2005 US Chess Championship

Round Nine
1   GM Hikaru Nakamura  
  GM Ildar Ibragimov
2   GM Alexander Goldin  
  GM Alex Stripunsky
3   GM Sergey Kudrin  
  GM Gregory Serper
4   GM Yury Shulman  
  GM Gata Kamsky
5   GM Gregory Kaidanov  
  IM Renier Gonzalez
6   GM Boris Gulko  
  GM Julio Becerra
7   GM Alexander Onischuk  
  GM Dmitry Gurevich
8   GM Varuzhan Akobian  
  GM Aleks Wojtkiewicz
9   IM Eugene Perelshteyn  
  GM Joel Benjamin
10   GM Alex Yermolinsky  
  Salvijus Bercys
11   GM Larry Christiansen  
  IM Yury Lapshun
12   GM Alexander Fishbein  
  IM Dmitry Schneider
13   IM Levon Altounian  
  FM Lev Milman
14   IM Blas Lugo  
  GM Igor Novikov
15   GM Alexander Shabalov  
  IM Irina Krush (w)
16   FM Marcel Martinez  
  GM Alexander Ivanov
17   GM Nick DeFirmian  
  FM Joshua Friedel
18   FM Stephen Muhammad  
  IM Ben Finegold
19   FM Dmitry Zilberstein  
  IM Cyrus Lakdawala
20   IM Stanislav Kriventsov  
  IM Ron Burnett
21   GM Walter Browne  
  FM Matt Hoekstra
22   WGM Rusudan Goletiani (w)  
  WGM Anna Zatonskih (w)
23   FM Bruci Lopez  
  FM Michael Casella
24   FM Robby Adamson  
  WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (w)
25   IM Jesse Kraai  
  WIM Tsagaan Battsetseg (w)
26   FM Tegshuren Enkhbat  
  FM Fabio La Rota
27   GM Anatoly Lein  
  WIM Jennifer Shahade (w)
28   Jake Kleiman  
  Chouchanik Airapetian (w)
29   Tatiana Vayserberg (w)  
  WFM Laura Ross (w)
30   Iryna Zenyuk (w)  
  WIM Esther Epstein (w)
31   Vanessa West (w)  
  WFM Anna Levina (w)
32   WIM Anna Hahn (w)  
  WFM Olga Sagalchik (w)

The "Terminator" checks in!

What a championship! What a finish! What games!

What's amazing is that there is more to come. In what has truly been a revolutionary tournament, today will cap off a storybook ending and perhaps a rejuvenated tournament for years to come.  Both
Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander "The Terminator" Stripunsky have played inspired chess clearly besting the field of 64. Nakamura has proven yet again that he will soon be America's #1 player… he will only get better.  He has also impressed with his fighting spirit and will to win every single game.

In his last round encounter with Ildar Ibragimov, Nakamura already knew that he needed to win because Stripunsky had just disposed of Alexander Goldin in an exciting brawl. In fact, had Goldin found proper responses to the onslaught on his king, Stripunsky would have had to settle for no more than a draw. Since there is no such thing as luck in chess, fate is what it is and Stripunsky scored the point and get a playoff date with Nakamura.

In the
Goldin-Stripunsky battle, the game was a Center Counter which has been employed by several players in this tournament (including Nakamura). The idea may be to avoid opening preparation of familiar opponents.  However, Stripunsky got a powerful attack after sacrificing the exchange (diagram #1).

Stripunsky got this attack out of the Center Counter!

Stripunsky got this attack out of the Center Counter!

With pieces bearing down on his king (diagram #2), Goldin threw pieces in the path of the train to stop from being run over, but missed his opportunity in 40.Nxg7! (diagram #3). With no shelter to dream of, Goldin's king was run into the open board where the black queen would then offer the killing blow (final position). 

Sweet Sixteen amongst the Final Four!

The Nakamura-Ibragimov battle was hard to call because no one knew what was going on. In about as strange a variation of the French as one will see (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.Na3!? cxd4 7.cxd4 Nf5 8.Nc2 Qb6 9.Be2 Bb4+ 10.Kf1), Nakamura went for the early attack by rushing his kingside pawns towards the black king.  After beating back the attack, Ibragimov had given up an exchange for a massive pawn center.

As the pawn avalanche starting to roll down the board, Nakamura had to play actively to avoid being crushed. His 38.b4! (diagram #1) undermined the pawn mass and allowed him to penetrate black's camp (diagram #2). The pro-Nakamura crowd at the Internet Chess Club was at a loss as to how to evaluate the position. Even Grandmasters were confused as to who was winning.

Many felt Ibragimov's scattered pawns would be too much for the rook to chase down. At a crucial point, many of the moves became forced, but it was looking like a draw. Nakamura tried 45.f4?
(diagram #3-right) which would have been a disaster had Ibragimov found 45…exf4+ 46.Kxf4 e2 47.Re7 Kf8 48.Re5 Bb5! (diagram #4). This line was pointed out at the ICC and many players were groaning at the prospect of Nakamura losing.

Crucial moment… Nakamura played 45.f4? Ibragimov missed the winning line.

Crucial moment… Nakamura played 45.f4? Ibragimov missed the winning line.

However, in such an intense game, it easy to miss moves that would otherwise be easy to spot for a Grandmaster. Ibragimov played the main variation, but instead of 48…Bb5! he erred (big time) with 48.a5? with the idea of creating yet another passed pawn. After 50…a3, the next several moves were forced and Nakamura was able to front the black pawns with his king while high-stepping his own a-pawn into the endzone for a touchdown(final position). Ibragimov resigned.

Both Nakamura and
Tatev Abrahamyan will vie for the championship today in two 25m + 10s games. Rusudan Goletiani beat Anna Zatonskih to win the right to face Abrahamyan. The 2003 U.S. Championship had one tiebreaker in the women's section, but this tournament will have two resulting in an exciting climax. At 16, both hope to make it a "sweet sixteen" party. It will be an appropriate birthday gift for Nakamura who turns 17 on the 9th of this month.   (See newsbriefs about playoffs).

Round #9 Information Center

Selected Games

GM Hikaru Nakamura - GM Ildar Ibragimov, 1-0
GM Alexander Goldin - GM Alexander Stripunsky, ½-½
GM Alexander Shabalov - IM Irina Krush, 1-0
WGM Rudasan Goletiani - WGM Anna Zatonskih, 1-0
FM Robby Adamson - WFM Tatev Abrahamyan, 0-1

PGN download (all 32 games)

The Chess Drum

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