2011 US Championships: midway through prelims

by ChessBase
4/19/2011 – Past the midway mark of the preliminaries in the US championship, one of the men's groups is seeing 19-year-olds Robert Hess and Sam Shankland take the reins, while the other group is dominated by veterans Kamsky and Shulman. The women's is still led by Foisor followed closely be a resurgent Krush. The illustrated report of rounds three and four includes a video interview with Hikaru Nakamura.

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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

Field thins out in Round Three

By FM Mike Klein

With players beginning to eye a spot in the semifinals, two-thirds of the games produced winners in round three of the 2011 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship.

Group Two of the US Championship offered a bounty of surprises, turned in mostly by the younger players. Late in the day, GM Robert Hess, yet to take his first college course, ground down the nearly unbeatable GM Alexander Onischuk. For Onischuk, it is only his third US Championship loss. He holds the second-longest unbeaten streak in championship history. The streak ended last year. Hess offered a draw in a balanced endgame, but after the 2006 champion declined, Hess marched his king into the action to win some of the few remaining pawns to earn the point.

19-year-old GM-elect Sam Shankland has been in good form, perhaps restoring his faith in his chess

Although Hess’s endgame alchemy pushed him to 2.0/3, he still trails GM-elect Sam Shankland by one-half point. Shankland (2.5/3) dethroned group leader Christiansen (2/3) in the longest game of the day. Shankland, who claimed he was close to quitting chess after the 2010 championship, said, “Today I thought I played extremely well. Last year it took me nine rounds to get 2.5 points.

In Group One action, defending champion GM Gata Kamsky held his lead by defending a Breyer Variation for the second year in a row against GM Ray Robson. He was joined by both GM Yury Shulman and GM Alexander Ivanov who also won and are at 2.0/3.

Shulman, a Chicagoan, also had many fans at the club, and used the support to beat GM Jaan Ehlvest. “I looked at this position some time ago and I wasn’t sure if Jaan knows this,” Shulman said of his early c-pawn sacrifice. Shulman is a past US Champion and knows the care it takes to win. 

Ivanov handed IM Daniel Naroditsky his first loss of the tournament. Ivanov, known to be dangerous in the Open Sicilian, said his young opponent must have missed the thrust e5. “After this he is objectively lost”, Ivanov said. He offered a candid assessment of his chances. “I would be happy to get to the semifinals. I have a return ticket before the finals! But of course I’m fighting.

Top-rated American Hikaru Nakamura explains why he is not participating in this year's US Championship

In the US Women’s Championship, IM Irina Krush got back on pace to qualify for the semifinals with her second consecutive win. She questioned the wisdom of IM Rusudan Goletiani’s opening choice: “She just didn’t know the position.” Goletiani is known to open with 1.Nf3 and save the fight for later in the game. “She probably didn’t feel like she had anything with her normal openings”, Krush said. “To play the white side of the Open Sicilian when you don’t know anything is very tough.

The only woman ahead of Krush is Sabina Foisor, who drew with WFM Tatev Abrahamyan and stayed in the lead. IM Anna Zatonskih drew uneventfully with WGM Camilla Baginskaite and is tied for second with Krush.

Youth Movement Continues at U.S. Championships

By FM Mike Klein

Past the halfway point at the 2011 US Championship and US Women’s Championship, the students are schooling the veterans. After four rounds at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, most of the leaders could not tell you what life what like in the 1980s.

Maintaining her lead in the women’s championship, Baltimore college student WGM Sabina Foisor beat WIM Iryna Zenyuk to reach 3.5/4. She survived a scary-looking rook for knight sacrifice to consolidate and win a queen-and-pawn endgame. After being initially worried, Foisor found the winning path and said she relaxed because “at some point I was worse.” GM Hikaru Nakamura called Foisor his dark-horse pick to win the title.

As if to show her first round loss was a wake-up call and not a sign of things to come,
title-holder Irina Krush won her next three games and is on 3.0/4 just behind Foisor.

She kept her half-point lead over IM Irina Krush, who won for the third consecutive day, thus becoming the first player in either championship to do so. This time she took out her Olympiad teammate, and longtime rival, IM Anna Zatonskih. The two have played many times, including in the last half-dozen US Women’s Championships, but this was Krush’s first win ever in their lifetime series. Krush played the rare 8.g4, which was briefly in vogue more than a decade ago, until Garry Kasparov, world champion at the time, crushed it as Black. Krush unearthed it from obscurity and briefly caused Zatonskih to hold her head in her hands. After a few minutes, Anna eventually found a reasonable reply, only to be edged much later in the game.

FM Alisa Melekhina maintains her poise despite a rough event

In the US Championship, GM Robert Hess continued his torrid play in Group Two. As Black, Hess beat GM Alexander Shabalov to tie for the lead in his group. “I forgot my preparation and had to think for 20 minutes”, Hess said. “I’ve been playing much better with Black than with White. My coach (GM Miron Sher) told me that I should just ask for seven Blacks.” Hess cannot claim to even be a college student yet. The Samford Chess Fellowship recipient said he will attend Yale in the fall after his gap year ends. “It looks like [Hess] is in good form and confident”, said GM Larry Christiansen who drew with GM Ben Finegold.

In Group One the veterans took control. Past champions GM Gata Kamsky and GM Yury Shulman both won today and lead the way with 3.0/4. Explaining his opening as Black against GM Jaan Ehlvest, Kamsky said, “I just wanted to develop and not go into complications right away.” Ashley questioned Ehlvest’s decision to resign so early. “You mean two knights for a rook is not enough?” Kamsky replied. “These positions are not played at this level. [Ehlvest] used to be a world championship candidate. He knows he will lose and he wants to save his energy.

Enjoying a casual game of Rolodex Chess (our guess of its name)

Pictures from official site

Video recap of rounds 2-3 (courtesy of Macauley Peterson for the official site)


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