US Championship – cream of the crop for quad final

5/22/2010 – Four players have advanced to the quad finals of the 2010 U.S. Championship, but the results of round seven do not tell the full story. Though a casual glance will show that the top three boards ended in draws, uncompromising play brought the tournament to within a whisker of a large tiebreaker for the four-player round robin. Round seven report.

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The 2010 US Chess Championship is taking place from May 13 (round one at 2:00 p.m. local time) to May 25 (possible tie breakers) at the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, which is hosting the event for the second year in a row. The prize fund has risen to $170,000 – more than a 25 percent increase from last year. The winner will take home $35,000.

Round seven results

GM Shulman, Yuri GM Onischuk, Alexander ½-½
GM Christiansen, Larry GM Nakamura, Hikaru ½-½
GM Kamsky, Gata GM Shabalov, Alexander ½-½
GM Kraai, Jesse GM Stripunsky, Alexander 0-1
GM Yermolinsky, Alex GM Finegold, Benjamin ½-½
GM Hess, Robert L GM Akobian, Varuzhan 1-0
IM Krush, Irina GM Lenderman, Alex 1-0
GM Ehlvest, Jaan GM Bhat, Vinay S 1-0
GM Kaidanov, Gregory GM Robson, Ray ½-½
GM Khachiyan, Melikset GM Benjamin, Joel 1-0
GM Kudrin, Sergey GM Gurevich, Dmitry ½-½
IM Shankland, Samuel IM Altounian, Levon 0-1

Cream of the crop for quad final

By FM Mike Klein

Yury Shulman drew against Alexander Onischuk to coast into the final four. Board one was the first to finish, but the relatively peaceful draw between GM Yury Shulman and GM Alex Onischuk that qualified both for the quad did little to portend the action on the next two boards.


Funny! Alexander Onischuk, Yury Shulman and Jennifer Shahade enjoy some ananysis after the game


Alexander Shabalov and Gata Kamsky in their postmortem session

GM Gata Kamsky, needing only a draw as White against GM Alex Shabalov to earn his spot, began shaking his head in disbelief when he overlooked the cunning defense at the end of a long variation. Though short on time, Kamsky gathered himself and found a way to capture several pawns whilst simultaneously weakening Shabalov’s king. “It was a pretty unpleasant scenario,” Kamsky said. “I was looking to minimize the damage.” Kamsky then found what he called an “extremely strong defensive maneuver” – bringing his rook to the fourth rank to defend his king on the g-file. Black then ran low on time and after Shabalov whispered “draw,” Kamsky ran his clock down to 1:20 and agreed.


Guardedly optimistic: Larry Christiansen in his game against Hikaru Nakamura

The last qualifier for the finals would come down to board two. GM Larry Christiansen, a veteran of decades of championships, needed to win as he began the round one half point behind defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura. Known for his attacking style, Christiansen built up a strong center and spatial advantage. “I was guardedly optimistic,” Christiansen said.

As the game petered out into a pawn-up endgame for Christiansen, the crowd at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis gathered around the monitors. Players who generally left the club after their games stayed to see the result. GM Maurice Ashley, commentating on the game, saw Christiansen move his rook around to press for the win. “You’re going to sit here and you’re going to suffer young man,” Ashley said of Christiansen’s mindset. Eventually, too many pawns were traded and Nakamura held on to qualify. Alex Shabalov put up a tough fight against Gata Kamsky in round seven.


Nakamura holding with black to reach the quad final

“Basically I just forgot my preparation, but even so the result was pretty good,” Nakamura said. “I made some inexactitudes, as they say,” said Christiansen. “It’s kind of a letdown. The real tournament is over. It’s hard to get psyched up now.”

The four players advancing to the finals are also the top four seeds. They also all enter the event with five points. “Everyone is in even conditions,” Shulman said. “Whoever will have some luck on his side will win the tournament. I’m still considered the underdog.” Nakamura agreed and cited himself, Kamsky and Onischuk as having all the pressure.


And then there were four: qualifiers Nakamura, Kamsky, Onischuk and Schulman

Six players entered the round with 3.5/6 and were mathematically alive, but their chances were dashed when Shabalov could not convert against Kamsky. The most disappointed was surely GM Alex Stripunsky, who would have qualified for the playoff as he beat GM Jesse Kraai. GM Alex Yermolinsky held a draw against GM Ben Finegold on board five. GM Robert Hess rebounded from several losses to take out struggling GM Varuzhan Akobian, who remains the highest-rated player in the country never to win the U.S. Championship, though he remains younger than most of the field.


GM Alexander Yermolinsky, rated 2528, with 4.0/7 and a 2627 performance

In the tournament’s subplot of making grandmaster norms, IM Irina Krush is now within sight of her second norm. She took out GM Aleksandr Lenderman in round seven to get back to plus one. The two players share the same coach, but that did not prepare her for the opening. Krush said she was shocked to see Lenderman play the Grunfeld Defense. She is assured of a norm with one point in the final two games.


Signing autography: GM Melikset Khachiyan, 2539, 3.0/7, 2536


GM Joel Benjamin, rated 2565, with 2.5/7 points and a 2462 performance


IM Sam Shankland, 2507, 1.5/7 points, 2314 performance

After tomorrow’s rest day, the top four players begin their three-round event on Saturday, while the rest of the field will play two more games starting on the same day. “We deserve a little break,” Kamsky said, the relief evident.

Report by FM Mike Klein, photos by Betsy Dynako

Standings after seven rounds

# Player
Pts
Rtg
Perf.
W-We
1 GM Nakamura, Hikaru
5.0
2733
2764
+0.33
2 GM Kamsky, Gata
5.0
2702
2773
+0.67
3 GM Onischuk, Alexander
5.0
2699
2781
+0.78
4 GM Shulman, Yuri
5.0
2613
2755
+1.35
5 GM Christiansen, Larry
4.5
2578
2710
+1.28
6 GM Stripunsky, Alexander
4.5
2570
2659
+0.87
7 GM Hess, Robert L
4.0
2590
2607
+0.19
8 GM Shabalov, Alexander
4.0
2585
2627
+0.43
9 GM Finegold, Benjamin
4.0
2539
2608
+0.67
10 GM Yermolinsky, Alex
4.0
2528
2627
+0.99
11 IM Krush, Irina
4.0
2455
2636
+1.74
12 GM Akobian, Varuzhan
3.5
2599
2572
-0.25
13 GM Ehlvest, Jaan
3.5
2591
2534
-0.55
14 GM Kraai, Jesse
3.5
2492
2599
+1.01
15 GM Kaidanov, Gregory
3.0
2577
2496
-0.80
16 GM Robson, Ray
3.0
2569
2500
-0.70
17 GM Khachiyan, Melikset
3.0
2539
2536
-0.05
18 GM Lenderman, Alex
2.5
2598
2427
-1.66
19 GM Benjamin, Joel
2.5
2565
2462
-1.01
20 GM Bhat, Vinay S
2.5
2547
2429
-1.17
21 IM Altounian, Levon
2.5
2454
2460
+0.03
22 GM Kudrin, Sergey
2.0
2571
2398
-1.64
23 GM Gurevich, Dmitry
2.0
2488
2396
-0.87
24 IM Shankland, Samuel
1.5
2507
2314
-1.64


Links

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