Nakamura and Krush win US Championship

5/21/2012 – It was a dramatic finish to one of the most exciting US Championships in years. Nakamura was the slight favorite, but with two rounds to go, Kamsky had taken the sole lead. Then in round ten, Hikaru pulled out the big guns and beat Kamsky, followed by a win over Seirawan in the final round. Krush beat Zatonskih in a playoff for the Women's title. Final report with video and GM commentary.

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2012 U.S. Chess Championship and U.S. Women's Championship

These events began on Tuesday, May 8, and concludes on Saturday, May 19, with a possible playoff on May 20. The top twelve players in the country are taking part in an 11-game round robin for the title of U.S. Champion, with Gata Kamsky defending it and striving to win his third consecutive championship. In the women's championship the top ten female players take part in a nine-game round robin, with WGM and IM Anna Zatonskih defending her 2011 title. The total prize fund for the U.S. Championship is $160,000. If someone should score a perfect 11-0, the bonus “Fischer Prize” (so named because Bobby Fischer was the last to win every game) of $64,000 will be awarded. The women's purse is $64,000.

Round ten

By FM Mike Klein

The battle all chess fans waited to see at the 2012 U.S. Championship did not disappoint. GM Hikaru Nakamura beat GM Gata Kamsky for the first time ever in classical chess to take over the lead by one-half point with one game to go. Nakamura has 7.5 points to Kamsky's seven.

Playing Black in round ten, Nakamura chose the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense because he wanted a volatile position. During their last encounter, at the Tata Steel Tournament in January, Nakamura's Dragon Variation did not produce any winning chances. Today, he needed more from the opening.


Nakamura shows that he is there for business

Kamsky uncharacteristically labored in the opening, spending more time than his opponent for one of the first times in the event. He spent 30 minutes after 11...Na5. Lacking his usual confidence, he was down 45 minutes on the clock a few moves later.

Later, Nakamura won a pawn, but refused to go for more. In the post-game press conference, Nakamura said that he was not sure of the complications arising from 25...Nxc3 26. bxc3 Qxc3 27. Ng4 Qxa5 28. Nxh6+ gxh6 29. Qg4+ Kh8. While it seems Black is simply up an armada of pawns, white can chase the black queen around the board until she gives herself away for two rooks. Nakamura said he thought it was still technically winning, but he was worried about his king's safety. The alternative plan from the actual game left Nakamura up the exchange, but with a different set of difficulties ahead.


Kamsky desperately searching for a save in a lost position

“Optically the knights are very strong, but at the same time, they don't have very many squares,” Nakamura said. He wanted to avoid an endgame where one of Kamsky's knights would sacrifice for his lone queenside pawn, as an ending with pawns on only one side can often reduce winning chances.

The defending champion's lack of time came back to hurt him on the 40th and final move of time control. According to Nakamura, 40. Kh4 is an unrecoverable mistake. The forcing sequence beginning with the pinning of one knight and the sacrifice for another led to Kamsky searching fruitlessly for counterplay against the inexorable march of his opponent's a-pawn. While Kamsky attempted to conjure an attack with his limited material, Nakamura did not need any moves to rebuff the plan, and simply marched onward with his pawn.


It was a rough tournament for US championship first-timer Alejandro Ramirez, however
he was kind enough to send his notes to his wild win over Kaidanov.

[Event "2012 US Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.05.20"] [Round "?"] [White "Ramirez, Alejandro"] [Black "Kaidanov, Gregory"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D35"] [WhiteElo "2593"] [BlackElo "2594"] [Annotator "Ramirez, Alejandro"] [PlyCount "127"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [SourceDate "2012.05.20"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 Nbd7 6. cxd5 exd5 7. e3 Be7 8. Bd3 Ne4 {I was a little unfamiliar with this move. I did know that both Bf4 and Be7 are moves, but didn't know which one was stronger. At the end I decided to keep more pieces on the board.} 9. Bf4 Ndf6 10. h3 {a multi-purpose move. Of course, g4 is now covered and the retreat to h2 for the bishop is possible.} O-O 11. Qc2 Re8 12. O-O Bd6 13. Ne5 g6 14. Ne2 {This move emphazises the clump of minor pieces in the center. Now f3 could be a threat, since the N on e4 has no good retreats.} Nh5 15. Bh2 f6 $5 {The game starts becoming a little wild after this.} 16. f3 (16. Nf3 Bxh2+ 17. Nxh2 Nd6 {Is maybe slightly more pleasant for White but nothing special.}) 16... fxe5 (16... Ng5 17. f4 fxe5 18. Bxg6 $1 {Was what I was planning, and its messy.}) 17. fxe4 exd4 18. e5 $1 (18. Bxd6 Qxd6 19. exd4 (19. Nxd4 Bxh3 $1 20. gxh3 Qg3+ 21. Qg2 Qxe3+ 22. Qf2 Qxd3 $19) 19... dxe4 20. Bxe4 Be6 {and Black is the only one that can be better.}) 18... Bxe5 19. Bxe5 (19. Bxg6 Bxh2+ 20. Kh1 hxg6 21. Qxg6+ Ng7 {is not enough for White, as Black has the Be5 resource.}) 19... Rxe5 20. Bxg6 {This position is very wild. It's hard to evaluate without exhausting the variations, but I liked my position and was confident I had the better of the complications.} Qg5 21. Bxh7+ Kg7 22. Nxd4 $1 Rxe3 (22... Qxe3+ 23. Rf2 Nf4 $1 {I saw during the game that this was the only move, but didnt think it sufficed.} 24. Kh1 $1 (24. Nf3 Ne2+ 25. Kf1 $11) 24... Rg5 (24... Qxd4 25. Raf1 $18) 25. Raf1 {And White's attack looks very dangerous.}) 23. h4 $6 (23. Nf5+ { was more precise.}) 23... Qh6 24. Rf2 $4 {I completely overlooked my opponents next move. I had seen the alternative, but decided this was simpler.} (24. Rf5 $1 $16) 24... Ng3 {White is in a strange situation, he can't move anything usefully. With the time ticking, I sacrificed and exchange.} 25. Raf1 Nxf1 26. Rxf1 Be6 $2 (26... Re7 {Defended everything.}) 27. Bf5 Bg8 28. Bc8 {Too ambitious!} (28. Bd3 {Almost forces Black to repeat.}) 28... Bh7 29. Nf5+ Bxf5 30. Qxf5 Kh8 31. Qd7 Rg3 32. Qxb7 $2 (32. Qe8+ {secures a draw, but in time pressure I missed my opponent's resource.}) 32... Rg8 $1 {Fabulous! The a8 rook is taboo.} 33. Bh3 (33. Qxa8 Qe3+ 34. Kh1 Qg3 {And White cannot defend from Checkmate.}) 33... Raf8 34. Rxf8 Rxf8 35. Qxa7 Qc1+ 36. Kh2 Qf4+ 37. Kg1 Qxh4 38. Qe3 {A technically winning position for Black, but still with some problems as his king is very exposed.} Qf4 39. Qe7 Qf6 40. Qc5 $6 Qf1+ 41. Kh2 Qf4+ 42. Kg1 Re8 43. Qf2 {Interestingly enough, this is not the optimal version of the endgame and Black has a lot of difficulties converting.} Qxf2+ 44. Kxf2 c5 45. Bd7 $1 Re7 46. Bc6 $1 d4 47. Bb5 {I'm very proud I found this Bishop maneouvre, after which I believe it is near impossible to find a way to make progress.} Kg7 48. a4 Kf6 49. b3 Re3 $2 (49... Ke5 $1 {Was the best try}) 50. Bc4 Ke5 51. a5 Ke4 $4 {Black is setting himself up for a terrible tactic.} 52. a6 Rc3 (52... d3 53. Bd5+ $1 Kd4 54. a7 d2 55. a8=Q d1=Q 56. Qa4+ {And computers say that Black holds the balance, but it looks almost lost.}) 53. a7 Rc2+ 54. Be2 $1 {My opponent may have missed this move.} Ra2 55. a8=Q+ Rxa8 56. Bf3+ {The rest is easy, no more turnovers.} Kd3 57. Bxa8 Kc2 58. g4 Kxb3 59. g5 c4 60. g6 d3 61. g7 d2 62. Bf3 c3 63. g8=Q+ Kb2 64. Bd1 {A wild wild game. Not the most exact or technical but it was a roller coaster ride that was exciting to play.} 1-0

“A lot of moves Gata played in this game surprised me,” Nakamura said, adding the opinion that neither he nor Kamsky is playing his best at the championship.

Nakamura thought that he was due for some good fortune, as he had better positions in several of the games that he drew.

Tomorrow, Nakamura assured everyone that he was out to win, as he gets white versus GM Yasser Seirawan. If he is able to do so, he will clinch the title, his first since 2009. Kamsky meanwhile needs some help to win his third consecutive championship. He will likely need to win as black against GM Robert Hess, then get some help from Seirawan. Should there be a tie at the end of the eleventh round, the playoff will be Sunday at noon Central time.


GM Daniel King decided to look at some of the games from the US championship  

All other games Friday were drawn, except GM Alejandro Ramirez, who beat GM Alex Stripunsky. GM Alex Onischuk retained his position in third by easily drawing GM Varuzhan Akobian.


Final round

By FM Mike Klein

SAINT LOUIS, May 19, 2012 -- After 11 exhausting days of play at the 2012 U.S. Championships, one champion has been decided, while one will require another day. GM Hikaru Nakamura took 30 moves to beat GM Yasser Seirawan today to become the 2012 U.S. Champion. It is his third title and his first since 2009. IMs Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih both won also to remain tied for first in the U.S. Women's Championship. They will play a playoff at noon Central time tomorrow.

“It has been a long two weeks,” Nakamura said. “There's a lot of pressure to perform. I feel a lot of relief.” Nakamura was the top-seeded player and according to the live ratings list, he has now pushed his rating to 2782.6, a personal best. “If I hadn't won, I'd be pretty depressed.”


Hikaru Nakamura finished his US Championship with a final win to ensure tiebreaks
would not be a factor

Nakamura reverted back to 1. e4. He used it to win several games earlier in the tournament. Seirawan, a four-time champion, differed from his usual Caro-Kann and played the French Defense. After a ten-minute think, Nakamura unleashed 2. f4 to get the game out of charted waters. Seirawan said later it was new for him.

“This tournament is a tournament of firsts for me,” Seirawan said. “And I've never faced f4 before.”

Nakamura's capture 10. Bxf5 produced a critical moment for his opponent. Since ...g6 had just been played on move eight, Nakamura said it was natural to continue by recapturing with the g-pawn. Seirawan did just that, however upon reflection his isolated h-pawn ended up being a liability. Very short on time, Seirawan could not find a defense to the impending discovered checks on the dark-squared long diagonal. He expressed “instant regret” on his choice of which way to capture on f5. “It's just a totally bad grovel,” Seirawan said.

Nakamura had ideas all over. “He had play on both flanks,” Seirawan said. “My position was in some ways carved in half. I was defending on both wings. My position is like a sieve.”


The 2012 US Champion signs an autograph on a portrait made of him

GM Gata Kamsky, who acquiesced the lead to Nakamura yesterday by losing their head-to-head game, drew against GM Robert Hess to earn clear second place with 7.5/11. GM Alex Onischuk was third with 6.5/11 and tied for fourth were GMs Varuzhan Akobian, Yury Shulman and Alex Lenderman. Shulman's one win and ten draws make him the only other undefeated player besides Nakamura.

GM Ray Robson's even score of 5.5/11 was good enough for seventh, while Hess grabbed eighth (5/11) and GMs Gregory Kaidanov and Alejandro Ramirez shared ninth (4/11). GMs Yasser Seirawan and Alex Stripunsky tied for 11th with 3.5/11.

In the 2012 U.S. Women's Championship, nothing was gained today by the two leaders. Krush and Zatonskih both won, necessitating a playoff tomorrow for the title. They will play two 25-minute rapid games, one with each color. If the score is tied 1-1, a final Armageddon with clock bidding will ensue.

The two women finished within minutes of each other. Krush won a pawn with the tactic 13...Bb5. Her opponent, WGM Camilla Baginskaite, said she thought her position was worse and that she had to sacrifice her e-pawn for possible counterplay on the e-file. Krush said she barely noticed her rival's position. “I basically focused on my own game,” she said. “I looked at Anna's game a few times, but not more than usual.”


Zatonskih has been the dominant player in the past Women's US Championships

Zatonskih admitted to glancing at Krush's game only once. She said that Krush had won from a worse position earlier in the tournament against IM Rusudan Goletiani, so even if Krush had a bad position today, no result was guaranteed.

Going into Sunday's playoff, Zatonskih was melancholy of her games. “I'm critical of my own play,” she said. “Maybe it's age. You cannot play that good every time.”


IM Irina Krush was pushed a playoff against Zatonskih which she won brilliantly 2-0
to become the 2012 Women's US Champion.

Both women are undefeated this year, with five wins and four draws, including an uneventful draw against each other in round seven. Since then, both have won two in a row to earn a spot in the playoff. In the past, both women had achieved scores of 8.5/9 at the event. Krush did it in winning the 1998 championship, while Zatonskih did it in 2009.

Goletiani bounced back from last year's subpar result to finish in clear third place. WIM Viktorija Ni played the longest game of the day, coming back to beat FM Alisa Melekhina to finish in fourth. WGM Sabina Foisor, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan and WIM Iryna Zenyuk all finished with 4.5/9 to tie for fifth. This was the first time Zenyuk has achieved an even score at the championship. Melekhina was sixth, Baginskaite seventh and tournament rookie WFM Alena Kats eighth.


Nakamura looks at some of the players enjoying some chess in the nice weather in
front of the St. Louis Chess Club.

Pictures by Studio314

 
Videos of the US Championship


As an added incentive to inspire the players, Former World Champion GM Garry Kasparov and world number-one female player GM Judit Polgar have agreed to judge the best game prizes for the 2012 U.S. Championship & U.S. Women's Championship. For their efforts, players from the overall US championship can win $1,500 for first, $1,000 for second and $500 for third to be chosen by Kasparov. Should the best game be a hard-fought draw, the two players will split the purse. Judit Polgar will judge the best game prizes for the 2012 U.S. Women's Championship. Players can receive $1,000 for first, $600 for second and $400 for third.

Men's final standings

Women's final standings

For complete reports and further pics, please refer to the official website.

There is live coverage open to all by IM Jennifer Shahade and GM Ben Finegold at the website.

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 a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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