2012 U.S. Championships (St. Louis)

Gata Kamsky, 2011 U.S. Champion.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The U.S. Championship will kick off tomorrow at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis and will feature America’s top brass. Hikaru Nakamura will vie for the title as well as defending champion Gata Kamsky and up-and-coming players such as Robert Hess and Ray Robson.

There is an interesting mix of players as Yasser Seirawan is returning after being the sensation in last year’s tournament. The Hall-of-Famer has actually played well since coming out of retirement at last year’s event and was a top scorer during the 2011 World Team Championship.

Despite the older players such as Seirawan and Grigory Kaidanov, there are other young stars such as Aleksandr Lenderman and newcomer Alejandro Ramirez who has changed his federation from Costa Rica to the U.S. back in January 2011. Besides Ramirez, there are no new faces and the tournament will be looking for an exciting theme to draw attention. There is a $64,000 prize for any player going 11-0 in the tournament.

GM Alejandro Ramirez

GM Alejandro Ramirez makes debut.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The women’s field is also virtually the same field as last year and defending champion Anna Zatonskih will try to put in another inspired performance. Seventeen-year old Alena Kats will make a debut getting the wildcard nod.

Link: https://www.uschesschamps.com/
Videos: https://www.youtube.com/stlchessClub


  1. do u think maurice will be in a future us ch and do you think he will take part in ny intntl in june

  2. Round #1
    (Tuesday, 8 May 2012)

    What a wild ride in the opening round of the U.S. Open Championships!

    Nakamura-Hess (round 1)

    GM Hikaru Nakamura battles GM Robert Hess.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    Varuzhan Akobian – Yasser Seirawan, 1-0
    Yury Shulman – Gregory Kaidanov, ½-½
    Alexander Stripunsky – Alexander Onischuk, 0-1
    Aleksandr Lenderman – Ray Robson, 1-0
    Gata Kamsky – Alejandro Ramirez, 1-0
    Hikaru Nakamura – Robert Hess, 1-0

    In what was one of the most exciting beginning in recent memory, the U.S. Championship kicked off with its rendition of “Fire on Board” as 8/11 games were decisive.

    In this position, white halluncinated with 11.d3?? Onischuk studied the position, but Stripunsky resigned before 11…Qxc1+.

    Starting out in the Open section, the playing hall got a stir when Alexander Stripunsky had a hallucination and played 11.d3 attacking the Qg5 with his Bc1. His opponent Alexander Onischuk studied the position for awhile and then looked at his bewildered opponent who simply offered his hand and resigned. What happened? Well… Onischuk could simply play 11…Qxc1+. Rough start for Stripunsky.

    Hikaru Nakamura got off to an auspicious start with a sparkling win over Robert Hess out of an Evans Gambit. Nakamura stated that he wanted to play something different and Hess could not have predicted such an opening. Hess, who had been closing out his final projects at Yale, did not have time to properly prepare. However, America’s top-rated player simply outplayed him.

    In perhaps the most exciting game of the round, Aleksandr Lenderman could do a happy dance (but didn’t) against Ray Robson. In fact, his pieces did the dancing and he flung them forward in menacing fashion. After a wild series of moves beginning with 12.exf7+ Kh8 13.Ne4 Ne5 12.Ne5 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 white began his attack with 15.h4! after offered a piece after 15…Bb7 16.h5!?

    In Lenderman-Robson, white seems to have an attack, but Robson finds a resource… 22…Kf6! Unfortunately for Robson, the king could run, but not hide. It was mated in the end.

    The point was that after 16…Bxe4 17.Bf3! would create a number of nasty threats. However, Robson later played the improbable 22…Kf6! hoping that his exposed king would be difficult to attack. The young phenom managed to simplify the position, but Lenderman kept pressing with his rooks and started rolling his passed a-pawn. Robson had to donate his remaining rook and all that was left was a picturesque checkmate.

    Gata Kamsky started his march to a successful defense after beating neophyte Alejandro Ramirez in fine positional style. There is tense anticipation for the Kamsky-Nakamura counter in round 10, but Kamsky simply took care of business.

    Yasser Seirawan is back at the championships after a good showing last year, but ran into trouble against Varuzhan Akobian. Many spectators felt it was a case of poor preparation for the American legend. Akobian applied pressure throughout, won a pawn and converted a clean win. Yury Shulman and Gregory Kaidanov got the only peaceful result of the round.


    Viktorija Ni – Tatev Abrahamyan, ½-½
    Iryna Zenyuk – Alisa Melekhina, ½-½
    Irina, Krush – Sabina-Francesca Foisor, 1-0
    Rusudan Goletiani – Camilla Baginskaite, 1-0
    Anna Zatonskih – Alena Kats, 1-0

    Alisa Melekhina (round 1)

    FM Alisa Melekhina averted losing her fourth consecutive championship game against WIM Iryna Zenyuk. Perhaps this will be her tournament. Photo by CCSCSL.

    In the women’s play, Anna Zatonskih asserted her authority over debutante Alena Kats in a powerful performance. This game was simply a case of Kats being completely overmatched. Her 14…f5 seemed to allow the white knights a permanent residence on e5-square. Nevertheless, white crashed through on the queenside as the the black king was trying to find cover. In the final position, black was totally helpless.

    Irina Krush is trying to reclaim the title and got off to a good start with a strong showing against Sabina-Francesca Foiser. In the press conference, Krush was pleased with her preparation.

    She spoke on the subtleties of black’s 7…Nbd7?! which she stated was inferior to 7…0-0 since on 8.a4! since Nb6 is met by 9.a5 Nbxd5 10.Bb5+ and black has to play 10…Kf8. Thus, after 7…Nbd7 8.a4! a5 white had prepared the positional idea of 14.d6! with play on the light squares. Foisor tried to find counterplay by sacking an exchange but Krush was able to maintain a grip on her advantage and got the point.

    In Goletiani-Baginskaite, black played 32…Kf7 after which white found a winning maneuver after 33.Qb7!

    Goletiani-Baginskaite was a see-saw battle headed for a draw, but it appears that this game also saw an oversight. Baginskaite made a weakness with 29…f6 which meant her light squares were weakened and Kg8 exposed. This could spell trouble with the far-reaching powers of the white queen. Sure enough, Baginskaite played 32…Kf7 which lost a piece to the finesse of 33.Qb7 Qe7? (33…Qb8 34.Qd5+ with a winning initiative) 34.Bb4! Qd7 35.Ba5 netting the piece.

    Alisa Melekhina redeemed her three previous championship losses against Iryna Zenyuk by holding a draw in the final stages. Zenyuk was a pawn up but could not avoid endless harassment of the black queen. The marathon game of the round was Abrahamyan-Ni who both ended in a time scramble.

    Out of a Benko Gambit, black uncharacteristically had the extra queenside pawn. While the white rook was frantically trying to keep the black pawns at bay, white’s king decided to take an improbable stroll up the board to h7! This nearly allowed black to gain a winning initiative, but white’s lone rook remained active and held the balance.

    Link: https://www.uschesschamps.com/

  3. Round #2
    (Wednesday, 9 May 2012)

    A tamer second round… $64,000 is safe.

    Yasser Seirawan – Robert Hess, 0-1
    Alejandro Ramirez – Hikaru Nakamura, ½-½
    Ray Robson – Gata Kamsky, 1-0
    Alexander Onischuk – Aleksandr Lenderman, ½-½
    Gregory Kaidanov – Alexander Stripunsky, ½-½
    Varuzhan Akobian – Yury Shulman, ½-½

    The second round of the U.S. Championship was a shell of the pyromaniacal first round. There were two decisive games, but the chances for 11-0 and $64,000 bonus were squashed when all of the players with one point drew.

    Seirawan-Hess (round 2)

    Yasser Seirawan had an interesting struggle against Robert Hess. Then something went horribly wrong. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Robert Hess got into the winner’s circle beating Yasser Seirawan. Hess played actively in the Queen’s Indian after white decided to castle to a weakened queenside. Seirawan seemed to toss a pawn with 18.Rd2? which was met with 18…Rxg4. After that, Black wasted no time probing white’s position. White entered an endgame with several weak pawns and eventually the position collapsed as black starting picking them off.

    Robson-Kamsky (round 2)

    Gata Kamsky (right) had a surprise prepared for the young phenom Ray Robson. Would he pass the test? Photo by CCSCSL.

    Gata Kamsky played 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 b6!? against Ray Robson. The ensuing game turned out to be rather exciting with an opposite-wing attack, but neither side held a decisive attack.

    In Kaidanov-Stripunsky, white played 18.e5! and soon his pieces were swarming the board. Stripunsky was able to fight until the endgame, but could not avoid ceding his second consecutive loss.

    The only other decisive game was another loss for Alexander Stripunsky who lost in 11 moves yesterday. Unfortunately, he was unable to turn the tables against Gregory Kaidanov and appeared to cede the initiative after 18.e5! With white’s pieces dominating the board, black’s sacrificed his queen and was able to complicate the game a bit. Nevertheless, Kaidanov’s two bishops in the open board and extra pawn were more than enough.

    Alejandro Ramirez held a draw against Hikaru Nakamura after being outplayed in the middlegame. Nakamura’s exposed king provided Ramirez with counterchances. Akobian-Shulman and Onischuk-Lenderman were drawn as well.


    Tatev Abrahamyan – Alena Kats, 1-0
    Camilla Baginskaite – Anna Zatonskih, 0-1
    Sabina-Francesca Foisor – Rusudan Goletiani, 1-0
    Alisa Melekhina – Irina, Krush, ½-½
    Viktorija Ni – Iryna Zenyuk, 0-1

    Abrahamyan-Kats (round 2)

    WFM Alena Kats wanted to recover from her disastrous debut against Tatev Abrahamyan, but got lost in her preparation. Photo by CCSCSL.

    This round will not will many style points, but there were four decisive games. Tatev Abrahamyan totally crushed Alena Kats‘ Najdorf as the young Master appears overmatched thus far. Perhaps Kats’ overambitious 16…Qxd5 allowed white to gain winning initiative. In Baginskaite-Zatonskih, the game appeared to be settled in time pressure as white dropped an entire rook… albeit, in a losing position.

    Ni-Zenyuk (round 2)

    Ni-Zenyuk saw yet another Benko Gambit declined after which white ends up down a pawn! Irina Krush takes a stroll in between moves. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Viktorija Ni also blundered a piece to a dominant queen. Time pressure may have been a factor here as well. This was another Benko Gambit where Ni declined the pawn but ended up down a pawn. Maybe she should take the pawns! Rusudan Goletiani lost an improbable game against Sabina-Francesca Foiser after gaining a nice positional edge. Perhaps she got a bit too adventurous with 46…g5 and in less than ten moves, she walked into a mating net. The only draw scored was Melekhina-Krush, a hard-fought game out of the Rossolimo Sicilian. Krush was never in any danger.

    Link: https://www.uschesschamps.com/

  4. Round #3
    (Thursday, 10 May 2012)

    U.S. Championship continues “Gladiator Chess”

    Yury Shulman – Yasser Seirawan, 1-0
    Alexander Stripunsky – Varuzhan Akobian, 1-0
    Aleksandr Lenderman – Gregory Kaidanov, ½-½
    Gata Kamsky – Alexander Onischuk, 1-0
    Hikaru Nakamura – Ray Robson, 1-0
    Robert Hess – Alejandro Ramirez, ½-½

    The bloodbath continues at the 2012 U.S. Championship. There were eight decisive games today, four in the overall and four in the women’s championship… all white wins. While Lenderman-Kaidanov ended without hostilities, Nakamura-Robson saw a Sicilian Dragon by the young(er) star. However, Robson fell a bit behind early and white gained a dangerous initiative on the kingside after 16.e5 and 17.h5. Robson had tried sacrificing the exchange (unconventionally) but was saddled with an “Irish Pawn Center” under disadvantageous circumstances.

    Nakamura had just played 43. Ne7-d5 and had foreseen that 43…Rg3+ 44. Kf4 Bg5+ 45. Ke5 e1=Q+ 46. Kd6 when Robson cannot avert mate.

    Immediately, Nakamura attacked the trebled e-pawns and began creating dangerous threats on the king. Black failed to create adequate counterplay with his passed e-pawn and soon he was facing a mating attack. In a nice ending sequence, Nakamura played 43.Nd5! (diagram) 43…Rg3+ 44.Kf4 Bg5+ 45.Ke5 e1Q+. Wow! Allowing black to queen with check takes courage, but Nakamura had it calculated precisely and after 46.Kd6, black was in a mating net.

    Hess-Ramirez saw a strange, but increasingly popular opening in the Sicilian with 6…e5!? and a subsequent dancing of pieces on odd squares. White could not make much of his spatial advantage and the game petered out to a draw. Still a very exciting battle.

    Alexander Stripunsky finally got on the scoreboard with a win over Varzhan Akobian’s French Defense. The game got hairy after 9…a4 10.h4!? Reason being after 10…axb3, white has a strong attack after 11.Bxh7+! Stripunsky declined an exchange sacrifice and kept building pressure on weak pawns. Finally, black’s position collapsed and white’s three-pawn advantage was too much.

    Yury Shulman sent Yasser Seirawan to his third consecutive loss after the veteran made crucial missteps in the ending. Shulman had stated that the game was probably a draw, but that after 37. g5 Bg8? 38. gxh6 Bh7+ (38…gxh6 39.Kf5) 39. f5 gxh6 40. Bc4 and black is in zugzwang.

    Standings (after Round #3)

    1st-2nd: Nakamura, Kamsky, 2½; 3rd-5th: Kaidanov, Lenderman, Shulman, 2; 6th-8th: Onischuk, Hess, Akobian, 1½; 9th-10th: Ramirez, Stripunsky, 1; 11th: Robson, ½; 12th: Seirawan, 0.

    Iryna Zenyuk – Tatev Abrahamyan , 1-0
    Irina, Krush – Viktorija Ni, 1-0
    Rusudan Goletiani – Alisa Melekhina, 1-0
    Anna Zatonskih – Sabina-Francesca Foisor, ½-½
    Alena Kats – Camilla Baginskaite, 1-0

    Goletiani-Melekhina was a complete disaster for black as she played a strange opening and got was strategically busted early on. The game was over before move 30. Zatonskih-Foisor was an entertaining game, but white was unable to exploit black’s exposed king. This would be the only indecisive game of the round. Zatonskih is now tied for joint 1st.

    Alena Kats broke into the win column after falling into trouble again against Camille Baginskaite. Baginskaite had played well throughout and was on the verge of winning when white launched a rather desperate attack.

    In this Kats-Baginskaite, white has seemingly turned the tables after 34.Nxg6, but black could have played 34…Qg2+! to hold the draw!

    Kats got her chance when Baginskaite blundered horribly with 31…Rxd4?? After 32. Rg1 g6 33. Qh5 b1=Q 34. Nxg6! (diagram), it appears that black is totally busted, but can still play 34…Qg2+! 35.Rxg2 (35.Kxg2 Qxg6+) Qxe1+ to save the game. She played 34…Qxh2+ and after the simple 35.Kxh2 black cannot stop several mating threats. Wow! Baginskaite is now on 0/3.

    Irina Krush won her white game against Viktorija Ni in a nice positional game where black overexposed her kingside. Krush liquidated the pawn cover and plowed in on the white squares. Even after the queens were traded, the attack was still strong as the black pieces could only watch as the king was being assailed.

    Zenyuk-Abrahamyan was the longest game of the round and white’s patience paid off. The Classical King’s Indian lived up to its reputation and produced a game rich in ideas. Abrahamyan was clearly going for the full point, but Zenyuk held off black’s attack and entered an endgame.

    White had a better pawn structure and a dancing knight versus a forlorn bishop which didn’t have much to do. As the bishop moved across the board it entered behind enemy lines where it became trapped! Black could only dream of getting enough pawns off the board and ultimately had to resign. Zenyuk is now tied with Zatonskih and Krush for the lead.

    The women will take their first of three rest days.

    Standings (after Round #3)

    1st-3rd: Zatonskih, Krush, Zenyuk, 2½; 4th: Goletiani, 2; 5th-6th: Foisor, Abrahamyan, 1½; 7th-8th: Melekhina, Kats, 1; 9th: Ni, ½; 10th: Baginskaite, 0.

  5. Round #4
    (Friday, 12 May 2012)

    Kamsky tumbles from lead, Nakamura and Kaidanov out front

    Yury Shulman – Alexander Stripunsky, ½-½
    Alexander Onischuk – Hikaru Nakamura, ½-½
    Yasser Seirawan – Alejandro Ramirez, 1-0
    Ray Robson – Robert Hess, 1-0
    Gregory Kaidanov – Gata Kamsky, 1-0
    Varuzhan Akobian – Aleksandr Lenderman, ½-½

    Kaidanov-Kamsky (round 4)

    Gregory Kaidanov toppled Gata Kamsky. The champion’s unorthodox play has finally caught up with him. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Seirawan-Ramirez (round 4)

    Yasser Seirawan got on the board with a 93-move win against Alejandro Ramirez. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Standings (after Round #4)

    1st-2nd: Nakamura, Kaidanov, 3; 3rd-5th: Kamsky, Lenderman, Shulman, 2½; 6th-7th: Onischuk, Akobian, 2; 8th-10th: Robson, Hess, Stripunsky, 1½; 11th-12th: Seirawan, Ramirez, 1.

  6. Funny, chess is war. Elena who is not only pretty, but also a smart warrior, outplayed the odd talking Baginskaite when the time was ripe. A real NYker!

    1. Well… Kats landed a sucker punch more or less. Baginskaite lost her focus for a couple of moves and paid dearly. Losing that way has happened to all of us. I once lost in the first round of the Illinois H.S. Finals to a player named Bill LaPrise. I played the French and dominated the entire game. I had two pawns on the 6th rank and I had just pushed one to the 7th. He had played Kg2 clearing the h-file for his rook. I overlooked his mate in two… 1.Ne7+ Kh7 and 2.Rh1+ mating. Sometimes you can be so focused on winning that you lose attention to what your opponent is doing. I feel Baginskaite’s pain.

  7. True! Like in boxing or any other contact sport, all it takes is one sucker punch and the opening and middle game strategy means NADA.

  8. Round #5 (open) Round #4 (women)
    (Saturday, 12 May 2012)

    Games beginning to mellow, yet still decisive

    Aleksandr Lenderman – Yury Shulman, ½-½
    Gata Kamsky – Varuzhan Akobian, 1-0
    Alejandro Ramirez – Ray Robson, 0-1
    Alexander Stripunsky – Yasser Seirawan, 1-0
    Hikaru Nakamura – Gregory Kaidanov, 1-0
    Alexander Onischuk – Robert Hess, 1-0

    Hikaru Nakamura playing the decisive 61.f5! against Gregory Kaidanov. From screenshot at uschesschamps.com.

    No one will accuse the U.S. Championships for being a drawfest. Eight more decisive results in the round as Hikaru Nakamura showed fine technique against Gregory Kaidanov to take possession of sole first.

    Nakamura-Kaidanov (round 5)Nakamura-Kaidanov (round 5)

    In diagram 1, he creates a front on the kingside for his king with 52.g4 to invade the flank. He followed with the battering ram 61.f5! in diagram 2 and made way for a king invasion. You can see the path here. Mission accomplished!

    Akobian tried something new, but it didn’t quite work out. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Five of the six games in the open were decisive with Lenderman-Shulman being the only draw (30 moves). Gata Kamsky got his first surprise of the game on move one when Varuzhan Akobian, an inveterate French player, played 1…e5. Akobian played a solid Berlin Defense, but he showed some discomfort in handling the position.

    After white had a huge advantage in space and pieces on optimal squares, he compromised black’s structure with the shot, 31.Nf6+! In the final stage, Kamsky coordinated his pieces and uncorked a nice combo beginning with 45.f4! Nd7 46. Be1 Rh6 47. f5! winning material. The coup de grace 50.Bg5! was a nice finish.

    Ramirez-Robson featured an interesting rook and pawn ending after a very contentious middlegame. White seem to miss a number of chances to shut the door on counterplay, but black established a nice pawn mass that created perpetual threats. White sought to undermine the pawns with 49.g4? but commentator Ben Finegold stated that this may have been a mistake.

    Ramirez-Robson (round 5)Ramirez-Robson (round 5)

    Robson found 53…g3+! clearing way for the steamrolling e- and f-pawns. (Diagram 1) and was able to push them through (Diagram 2).

    Alexander Stripunsky had a bit of fortune to avoid losing another game when Yasser Seirawan misplayed his positional advantage.

    After being outplayed, Stripunsky was able to untangle his pieces and win a piece in a most unique way. Rc5-c3-f3-f1.

    In the diagrammed position, white wins the Ba3 with the Rc3-f3-f1 maneuver. Seirawan was baffled in the postmortem and made light of the fact that his games are having unlikely results… for better and for worse.

    Robert Hess has not had one of his better outing. Having just completed his first year at Yale, he is certainly not in best form. In this game against Alexander Onischuk, he spurned a draw, but going for an ending which turned against him. White’s clumsy knights became no match for black’s fleet-footed rook.

    Standings (after Round #5)

    1st: Nakamura, 4; 2nd: Kamsky, 3½; 3rd-6th: Kaidanov, Lenderman, Onischuk, Shulman, 3; 7th-8th: Robson, Stripunsky, 2½; 9th: Akobian, 2; 10th: Hess, 1½; 11th-12th: Seirawan, Ramirez, 1.

    Iryna Zenyuk – Irina Krush, ½-½
    Viktorija Ni – Rusudan Goletiani, 1-0
    Alisa Melekhina – Anna Zatonskih, ½-½
    Sabina-Francesca Foisor – Alena Kats, 1-0
    Tatev Abrahamyan – Camilla Baginskaite, 1-0

    Viktorija Ni with an expression of relief and satisfaction. Photo by CCSCSL.

    There was nothing special going on in Zenyuk-Krush as a rather tame draw occurred on move 30. Both maintain a share of first place. Viktorija Ni took out her frustrations on Rusudan Golteiani with her first win. Goletiani collapsed nearing time control losing a piece after 26.Ne6 Nf5 (26…Rd7 loses to Rhd1) 27.Nxd8 Rxd8 28.Rxf5.

    Alisa Melekhina often discusses her dedication to chess in lieu of other activities such as law school and ballet. It is amazing since we all remember her being brought to tournaments by her father when was a preteen. Now a mature young lady, she still maintains her love for the game. Melekhina stated that she didn’t have much time to prepare for the tournament and put in half-hour during the week and an hour on the weekends.

    Despite her limited preparation, she had chances against the defending champion and tournament leader, Anna Zatonskih. Unfortunately, the game petered out to a double rook ending and her pawn plus would not prove enough to press for the full point.

    Sabina-Francesca Foisor beat Alena Kats who was probably still bubbling over her win from last round. However, Foisor caught Kats out of preparation and the 17-year old got into trouble again. Kats blundered with 19…f6? and lost an exchange after 20.Bxf6 Nxf6 21.Bxf5 Nxf5 22.Rxh8. Then tossed a piece a couple of moves later. Hopefully Kats can gain some focus in the remaining rounds. Her games (even her win) have been poorly played and for someone with her potential, she is capable of better play.

    Camilla Baginskaite has handled her situation with class. A long-time competitor from Lithuania, she has gone largely inactive from professional play and focuses more on teaching. Her result thus far may be a combination of lack of form and a bit of “bad luck” since her score is a lot worse than her play. She had serious meltdowns against Goletiani, Zatonskih and Kats, but certainly is a threat in every round.

    Abrahamyan-Baginskaite (round 5)

    Camilla Baginskaite has played better than her score, but against Tatev Abrahamyan she didn’t offer much resistance. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Against Tatev Abrahamyan, she was unable to stop a crushing attack and avert her fourth loss in a row. This tournament has proven chess to be a brutal game, but it’s a long tournament. It is players like Baginskaite that may cause problems because she will be playing without added pressure.

    Standings (after Round #4)

    1st-3rd: Zatonskih, Krush, Zenyuk, 3; 4th-5th: Foisor, Abrahamyan, 2½; 6th: Goletiani, 2; 7th-8th: Melekhina, Ni, 1½; 9th: Kats, 1; 10th: Baginskaite, 0.

  9. Round #6 (open) Round #5 (women)
    (Sunday, 13 May 2012)

    Krush moves out front in women’s… dogfight in open section.

    Gregory Kaidanov – Robert Hess, 0-1
    Alexander Stripunsky – Aleksandr Lenderman, ½-½
    Yury Shulman – Gata Kamsky, ½-½
    Varuzhan Akobian – Hikaru Nakamura, ½-½
    Yasser Seirawan – Ray Robson, 1-0
    Alexander Onischuk – Alejandro Ramirez, ½-½

    Round Six in progress! Photo by CCSCSL.

    Robert Hess broke out of his slump with a very nice win over Gregory Kaidanov after sacrificing his queen for three minor pieces. Even Kaidanov was surprised at how much of the board the pieces controlled. The veteran made an oversight on 18.Bg5? which he said was the losing move. After Hess’s 18…Rxd5! 19.Bxh7+ Kh8, Kaidanov continued 20.Nf5 Nxh7 21.Bxd8 Bxf5 and his queen was soon overwhelmed. Hess’s 33…Bd3 ended the fight.

    Stripunsky-Lenderman played a double-edged game out of the Caro-Kann. With a look of jostling for position, an unbalanced position ensued and it appeared that Lenderman had a definite edge with the passed d-pawn. White’s position was rife with weak spots, but black’s king was exposed. In the end the black king could not escape the checks and a draw was agreed.

    In Akobian-Nakamura, black repeated the same opening as a couple rounds earlier. Nakamura tweeted that he had not felt well. After the game he admitted that he did not have a chance to prepare much and chose to play something unorthodox. This game had some “pull” in the opening as 4…Bxf3!? is a unique idea seen in other openings. Akobian’s 6.d5!? caught Nakamura by surprise and he responded with active moves.

    Akobian-Nakamura (round 6)

    Varuzhan Akobian in a battle of nerves against tournament leader, Hikaru Nakamura. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Akobian had a chance to win a pawn with 11.exf7+ or 11.exd7, but Nakamura pointed out that in both lines, black had more than enough compensation. This game petered out quickly after 27.Kxd2 and Nakamura was perhaps glad to take the rest of the day off before the actual rest day. He still holds the lead.

    Showing that anyone can beat anyone in this tournament Yasser Seirawan beat Ray Robson in fine fashion to score his second win… one less than the leader. Seirawan joked that he was giving gifts to his opponents, but today he proved he understood the position deeper than his young opponent. Black tried to close the position so that his knight can exert its power, but Robson made a mistake and allowed white to get rid of the knight and advance his king to shelter the passed pawn. It was fine technique on display by the legend.

    Shulman-Kamsky was an tame English without much imbalance. An uneventful draw was agree upon at move 47. Onischuk-Ramirez also yielded nothing special as black seem to equalize easily.

    Standings (after Round #6)

    1st: Nakamura, 4½; 2nd: Kamsky, 4; 3rd-5th: Lenderman, Onischuk, Shulman, 3½; 6th-7th: Kaidanov, Stripunsky, 3; 8th-10th: Hess, Robson, Akobian, 2½; 11th: Seirawan, 2; 12th: Ramirez, 1½.

    Rusudan Goletiani – Iryna Zenyuk, 1-0
    Anna Zatonskih – Viktorija Ni, ½-½
    Alena Kats – Alisa Melekhina, 0-1
    Camilla Baginskaite – Sabina-Francesca Foisor, ½-½
    Irina Krush – Tatev Abrahamyan, 1-0

    Irina Krush moved into sole possession of first place with a nice win over Tatev Abrahamyan. The game was very dynamic, but Krush seized the initiative with 17.d5. Winning a pawn (or two), Krush battered black’s position with her rooks and her two extra pawns were enough.

    In Zatonskih-Ni, the players agreed to a draw in this juicy position. Maybe they decided to end early for Mother’s Day. 🙂

    The Zatonskih-Ni matchup featured two mothers who would be celebrating America’s “Mother’s Day” perhaps. Both appeared to lose their nurturing instincts and bolted out of the gate toward each other. The game was a Sicilian Kan and had an interesting move order with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Qd3 d5!? An interesting middlegame ensued with tremendous tension with 27…g5 28.Qe5 g4. Only five moves later, the two agreed to a draw. This result puzzled many since very few pieces had been traded.

    Hard to explain Kats-Melekhina. The game was virtually lost for white after 20 moves as there was no battle for initiative. Black was in control early, but despite the material advantage and strong attack, Melekhina could not finish the game cleanly. Finally, she was able to liquidate the game after 51…Rxf5 52. Qxf5 Qxe2+ 53. Kxg1 Bd4+ 54. Kh1 Qe1+ 55. Kg2 Qg1+ 56. Kf3 Qf2+ 57. Ke4 Qc2+ 58. Kf4 Be3+ 59. Ke5 Qxf5+ 60. Kxf5 Bg5. The game was not as close as the final position indicates.

    Goletiani-Zenyuk (round 5)

    All smiles here, but Goletiani-Zenyuk was a battle. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Goletiani-Zenyuk was a showdown between a former champion and a tournament leader. White got the better of the opening and went into the middlegame with a structural advantage. Goletiani pressed and began to increased her positional hold finally winning a pawn.

    Although the endgame featured opposite-colored bishops, black’s weakened pawns were too much of a liability and they began to fall. Finally black placed all her hopes in promoting her passed b-pawn and sacrificed a piece, but it wouldn’t be enough. Goletiani stopped the pawn and pocketed the extra bishop. She now moves to within a point of the lead.

    Standings (after Round #5)

    1st: Krush, 4; 2nd: Zatonskih, 3½; 3rd-5th: Foisor, Zenyuk, Goletiani, 3; 6th-7th: Abrahamyan, Melekhina, 2½; 8th: Ni, 2; 9th: Kats, 1; 10th: Baginskaite, ½.

  10. Analysis of Games (Round #6-open, Round #5-women)
    (post-mortem with Onischuk-Ramirez, Akobian-Nakamura)

    (post-mortem with Kaidanov-Hess, Krush-Abrahamyan,
    Zatonskih-Ni, Shulman-Kamsky)

    Videos by Macauley Petersen for CCSCSL.

  11. Nakamura, Krush lead U.S. fields

    This tournament is accented by the number of decisive games played in the open (21/36, 58.3%) and (17/25, 68%) in the women’s. There has been some combative play, but the games have had high and low points. Low points in some of the blunders that have been played, yet some beautiful chess as seen in Nakamura-Kaidanov and Kaidanov-Hess.

    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2012/05/14/nakamura-krush-lead-u-s-fields/

  12. Round #7 (open) Round #6 (women)
    (Tuesday, 15 May 2012)

    Kamsky catches Nakamura… Zatonskih catches Krush…
    pending matchups more critical.

    Fierce battles brewing!

    Robert Hess – Varuzhan Akobian, 0-1
    Ray Robson – Alexander Onischuk, ½-½
    Gata Kamsky – Alexander Stripunsky, 1-0
    Hikaru Nakamura – Yury Shulman, ½-½
    Aleksandr Lenderman – Yasser Seirawan, ½-½
    Alejandro Ramirez – Gregory Kaidanov, 1-0

    In a tournament of ebb and flows, the seventh round shows how tough such a tournament can be. Hikaru Nakamura was unable to score with his Marshall Gambit against Yury Shulman, but still maintains a share of the lead with Gata Kamsky who won his game today.

    Kamsky pulled back into joint first with a win over Stripunsky.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    Kamsky-Stripunsky was a nice positional coup for white as Kamsky played in a nice Karpovian style ultimately getting a pair of connected pawns rolling. These pawns essentially steamrolled everything in their path. Kamsky now shares joint first with Nakamura and they are due to meet in the penultimate round.

    Varuzhan Akobian ground out an instructive win against Robert Hess showing that pawn weaknesses are often fatal. After 32…Rxg5, it is amazing how white’s isolated pawns drop like flies while the unified black pawn mass rolled up the board. Eventually, black used a number of deflection tactics to out-muscle the knight and usher the pawn up the board. The final 67…Ne5+ is a common theme and fitting ending.

    Robson-Onischuk drew in a battle between a former student-teacher combination. Robson has lost three previous games to his former teacher and tried the rarely-seen Belgrade Gambit. After a long struggle, he had some chances, but Onischuk was able to play actively enough to neutralize the pawn advantage.

    Onischuk and Robson discuss their draw in the pressroom.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    One of the adages you often hear in chess is that the rook and pawns endings are the most practical to study because they happen so frequently. Lenderman-Seirawan had such a game that had the ebb and flow. Seirawan mentioned that he erred with 36…Rxa2? instead of 36…Rxf2! What he miscalculated was that 37.Rxf5 Ra5+ 38.Ke6 Rxf5 39.Kxf5 a5 40.Kxe4 and white can stop the black pawns. So instead he played 37…Rxf2, but then lost his pawn mass on the kingside. The final position had a strange pawn geometry.

    Ramirez-Kaidanov was perhaps the most exciting game of the round. Ramirez had initiated a speculative attack with 20.Bxg6!? Qg5 21.Bxh7+ (diagram 1). After this the game explodes and absolute mayhem ensues. At the end of the fierce exchanges, black has survived and white plays 32.Qxb7 (diagram 2). It appears that white would at least recover lost material and head for a draw. However, white didn’t take the rook!

    {Note: Ramirez stated the rook is immune to 33…Qe3+ 34. Kh1 (34. Rf2 Rf8) 34…Qg3 35. Rg1 (35. Bh3 Rxa8) 35…Qxh4#. However, on 34.Rf2 Rf8 35.Kh1! Qxf2 36.Qxc6 is possible.}

    Ramirez-Kaidanov (round 7)Ramirez-Kaidanov (round 7)

    Black seemed to be in control of the game with an exchange, the white king cut off and a passed d-pawn (diagram 3). However, white’s bishop was definitely the star of the game! In the finale’, the bishop set up a nice skewer when black’s rook clumsily tried to stop the streaking a-pawn (diagram 4). Unbelievable!

    Ramirez-Kaidanov (round 7)Ramirez-Kaidanov (round 7)

    It was an amazing event to see Ramirez come to the press room to say he had won when all seemed lost. Devastating loss for Kaidanov who has lost three games in a row.

    Standings (after Round #7)

    1st-2nd: Nakamura, Kamsky, 5; 3rd-5th: Onischuk, Lenderman, Shulman, 4; 6th: Akobian, 3½; 7th-9th: Robson, Kaidanov, Stripunsky, 3; 10th-12th: Seirawan, Hess, Ramirez, 2½.

    Tatev Abrahamyan – Sabina-Francesca Foisor, 1-0
    Alisa Melekhina – Camilla Baginskaite, 1-0
    Irina Krush – Rusudan Goletiani, ½-½
    Iryna Zenyuk – Anna Zatonskih, 0-1
    Viktorija Ni – Alena Kats , 0-1

    Sabina-Francesca Foisor’s menacing glare versus Tatev Abrahamyan.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    There were four decisive games. Tatev-Abrahamyan has had an up and down tournament scoring wins in every other round. Fortunately, this was the round she was due to win. Sabina-Francesca Foisor ditched her pawns to a king hunt that fished Abrahamyan’s king out in the open. Unfortunately, there was not enough pieces to aid in the attack and her steam ran out.

    Alisa Melekhina got a gift, but did not seem happy about it.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    Melekhina-Baginskaite was yet another tragedy for the veteran. Melekhina used preparation originally intended for Irina Krush and caught Baginskaite off guard. Baginskaite said that she expected more of a positional game, but was hit with a devastating attack when her king got stuck in the center.

    In Melekhina-Baginskaite, black seemed to have a very dynamic position, but her position fell apart after 23…Qc5?! 24. Qf3 (diagram) 24…Rgg5?? (saving was either the human-like 24…Rg6 25.Nd5 Re5 or computer-like 24…Qf5 25.Qxb7 Kf8) 25. Qxf6 simply drops a piece. 😐

    While black seemed to have a very dynamic position, she had a fit of chess blindness after 23…Qc5?! 24. Qf3 (diagram) 24…Rgg5 25.Qxf6. Truly a terrible blunder for Baginskaite who looked totally bewildered in the press conference. Melekhina seemed very sympathetic to her opponent.

    Krush-Goletiani was a wild affair and the two contenders flailed at each other and it appeared that this game would be decisive. Krush played 32.b4? trying to open up the queenside for an attack but Goletiani had a countermeasure despite being a piece down. With black’s attack mounting, white had to give the piece back, but was able to set up a drawing sequence with a perpetual check.

    Zenyuk-Zatonskih featured two co-leaders battling for their position in the standings. This game appeared to be roughly equal throughout but black had the benefit of the knight in a rather closed position. Zenyuk decided to trade her bishop for the towering knight at the expense of her pawn structure. Zatonskih marauded the white kingside while her queenside majority was poised to create an unstoppable pawn. When this occurred, Zenyuk had seen enough.

    Viktorija Ni found a way to keep Alena Kats reeling with a nice tactical sequence to win material (diagram 1). The game ended with a nice mating attack aided by the white king’s march to e6 (diagram 2).

    Ni-Kats (round 6)Ni-Kats (round 6)

    White played the cute 23.Nb5! winning material since 23…Qc2 is met by 24.Qd2! Qxd2 (if 24…Qc5 then 25.Rfc1! wins) 25.Nxd2 hitting the Bd6 and Rb3. Ni finished the game with 59.d6! making the way for 60.Ke6 followed by Rd7+ and Rc8 mate.

    Despite her poor showing, Kats continues to fight. It only gets tougher as she faces Zenyuk, Krush and Goletiani to close the tournament.

    Standings (after Round #6)

    1st-2nd: Krush, Zatonskih, 4½; 3rd-5th: Goletiani, Abrahamyan, Melekhina, 3½; 6th-8th: Foisor, Ni, Zenyuk, 3; 9th: Kats, 1; 10th: Baginskaite, ½.

  13. Analysis of Games (Round #7-open, Round #6-women)
    (post-mortem with Melekhina-Baginskaite, Robson-Onischuk)

    (post-mortem with Yasser Seirawan, Ramirez-Kaidanov)

    Video by Macauley Petersen for CCSCSL.

  14. Round #8 (open) Round #7 (women)
    (Wednesday, 16 May 2012)

    Kamsky, Nakamura maintain lead in thrilling fashion…
    Zatonskih-Krush still deadlocked!

    Aleksandr Lenderman – Gata Kamsky, 0-1
    Varuzhan Akobian – Alejandro Ramirez, 1-0
    Alexander Stripunsky – Hikaru Nakamura, 0-1
    Yasser Seirawan – Alexander Onischuk, ½-½
    Yury Shulman – Robert Hess, ½-½
    Gregory Kaidanov – Ray Robson, ½-½

    There were three rather uneventful draws in today’s action, so we will go right to the decisive game which were all thrilling!

    Aleksandr Lenderman made some very candid and thoughtful comments in the press conference. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Having just lost his game to Gata Kamsky, Alex Lenderman stated in the press conference that he didn’t know where he went wrong in the game. Kamsky discussed the maze of variations while Lenderman sat along quietly pondering. Perhaps white did not react quickly enough when black began his march on the queenside. This game saw the first exchange on move 17 and then the game began to pick up momentum.

    Black established a “five-pawn attack” with pawns on d5, e5, f5, g5 and h5 (diagram 1). With this he was mobilizing to make a break. After 28…g4 29. hxg4 hxg4 30. Bg2 exd4 31. exd4 Nf6 it still may not have been clear what black was attempting. However, white may have overlooked 41…Ng3! (diagram 2) when black wins a piece… and the game.

    Lenderman-Kamsky (round 8)Lenderman-Kamsky (round 8)

    Positions after 27…h5 and 41…Ng3!

    A defected Lenderman was surprised at how the game turned so quickly and made some reflective statements:

    “Very tough position for me. Basically the game got away from me somehow…the position got the better of me. So many possibilities to play for an advantage. I guess I have a lot of work to do. My understanding is not there yet…I have to hard work on my chess because it’s not there right now.”

    When Kamsky was asked about Stripunsky-Nakamura, he was told that two GMs had assessed white as being better and that white can play Bh2, g4, Bg3, h4. Kamsky looked astonished and deadpanned, “That is a very different chess from what I’m playing.” There was a roar of laughter throughout the room and the quote soon buzzed around Twitter and chess chat rooms.

    Kamsky stated that white had no counterplay, bishop and queens were misplaced. He then rattled off the plan of Bc7, Qb8 and f5. “White is completely lost,” asserted Kamsky. This shows the different level of chess understanding between 2700s and others.

    Stripunsky-Nakamura (round 8)Stripunsky-Nakamura (round 8)

    In Stripunsky-Nakamura, black executed Kamsky’s exact plan and after 37…f5 (diagram 1), it was clear that white was much worse. Immediately the e5-pawn is a target, white’s Bb5 is out of play as well as the Qh5, white’s rooks are uncoordinated. With grim assessment, white decided to stir up things and played 41.Bxd4!? (diagram 2) White would get two pawns but sacrificed more material to create addition passed pawns. It was clear that Stripunsky would rely on his passed pawns to overpower the rook.

    Stripunsky-Nakamura (round 8)

    GM Hikaru Nakamura battling against Alexander Stripunsky.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    White was able to get four passed pawns including two connected on the a- and b-files. Still black was holding well until white had another thought… 62.Rxd5! and after 62…exd5 63. b5, the five passed pawns looked like menacing “Space Invaders” (diagram 3). Nakamura seemed a bit unnerved, but kept his composure. After 65. g6 Rb8 66. a7 Ra8 67. g7 Ke6 68. Kxf3 Kxe5 69.d7 (diagram 4). The white pawns were separated and no longer posed a threat. Stripunsky played a few more moves before resigning.

    Stripunsky-Nakamura (round 8)Stripunsky-Nakamura (round 8)

    Varuzhan Akobian is now primarily as a positional player, but he must’ve eaten some spicy food the night before. After Alejandro Ramirez avoided prepartion with 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. d5 b5, Akobian decided on the Trompowsky Attack with 4. Bg5.

    In the post-mortem, the players discussed some weird lines such as 8.b4!? where black has two dangerous pawns for a piece after 8…cxb4 9.Ne4 b3+ 10.Ned2 b2 11.Ra2 a3. However, the game would take another turn, just as crazy.

    Black played some provocative moves in 11…g5!? and this was countered by white’s own 15.g4!? Ben Finegold was making a comment about how many of the games features the moves g4 or …g5. After a series of exchanges, the game heated up further when white played 23.Bxh7!

    Black later countered with his own sacrifice on 27…Bxh3 when it appeared that black had an attack. However, white grabbed the piece and the king sprinted for the queenside to escape the endless checks. After the checks ran out, black gave up.

    Standings (after Round #8)

    1st-2nd: Nakamura, Kamsky, 6; 3rd-5th: Onischuk, Akobian, Shulman, 4½; 6th: Lenderman, 4; 7th-8th: Robson, Kaidanov, 3½; 10th-11th: Seirawan, Hess, Stripunsky, 3; 12th: Ramirez, 2½.

    Alena Kats – Iryna Zenyuk, ½-½
    Camilla Baginskaite – Viktorija Ni, ½-½
    Anna Zatonskih – Irina Krush, ½-½
    Rusudan Goletiani – Tatev Abrahamyan, 1-0
    Sabina-Francesca Foisor – Alisa Melekhina, 1-0

    WFM Alena Kats

    WFM Alena Kats attempting to finish strong.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    In the women’s field, there were three interesting draws with Kats-Zenyuk being the longest. This game featured a lot of parrying and jousting, but results in a minor piece battle in the end. Black seemed slightly better with the two bishops and better pawns, but the game went into a rook and pawn ending and nothing would come of it.

    Baginskaite-Ni was a Benko Gambit and it appeared that white was able to neutralize black’s queenside play. The a-pawn was looking very dangerous and white had a bind, but lost her edge when she lost the pawn to a knight tactic and was forced to enter a series of trades resulting in a completely drawn position.

    Zatonskih-Krush (round 7)

    Anna Zatonskih vs. Irina Krush was the marquee matchup in the women’s field. It turned out to be anticlimactic (½-½, 31). Photo by CCSCSL.

    Zatonskih-Krush was the game that everyone was anticipating, but it did not have the content that everyone was waiting for. The game was drawn in 31 moves.

    In Goletiani-Abrahamyan, black had outplayed her opponent until she waded into time pressure and panicked after 35.f6!? In this position, she erred with 37…Qc8?? after which white played 38.Re7! winning material.

    Rusudan Goletiani is chasing both Krush and Zatonskih for the title and her win against Tatev Abrahamyan helped. Abrahamyan was aggressive and won a pawn, but white went for the kingside attack beginning with 25.f5. There was certainly nothing for black to be concerned about, but Abrahamyan begin to fall into time pressure.

    Then came the move 35.f6!? shredding black’s kingside, white was on the prowl and began to make dangerous threats. Then black blundered on 36. Qxh5 Bd7 37. Re2 Qc8?? and after 38.Re7! white is winning material. Black decided to donate the queen for a rook, but resigned in a few moves.

    Foisor-Melekhina was a King’s Indian Saemisch where white was able to out-muscle black on the queenside. Black’s king ditched the knight trying to defend it, sprinted up the board and tried to eat the kingside pawns before white could react. It wouldn’t be enough as the white knight came back into play and put an end to black’s queening ambitions.

    Standings (after Round #7)

    1st-2nd: Krush, Zatonskih, 5; 3rd: Goletiani, 4½; 4th: Foisor,4; 5th-8th: Abrahamyan, Melekhina, Ni, Zenyuk, 3½; 9th: Kats, 1½; 10th: Baginskaite, 1.

  15. Analysis of Games (Round #8-men, Round #7-women)

    (post-mortem Seirawan-Onischuk, Zatonskih-Krush,
    Lenderman-Kamsky, Kaidanov-Robson)

    (post-mortem Akobian-Ramirez…
    thrilling ending of Stripunsky-Nakamura)

    Videos by Macauley Petersen for CCSCSL.

  16. Round #9 (open) Round #8 (women)
    (Thursday, 17 May 2012)

    Nakamura held, Kamsky bolts into lead in fine style…
    Zatonskih-Krush both win…still deadlocked!

    Hikaru Nakamura – Aleksandr Lenderman, ½-½
    Gata Kamsky – Yasser Seirawan, 1-0
    Ray Robson – Varuzhan Akobian, 1-0
    Alexander Onischuk – Gregory Kaidanov, 1-0
    Alejandro Ramirez – Yury Shulman, ½-½
    Robert Hess – Alexander Stripunsky, 1-0

    Standings (after Round #9)

    1st: Kamsky, 7; 2nd: Nakamura, 6½; 3rd: Onischuk, 5½; 4th: Shulman, 5; 5th-7th: Akobian, Robson, Lenderman, 4½; 8th: Hess, 4; 9th: Kaidanov, 3½; 10th-12th: Seirawan, Ramirez, Stripunsky, 3.

    Irina Krush – Alena Kats, 1-0
    Rusudan Goletiani – Anna Zatonskih, 0-1
    Viktorija Ni – Sabina-Francesca Foisor, ½-½
    Tatev Abrahamyan – Alisa Melekhina, 1-0
    Iryna Zenyuk – Camilla Baginskaite, ½-½

    Standings (after Round #8)

    1st-2nd: Krush, Zatonskih, 6; 3rd-5th: Foisor, Goletiani, Abrahamyan, 4½; 6th: Ni, 4; 7th-8th: Melekhina, Zenyuk, 3½; 9th: Baginskaite, 2; 10th: Kats, 1½.

  17. Round #10
    (Friday, 18 May 2012)

    Nakamura turns on “beast mode”… beats Kamsky for sole 1st!

    Yasser Seirawan – Gregory Kaidanov, 1-0
    Alexander Stripunsky – Alejandro Ramirez, 1-0
    Aleksandr Lenderman – Robert Hess, ½-½
    Yury Shulman – Ray Robson, ½-½
    Varuzhan Akobian – Alexander Onischuk, ½-½
    Gata Kamsky – Hikaru Nakamura, 0-1

    Today was the last rest day for the women.

    Hikaru Nakamura’s win over Kamsky effectively puts him in the driver’s seat. Photo by CCSCSL.

    In what was the most anticipated game of the tournament, Gata Kamsky squared off with Hikaru Nakamura in a battle of the two frontrunners. Nakamura’s Najdorf gave an indication that this would be a gladiator battle.

    Kamsky responded with the rather tame yet solid 6.a4 line which has more of a positional feel and can transpose into a number of lines. Unfortunately for Kamsky, the opening yielded him no advantage and black equalized easily.

    As black was beginning to invade on the queenside, white decided to sacrifice a queenside pawn with 22. Bb3?! (diagram 1) Bxb3 23. cxb3 Qxb3 for kingside momentum. Later on after 25.Nh2, Nakamura discussed the idea of taking a second pawn with 25…Nxc3!? with the possibility of trading his queen for two rooks, but wasn’t sure of the clarity.

    Kamsky-Nakamura (round 10)Kamsky-Nakamura (round 10)

    Positions after 22.Bb3 and 34.Nxb7

    The game heated up further when white sacrificed the exchange with the idea of dominating with the knights and perhaps winning another queenside pawn. (diagram 2) As white gained some pressure on the queenside, Nakamura decided that knight was getting compensation and sacrificed the exchange back to gain a streaking a-pawn after 41…Rxd5 (diagram 3) 42. exd5 Bxa5.

    Kamsky-Nakamura (round 10)Kamsky-Nakamura (round 10)

    Positions after 41.Rxd5 and 50…Kg7 (final position)

    Kamsky was unable to coordinate his pieces for attacking the king and his checks ran out. (diagram 4) Thrilling battle! With this win, Nakamura will virtually guarantee himself at least a tie for first. Kamsky will need to win against Robert Hess to force a playoff.

    Alexander Stripunsky has seen his fortunate go from bad to worse with another loss against Alejandro Ramirez… who has been playing well the last few rounds. Stripunsky trotted out the “Chameleon” which and after 4.g3 evolved into a slow King’s Indian Attack. Ramirez countered aggressively clustered his pieces on the queenside.

    As Stripunsky aimed his knights at the kingside and then decided to launch a barrage of sacrifices to attack the black king. On 26. Ng4 h5 27. Nxh5 gxh5 28. Re5!? Rxf6! 29. Nxf6+ Qxf6 30. Rxh5 Bg7, black had defended and had two knights for a rook. White’s two bishops were virtually shut out of the attack and when black mobilized his pieces, the rout was on and Stripunsky would resign by move 43.

    Varuzhan Akobian still in the hunt for an Olympiad spot.
    Photo by CCSCSL.

    In Seirawan-Kaidanov, white’s Catalan yielded nothing and a truce was signed after 29 moves. In Lenderman-Hess, this Catalan also produced no decisive result, but had a bit more pull in the position. It appeared that black had a slight initiative at some point, but apparently not enough to play for a win. Draw in 37. Akobian-Onischuk also ended placidly in 33 moves.

    Shulman-Robson had some interesting tactics in the opening after 14. Nxc5 Bg4 15. f3 Bxf3 16. Nd7 Bxe2 17. Rf2 Bd3. White would win the exchange, but perhaps got a bit too overzealous and black began to race the a-pawn for a queen. White sacrificed back the exchange to win a piece nicely with 45. Rgxd6+ Nxd6 46. c4+. However black was able to advance his pawn to a2 and set up a drawing fortress. The game would conclude on the 88th move with a pending king vs. king position.

    Standings (after Round #10)

    1st: Nakamura, 7½; 2nd: Kamsky, 7; 3rd: Onischuk, 6; 4th: Shulman, 5½; 5th-7th: Akobian, Robson, Lenderman, 5; 8th: Hess, 4½; 9th-10th: Kaidanov, Ramirez, 4; 11th: Seirawan, 12th: Stripunsky, 3.

  18. I would guess that Kamsky has been the subject of the lion share of Nakamura’s preparation, and vice versa.

  19. Round #11 (open) Round #9 (women)
    (Saturday, 19 May 2012)

    GM Hikaru Nakamura, 2012 U.S. Champion

    GM Hikaru Nakamura: 2012 U.S. Champion

    Hikaru Nakamura – Yasser Seirawan, 1-0
    Ray Robson – Alexander Stripunsky, ½-½
    Alejandro Ramirez – Aleksandr Lenderman, 0-1
    Alexander Onischuk – Yury Shulman, ½-½
    Gregory Kaidanov – Varuzhan Akobian, 0-1
    Robert Hess – Gata Kamsky, ½-½

    With Hikaru Nakamura in the driver’s seat, he sat down against Yasser Seirawan the the chance to guarantee a share of first with a draw. However, he decided to play for a win with the atypical “French-killer” 1.e4 e6 2.f4!? Seirawan said in the press conference that he had never faced this approach and seemed to have trouble coming up with a strategy.

    Nakamura played 8. Bd3!? instead of the natural 8.d4 which gives black a good version of the French. The key moment of the game was when Nakamura played 10.Bxf5 and black had to decide on the pawn capture. After 10…gxf5, Nakamura stated that this may have been the losing move (strategically).

    Nakamura played the winning 36.e6! with a unique mating attack.

    Seirawan stated that he was tied down to the weakened h-pawn while Nakamura was crashing through on the queenside. Thus, his position was cut in two and dysfunctional. Black’s position became so pourous that Seirawan referred to it as a sieve. Nakamura illustrated this with 30.e6! and black loses material.

    This may have been the tournament to prove that Ray Robson has come of age. Robson will be a freshman at Webster University this fall and thus will remain in the St. Louis area to further his education and chess aspirations. In Robson-Stripunsky, black played the Kan variation and handled the system very strangely, but was able to keep a dynamic balance. Onischuk-Shulman was a classical King’s Indian that ended in an unceremonious draw in 33 moves.

    Hess-Kamsky (round 11)

    Gata Kamsky could not overcome Robert Hess. At this time, Nakamura had already won his game against Yasser Seirawan to clinch the title. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Gata Kamsky, playing black, needed a win against Robert Hess if he was going to have a chance to pull even with Nakamura. However, Nakamura won rather quickly and all attempts by Kamsky were rebuffed. In fact white was a little bit better in the middlegame, but the game then petered out quickly. Kamsky was complimentary of Nakamura’s victory and it appears that any tension the two players have shared is virtually gone.

    Two other decisive games to conclude the U.S. Championship were with Varuzhan Akobian still fighting for a spot on the Olympiad team. He had the black pieces against Gregory Kaidanov who was trying to close the tournament on an upbeat note.

    The game entered a Nimzo-Indian and Akobian began probing the kingside with 18…Rg6. After 19. Bxe4 fxe4 20. d6 Rxg2+! (diagram 1) setting up a virulent attack after 21. Kxg2 exf3+ 22. Kh1 Qh4. Akobian cut off several white pieces from the defense of the king and set up a “rover” with 25…Re8.

    Kaidanov-Akobian (round 11)Kaidanov-Akobian (round 11)

    After 26. Rg3 Re6 27. Rcg1 hitting g7, black was undeterred and play 27…Rh6! On 28. Rxg7+ Kf8 29. Rg8+ Kf7 30. R1g7+ Kf6 31. Kg1 Qxh2+ 32. Kf1, black but off the remaining forces with 32…Rg6! (diagram 2) and white resigned after 33. Rxg6+ hxg6.

    Alex Lenderman closed out his tournament in fine style beating Alejandro Ramirez in a Caro-Kann. This game went into a mainline with 4…Bf5, but instead of 6.Nf3 white played 6.N1e2. However the other strange move was 16.Ke2? After that black was on the prowl and drew the white king out as far as f5. White had to sack a piece to prevent a mating net. Lenderman scored the full point and ended on +1.

    It is not certain how the Olympiad team will fair, but Nakamura, Kamsky and Onischuk are in. Perhaps Akobian will also make the trip.

    Final Standings

    1st: Nakamura, 8½; 2nd: Kamsky, 7½; 3rd: Onischuk, 6½; 4th-6th: Akobian, Lenderman, Shulman, 6; 7th: Robson, 5½; 8th: Hess, 5; 9th-10th: Kaidanov, Ramirez, 4; 11th-12th: Seirawan, Stripunsky, 3½.

    Camilla Baginskaite – Irina Krush, 0-1
    Alena Kats – Rusudan Goletiani, 0-1
    Alisa Melekhina – Viktorija Ni, 0-1
    Anna Zatonskih – Tatev Abrahamyan, 1-0
    Sabina-Francesca Foisor – Iryna Zenyuk, 0-1

    All decisive games today in the women’s field. Both Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush won their last round games to remain locked in a tie for first and thus will play a rapid playoff match to determine the overall champion.

    After Baginskaite got counterplay, Krush begin reeling, but then found the final coup de grace in 39…g5 setting up a mating attack.

    In the last round, Baginskaite-Krush, white attempted to catch black off guard with some novel opening play, but Krush was prepared and countered actively. White continued to drum up tactics, all safely repelled. Finally, white got careless and got one of her rooks trapped.

    Foisor went for the win against Zenyuk with the Trompowsky Attack, but the game was positional grind. The first piece was exchange with 19…Nxd2, but the board suddenly exploded with black unfurling a raging attack on the white king.

    A tactical skirmish ensued, but black maintained the stronger tactical position by virtue of white’s exposed king. Black finally used her connected passed pawns to build an mating attack and after 40…Re2+ white was being mated. Nice!

    zatonskih-abrahamyan (round 9)

    Anna Zatonskih kept pace by beating Tatev Abrahamyan. Photo by CCSCSL.

    Anna Zatonskih had to keep pace with Krush, but faced a determined Tatev Abrahamyan. The Armenian-born opponent had not had consistency in the tournament, but was coming off of a win over Alisa Melekhina. Zatonskih ended up dominating this account and 26.Rc6! was perhaps the move to seize the initiative. With white tightening the grip, black decided to trade to relieve pressure.

    After white domination on the queenside, black abandoned that lost fight, threw pieces in white’s path and went for a kingside attack. However, the black battery was not strong enough. After white sacrifice material back and retreated the queen, black had no reasonable chances and resigned on move 40.

    Kats-Goletiani was a classical Sicilian battle where black had to counter white’s flank attack with a central thrust.

    Kats-Goletiani (round 5)Kats-Goletiani (round 5)

    We see that white has gotten the pawns rolling with 16.g5 (diagram 1), but black goes 16…Nxe4 17. Bxe4 dxe4 18. Be3 Bb4 to remove the crucial attack on c3. After 19.f6 black played solidly and then later faced 25.g6 (diagram 2). Kats was going for mate, but she was rudely rebuffed. Krush consolidated her position and won a superior ending. Instructive way of handling pawns launched at your king.

    Alisa Melekhina had a rather solid result, but the tournament ended disastrously and she let a completely winning position turn for the worse against Viktorija Ni.

    Final Standings

    1st-2nd: Krush, Zatonskih, 7; 3rd: Goletiani, 5½; 4th: Ni, 5; 5th-7th: Foisor, Abrahayam, Zenyuk, 4½; 8th: Melekhina, 3½; 9th: Baginskaite, 2; 10th: Kats, 1½.

      Anna Zatonskih – Irina Krush, 0-1
      Irina Krush – Anna Zatonskih, 1-0

      Krush wins 2-0. Wins rapid playoff!

      Playoff Game #1

      Playoff Game #2

      Videos by Macauley Petersen for CCSCSL.

      IM Irina Krush

      IM Irina Krush: 2012 U.S. Women’s Champion

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