US Championship – Kamsky joins Nakamura in lead

5/16/2012 – One thing must be said about the US championship, on top of the great organization and live coverage open to all, and that is that it is anything but boring. In round five, Nakamura had taken the sole lead, but Kamsky was not about to give up his title that easily, and in round seven caught up as the two lead by a full point. GM Ramirez beat Kaidanov in one of the craziest games of his career.

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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 six

By FM Mike Klein

Round six of the U.S. Championships maintained the stasis – the top three rated players still sit one, two, three with a couple of other solid players lurking. In the U.S. Women's Championship, a familiar face grabbed sole possession of the lead. 

GM Hikaru Nakamura traded his light-squared bishop early, but compensated by forming a wedge of center pawns to blunt GM Varuzhan Akobian's king's bishop. Opening the position for the bishop pair meant Akobian had to give back the bishop, and the resulting endgame had too symmetrical of a pawn structure to produce any winning chances. The draw continued Nakamura's pattern so far, as he has alternated winning and drawing through the first six games (he has won all three times as white and drawn all three as black).


Kamsky was unable to break Shulman, his longtime rival from the US championships

GM Gata Kamsky began the day one-half point back, but never entertained any winning prospects against longtime U.S. Championship nemesis GM Yury Shulman. The two have played in the finals in each of the past two events. Shulman won a pawn, but as the game gradually lost its life, he did not obtain a winning rook-and-pawn endgame. “The position I reached in the game, I don't have any chances,” Shulman said. Kamsky agreed with Nakamura's estimation that the winner of the tournament would need eight points. Nakamura currently has 4.5/6 and Kamsky 4/6.

Crowd-favorite GM Gregory Kaidanov fell back to an even score with his second loss in a row. “After two long games against Gata and Hikaru, I felt very tired today,” he said about his loss against GM Robert Hess.

The logjam in the U.S. Women's Championship is no longer, thanks to the efforts of IM Irina Krush, who bested WGM Tatev Abrahamyan today. Krush played the g3 system versus her opponent's King's Indian Defense. “It's hard to prepare for it if I've never played it before,” Krush said of her opening choice. Indeed, at the post-game press conference, a despondent Abrahamyan said she did not expect the treatment at all. The win moved Krush to 4/5 and sole possession of first.

The two competitors who began the day tied with her could not keep pace. IM Anna Zatonskih could only draw WIM Viktorija Ni in a melee, while overperforming WIM Iryna Zenyuk suffered her first setback at the hands of IM Rusudan Goletiani. Zatonskih is now at 3.5/5 while Zenyuk remains at 3/5, tied with Goletiani, who has five decisive results in all five games.


Camila Baginskaite has had it as rough as could be but finally broke the sequence of eggs

WGM Camilla Baginskaite got on the board with her first draw, while FM Alisa Melekhina earned her first win and an even score with the cunning simplification beginning with 51...Rxf5. Despite her overwhelming position and material advantage, IM Marc Arnold said this was the only way to convert the full point. Her opponent, WFM Alena Kats had no choice but to enter a losing king-and-pawn endgame, so she resigned.

Round seven

By FM Mike Klein

Dramatic finishes punctuated an unpredictable day at the 2012 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship. When the final pawn was captured, a 101-move game ended in king versus king. In both events a pair of trailing players caught up to the leaders.

IM Anna Zatonskih got the better of WIM Iryna Zenyuk in a bishop-and-pawn endgame. With weaknesses on both sides of the board, Zatonskih had no trouble infiltrating and clearing a path for her pawns.


The men's side of the playing area

Entering the day trailing by one-half point, the win nearly gave Zatonskih sole possession of the lead, as tournament leader IM Irina Krush got all she could handle from IM Rusudan Goletiani. In an atypical affair where Krush's king voluntarily moved to f1 and Goletiani's knights occupied f8 and h8, both players thought they were better. “Once the knights come out, my advantage is not permanent,” Krush said. Krush was caught off guard by the sacrifice 35...Nxf3. Krush survived the onslaught largely by ignoring it. Her counterattack was just enough to force a repetition of position.
The top two rated women will face off tomorrow. In what has become their usual yearly battle, they enter the game tied for first with 4.5/6. Neither woman has lost a game. “Good thing I didn't ruin everything today,” Krush said. “It was sharp; anything could have happened.”

The story repeated in the U.S. Championship, where tournament front-runner GM Hikaru Nakamura tried everything but could only draw against GM Yury Shulman. This allowed defending champion GM Gata Kamsky to catch up, as he was able to overcome the blockade of GM Alex Stripunsky.


Unable to beat Shulman, in spite of over 100 moves played, Nakamura allowed Kamsky
to catch up.

Nakamura and Shulman played the longest game of the tournament. After five and a half hours and 101 moves, they were down to just their kings. Nakamura has still never defeated Shulman in a tournament game.

Shulman's staunch defense, coupled with the tenacity of Kamsky to find a way to clear the path for his hanging pawns, means Nakamura and Kamsky are now equal first with 5/7. They will not meet until Friday's penultimate round ten.
Stripunsky and Kamsky had drawn many previous games, but today Kamsky won for the first time ever in classical chess. After a lot of circular movement, Kamsky made the time control and got his c- and d-pawns moving. In the final position, he had promoted a second queen, with one more on the way.


Frequent ChessBase contributor, GM Alejandro Ramirez, produced one of the craziest
games of his career in round seven.

The most entertaining game of the day was unequivocally GM Alejandro Ramirez against GM Gregory Kaidanov. After a stunning victory, Ramirez was still trying to collect himself and figure out what happened.

[Event "ch-USA 2012"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2012.05.15"] [Round "7"] [White "Ramirez, Alej"] [Black "Kaidanov, G."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D43"] [WhiteElo "2593"] [BlackElo "2594"] [PlyCount "127"] [EventDate "2012.05.08"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 Nbd7 6. cxd5 exd5 7. e3 Be7 8. Bd3 Ne4 9. Bf4 Ndf6 10. h3 O-O 11. Qc2 Re8 12. O-O Bd6 13. Ne5 g6 14. Ne2 Nh5 15. Bh2 f6 16. f3 fxe5 17. fxe4 exd4 18. e5 Bxe5 19. Bxe5 Rxe5 20. Bxg6 Qg5 21. Bxh7+ Kg7 22. Nxd4 Rxe3 23. h4 Qh6 24. Rf2 Ng3 25. Raf1 Nxf1 26. Rxf1 Be6 27. Bf5 Bg8 28. Bc8 Bh7 29. Nf5+ Bxf5 30. Qxf5 Kh8 31. Qd7 Rg3 32. Qxb7 Rg8 33. Bh3 Raf8 34. Rxf8 Rxf8 35. Qxa7 Qc1+ 36. Kh2 Qf4+ 37. Kg1 Qxh4 38. Qe3 Qf4 39. Qe7 Qf6 40. Qc5 Qf1+ 41. Kh2 Qf4+ 42. Kg1 Re8 43. Qf2 Qxf2+ 44. Kxf2 c5 45. Bd7 Re7 46. Bc6 d4 47. Bb5 Kg7 48. a4 Kf6 49. b3 Re3 50. Bc4 Ke5 51. a5 Ke4 52. a6 Rc3 53. a7 Rc2+ 54. Be2 Ra2 55. a8=Q+ Rxa8 56. Bf3+ 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 1-0

“This game was crazy,” he said. With arrows and variations strewn haphazardly all over the computer screen in the commentary room, Ramirez offered what he knew about the game, and what he was still sorting out. “I was just trying to get to the time control alive,” he said. “This was psychologically very difficult for me because I went from winning to really struggling. We had like two minutes left. We didn't know what we were doing.”


With a will to win, Kamsky overcame Stripunsky and rejoined
Nakamura in the lead.

Chasing Kamsky and Nakamura with 4/7 are Shulman and GMs Alex Lenderman and Alex Onischuk, who also drew today. Onischuk received one of the biggest surprises of the tournament when his former student, GM Ray Robson, uncorked the implausible Belgrade Gambit. Onischuk played the only move he knew against it, 5...Be7. He admitted that his theoretical knowledge ended there, as his position was super solid. “The position was equal all the time, but he still tried to torture me,” Onischuk said. Asked if he would now learn more about the opening, he continued, “If I play against some 2300-player, I'll have to come up with something else.”

Lenderman kept his unbeaten streak alive by holding the draw in mixed battle against GM Yasser Seirawan. “It was one of the strangest games I ever played,” Lenderman said. “It was unclear all the time. I thought I was better with initiative or attack, but after a turn of events, I was in a precarious endgame. But then without an obvious mistake from him, I was playing for a win.” Seirawan guessed that he should have made better use of his kingside pawn phalanx. After losing his first three games, Seirawan, a four-time champion, has now won 2.5 out of his last four.


Alisa Melekhina moved into the plus area with a second straight win

FM Alisa Melekhina won her second game in a row to earn a plus score. She sits on 3.5/6 after winning against the luckless WGM Camilla Baginskaite. Melekhina already has more than twice the number of points she earned in seven rounds last year. “I didn't expect Alisa to play so aggressively with such theoretical stuff,” Baginskaite said afterward.
In other women's games, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan bravely walked her king up the board in beating WGM Sabina Foisor. WIM Viktorija Ni got back to an even score by using her extra rook to eventually overpower WFM Alena Kats's bishop.

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 standings after seven rounds

Women's standings after seven rounds

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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