US Ch: Krush wins, Kamsky-Ramirez playoff

5/13/2013 – Top seed GM Gata Kamsky started the final round with a half-point lead but could not defeat youthful GM Ray Robson. Three players could win to catch Kamsky, but only GM Alejandro Ramirez got the full point. The two will play tomorrow at noon in a two-game rapid playoff. Meanwhile IM Irina Krush defended her U.S. Women’s Championship title, scoring 8.0/9. Report with pictures and videos.

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US Championships: Krush crowned; playoff Kamsky vs Ramirez

In the final round of the U.S. Championship GM Gata Kamsky (above) nursed a half-point margin but could not defeat GM Ray Robson. Three players could win to catch Kamsky, but only GM Alejandro Ramirez got the full point. The two will play tomorrow at noon in a two-game rapid playoff.

Kamsky had a chance to clinch clear first place, and it looked for a time like a win as black would be possible. Robson, fighting for a top six finish for a 2013 World Cup qualification, mixed it up early by jettisoning some pawns to open lines. “He surprised me with b4, sacrificing two pawns for an attack,” Kamsky said. “I thought I should be winning, but somehow he had all these tactical resources.” Later, Robson kept the fire burning by sacrificing an additional exchange to keep the initiative.

Robson said he would have played solidly if possible, but he took what the position gave him. “There’s no way you can force a win against Gata,” Robson said. “[Kamsky] can punish you if you go for a win too much. Probably I just overestimated my position.”

The draw might still have been good enough for clear first, were it not for the continued heroics of the much lower ranked GM Alejandro Ramirez (above), this time against GM Larry Christiansen. Ramirez first offered his a-pawn to tie down Black’s bishop and rook, and then switched to probe the other side of the chessboard. Eventually weaknesses were created, and a passed e-pawn sealed the deal. “His queen is so badly placed on b6 that it is difficult to hold the kingside together,” Ramirez explained. “I didn’t see a defense for him.”

His game finished before Kamsky, so the only way he could be taken out of contention would have been for Robson to blunder. “I haven’t cheered for Ray this much ever,” Ramirez said about the waning moments of the top board.

“I really didn’t ever expect to be in this position,” Ramirez said of his impending playoff tomorrow. “It’s like a dream. Wow! It’s actually happening.” The two will meet Monday at noon in a pair of 25-minute rapid games, followed by an Armageddon bidding match if the score is tied 1-1. “Tomorrow’s going to be very stressful. I’ve never played a rapid playoff,” Ramirez said. Kamsky has played several tiebreaks in the World Cup, and has been successful twice in St. Louis at previous U.S. Championships.

Two other players could have stayed alive in the hunt, but neither GM Alex Onischuk nor GM Conrad Holt could keep pace. Onischuk could not gain an edge over IM Kayden Troff, who earned his first grandmaster norm with the draw. Troff said it was his third final-round attempt to earn a norm. “This time was scary,” he said. “Black against Onischuk. But I got through it.”

Pairings of the final round (nine, on Sunday, 12 May 2013)

White Pts Rtng Black Pts Rtng Result
GM Robson, Ray 4.5 2620 GM Kamsky, Gata 6.0 2741 ½-½
GM Ramirez, Alejandro 5.5 2551 GM Christiansen, Larry 5.0 2579 1-0
GM Gareev, Timur 5.0 2674 GM Holt, Conrad 5.5 2513 1-0
GM Onischuk, Alexander 5.5 2666 IM Troff, Kayden W 4.5 2421 ½-½
GM Benjamin, Joel 4.5 2534 GM Shankland, Samuel 4.0 2612 ½-½
GM Akobian, Varuzhan 4.0 2616 GM Kaidanov, Gregory 4.0 2593 1-0
GM Finegold, Benjamin 4.0 2505 GM Shabalov, Alexander 4.0 2544 0-1
FM Sevian, Samuel 3.5 2371 GM Hess, Robert L 3.5 2595 ½-½
FM Bryant, John Daniel 3.5 2442 Norowitz, Yaacov 3.5 2451 0-1
GM Shulman, Yury 3.0 2570 FM Sammour-Hasbun, Jorge 3.0 2463 1-0
GM Stripunsky, Alexander 3.0 2570 GM Ivanov, Alexander 2.0 2529 0-1
GM Khachiyan, Melikset 2.5 2518 GM Arnold, Marc 2.5 2538 ½-½

WGM Jenifer Shahade and GM Yasser Seirawan with live commentary of the final round

Final standings (after nine rounds)

Rnk Name Pts Rtng TPR W-We SB
1 GM Kamsky, Gata 6.5 2741 2733 +0.01 34.75
2 GM Ramirez, Alejandro 6.5 2551 2737 +2.25 29.75
3 GM Onischuk, Alexander 6.0 2666 2670 +0.06 29.75
4 GM Gareev, Timur 6.0 2674 2690 +0.19 28.0
5 GM Holt, Conrad 5.5 2513 2679 +2.02 27.75
6 GM Christiansen, Larry M 5.0 2579 2623 +0.52 21.5
7 GM Shabalov, Alexander 5.0 2544 2626 +0.98 20.0
8 GM Robson, Ray 5.0 2620 2613 -0.10 19.75
9 IM Troff, Kayden W 5.0 2421 2614 +2.21 19.25
10 GM Benjamin, Joel 5.0 2534 2644 +1.30 24.0
11 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 5.0 2616 2554 -0.75 19.75
12 Norowitz, Yaacov 4.5 2451 2543 +1.10 17.5
13 GM Shankland, Samuel L 4.5 2612 2521 -1.11 17.0
14 GM Kaidanov, Gregory S 4.0 2593 2457 -1.63 15.5
15 GM Shulman, Yury 4.0 2570 2484 -1.01 15.25
16 GM Finegold, Benjamin 4.0 2505 2522 +0.21 15.0
17 FM Sevian, Samuel 4.0 2371 2474 +1.24 15.5
18 GM Hess, Robert L 4.0 2595 2460 -1.59 13.75
19 FM Bryant, John Daniel 3.5 2442 2471 +0.28 16.75
20 GM Ivanov, Alexander 3.0 2529 2408 -1.46 11.5
21 GM Arnold, Marc T 3.0 2538 2425 -1.35 10.75
22 FM Sammour-Hasbun, Jorge 3.0 2463 2422 -0.47 10.0
23 GM Khachiyan, Melikset 3.0 2518 2431 -1.03 12.5
24 GM Stripunsky, Alexander 3.0 2570 2415 -1.87 12.25

Women's section

After four unsuccessful attempts, IM Irina Krush finally defended her U.S. Women’s Championship title on Sunday. Her draw with WGM Camilla Baginskaite made her score 8/9 and put the tournament out of reach for IM Anna Zatonskih, who also won but finished a half-point behind Krush.

Interview with Irina Krush, conducted by GM Maurice Ashley

“This has been my smoothest victory,” Krush said of her five championships, before pausing to recall them all. “Well actually when I won my first with 8½ out of nine, that also went well.” That first title was in 1998, the only time she competed without Zatonskih in the field. The two have mostly traded titles the last few years. “We have to break this pattern,” Krush joked.

Ranking after round nine (Sunday, 12 May 2013)

All photos by Tony Rich, Saint Louis Chess Club

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