US Championship starts with an Evans Gambit by Nakamura

by ChessBase
5/10/2012 – The 2012 US Championship started once more in the incredibly luxurious St. Louis Chess Club, and this time includes Hikaru Nakamura in the line up, as well as Gata Kamsky and the usual suspects. The first round was one of surprises with Nakamura unleashing an Evans Gambit on Hess. On the other side, Stripunsky also surprised Onischuk by dropping a piece on move eleven. Illustrated report.

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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.

Club founder Rex Sinquefield highlighted some other local chess news. Earlier in the day, the Chess Club and the World Chess Hall of Fame, located across the street from the club, unveiled the world's largest chess piece. The white king, made up of layers of ¾-inch exterior grade plywood, stands more than 14 feet tall, weighs more than 2,200 pounds and is approximately the height of an average female giraffe. The piece is based on the “Championship Staunton” design and is made of layers of ¾-inch exterior grade plywood. It is 45 times larger than a standard chess piece. This new Guinness World Record beat the previous record, set in 2003, by 1 foot, 5 inches.

The Club, in partnership with the World Chess Hall of Fame also located in Saint Louis, set the new record to help further cement the city’s reputation for being the hub of chess in the United States. The piece was unveiled to kick off the 2012 U.S. and Women’s Chess Championships, which take place May 8 through May 20. This is the fourth year in a row the Club has hosted the tournaments. As a part of the unveiling and tournament kickoff, Saint Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay issued an official proclamation, declaring Saint Louis the “Gateway to Chess.”

“The Saint Louis Arch was built to commemorate Saint Louis as the gateway to the west,” said CCSCSL Executive Director Tony Rich. “This record-breaking chess piece is meant to celebrate another distinction for our city. Saint Louis has truly become a center of chess culture, and this larger-than-life chess piece serves as a striking monument to honor our city’s involvement in the game.”

The piece was built by R.G. Ross Construction, located in Saint Louis, and has been officially approved by Guinness as a world record. Following are some key statistics about the World’s Largest Chess Piece:

  • The piece took eighteen days to construct and weighs more than 2,200 pounds.
  • The piece is taller than a professional basketball hoop (ten feet), an average-sized female giraffe (fourteen feet) and the Statue of Liberty’s fingernail (thirteen feet).
  • If the piece were to be used during a chess game, the square the piece sits on would be nine feet by nine feet, and the board would be 72 feet by 72 feet. This board would be big enough to hold 392 bathtubs or nine school buses.

Schedule of Events

Date Time US Championship Women's Championship
May 7   Community Day
May 7 6:00 PM Opening Ceremony
May 8 1:00 PM Round 1 Round 1
May 9 1:00 PM Round 2 Round 2
May 10 1:00 PM Round 3 Round 3
May 11 1:00 PM Round 4 Rest Day
May 12 1:00 PM Round 5 Round 4
May 13 1:00 PM Round 6 Round 5
May 14   Rest Day
May 15 1:00 PM Round 7 Round 6
May 16 1:00 PM Round 8 Round 7
May 17 1:00 PM Round 9 Round 8
May 18 1:00 PM Round 10 Rest Day
May 19 1:00 PM Round 11 Round 9
May 20 12:00 PM Playoff
May 20 7:00 PM Closing Ceremony

Round one

By FM Mike Klein

SAINT LOUIS, May 8, 2012 -- There were running starts and standing starts and very little in between to open the 2012 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship. All but three games in the events produced a decisive result. The tournaments are being hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the fourth consecutive year.

The players follow the action on-screen and up close

In a turn of the unexpected, the grandmasters in the U.S. Championship played more provocative chess than their female counterparts. Their early imbalanced positions meant the first three games to finish came from their event.

The first result shocked everyone. GM Alex Stripunsky overlooked a simple capture on move 11 and resigned immediately against GM Alexander Onischuk. According to U.S. Championship statistical guru Ed Gonsalves, the game was the third shortest to produce a winner since the modern tournament began in 1936. Onischuk felt some of his playing partner's chagrin and was disappointed with the way he won.

To everyone's consternation, most especially
his own, Stripunsky played 11.d3?? here. Ugly.

Stripunsky had a nasty slip in the opening round. The question is whether he will be able to recover.

Top-seeded GM Hikaru Nakamura scored the second point of the day by converting an opening advantage against GM Robert Hess. Nakamura skipped last year's championship and came prepared this time, opening with 1. e4 and making his unsuspecting opponent think on move one. Hess took three minutes before playing his usual 1...e5 but the next surprise lurked only a few moves later when Nakamura played 4. b4, the Evans Gambit, an opening only a shade younger than the incorporation of Saint Louis as a city.

Nakamura dug out a new weapon for his opponents to worry about

“It's almost like when [Nakamura] plays 1. e4, you know he's got something up his sleeve,” said Jennifer Shahade, one of the two on-air commentators. After the game, Nakamura explained, “I just felt like trying something new.”

[Event "2012 U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, MO, USA"] [Date "2012.05.08"] [Round "1.6"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Hess, Robert"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C51"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2635"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [TimeControl "6000+1110"] [WhiteClock "0:42:48"] [BlackClock "0:05:07"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 {You might be inclined to believe this is never played at this level barring the exception of exceptions, but that is not quite the case. Among the top players who have wielded this weapon more than once are Fressinet, Jobava, Morozevich, and the biggest expert of them all: British GM Nigel Short. That said, this is the first time Nakamura has played it.} Bxb4 ({Many prefer to avoid the complications and danger by steering for a positional game leading to an Italian where White has a lot of space.} 4... Bb6 5. a4 a6 6. c3 Nf6 7. d3 d6 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. h3 Be6 10. O-O Re8 11. Bxe6 fxe6 12. Nc4 Ba7 13. b5 Ne7 14. Bg5 Ng6 15. Nh4 Nxh4 16. Bxh4 Rf8 17. Qb3 Bc5 18. Rad1 axb5 19. axb5 Qe8 20. d4 exd4 21. cxd4 Ba7 22. Bxf6 Rxf6 23. Rd2 Rf4 24. Ra1 d5 25. Ne3 Bb6 26. Rxa8 Qxa8 27. exd5 exd5 28. Nxd5 Rf7 29. Nxb6 cxb6 30. Rd3 Kf8 31. Rf3 Rxf3 32. Qxf3+ Ke7 33. Qe4+ Kf7 34. Qf5+ Ke7 35. Qe5+ Kf7 36. Qc7+ Kg8 37. Qxb6 Qc8 38. Qc5 Qe6 39. Qe5 Qd7 40. h4 h6 41. g3 Qc8 42. Qd5+ Kh8 43. Kg2 Qc7 44. Qe5 Qd7 45. h5 Kh7 46. Qe4+ Kh8 47. b6 Kg8 48. d5 Kh8 49. Qe6 Qd8 50. d6 Qxb6 51. Qe8+ Kh7 52. d7 {1-0 (52) Wang Hao (2736) -Ponomariov,R (2723) Beijing 2011}) 5. c3 Bd6 6. d4 Qe7 7. O-O Nf6 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. Re1 Ba3 {While Black's plan with Bd6 is strange looking it is considered solid, if somewhat passive. Ba3 looks bad on principle as it seeks to exchange off one of Black's developed pieces for one of White's undeveloped ones.} (9... Na5 10. Bd3 Nc6 11. Nf1 Re8 12. Ng3 Qf8 13. Bg5 exd4 14. Bxf6 Bxg3 15. hxg3 gxf6 16. cxd4 d6 17. d5 Ne5 18. Nd4 c5 19. dxc6 bxc6 20. Bf1 Qh6 21. Rc1 c5 22. Nf3 Bg4 23. Be2 Red8 {1-0 (23) Fressinet,L (2693)-Naiditsch,A (2684) Nancy 2011 }) 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. dxe5 Ne8 12. f4 Bxc1 13. Rxc1 d6 14. exd6 cxd6 15. Nf3 Bg4 16. h3 Rc8 17. Bb3 Bxf3 18. Qxf3 Rc5 19. Re3 Nc7 20. e5 dxe5 21. Qxb7 a5 22. Qe4 Ne6 23. fxe5 Re8 24. Rd1 Qc7 25. Rdd3 h6 26. Bd5 Qb6 27. c4 Qb1+ 28. Kh2 Qxa2 $2 {A blunder, but Black was in big trouble anyhow.} ({For example after} 28... Rc7 29. Rg3 Qb6 (29... Qxa2 $2 30. Bxe6 fxe6 31. Qg6 {threatening e8 and Qxh6}) 30. Qf5 Rce7 31. Be4 Nf8 32. Rd6 Qc7 33. Qg4 {and Black's position is untenable.}) 29. Bxe6 fxe6 30. Rd7 Kh8 31. Rxg7 Kxg7 32. Rg3+ Kf8 33. Qh7 1-0

Defending champion GM Gata Kamsky finished next, besting tournament newcomer GM Alejandro Ramirez. Kamsky played in the style that has allowed him to elude defeat for the past several U.S. Championships. “My style of play is called constrictor,” Kamsky said. “I'm a great admirer of (former World Champion Tigran) Petrosian. He came up with that style of play.” With Ramirez's backward pawn on d6 sitting helplessly, Kamsky marshaled all of his pieces into position, then pushed a pawn one square on the edge of the board. The move was cunning in its subtlety, and Ramirez admitted that he could not find a good move afterward.

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.

For complete reports and further pics, please refer to the official website.

There is live coverage open to all by IM Jennfier 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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