on the queenside”, Hess said. “It’s annoying to play for Black.” Hess said he had great respect for his veteran opponent, “I wasn’t going to play something risky against Grisha.

Robert Hess with three in a row and close to clinching qualification

GM Sam Shankland, tied with Hess in Group B going into the round, entered the preparation of GM Alexander Shabalov, and for fourteen moves his opponent played automatically. After accepting an exchange sacrifice, Shankland found his pieces tied down. “None of my rooks ever did anything”, Shankland said. Talking to Shabalov after the game, Shankland said, “You beat me like four games in a row with Black. It’s not fair.” Shabalov replied, “I would still trade places with you.” Shabalov is still mathematically alive to finish in the top two of his group, if only barely. When asked what he has left to play for, Shabalov joked, “There’s always money!” Each place difference for the non-qualifiers is about $1,000 difference.

GM Larry Christiansen entered the round in sole possession of third place in the group, but yielded that to GM Alex Onischuk after losing their head-to-head battle. “I didn’t get so much from the opening even though I knew the line”, Onischuk said. Though the win puts him in third place for the time being, Onischuk was quick to explain that he has to work in the last two rounds. “Still it’s not clear if I’m going to qualify”, he said. Going into the tournament, Onischuk had been a heavy favorite to qualify.

In other Group B action, GM Yasser Seirawan recovered from a slow start to win his first game of the event by besting GM Ben Finegold after the latter willingly entered a complicated but losing king-and-pawn endgame. Finegold felt frustrated after the game. While he resigned in a losing position, he said that the variation Seirawan prepared to continue with was not the best and would have led to a draw.

In Group A, both GM Yury Shulman and GM Gata Kamsky protected their lead by negotiating draws. Shulman’s draw versus good friend GM Varuzhan Akobian came without too much fuss, but Kamsky had to work for quite some time against GM Alexander Stripunksy. Kamsky closed the entire position by locking up the pawns but a determined Stripunsky fought hard to open an avenue for attack. After exhausting all resources, Stripunsky settled for a split point. Kamsky was highly critical of his own play, but both he and Shulman remain in the drivers’ seats with 3.5/5.

The US Women's championship semifinal

In the US Women’s Championship, IM Irina Krush moved into sole possession of the lead for the first time in the tournament by winning her fourth game in a row. Krush outmaneuvered FM Alisa Melekhina in an equal ending to get to 4.0/5. Melekhina insisted she is playing well but is not finding any luck in her games. Early tournament leader WGM Sabina Foisor suffered her first hiccup of the event, losing to IM Rusudan Goletiani, though she remains tied for second place with two rounds to go.

After losing an equal ending to Krush, Melekhina complained she was not finding
any luck in her games.

Equaling Foisor with 3.5/5 is WFM Tatev Abrahamyan, who won for the first time ever against IM Anna Zatonskih. Despite having an extra queen, bishop, and a pawn about to promote, Abrahamyan almost threw away the win, “I finally play one good game and I can’t finish it well!” Zatonskih will need to move quickly in rounds six and seven to qualify for the semifinals.

WGM Camilla Baginskaite won her third game to continue to come back from an opening-round loss. Her victory over WIM Irina Zenyuk moved her to 3.5/5 and a great chance to qualify.

The top four women are Krush with 4.0/5, followed by Foisor, Abrahamyan and Baginskaite on 3.5/5.

In round six, the young Naroditsky will face defending champion Kamsky. Asked what his strategy was, Naroditsky joked that he would be “groveling”, a term chess players use to mean they are hoping for a draw. Christiansen will be desperate against Hess, and Shulman will try to keep place against Robson.

The top four women need to do little more than to play for draws, so Zatonskih will need to find a way to win as Black against Goletiani.

GM Alexander Shabalov discusses his win over GM-elect Sam Shankland, and takes audience questions
(courtesy of Macauley Peterson for the official site

Round six: Hess and Krush Ride Winning Streak to Qualification

By FM Mike Klein

GM Robert Hess and IM Irina Krush kept up their winning streaks in round six of the U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship, respectively. In the penultimate round of preliminary play, Hess won his fourth game in a row and Krush her fifth. They have both become the first two to qualify from the semifinals.

With an impressive fourth win in a row, Hess became the first
player of four to qualify for the men's final.

As in round five, Hess tried to play solidly out of the opening. He accepted GM Larry Christiansen’s pawn sacrifice, after which he said he was “extremely satisfied” with his position. Christiansen had to play aggressively, as he began the round on the outside looking in at qualification. Hess said he is not overjoyed at his play, but “thankfully my opponents have been making mistakes as well. Fortunately I’m here with five out of six so I can laugh at my mistakes.” He added that winning four games in a row may be a rarity at the U.S. Championship but it was not as important as winning the title itself. He has already clinched sole first place in the group and with it a $2,000 bonus. Since scores are erased when the semifinals begin, his game against GM Yasser Seirawan tomorrow will only really matter for his opponent.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, second-ranked IM Irina Krush, the defending champion, continued her domination of the field by posting her fifth win in a row after suffering an opening-round upset. In round six she took out WIM Iryna Zenyuk to become the first woman to qualify for the semifinals. 

Krush is trailed by a cavalcade of players with 4.0/6. WGM Sabina Foiser and WGM Camilla Baginskaite had the quickest draw of the tournament to cement their placements. WFM Tatev Abrahamyan drew FM Alisa Melekhina in a wild affair to equal them. “My games have been so bad”, a relieved Abrahamyan said. Foisor, Baginskaite and Abrahmyan would have all earned certain qualification were it not for the timely win by top-seeded IM Anna Zatonskih, who partially bounced back with a win as Black to reach 3.0/6.

With a slip-up in round five, Foisor found herself on less certain
ground, though she is still a favorite to reach the Women's finals.

The scenarios in the women’s event for round seven are either simple or complicated, depending on Zatonskih’s game. She will play Foisor tomorrow needing a win. If she loses or draws, then Foisor, Abrahmyan and Baginskaite all join Krush in the semifinals. If Zatonskih wins, she will tie Foisor and possibly the other two women, depending on their results.  The tiebreak procedures vary depending on the number of women and the number of semifinal openings, but suffice to say they are complicated and every woman involved asked to have them explained by assistant arbiter Tony Rich after round six.

With Hess already in, the remainder of the pack in his group tried to keep up. GM-elect Sam Shankland rebounded after a round five loss by drawing local GM Ben Finegold. Their game was one of the few in the tournament to be settled with imbalances everywhere. “I’m really disappointed with my game today”, Shankland said. “Ben sacrificed a pawn for what I thought was insignificant compensation.” Asked why he agreed to the draw, Shankland said “I’m either going to get mated or run my pawns through. I saw that Alex (Onischuk) had a bad position. But I don’t like losing a White against the lowest (rated) player.

Shankland was looking over his shoulder at GM Onischuk to make sure he would not be passed in the standings. Onischuk went on to draw his game, the longest of the round, to remain tied with Shankland. The pair are the only players in the group with 3.5/6 and are slated to play tomorrow (Onischuk has White). Should the game be decisive, the winner will join Hess in advancing past group play. If they draw, they will play again on Friday in a playoff. They could theoretically also be joined by Seirawan in that scenario, who needs to win as Black versus Hess.

Jaan Ehlvest and Ray Robson watch the game between Onischuk and Seirawan

In the other U.S. Championship group, defending champion GM Gata Kamsky outplayed IM Daniel Naroditsky from an equal position. By trading queens early, Kamsky said his teenage opponent made his first psychological mistake. “It showed me he was playing for a draw”, Kamsky said. “He was probably giving me too much respect.” The win puts Kamsky at 4.5/6 and a half-point over second place GM Yury Shulman, who has kept up with the leader.

Shulman tried everything he could to beat GM Ray Robson, at one point eschewing several chances to repeat the position. Eventually the attack petered out and Shulman conceded the draw.

Round seven will also be intriguing for this group as Kamsky and Shulman, the two highest seeds in the group, are paired. Conventional wisdom suggests Kamsky will be content with a draw to ensure first place in the group. If so, Shulman is guaranteed no worse than a playoff for the second qualification spot. Which would only take place if GM Alexander Ivanov beats GM Ray Robson as Black.

All other players in the U.S. Championship have been officially eliminated from title contention, but each difference in final placement means $1,000 of prize money, so there is still much left to play for.

To follow the dramatic round seven and to hear grandmaster commentary from GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade, log on to www.uschesschamps.com at 2 p.m. local, 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Pictures from official site

Interview with Gata Kamsky after his win over Daniel Naroditsky (courtesy of Macauley Peterson for the official site)


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