US Championship – Kamsky takes lead with two rounds to go

by ChessBase
5/18/2012 – It was an unexpected turn of events, in which a bit of good fortune was Gata Kamsky's reward for years of hard work. In round nine, tied with Nakamura, Kamsky saw Seirawan walk into some years old preparation that ended the game with a spectacular finish. Nakamura was not so lucky as he toiled for 121 moves against Lenderman before shaking hands. Illustrated report with video summaries.

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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 eight

By FM Mike Klein

The 2012 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship did not change leadership today, though the two tournaments produced much different levels of excitement.

IM Jennifer Shahade and GM Ben Finegold provide live commentary at the website

With the two top seeds in each division pulling away from the pack, GM Gata Kamsky exuded his usual perfection in positional chess to give GM Alex Lenderman his first loss of the event. That left the crowd watching to see if GM Hikaru Nakamura, the top seed in the U.S. Championship, could keep pace.

After an unusual French Defense led to a stolid middlegame with no obvious breakthrough, it looked like Nakamura and GM Alex Stripunsky would admit the impasse and agree to a draw. After his own game ended, Kamsky looked on from the press room and had a different opinion. He suggested Nakamura prepare his f-pawn's advance, which Nakamura managed in due time. “White has no counterplay and is lost completely,” Kamsky concluded almost instantly.

Kamsky's win lacked similar drama. “The game got away from me quickly somehow,” a flummoxed Lenderman said. In a moment of extreme candor from the 22-year-old, he added, “The position was just too complicated for me. Chess understanding is just not there for me. Good thing I am playing in this tournament. I keep trying to make 'professor' moves where I try to do too much. I keep making this mistake against 2700s.”

Kamsky and Nakamura both have 6/8 and will play each other on Friday. Should there be a winner, he will be the betting favorite to win the title.

In the women's side of the playing hall, IMs Zatonskih and Krush renewed their annual rivalry in round seven. Though a great majority of the their previous contests had produced a winner, Krush had little incentive to go for an unbalanced game. Playing black, Krush liquidated the position's energy and the ladies agreed to a lifeless draw. They both still lead with 5/7.

IM Irina Krush analyzes her game in the post-game conference

Zatonskih regretted the move 12. Bf4, which allowed Krush to centralize with 12...Nd5 and win a tempo. “It is just fantastic how I played this,” Zatonskih said, chastising herself. She was using the literal connotation of “fantastic,” expressing that the move was unexplainable and bad. Afterward, she thought for 40 minutes.

Alena Kats in her game against Irina Zenyuk

IM Rusudan Goletiani took sole possession of third place after her win against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan. With a pawn deficit and short on time, Goletiani threw all of her pawns at her opponent's castled king, breaking through for the point. While she does not control her own destiny, Goletiani faces Zatonskih tomorrow as white in a game both women will be trying to win to stay alive for first place. If Zatonskih wins, Goletiani will be mathematically eliminated from title contention.

WGM Sabina Foisor was the only other winner of the round. She used the Samisch Variation to beat FM Alisa Melekhina's favorite King's Indian Defense. With king's castled on opposite sides, Melekhina could not open an attack, and eventually ceded control of the only open file. Foisor's rook took control and dominated in the endgame. Foisor is in sole fourth place with 4/7.

Round nine

By FM Mike Klein

SAINT LOUIS, May 18, 2012 -- GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky entered round nine of the 2012 U.S. Championship tied with six points apiece. They could not have had more different days.

Kamsky won largely without any over-the-board effort, defeating GM Yasser Seirawan in a little more than two hours by using a spectacular combination. He had most of the moves worked out well in advance.

Nakamura labored for nearly six hours and 121 moves but could not break through against the stubborn defense of GM Alex Lenderman. He reluctantly agreed to a draw. His matchup with Kamsky tomorrow will mean he is playing from behind for the first time in the tournament. Kamsky now has seven points, while Nakamura is at 6.5.

Gata Kamsky sprang some spectacular years-old analysis on Yasser Seirawan

Kamsky played the first 25 moves effectively in negative time, as the 30-second increment for every move offered him five more minutes than he began. His sacrifice 22. Bxh6 was played automatically, and a stunned Seirawan ran low on time contemplating the combination. The superior preparation netted the defending champion Kamsky a pain-free win.
“I knew yesterday he would play the Caro-Kann,” Kamsky said. He reviewed the opening again this morning, and Seirawan walked right into some preparation that Kamsky had saved from several years ago. “There are so many lines to prepare for, the chance that you will go into this one is terribly small,” Kamsky said.

Seirawan guessed that he may have actually seen the trap before, but failed to remember the intricacies. Unbeknownst to him, all moves up until 24...Nxd7 had occurred over Kamsky's practice board before.

[Event "ch-USA 2012"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2012.05.17"] [Round "9"] [White "Kamsky, G."] [Black "Seirawan, Y."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B19"] [WhiteElo "2741"] [BlackElo "2643"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2012.05.08"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. O-O-O Be7 13. Ne4 Nxe4 14. Qxe4 Nf6 15. Qd3 O-O 16. Kb1 c5 17. g4 Nxg4 18. Qe2 Kh8 $146 {A novelty, but unbeknownst to Seirawan he is walking blind into a minefield. One that Kamsky has all mapped out.} 19. Rhg1 Nf6 20. dxc5 Qc7 21. Ne5 Bxc5 22. Bxh6 $3 { Perfect, but according to Kamsky, this line had all been studied years before up until move 24. More than a little unfortunate for Yaz to walk into home preparation and be dead from the get go. On the other hand, kudos to Gata for his good work and equally good memory.} gxh6 23. Rd7 Qxd7 (23... Nxd7 24. Qd2 { is mate after} Kh7 25. Ng4 {and there is no defense.}) 24. Nxd7 Nxd7 25. Qd2 Kh7 26. b4 Rad8 27. bxc5 Nf6 28. Qf4 Ne8 29. Qe4+ Kh8 30. Qxb7 Ng7 31. Qxa7 Rc8 32. Rd1 Nf5 33. Rd7 Kg7 34. a4 Kf6 35. a5 1-0

Meanwhile, Kamsky's rival Nakamura had his hands full trying to inject life into his game with the much lower-rated Lenderman. The night before, Lenderman lost his first game of the tournament to Kamsky, and remarked that he needed more practice playing against 2700s. He got copious amounts of board time with another 2700 today.
Kamsky will take white versus Nakamura tomorrow. If Kamsky is able to win, he will clinch his third consecutive national championship.

GM Alex Onischuk, the third seed, maintained exactly that place by sacrificing the exchange against GM Gregory Kaidanov. His multiple passed pawns were too much to handle in the endgame. Onischuk, whose performance rating is more than 2700, is the only other player who is mathematically alive for the title, though his chances are extremely slim.

Alexander Onischuk has been having a good tournament

In the 2012 U.S. Women's Championship, both leaders won to keep pace with each other, though IMs Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih were both worse in their respective games today.

“I did get what I wanted from the opening, but I played a really bad move – Rb1,” Krush said. “I played this game like a patzer.”

Hess said that if Krush's opponent, the lowest-ranked player in the field WFM Alena Kats, played 19...Ba4 instead of 19...Bc4, then Krush's rook would either be lost, or would move away and allow the advance of Kats's dangerous d-pawn. “My openings are terrible,” Kats said. “I'm going to study more. My junior year in high school was so busy.”

GM Robert Hess gave some feedback on the other games underway

Zatonskih also had a worse position according to pundits. Her opponent, IM Rusudan Goletiani, had a healthy space advantage and the only bishop on the board. Zatonskih cleared out the long diagonal, then began focusing on Goletiani's errant knight on h4. Goletiani had to retreat to rescue her steed, and Zatonskih's pieces overwhelmed the position. Goletiani tried the same desperate strategy as yesterday, pushing all of her pawns at her opponent's king, but without queens on the board, there was not enough counterplay.

The title will go to either Krush or Zatonskih. If one woman manages to win in round nine and the other does not, a clear winner will emerge. If not, a playoff Sunday will ensue. The women get an off day tomorrow while the U.S. Championship resumes Friday for round 10.

Pictures by Studio314

Quick report on the US Championship by Daniel King


A video summary of the round's action by FM Mike Klein, author of the reports, and
IM Jennifer Shahade, one of the live commentators.

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 nine rounds

Women's standings after nine 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.


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server 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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