US Championship: Shulman and Akobian make their move

by ChessBase
5/13/2009 – In round five defending champion Yury Shulman and Varuzhan Akobian broke from the pack to take the joint lead. Akobian easily outplayed GM Jaan Ehlvest, who tried a dramatic queen sacrifice but was foiled by the cool defence of his 25-year-old opponent. Gata Kamsky, Hikaru Nakamura Alexander Onischuk and Robert Hess are half a point behind the leaders. Big illustrated report.

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2009 US Chess Championship

Two dozen contestants vie for $130,000 in prizes at new venue

The 2009 US Chess Championship is being held, this year for the first time, in St. Louis, Missouri, at the brand new St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center, which is located at 4657 Maryland Avenue, just east of the intersection of Euclid and Maryland. The Championship dates back to 1845 and this year offers a purse of more than $130,000 in prize money. It is a nine-round Swiss, with one round per day and a rest day between rounds seven and eight. Time controls are the classical 40 moves in two hours, with one hour allowed for all remaining moves and a five second increment for all move.

Round five – Shulman and Akobian make their move for the title

In round five defending champion Yury Shulman and Varuzhan Akobian broke from the pack to take the joint lead. Akobian easily outplayed GM Jaan Ehlvest, who tried a dramatic queen sacrifice but was foiled by the cool defence of his 25-year-old opponent.

GM Varuzhan Akobian of North Hollywood, California

Ehlvest,J (2606) - Akobian,V (2612) [C05]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (5), 12.05.2009
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Bd3 c5 5.e5 Nfd7 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ngf3 Qb6 8.0-0 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 11.Nf3 Qb6 12.Qa4 Qb4 13.Qc2 Nc5 14.Bd2 Qa4 15.b3 Qd7 16.Nd4 Qd8 17.Rac1 Bd7 18.Be2 Ne4 19.Nb5 Bc5

20.Qxc5 (really??) 20...Nxc5 21.Nd6+ Ke7 22.Rxc5. White has given a queen and pawn for two minor pieces, and has no tangible killer combination to finish his opponent off. Black defends coolly and ends up with the full point and a lead in the tournament. 22...f6 23.Rfc1 fxe5 24.Nxb7 Qb6 25.Bg5+ Ke8 26.Rc7 Rb8 27.Bb5 Rxb7 28.Bxd7+ Kf7 29.Be8+ Kxe8 30.Rc8+ Kf7 31.Rxh8 h6 32.Bh4 Rc7 33.Rf1 Rc2 34.Bg3 Qc7 35.h4 d4 36.Kh2 d3 37.f4 Qc6 38.fxe5+ Kg6 39.Bf2 d2 40.Rd8 Rc1 0-1.

Yury Shulman joined Akobian at the top of the leader board with points by capitalizing on an error from the Josh Friedel of New York near the end of their game.

Friedel,J (2516) - Shulman,Y (2632) [C19]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (5), 12.05.2009
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 cxd4 8.Bd3 Qa5 9.Ne2 0-0 10.Bg5 Ng6 11.f4 Nd7 12.Bxg6 fxg6 13.Qxe6+ Rf7 14.0-0 dxc3 15.Qd6 Nc5 16.Qxd5 Be6 17.Qd4 Rc8 18.Rfe1 Bf5 19.Qxc3 Qxc3 20.Nxc3 Ne6 21.Nd5 Rxc2 22.Bh4 Rd7 23.Rad1 Kf7 24.Ne3 Rcd2 25.Rxd2 Rxd2 26.Nc4 Ra2 27.Rd1 Nxf4 28.e6+ Nxe6 29.g4 Bc2 30.Rd7+ Kg8 31.Rxb7 h6 32.Rxa7 Be4 33.Re7 Rg2+ 34.Kf1 Rxg4

35.Rxe6?? Bd3+ and now if 36.Kf2 Bxc4 and the rook and bishop are hanging: 37.Re8+ Kf7 38.Re7+ Kf8 39.Ra7 Rxh4. Ergo: 0-1.

GM Yury Shulman, Barrington, Ill.

Highlights: 2008 U.S. Championship, 2006 U.S. Open Championship, tied for first in the 2001 World Open

Bio: Yury Shulman achieved the Grandmaster title in 1995 and moved to the U.S. four years later to become one of the top American players. Shulman also uses chess for philanthropic causes. He founded the Yury Shulman International Chess School and consistently contributes to not-for-profit entities, schools and camps. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA. Last year proved to be a great year for Shulman: In addition to winning his first U.S. Championship title, he was also part of the bronze medal Olympiad team in Dresden, Germany.

Full article here.

Akobian and Shulman were only able to take the joint lead after a clash of the titans between top-seeded New York grandmasters Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura ended in a draw. In that game top seed Kamsky looked to be better throughout, but his young rival proved resourceful as he saved the game and a valuable half point.

Nakamura,Hi (2701) - Kamsky,G (2720) [A10]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (5), 12.05.2009
1.c4 g6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Qa4+ Bd7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 a6 7.d4 b5 8.Qb3 c5 9.dxc5 Bg7 10.e4 0-0 11.Be2 Be6 12.Qc2 Nbd7 13.Be3 Rc8 14.c6 Rxc6 15.Nd4 Rd6 16.Rd1 Ng4 17.Bxg4 Bxg4 18.f3 Ne5 19.Bf2 Nc4 20.Nc6 Bxc3+ 21.bxc3 Qc7 22.Nb4 Be6 23.0-0 Rfd8 24.Bd4 a5 25.Nd3 b4 26.Nf4 Qd7 27.Rc1 Na3 28.Qf2 Nb5 29.Bc5 Rd2 30.Qh4 f6 31.cxb4 axb4 32.Qh6 Rxa2

Black equalised easily, went on the offensive and has been pressing for victory. Nakamura ends all hopes with a perpetual: 33.Nxg6 hxg6 34.Qxg6+ Kh8 35.Qh6+ ½-½.

Kamsky and Nakamura are half a point behind the leaders, along with Alexander Onischuk, of Baltimore, and Robert Hess, 17, of New York. The latter scored another nice victory, this time against GM Melikset Khachiyan.

GM Elect Robert Hess vs GM already Melikset Khachiyan

Hess,Ro (2485) - Khachiyan,M (2546) [B81]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (5), 12.05.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 h6 7.Bg2 Nc6 8.g5 hxg5 9.Bxg5 Bd7 10.Nb3 a6 11.Qe2 Be7 12.h4 b5 13.a3 Nh5 14.0-0-0 Bxg5+ 15.hxg5 Qxg5+ 16.Kb1 Ke7 17.Bf3 Nf4?

18.Qd2 (pinning the knight and attacking d6) 18...Qe5 19.Nd5+! exd5 20.exd5 (now Rhe1 is threatening) 20...Rxh1 21.Rxh1 Nd8 22.Re1 f6 23.Rxe5+ fxe5 and it is basically all over for Black. 24.Nd4 Rc8 25.c3 g5 26.Qe3 Kf6 27.Ne2 Bf5+ 28.Ka1 Nxe2 29.Bxe2 Rc5 30.Qf3 e4 31.Qh1 Nf7 32.Qd1 Ne5 33.Qd4 g4 34.b4 Rc8 35.a4 bxa4 36.Bxa6 Rh8 37.b5 e3 38.b6 Rh1+ 39.Ka2 exf2 40.Qxf2 Rh8 41.b7 Rg8 42.Qb6 Nd7 43.Qxd6+ Kg5 44.Bd3 Be6 1-0.

GM- Elect Robert Hess

Highlights: Tied for first 2008 Foxwoods Open, 2006 U.S. Junior Championship, 2002 Pan-American Youth Championship in Argentina, won 2009 National High School Championship in Nashville with a perfect score

Bio: Robert Hess was awarded the International Master title in 2007. He achieved his first norm for the Grandmaster title in Foxwoods 2008 and earned the final two in quick succession at the SPICE Spring Invitational and Foxwoods 2009. Robert swept the 2009 High School Championship in Nashville, where he also led his high school, Stuyvesant, to a team victory.

Here two more interesting highlights from round five:

Benjamin,Joe (2583) - Hughes,T (2230) [B40]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (5), 12.05.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bb5 Na5 5.d4 a6 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Qc7 8.0-0 Nf6 9.Qe2 d6 10.f4 b5 11.e5 Nd7 12.Kh1 b4 13.Ne4 d5 14.Ng5 Qb6

Joel Benjamin, rated more than 350 Elo points above his opponent, teaches him a lesson in GM tactics: 15.Ndxe6 (15.f5 was an alternative) 15...fxe6 16.Qh5+ g6 17.Bxg6+ Kd8 18.Bxh7 Kc7 19.Nf7 Rxh7 20.Qxh7 Bb7 21.f5 Re8 22.Bf4 Kc8 23.Qg6 Nc4 24.Nd6+ Nxd6 25.exd6 Rd8 26.fxe6 1-0.

IM Irina Krush vs GM Larry Christiansen

Krush,I (2452) - Christiansen,L (2588) [A40]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (5), 12.05.2009
1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6 3.e4 Bb7 4.Bd3 f5 5.exf5 Bb4+ 6.Kf1 Nf6 7.Nf3 0-0 8.a3 Bd6 9.fxe6 dxe6 10.Nc3 Qe8 11.Qe2 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Nc6 13.Be3 e5 14.d5 e4 15.Bxe4 Ne5 16.Qe2 Qd7 17.h3 Rae8 18.Bc2 Qf7 19.Kg1 Ng6 20.g3 Be5 21.Kg2 Bxc3 22.bxc3 Ne4 23.Rhf1 Nxc3 24.Qd3 Qf3+ 25.Kh2 Ne4 26.Rae1 Re7

White is is clearly better – a pawn up and with the bishop pair. Surely 27.Bd1 or 27.Qd1 would keep her on the road to victory. 27.Bd4? Qxd3 28.Bxd3 Nd2 and now, instead of another GM scalp, Irina only gets a draw: 29.Kg2 Nxf1 30.Rxf1 Ne5 31.Be2 Rd8 32.Be3 h6 33.Rc1 c6 34.dxc6 Nxc6 35.c5 bxc5 36.Rxc5 Nd4 37.Bh5 Kh7 38.Ra5 g6 39.Bg4 Rd6 40.h4 h5 41.Bc8 Rf7 42.Ra4 Nb5 43.Ra5 Nd4 44.Ra4 Nb5 45.Ra5 ½-½.

IM Irina Krush

Highlights: 2007 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, 1998 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, 1998 Pan-American Youth Champion

Bio: Irina Krush became the youngest-ever to win the U.S. Women’s Championship in 1998 with the astounding score of 8.5/9. Three years later, she won the Mayor’s Cup, an international round robin held in New York, despite being the lowest-rated player invited to par ticipate. She’s been a valuable team member at Olympiads and was part of the silver medal team in 2004 and the bronze medal team in 2008. Krush also won the 2007 U.S. Championship and lost the 2008 title in a controversial playoff against Anna Zatonskih.

Full article here.

Robson,R (2465) - Kaidanov,G (2595) [C80]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (5), 12.05.2009
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 Be7 11.Bc2 d4 12.cxd4 Nxd4 13.Nxd4 Qxd4 14.Nf3 Qxd1 15.Rxd1 0-0 16.Be3 Rfd8 17.Rdc1 h6 18.Nd4 Bd5 19.Nf5 Bf8 20.Bxc5 Bxc5 21.Bd1 Bf8 22.Rxc7 Be6 23.Ne3 Rd2 24.Bc2 Rad8 25.h4 Re2

"Robson makes his move" is the title of this portrait by photographer Betsy Dynako

26.b3 Ba3 27.Rb1 Rdd2 28.Rf1 Rd8 29.Rb1 Rdd2 30.b4 Rd4 31.Bb3 Bxb3 32.axb3 Bxb4 33.Nc2 Rxh4 34.g3 Rg4 35.Kf1 Rd2 36.Ra1 a5 37.Nxb4 Rxb4 ½-½. The 14-year-old Ray Robson shows remarkable composure against an experienced GM, and in fact refuses a repetition on move 30. The lad is obviously brimming with self-confidence.

Standings after five rounds


All information for this report was provided by the official web site, by special commentator Jennifer Shahade and by Arbiter Carol Jarecki. The pictures were provided by Betsy Dynako and are of extraordinary quality. We are very grateful to all parties for their help and commend the professionalism with which these Championships are being conducted.

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