US Championship: young guns battle for the US title

by ChessBase
5/17/2009 – In the penultimate round 21-year-old Hikaru Nakamura beat the GM aspirant Michael Brooks to take the lead at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center. He was joined at the top by Robert Hess, 17, who beat defending champion Yury Shulman. Kamsky, Onischuk and Akobian are half a point behind going into what promises to be a very exciting final round. Watch it unfold on Playchess!

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2009 US Chess Championship

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 eight – Young Guns Battle for US Title

After eight rounds of tense competition two young players enter the final round tied for the lead and the title.
Former champion and second seed Hikaru Nakamura, 21, who in 2004 became the youngest player since Bobby Fischer to win the national title, was the first to take the lead in the penultimate round by beating Michael Brooks, of Kansas City, Mo. He has six points.

Current standings (with one round to go)

The name is Nakamura – Hikaru Nakamura!

Brooks,M (2463) - Nakamura,Hi (2701) [B33]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (8), 16.05.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Ne7 9.c4 Ng6 10.Bd3 Be7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Bxg6 hxg6 13.Be3 f5 14.f3 b6 15.f4 a6 16.Nc3 exf4 17.Bxf4 Bf6 18.Be3 Bd7 19.Bd4 Rc8 20.Qd3 Qc7 21.Bxf6 Rxf6

Brooks is doing fine, and should prevent Nakamura's next move with 22.Qd4. Instead he presents his opponent with a golden opportunity by playing 22.b3? Nakamura is not one to miss the chance: 22...Qc5+ 23.Kh1 b5 24.Rae1 bxc4 25.Qg3 cxb3

26.Ne4 fxe4 27.Rxf6. The idea may have been to provoke 27...gxf6, after which White has a draw by perpetual. Desperation. Black calmly plays the best continuation and takes the full point: 27...Bf5 28.Rxd6 b2 29.Rc6 Rxc6 30.dxc6 Qc1 31.Qb3+ Kh7 32.Qd1 Qxd1 33.Rxd1 e3 34.c7 e2 0-1.

GM Hikaru Nakamura, New York

Highlights: 2005 U.S. Championship, 2007 North American Open Champion, 2007 National Open Champion.

Bio: Hikaru Nakamura is a recordbreaking, blitz champion, medalearning phenomenon. He became the youngest master in American history at the age of 10, then broke Bobby Fischer’s record by becoming the youngest American Grandmaster at 15. In 2004, he advanced into the sweet 16 at the World Championship in Libya. He also won his first U.S. Championship at the age of 16. He’s racked up numerous championships over the past decade, and despite his aggressive, individualistic style, Nakamura has proven to be a great team player: He was a two-time bronze medallist in the 2006 and 2008 Olympiad, playing for the USA team.

Full article here

Nakamura was followed later in the day at the top of the leader board by rising star and high school football linebacker Robert Hess, 17, who capitalized on an endgame error from defending champion Yury Shulman to score a win when a draw seemed the more likely result.

Robert Hess vs Yury Schulman in round eight

Hess,Ro (2485) - Shulman,Y (2632) [C01]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (8), 16.05.2009
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bf4 Bd6 5.Bxd6 Qxd6 6.Nc3 Ne7 7.Qd2 c6 8.Nf3 0-0 9.0-0-0 Bg4 10.Be2 Bxf3 11.Bxf3 Nd7 12.h4 b5 13.h5 Nb6 14.Be2 h6 15.Rde1 Rab8 16.g4 Rb7 17.Rh3 b4 18.Nd1 Nc4 19.Qd3 Nc8 20.Qf5 Ne7 21.Qf3 f5 22.b3 fxg4 23.Qxg4 Rf4 24.Qg3 Na3 25.Rh4 Rf6 26.Qxd6 Rxd6 27.Bd3 Rf6 28.Ne3 Kf8 29.f4 Nc8 30.Rf1 Nb5 31.Ng4 Rd6 32.Bxb5 cxb5 33.f5 Kg8 34.f6 Rf7 35.Re1 Nb6 36.Rh3 Nd7 37.Re8+ Rf8 38.Rxf8+ Kxf8 39.fxg7+ Kxg7 40.Rg3 Kf7 41.Rf3+ Ke7 42.Rf5 a6 43.Kb2

43...Rc6? Mysterious. 44.Rxd5 and White is able to convert the free extra pawn into a full point. 44...Re6 45.Rf5 Kd6 46.Nf2 Re3 47.Nd3 Ke6 48.Rf1 a5 49.Nf4+ Kd6 50.Rg1 Re4 51.Rg6+ Ke7 52.Nd5+ Kf7 53.Rxh6 Rxd4 54.Rh7+ Ke6 55.Nc7+ Kf6 56.Nxb5 Rd5 57.Nc7 Rd2 58.Rh6+ Ke7 59.Kc1 Rh2 60.Nd5+ Kf7 61.Ra6 Rxh5 62.Rxa5 Rf5 63.Rb5 Rh5 64.Kb2 Rf5 65.Nc7 Rxb5 66.Nxb5 Ke6 67.Nc7+ 1-0.

Twirly! Sam Shankland and Josh Friedel on their way to the tournament. Normally the rounds began at 2 p.m., but round eight was at 11 a.m. That, as the joke goes, is like a pig's tail.

GM Josh Friedel, New Hampshire

Highlights: 2007 Samford Scholarship winner, 2006 2nd All Star Team: Board 1.

Bio: Josh Friedel just recently earned his Grandmaster title after the 2008 U.S. Championship. He learned chess at the early age of 3 and began tournament play at age 6. In 1995, he scored his first tournament victor y, winning the New Hampshire State Amateur Championship at age 8. His first major tournament victory was in 2001 when he won the Pan Am Open. In 2007, Friedel earned the prestigious Samford Scholarship, allowing him to focus on chess full-time for two years.

Full article here

Three players are a half point behind Nakamura and Hess: number one seed Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk (who drew with Kamsky) and Varuzhan Akobian, who beat three-time US champion Joel Benjamin. Josh Friedel of New York beat Jaan Ehlvest to take a place half a point behind.

Varuzhan Akobian vs three-time US Champion Joel Benjamin

GM Joel Benjamin, New Jersey

Highlights: 2000 U.S. Championship, 1997 U.S. Championship, 1987 U.S. Championship.

Bio: Joel Benjamin became a national master at the age of 13, breaking Bobby Fischer’s record for youngest-ever master. A three-time U.S. Junior Champion, he became a Grandmaster in 1986. Benjamin also goes into the U.S. Championship histor y books for playing in a record 22 consecutive championships. His most-famous gig was helping the Deep Blue IBM Computer team defeat Garry Kasparov in 1997, a win that was later featured in the documentary “Game Over.”

Full article here

In the final round, Nakamura will play Friedel and Hess will meet Akobian. If more than one player finishes with the same number of points at the top there will be a playoff for the title and prize money on Sunday evening.

GM Alexander Onischuk, Baltimore, Maryland

Highlights: 2006 U.S. Championship, second in the 2007 Grandmaster Tournament of International Chess Festival Biel.

Bio: Alexander Onischuk has placed first in more than 20 tournaments, including the 2000 Ukrainian Championship. He became a Grandmaster in 1994 at the age of 19 and relocated to the U.S. in 2001. When he won the 2006 U.S. Championship, he called it the happiest moment of his career to have his name on a trophy alongside players such as Fischer and Morphy. Onischuk was key to America’s bronze medal finishes in 2006 and 2008 Olympiads. He has an impressive international record: he placed second in the International Chess Festival in Biel and also won the super strong Moscow Open in January 2009. Onischuk is a member of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis’ board of Grandmaster Advisers. Full article here

Despite losing to Nakamura, Michael Brooks' dream of achieving a grandmaster norm late in life (at 47) still lives on. But to do so, he faces the tough task of having to win his last round game against GM Ildar Ilbragimov to become the first Missourian to attain a grandmaster-level performance.

Robson,R (2465) - Sevillano,E (2520) [C17]
ch-USA Saint Louis USA (8), 16.05.2009
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.Qg4 Ne7 6.dxc5 Nbc6 7.Bd2 0-0 8.0-0-0 d4 9.Ne4 Bxd2+ 10.Rxd2 Nxe5 11.Qg3 N7g6 12.f4 Nc6 13.Bc4 Na5 14.Bd3 Qd5 15.Kb1 f5 16.Ng5 Qxc5 17.N1f3 Rf6 18.h4 h6 19.Nh3 Nc6 20.Rhd1 Bd7 21.Be2 Rc8 22.Nf2 Be8 23.Nd3 Qa5 24.Qf2 Qb6 25.g3 Nge7 26.Nc1 Nd5 27.Nb3 a5 28.Ka1 Ne3 29.Rc1 Nb4 30.Bd3 a4 31.Nbxd4 a3 32.bxa3 Nbd5 33.c4 Ng4 34.Qe1 Nc7 35.Rb2 Qa7 36.Qb4 Na6 37.Qxb7 Qxb7 38.Rxb7 Nc5 39.Rb3 Nxb3+ 40.axb3 Rd8 41.c5 e5 42.Bc4+ Kh8 43.Ne6 Ra8 44.fxe5 Rf7 45.Kb2 Re7 46.Re1 Bc6 47.Ned4 Be4 48.e6 Rea7 49.Nd2 Rxa3 50.Nxe4 fxe4 51.Rxe4 Nf6 52.Re3 Ra2+ 53.Kc3 R2a7 54.c6 Rd8 55.Nb5 Re7 56.Kb4 g5 57.hxg5 hxg5 58.Kc5 Ne8 59.b4 g4 60.Re4 Rg7 61.Re5 Nf6 62.Nd6 1-0.

Meanwhile, the youngest player in the 24-player field, Ray Robson, 14, needs only a draw against his coach, Alexander Onischuk, to also score his first grandmaster norm.

Ray Robson at the start of round eight

All pictures by Betsy Dynako of Inspiring Art (we'll tell you all about her after the final round)

Live coverage of the final round

The final round-nine of the championship concludes Sunday. The round starts at 10 a.m. Saint Louis time (4 p.m. London, 17:00h Paris/Berlin, 19:00h Moscow – or at this time at your location). Be there to watch the exciting final round action on the Playchess server.

This is what live coverage looks like (here during round eight) on Playchess. You can sort the games by clicking on the headers, and select the ones that are still in play.

After the rounds are over the games are still available for replay on Playchess:


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and a selection on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse the PGN games.

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