US Championship – seven players with 3.0/4

5/18/2010 – Exciting games and close competition in Saint Louis: after two rounds there were two players in the lead, after three four players, and after four rounds seven players. Favourites Nakamura, Kamsky and Onischuk are at the top. The only female participant, IM Irina Krush, played 12 hours and 206 chess moves in the last two rounds. Round four report with a giant pictorial by Betsy Dynako.

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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.

First round

The first round of the 2010 U.S. Chess Championship produced an uncharacteristically high number of decisive games, with eight out of twelve yielding a winner. Normally at top levels of chess a draw rate of more than 50 percent would not be unusual. IM Irina Krush of New York City, the only woman in the field, got off to a fast start by beating GM Gregory Kaidanov. “My thinking process was not so smooth,” Krush said. “There were definitely a lot of lines I was scared of. Somehow, I kept control, even though I was doubting myself. I was concerned about my position.” She finished off her opponent by sacrificing a rook for a knight to force checkmate.

The other big upset came on board six as Melikset Khachiyan edged Aleksandr Lenderman in a close rook-and-pawn endgame. Defending champion Hikaru Nakamura survived a tactical melee against Alexander Stripunsky and used a nifty queen sacrifice to finish off his opponent. The youngest player in the event, 15-year-old GM Ray Robson, narrowly missed drawing former champion Gata Kamsky. Third-seeded Alexander Onischuk played the longest game of the day at more than five hours, beating Joel Benjamin in 64 moves. Full report here...


Craig Caesar makes the ceremonial first move on board one between Alex Stripunksy
and Hikaru Nakamura. The latter won in 45 moves.


Round one under way in the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis


The experienced GM Kaidanov lost to the only female player in 41 moves


The two at the opening ceremony before the hostilities began


Ben Finegold drew Varuzhan Akobian in round one


Hikaru Nakamura won his first round game with a queen sac


Alexander Onischuk, with Nakamura and Kamsky one of three favourites in the championship


Christiansen won this round one game in 38 moves


GM Jan Ehlvest kibitzes as Kraai draws Shabalov in 30 moves


GM Robert Hess beat fellow youngster IM Sam Shankland in 30 moves


Hess analyses with Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley, while Shankland looks on


A fisheye view of round one of the 2010 US Championship

Second round

Both Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky, the first and second seeds of the tournament, won again in round two to push their totals to 2-0. The other encounters were also well-fought – for the second day in a row, more than half of the games produced a winner.


Top seed Hikaru Nakamura won this round two game in 41 moves

This time seven of the 12 games ended decisively. Alex Yermolinsky got his first point of the event by defeating rising star Ray Robson, who has started 0-2. The round also featured a pair of throwback openings, as two Benonis and two King’s Indian Defenses delighted any chess fans that relish hypermodern opening systems and the 1990s. Kamsky’s victory was on the black side of a King’s Indian, and Larry Christiansen also used the opening to hold Alexander Onischuk to a draw.


Larry Christiansen used the King's Indian to hold Alexander Onischuk to a draw

The Benoni did not fare as well. While Joel Benjamin drew Gregory Kaidanov as Black, Varuzhan Akobian as White swiftly checkmated Jesse Kraai.


Jesse Kraai getting swiftly checkmated by Varuzhan Akobian in round two

Onischuk, Christiansen and Akobian, all with 1.5/2, were also joined by Jaan Ehlvest and IM Irina Krush, who drew to equal the score. Two other players have one win and one draw. Shabalov defeated Ben Finegold and GM Sergey Kudrin won against GM Vinay Bhat. In other action, youngsters IM Sam Shankland and GM Aleksandr Lenderman battled down to king versus king before agreeing to peace, while Alex Stripunsky dispatched Dmitry Gurevich.


Greg Kaidanov and Joel Benjamin after their round two game (which was drawn)


GM strength: Irina Krush drew Jan Ehlvest with the black pieces in 30 moves

Full report here...

Third round

Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura have met over the board three times, and all three games failed to produce a winner. Onischuk, playing Black and beginning the round one half point behind the leaders, caught up with an incredibly deep idea that led to victory over Sergey Kudrin. Irina Krush let a winning position slip away against Varuzhan Akobian and lost the six-hour 113-move marathon.


The youngest participant: GM Ray Robson (here in round two)

Fifteen-year-old Ray Robson dispatched Dmitry Gurevich in the shortest game of the day, only 24 moves:

Gurevich,D (2488) - Robson,R (2569) [A13]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (3), 16.05.2010
1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.b3 c5 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0-0 d4 7.e3 Bd6 8.exd4 cxd4 9.Bb2 e5 10.b4 Nxb4 11.Nxe5 Bxe5 12.Qa4+ Nc6 13.Bxc6+ bxc6 14.Re1 0-0 15.Rxe5 Rb8 16.Qc2 Ng4 17.Re1 Qf6 18.d3 c5 19.Re4 Bf5 20.Nd2 Nxf2 21.Rf1 Nxe4 22.Nxe4 Qe5 23.Rf4 Bh3 24.Rh4 f5 0-1.

The other youngster, Robert Hess, is now 2-1 after a wild win over Melikset Khachiyan. Alexander Onischuk proved he is a top contender with a brilliant win over Sergey Kudrin in round three. After this round there are four players in the lead: Nakamura, Onischuk, Kamsky and Akobian – all have 2.5/3 points. Full report here...

Fourth round

With the top four players battling to draws on the top two boards, a trio of other players used the fourth round of the 2010 U.S Championship to draw even. On board one, Hikaru Nakamura and Alex Onischuk had the quickest game of the day. There were a few brief fireworks out of the opening – Nakamura’s Vienna was a bit of a shocker, and he curiously inverted his king and queen in the first ten moves – but then Onischuk continued his usual solid ways to earn the half point as Black. He has now extended his record U.S. Championship unbeaten streak to 45 games. His only loss was in the 2004/5 event, and Onischuk came in to the tournament with the third highest lifetime win percentage ever, behind Bobby Fischer and Reuben Fine.


Unbeaten in 45 games: GM Alexander Onischuk

On board two, Varuzhan Akobian played a solid opening but soon found himself under duress from Gata Kamsky’s extra space and eventual passed d-pawn.

Watching the game, GM Jesse Kraai thought Kamsky would squeeze out the point. “Kamsky does this kind of garbage all the time,” Kraai joked. “You think he’s worse, then he gets you.” But Akobian’s defense held up and the two agreed to terms after 53 moves.


Joined the leaders with 3.0/4: GM Varuzhan Akobian

On boards 3-5, players playing Black went 3-0. Joining the leaders on three points out of four was GM Yury Shulman, who snatched a loose pawn from GM Robert Hess and lived to tell the tale. “I didn’t think it would be so easy for Black to keep the pawn, but it turns out I don’t have anything,” a despondent Hess said at the post-game press conference. “A pawn is a pawn,” Shulman said. Hess did not offer any improvements and seemed dissatisfied with his game.


“A pawn is a pawn” – fifth seed Yury Shulman

GM Alex Stripunsky also won as Black. Just after making the time control, GM Jaan Ehlvest went in for a crowd-pleasing rook sacrifice. The audience at the chess club initially thought it was forced checkmate, but Stripunsky jettisoned a bishop and a rook to give his king space and rebuff the attack.

IM Irina Krush missed a win for the second game in a row. Coming off a disappointing 113-move loss in round three, she entered a rook-and-bishop versus rook endgame against GM Ray Robson. She missed the zwischenzug 66…Ra7 67. Ke1 Rf7, winning immediately.


Ben Finegold checking out the Robson-Krush game

She has now played 12 hours and 206 chess moves in the last two rounds. After the game Krush reminisced about her missed chances and how a few different moves could have allowed her to win all four games. “I still love chess,” she said without any hint of insincerity.

Report by FM Mike Klein, photos by Betsy Dynako

Standings after four rounds

# Player
Pts
Rtg
Perf.
1 GM Nakamura, Hikaru
3.0
2733
2833
2 GM Kamsky, Gata
3.0
2702
2803
3 GM Onischuk, Alexander
3.0
2699
2805
4 GM Shulman, Yuri
3.0
2613
2737
5 GM Akobian, Varuzhan
3.0
2599
2740
6 GM Christiansen, Larry
3.0
2578
2784
7 GM Stripunsky, Alexander
3.0
2570
2760
8 GM Yermolinsky, Alex
2.5
2528
2677
9 GM Kraai, Jesse
2.5
2492
2669
10 GM Ehlvest, Jaan
2.0
2591
2533
11 GM Hess, Robert L
2.0
2590
2598
12 IM Krush, Irina
2.0
2455
2584
13 IM Lenderman, Alex
1.5
2598
2441
14 GM Shabalov, Alexander
1.5
2585
2469
15 GM Kaidanov, Gregory
1.5
2577
2438
16 GM Kudrin, Sergey
1.5
2571
2470
17 GM Robson, Ray
1.5
2569
2456
18 GM Benjamin, Joel
1.5
2565
2482
19 GM Finegold, Benjamin
1.5
2539
2503
20 GM Khachiyan, Melikset
1.5
2539
2530
21 IM Altounian, Levon
1.5
2454
2488
22 GM Bhat, Vinay S
1.0
2547
2340
23 IM Shankland, Samuel
1.0
2507
2367
24 GM Gurevich, Dmitry
0.5
2488
2234

Video reports

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US Championship starts in Saint Louis today
14.05.2010 – 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. Live coverage on Playchess.


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