US Championship: Men's qualifiers started, Foisor leads women

4/18/2011 – The 2011 US championship started with the top American players there, albeit missing Nakamura in the men's section, but gaining Seirawan who breaks his eight-year fast. The men's event is still broken into two sections qualifying two players from each section. The women's is a classic round-robin in which Foisor surprised with an opening win over champion Irina Krush. FM Mike Klein reports.

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Prize fund: US$166,000 total divided as 1st $40,000, 2nd $30,000, 3rd $20,000, 4th $15,000. The runners-up of the round robin tourneys: 3rd $8,000, 4th $6,000, 5th $5,000, 6th $4,000, 7th $3,000, 8th $2,500. $2,000 to the winner of each round robin tourney. Additionally, $5,000 will be set aside to award Best Game Prizes throughout both the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women's Championship.
Time control: 90 minutes/40 moves + 30 minutes + 30 seconds/move starting with the 1st move
Game start: 21:00 server time (3:00 PM NYC time, 2:00 PM STL time). on 27th final place 3 at 19:00 (tiebreak at 02:00 AM). 28th April tiebreak if needed at 19:00
Rest day: April 22 and 25 (tiebreak day)
Tiebreaks: Semifinals and finals tiebreaks will consist of a two-game rapid match (G/25+5 second increment). If the contest is still undecided, the match will go to a rapid Armageddon bidding game with a base time of 45 minutes for each Player. Black will have draw odds. Each Player shall bid an amount of time (minutes and seconds, a number equal to or less than 45:00) they are willing to play with in order to choose their color. The Player who bids the lowest amount of time chooses his color and begins with that amount of time; the other Player receives 45:00. If both Players bid exactly the same amount of time, the Chief Arbiter will flip a coin to determine who shall choose their color.

Round Robin 1 Round Robin 2
No. First Name Last Name  Rtg No. First Name Last Name Rtg
1. Gata Kamsky 2733 1. Alexander Onischuk 2678
2. Yury Shulman 2622 2. Yasser Seirawan 2636
3. Varuzhan Akobian 2611 3. Alexander Shabalov 2590
4. Jaan Ehlvest 2586 4. Larry Christiansen 2586
5. Alexander Stripunsky 2578 5. Gregory Kaidanov 2569
6. Alexander Ivanov 2540 6. Robert Hess 2565
7. Ray Robson 2522 7. Sam Shankland 2512
8. Daniel Naroditsky 2438 8. Ben Finegold 2500
Average Rating 2578.75 Average Rating 2579.5

Round one: Foisor upsets Krush; Onischuk, Christiansen win

By FM Mike Klein

The first round of the 2011 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship concluded late Friday night at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. A scattering of wins greatly buoyed hopes of national titles for some, but most players got off to a walking start as eight of the twelve games ended in draws. The championships involve preliminary round-robins and finals and conclude April 28.

The most surprising result sprung from the Women’s Championship.  WGM Sabina Foisor, playing Black, derailed defending champion Irina Krush’s though still has plenty of time to qualify for the finals after the preliminary round-robin portion of the event. WFM Tatev Abrahamyan joined Foisor atop the leaderboard with a long win against WGM Camilla Baginskaite after employing the centuries-old Evan’s Gambit to gain space and eked out a win in the endgame in the longest game of the first round.


Krush had a trepidatious start to her title-defense as Foisor scored an upset

Other winners included one of the pre-tournament favorites, Grandmaster Alexander Onischuk. Ranked second, Onischuk grabbed a g-pawn that Ben Finegold thought was taboo and survived the complications. “I was happy that Ben played fighting chess“, Onischuk said. “It gave me chances.

The final decisive game came from two stalwarts of the U.S. Championship. Three-time winner Grandmaster Larry Christiansen united his pieces harmoniously and crashed through four-time champion GM Alex Shabalov’s defense. The 54-year-old Christiansen, who won his first championship in 1980, joked continuously about his advancing age. “The younger Larry would’ve sacked on f5 at some point, but with such a beautiful position, why?” he said. He said his daily routine is getting upset by the tournament. “I’m always getting up early. Spanish-time kind of guy. Only I can’t take a siesta here. This is grueling. I can’t wait for the free day already.” The player’s rest day will come after round seven.

In a case of the headline not explaining the story, the two-thirds of the games that resulted in draws produced their own dramatic moments as well. The younger players had a particularly incendiary day.

Tournament rookie and youngest competitor IM Daniel Naroditsky saw his h-file attack rebuffed. The 15-year-old then gathered himself to split the point in a worse endgame against GM Jaan Ehlvest, who was once the fifth-best player in the world.  “Of course I was nervous,” Naroditsky said, though once the game began his focus quelled his jitters almost instantly he added.


After an eight-year hiatus from competitive chess, Seirawan has had a rough comeback

In another heavily-anticipated match, GM Yasser Seirawan came out of retirement and played a fighting draw against longtime rival and friend GM Gregory Kaidanov. Seirawan had not played in a U.S. Championship or a tournament of any kind since 2003. “I fell for my old weakness of grabbing a pawn”, Seirawan said. Speaking to his opponent after the game, Kaidanov joked, “I thought I would confuse you by playing recklessly and carelessly.”

After the first week of play, the two championships will advance their top players to the finals. The U.S. Championship is split into two groups of eight players each while the U.S. Women’s Championship has one group of eight players. The top two players from each group of the U.S. Championship advance to the finals and the top four women will advance to a quad knockout to determine the U.S. Women’s Champion.

Only 2 Remain Perfect after Round 2

By FM Mike Klein

Only a pair of rounds into the 2011 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship and already the whittling of the 24-player field is complete. Only two players have unblemished records – one in each tournament – but they got there in very different ways Saturday afternoon.

Grandmaster Larry Christiansen, a three-time U.S. Champion, pushed his record to 2-0 first with another whitewash. This time his focus was the queenside and his opponent was Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan. Seirawan had said before the tournament began that he hoped to survive the opening, where his mastery has dulled since his hiatus from tournament chess began in 2003. “The three worst things that could happen to a chess player happened to me today”, Seirawan said. “First, the opening was bad. Then both my king and queen got checkmated.”


Three-time champion Christiansen punished Seirawan for being denied his siesta

Christiansen offered his b-pawn in much the same way as Karjakin-Eljanov at last year’s Chess Olympiad. Seirawan, unfamiliar with the game, took the bait. Like Eljanov, he soon wished he had not. “From my side, I’m going, ‘Geez, I walked into this hurricane’”, Seirawan said.

While it took that game a mere seventeen moves to produce a winner, Woman Grandmaster Sabina Foisor needed 79 moves to overcome the dogged determination of FIDE Master Alisa Melekhina. Foisor took sole possession of the lead in the women’s tournament, and her double pawn sacrifice of 25.f4 and 26.e5 showed a perspicacious understanding of the position. Many fellow players and spectators, several of which were higher rated, praised the idea. Still, after Foisor pried apart her opponent’s king’s shelter, Melekhina gamely repulsed the attack and set up a timely blockade. Foisor’s 70.a5 was not calculation as much as it was the last salvo, but without ample time to hold the fortress, Melekhina allowed a decisive breakthrough. 

The other miniature of the day came from an unlikely game. GM-elect Sam Shankland chose the normally-reserved Slav Defense against GM Gregory Kaidanov. The center pawns traded early, unfurling some open diagonals that Shankland rode to a devastating attack on Kaidanov’s castled king.

Defending Champion IM Irina Krush recovered easily from her first-round oversight, defeating WFM Tatev Abrahamyan. All of the women have played each other several times over, so Abrahamyan tried to spring a surprise on Krush with the rare Blumenfeld Gambit. Krush actually tried out the opening herself at last year’s championship. “She clearly didn’t know anything about the Blumenfeld,” Krush said. “She took a gamble that I didn’t know anything. I knew just a little bit more than her.


Defending champion Gata Kamsky had an inspired performance in round two

Defending US Champion GM Gata Kamsky bubbled over in the press room when showing his victory over GM Varuzhan Akobian.  Like Christiansen, Kamsky left his b-pawn undefended and proceeded to show his opponent why it was poisoned. “I spoke with Emil (Sutovsky) and told him I wanted to sacrifice some stuff today”, Kamsky said. “He told me, ‘Don’t do that!’” Sutovsky is Kamsky’s friend and in the past has also served as his second. Kamsky enthusiastically showed some variations to the crowd. “Ne4 was, how do you say, beautiful?” He admitted to getting carried away with aesthetics and criticized his maneuver 26.Ne7+ and 27.Ng5+, claiming to find an unlikely defense for Akobian. In showing it off to the audience, he ended with a position of perfect stasis for both sides. The result, he said, reminded him of something famed chess composer Leonid Kubbel might create.

Kamsky,G (2733) - Akobian,V (2611) [C11]
ch-USA GpA Saint Louis USA (2), 16.04.2011

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.Bb5 Qa5 11.0-0 c4 12.f5 Nb6 13.Qe1 exf5 14.a4 Be6 15.Bd2 Bb4








16.Rxb4! Qxb4 17.Ne4 Qb2 18.Nd6+ Kf8 19.Bc3 Qxc2 20.Nxb7 Nxa4 21.Bb4+ Kg8 22.Bxc6 Rc8 23.Rf2 Qb3 24.Na5 Rxc6








25.Nxc6? Here adrenaline got the better of Gata as he might have let his opponent make it much tougher for him to win. 25.Nxb3! was better after which a few moves would secure the win. 25...h6 26.Ne7+ Kh7 27.Ng5+ hxg5 28.Rf3 g6 29.Rxb3 cxb3 30.Ba3 Rb8 31.Qg3








31...g4? 31...b2 32.Bxb2 Rxb2 33.h3 (33.Qxg5? Rb1+ 34.Kf2 Nc3! is a draw.) 33...Rb6 would have made it much harder to convert. 32.Qh4+ Kg7 33.Qf6+ Kh7 34.Bc1 1-0. [Click to replay]

Every player in both tournaments now has at least one-half point. Leading the U.S. Championship’s Group One is Kamsky with 1.5/2, but six other players in that group trail him by a half-point. Leading Group Two is Christiansen, while Onischuk and Shankland are on 1.5/2. The top two men from each group will qualify for the semifinals.


Nakamura chips in the commentator box which is manned (pun intended Jen!) by
Maurice Ashley and Jennifer Shahade.

Pictures from official site


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