US Ch. Rd6: Krush slips, lenderman Falls

by ChessBase
5/14/2014 – After five rounds Aleksandr Lenderman was leading by a full point. But on Tuesday he faced a surprise opening and a fierce glare by opponent Sam Shankland. Alex dropped a point, while his close rival Varuzhan Akobian pulled off a fine win with the black pieces to draw level with him. Anna Zatonskih, too, scored a black win to catch up with Irina Krush in the women's section. Round six report.

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For the sixth consecutive year, the best chess players in the U.S. have gathered in Saint Louis to fight for the title of U.S. Champion and U.S. Women's Champion. GM Gata Kamsky is defending his title while recently anointed grandmaster Irina Krush is looking for her sixth title at the 2014 U.S. Women's Championship. The events are being held simultaneously from May 7 through May 20 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL). The games start each day at 1 p.m., with every move broadcast live and discussed by the powerful commentary team of GMs Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and Maurice Ashley on the official web site.

Round 6: U.S. Championships knotted on top

By Brian Jerauld

Despite a slow, draw-filled start, the U.S. Championship heated up as it passed its halfway point, with Tuesday’s sixth round featuring another day of bloodshed to shake up the standings.

Aleksandr Lenderman, who had raced out to an early lead with three wins through the first
four rounds, has now been slowed to a crawl, with just a half point over the last two games.

Sam Shankland (above with his trademark glare) issued the frontrunner his first loss

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Varuzhan Akobian turned in his second quality win in a row to catch pace with Lenderman on top

Akobian had played through four balanced draws through the tournament’s start, but for the second day in a row squeezed out a full point from the slightly worse positions, this time Alejandro Ramirez. “I had a big advantage and was just trying to find a way to win, but I missed this g5 move in the endgame,” Akobian said. "I thought he was just resigning afterward, actually.”

Tied for third a half-point behind the leaders are Gata Kamsky and Alex Onishuck (3.5/6), who stayed unbeaten after a straightforward 32-move draw; and five other players trail in a logjam with three points apiece.

Ray Robson defeated the luckless Mac Molner to level at 50%

Josh Friedel beat Timur Gareev, who suffered his second consecutive loss

Men results of round six

White Rtng
Black Rtng
GM Onischuk, Alexander 2668
GM Kamsky, Gata 2713
GM Lenderman, Aleksandr 2582
GM Shankland, Samuel 2634
GM Naroditsky, Daniel 2543
GM Erenburg, Sergey 2633
GM Molner, Mackenzie 2522
GM Robson, Ray 2631
GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2643
GM Ramirez, Alejandro 2595
GM Friedel, Joshua E 2505
GM Gareev, Timur 2653


Men's standings after six rounds

Varuzhan Akobian

The weather was so harsh in the years that Armenian-American grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian spent in Mongolia, that his father forbade "Var" and his sister Armine from playing outside. He taught them chess, a perfect indoor distraction. "From the very beginning," Varuzhan says, "I was different from other chess kids. It was never just a game for me. I always wanted to be a grandmaster, and knew that I would do what it takes." As a teenager living in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, Var spent all day playing chess and soccer. His teachers agreed that he could focus on chess, without fear of truancy charges. "This is one way in which Armenia is very different from the United States. If I went to high school here, I never could have spent so much energy on chess."

He immigrated to the U.S. in 2001 and a year later earned the Samford Chess Fellowship, which allows a talented junior to focus on chess for two years. The prize paid off quickly, as he tied for first in the 2002 World Open and also won the Irme Koenig GM Invitational. The following year, Akobian scored 8.0/9 to win the 2003 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, winning his first seven games. He was officially awarded the grandmaster title in June 2004, after which he won the World Open again, clinching it with a sparkling win against Alexander Shabalov.

Varuzhan excels in positional battles and admires the games and style of Armenian hero, World Champion Tigran Petrosian. His favorite opening with black, just like Petrosian, is the French Defense. Var's advice to players aspiring to improve is this: "Don't expect to see constant improvement. You build knowledge and work hard, and after a while, you'll see a big breakthrough."

Recently, GM Akobian moved from sunny California to Topeka, Kansas, where his wife is attending law school at Washburn University. He has joined the Resident GM rotation at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, which brings some of the country's top players to the Chess Club to give private lessons, present lectures and share their chess knowledge with the club's more than 1,000 members. [Source: Tournament site]

Women's Championship round five

The 2014 U.S. Women’s Championship – previously showing no shortage of decisions – had its closest round of balance yet. Anna Zatonskih turned in the lone win of the day over Ashritha Eswaran, gaining a half point on the rest of the field with all draws. Combined with tournament leader Irina Krush’s nailbiting escape with a draw from Tatev Abrahamyan, Zatonskih has now caught back up with the leading pace. Abrahamyan (3.0/5) trails by a point in clear third.

White Rtng
Black Rtng
WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 2366
GM Krush, Irina 2489
WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 2238
WIM Zenyuk, Iryna 2249
WIM Ni, Viktorija 2206
WGM Nemcova, Katerina 2282
NM Eswaran, Ashritha 1979
IM Zatonskih, Anna 2469
WGM Baginskaite, Camilla 2267
FM Melekhina, Alisa 2151

Anna Zatonskih had slipped out of a first-place tie with Irina Krush, leaving her desperate for the full point in Tuesday’s match against Ashritha Eswaran (above), the lowest-rated player in the field and 500 points Zatonskih’s inferior. But where some competitors have quietly grumbled about the lack of preparation material available for the 13-year-old, who has no games in the database, Zatonskih pulled out an old-school trick in the French Defense that her young competitor was unlikely to have prepped herself.

Look at her face! FM Alisa Melekhina (in red) has just finished a 111-move game against WGM Camilla Baginskaite, who is 116 points higher than her on the rating scale. Arbiter Carol Jarecki takes the signatures

It was a queen and pawn ending well worth replaying (on our JavaScript board below).

Women's standings after five rounds

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Tatev Abrahamyan

Tatev Abrahamyan started playing chess at eight, after her father took her to the Chess Olympiad games in 1996. There she met grandmaster Judit Polgar, arguably the greatest female player of all time and the only woman in the tournament. "I was in complete awe," Tatev said. "My first thought was, 'I want to be just like her.'" She was soon playing competitively among the top players her age in Europe.

Moving to the U.S. was a challenge for Tatev. "It was the biggest change in my life, and it happened in a very short period of time. Everything in my life changed in a matter of few months. I had to give up everything I knew and start a new life. Even though I have lived here for some time now, it was a very big adjustment, and I think a continuous one." When she is not studying or playing chess, she likes to read, play tennis, travel, watch movies and hang out with friends. She graduated in 2011 from California State University Long Beach, double majoring in psychology and political science.

Tatev is a formidable competitor. She has pushed her USCF rating to all-time high at 2475, and in September of last year earned her final International Master norm. She is awaiting final approval for the norm from FIDE. Tatev earned a fourth IM norm for good measure at the recent Reykjavik Open in Iceland.

With a second place finish in 2011 and a number strong showings over the past several years, Tatev has proven she has the ability to wrest the title from GM Irina Krsuh and IM Anna Zatonskih, who have had a stranglehold on the event since 2008. [Source: Tournament site]

All of them. Iryna Zenyuk, Sabina Foisor, Irina Krush, Tatev Abrahamyan, Ashritha Eswaran,
Katerina Nemcova, Viktorija Ni, Camilla Baginskaite, Anna Zatonskih and Alisa Melekhina

Report: Brian Jerauld + ChessBase, photos by Lennart Ootes


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