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    Entries in 2015 U.S. Championship (13)

    Friday
    May012015

    Nakamura Recaps His U.S. Championship Win

    Here.

    Sunday
    Apr122015

    U.S. Championships, Round 11: Nakamura and Krush are the Champions

    Congratulations to both Hikaru Nakamura and Irina Krush are in order. They won the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women's Championship, respectively, and pocketed some nice coin along the way as well - $45k for Nakamura and $20k for Krush.

    Nakamura entered the last round half a point ahead of Ray Robson, and that's how he ended it too. Robson's game finished after Nakamura's, but that Robson would win was clear early on. He faced Timur Gareev, who has been playing somewhat eccentric chess throughout the tournament; today, he went completely out of orbit and left the solar system. Gareev is a great player whose FIDE rating reached a high of 2682 a couple of years ago, so his managing to achieve a lost position with white in just nine moves should be chalked up his having too much talent rather than too little. The game lasted 31 moves, but the final result was seldom if ever in doubt.

    In the meantime, Alexander Onischuk managed to equalize against Nakamura pretty comfortably, and was probably just a few precise moves away from making a draw. Had he done so, Nakamura would have had a rapid playoff against Robson on Monday. Instead, Onischuk made a few little inaccuracies, got in trouble, and then was lost - all within a space of six or seven moves. The fatal moment came for Black when he played 27...Nxf2, which was a tactical blunder. Instead, 27...Rb6 would have led to a double rook ending where White's extra pawn would give him the ability to torture Black for many moves to come, but not probably not win against correct defense. After 27...Nxf2 28.Nd4 Nh3+ Onischuk probably missed Nakamura's 29.Kh1!, winning (at least) an exchange, and he resigned two moves later.

    Nakamura thus finished in clear first with 8/11, Robson in clear second with 7.5 points, and in clear third was Wesley So with 6.5 after another strong win, this time against Kayden Troff. It's to So's credit that he finished so well, and it's to his relief (I hope) that the final margin was such that even if So had defeated Akobian he still would have finished half a point behind Nakamura.

    In the remaining games, Shankland drew with Akobian, Naroditsky drew with Kamsky and, perplexingly, Sam Sevian beat Conrad Holt. It's difficult to be certain about this, in part because the live commentary ended shortly after Nakamura's win and most of what we have to go by is the very fallible result (probably) generated by the DGT boards. Here's the data I have: the tournament website's crosstable and the broadcast board on Chess24 both give the result as a win for Sevian. Moreover, the broadcast board shows Black (Holt) having no time, which offers a reasonable explanation. But look at the game itself: absolutely nothing happened from move 52 until move 99, when Holt finally decided to push his a-pawn up a square to avoid a coming 50-move rule claim, and a move later he lost on time in an absolutely safe position two pawns ahead. If they had been playing without an increment then sure, things like this can happen, but with 30 seconds added after every move Holt must have just lost track of the clock. This is possible, but it's also possible that he just decided that playing the position out was pointless and agreed to a draw, and they didn't bother to stop the clock afterward and/or the kings were put on the wrong squares in the center, at least momentarily.

    We're in rich tangent territory here, and I'll indulge a bit before turning briefly to the women's championship. If it turns out that this is just another DGT error, it might be time to hire some unemployed people to picket that company's headquarters until they make some sort of design fix. But rather than beat that dead horse, here's a new topic: why did the English-language commentators, who were on site, quit their broadcast so early? I'm not sure if the culprit is the St. Louis club or Yasser Seirawan, but this happened all tournament long. I'm sure the Sinquefields are paying him well; is it too much to ask that he (and Jennifer Shahade & Maurice Ashley) actually stay for the entire time? It is frankly incredible to me that the Spanish-language commentary coming from a Chess24 studio in Europe more than once outlasted the on site English-language commentary team based at the tournament site itself. Even if Yaz & crew didn't stick around for all 100 moves of Sevian-Holt, they didn't have to pack their bags when just two of the six games in the open section had finished. The St. Louis club is doing some great things for chess in the United States, but there are some things they could do better - and this is one of them.

    Turning back to the game itself, I should note one especially interesting moment, which would have preempted all of this discussion. Holt was better almost all the way, but a big slip on move 26 gave Sevian the chance to finish in style. 27.Nf5! would have won, threatening 28.Qh8+ followed by 29.Rh7#. The main variation runs 27...exf5 (creating a flight square on e6) 28.e6! (preventing the king from running, after 28...Qxe6 the flight square is gone) 28...Qg7 29.Kf2 (threatening Rh1 followed by Rh8+, mating) and wins. Black must play either 29...Nd8, when after 30.e7! he's going to lose practically everything (30...Qe7 31.Rh8+ followed by 32.Rh7+, 33.Rxe7(+) and 34.Qxb7), or he plays 29...Bf/d7 30.Rh1! Bxe6 31.Rh8+ Kf7 32.Qc7+! Ne7 33.R8h7, when one funny finale is 33...Rbe8 34.Qe5! with mate in three.

    As for the strange way Holt lost - if he lost - it reminds me of one of my luckiest wins ever. After making a huge error in a game where I was clearly better, I had to go into a bad ending a pawn down against a strong expert (approximately 2140 USCF). There were many further adventures in the game, but I somehow reached an ending with king and rook against my opponent's king and queen. This is a theoretical win for the queen, of course, but finishing off the rook isn't trivial against good defense. (Walter Browne initially failed to defeat a computer in that ending in a specially arranged challenge, and years later Peter Svidler once famously failed to win this ending against Boris Gelfand in a crucial FIDE knockout world championship match, in a rapid playoff.) Unfortunately for my opponent, he had only seven seconds to win it, but with a five second time delay every move. (That is, there was a five second grace period each move before the seven seconds would start ticking off.) He made most of his moves without losing any of his time, but at one point he burned five of his "real" seconds, and then around 25 moves into the endgame he spent his last two seconds, and lost. It was a difficult situation for my opponent: just making moves would have been easy, but to make progress against good defense one must concentrate. And once one really concentrates, how does one remember to move?

    So perhaps something like that happened to Holt. Another topic for discussion: should he have kept playing that ending against Sevian, after not making a shred of progress for 48 moves? Normally I'd say that he had carried out the appropriate desire to fight for a win a bit too far, but something important was at stake: a place in the World Cup this September. I'm not sure what the tiebreak situation was in case of a draw: Troff, Holt and Sevian would have all had 5 points and only one last spot was available. (Shankland also had 5 points, but had already qualified from another event.) If Holt had won, the spot would have been his; instead, it's the 14-year-old Sevian who has qualified, along with Nakamura and So (by rating), Shankland (from the American Continental Championship), and Robson, Onischuk, Akobian, and Kamsky from this event.

    Time for a few words about the women's championship. Irina Krush led her closest rivals by a full point entering the last round, and needed only a draw with white against one of them - Katerina Nemcova - to seal the deal. This she managed to do in an efficient and expeditious manner, and she has now won her 7th U.S. Women's crown and fourth in a row. Very impressive! - but it's not the record. Gisela Kahn Gresser (1904-2000) won it nine times from 1944 to 1969; an especially impressive feat considering that she didn't even learn how to play until she was in her 30s! Krush, by contrast, only turned 31 in December, so the odds are very good she will exceed Gresser's mark and then some before she decides to call it a career.

    Saturday
    Apr112015

    U.S. Championships, Round 10: Nakamura and Krush Lead Entering the Final Round

    The open and women's events aren't over and the favorites (Hikaru Nakamura and Irina Krush, respectively) - who are also the leaders - haven't yet clinched. They are both in fine shape entering the final round on Sunday and look likely to finish as champions.

    Nakamura had an extremely important game today, taking on Ray Robson with the black pieces. Robson was, and is, only half a point behind, so this was a major opportunity for him. Alas, there wasn't much excitement in the game. Robson played 1.e4 and Nakamura decided to play solidly with 1...e5. Feeling relatively empty-handed against the Berlin, Robson opted instead for the Scotch Four Knights. That was probably even less successful than a Berlin would have been--if anyone was better after the opening it was Nakamura, and while Robson may have obtained the tiniest of edges later on it was a pretty routine and easy hold for the leader.

    Still, some drama remains. Robson is still only half a point behind, and if he can win against Timur Gareev in the final round (albeit with the black pieces) while Alexander Onischuk manages to hold Nakamura to a draw, there will be a playoff. In fact, a three-person playoff is possible. Onischuk beat Sam Sevian convincingly, and with the win moved to within a point of the leader. Thus if he beats Nakamura (not likely, at least/especially because he'll have black) and Robson draws his game, all three will move on to playoffs on Monday.

    The situation could have been even more interesting had Wesley So not been forfeited in round 9. Today So bounced back marvelously, winning a very impressive game with black against none other than Gata Kamsky. Had he drawn with Varuzhan Akobian yesterday he would have been tied with Onischuk for third, and of course if he had won he'd be tied with Robson. As things stand, however, he's out of the running. (It should be mentioned that if Kamsky had won, he'd have been tied with Onischuk.)

    In the women's championship, Krush is suddenly leading by a full point entering the last round. She had been trailing Katerina Nemcova all event long, only catching up to her after round 9, but now she has jumped ahead. Krush won pretty easily against Jennifer Yu, while Nemcova lost to Paikidze (who also beat Krush!) - albeit somewhat unnecessarily. Nemcova was better most of the way - at times seriously better - but got careless about her king's safety and went from clearly better to simply lost in the space of about four moves.

    Krush has 8/10, and both Nemcova and Paikidze have 7 points apiece. Krush will have white against Nemcova in the last round, while Paikidze has white against Foisor. Thus the women's championship could also finish in a two- or even three-person playoff on Monday, but only if the slumping and lower-rated Nemcova can defeat the surging Krush. Not likely, but you never know.

    Finally, an addendum to yesterday's post about So's forfeit. I cited an article that included allegations that Paul Truong played some role in creating an emotionally disturbing atmosphere around So. Truong has responded on his Facebook page (HT: Allen Becker), to which I link in the interest of fairness.

    Saturday
    Apr112015

    U.S. Championships, Round 9: A Shocking Forfeit

    I've been playing in and observing chess events of all sorts and levels for 35 years, and have read about dozens, probably even hundreds of other matches and tournaments from the present going back more than 100 years before my birth. In all that time and in all my experience, both firsthand and secondhand, I've never heard of anything like what happened in round 9 of the U.S. Championship.

    What happened? Wesley So was forfeited after just six moves of his game against Varuzhan Akobian for writing notes to himself on a separate piece of paper under his scoresheet. That this is forbidden is known to the overwhelming majority of amateur players; it's almost inconceivable that a professional wouldn't know this - especially a player (who was) in the world's top ten. Stranger yet, So had already been warned twice about this earlier in the tournament by Chief Arbiter Tony Rich, and his doing it a third time led to his forfeiting the game. Apparently he was only jotting down words of self-encouragement and advice, e.g. to double-check his variations, but it's against the rules of chess all the same.

    So was not born in the U.S. and presumably isn't a native English speaker, but his grasp of the language is more than sufficient to understand the arbiter's earlier warnings. Clearly there's more to the story, and it is alleged in this article (HT: Allen Becker) that So has been suffering psychological pressure from his family and perhaps from Webster University's Paul Truong as well. Let's hope for his sake as a human being first and as a chess player second that he can work through those problems and find stability in his personal life. As for the rest of the championship, hopefully he can get through it without any further incidents and get his world back in order.

    As for the chess, Hikaru Nakamura maintained his half-point lead over Ray Robson leading into their head-to-head matchup on Saturday. Nakamura was surprised when Timur Gareev met 1.Nf3 with 1...b6, but despite having played Owen's Defense hundreds of times in blitz on the black side he didn't handle it very well with the white pieces. Nakamura was worse, and was a bit fortunate that Gareev grabbed a second pawn and allowed Nakamura to force a draw by repetition. Robson also drew, with Black in a Scheveningen Sicilian against Sam Sevian. In fact, all the players anywhere near the lead (except for So) drew their games; the only win involving chess moves occurred in the game Daniel Naroditsky vs. Conrad Holt. Naroditsky played very well, and won his first game of the event.

    In the women's section, Irina Krush has caught up to Katerina Nemcova with two rounds to go; they'll play in the last round. Krush had some enduring pressure against Tatev Abrahamyan, but the game was headed for a draw until Abrahamyan played 34...b3?, which lost. (Instead 34...Qc1, both allowing the queen to defend and to give some annoying checks, or 34...h6 to give Black's king a flight square, would have kept full equality.) Krush found a very nice and precise series of moves to win, including the easily missed 38.Qe5+. Meanwhile, Nemcova was better for much of her game with Viktorija Ni, but it never reached decisive proportions and the game was eventually drawn. Paikidze is a point back after beating Yu, and plays Nemcova in round 10. Nemcova will have White, while Krush will have Black against Yu. In the last round Krush has the white pieces vs. Nemcova, so since Krush is a huge favorite against Yu in round 10 Nemcova will have to push very hard for a win against Paikidze to maintain a reasonable chance of winning the tournament.

    Friday
    Apr102015

    U.S. Championships, Round 8: Nakamura Again Alone in First

    Hikaru Nakamura again leads the U.S. Championship by himself, but it's not yet a breakaway. He leads with 6/8, good for a half-point lead over Ray Robson and a point and a half advantage over the trio consisting of Gata Kamsky, Wesley So and Alexander Onischuk.

    Nakamura's win came with Black at Kayden Troff's expense, in convincing style in a Modern Benoni. I haven't looked at the theory of the Fianchetto System against the Modern Benoni in a while, but I don't recall seeing this play with 10.Re1 followed by 12.e4. Maybe it's not bad, but White is usually concerned to keep Black's knight from reaching the g4 square. Whatever the merits of Troff's plan, nothing too serious happened until Troff's 24th move. Unfortunately for the youngster, the move he chose gave him a lost position; Nakamura's pieces had too many squares available for the attack. Instead, the feistier 24.Nc4 was called for, after which the chances would be roughly level.

    Robson started the round level with Nakamura, and with the white pieces against Sam Shankland would presumably have a decent chance to end the round the same way. Alas, it was not to be, and he was probably losing in the middlegame. Shankland seemed to let Robson off the hook when he played 27...axb3, as Robson was better able to use the c-file than his oppponent. Black's advantage was minimal after that, and the game was drawn soon after the time control.

    The other really major game of the day so Conrad Holt beat Wesley So. As usual in Holt's games, the opening preparation went pretty deep, and it looked like both players were well-prepared. The game really turned on one move: So's 20...b5? This just gave up a pawn (and harmed his position) while not giving him any more play than he had before the pawn sac. Instead, the natural 20...Re8 (preparing to double rooks and/or play ...f4) would have resulted in a tactically rich but objectively equal position (so says the engine, anyway).

    In other games, Akobian and Kamsky drew a short, clean game, while Timur Gareev won with great ease against Sam Sevian. Sevian offered a very naive defense, and Gareev made him pay pretty badly. Finally, Onischuk won a nice positional game (praised by Anish Giri) against Daniel Naroditsky, who has been suffering mightily in this tournament. The fate of Black's light-squared bishop in this game was especially brutal, and the game is worth replaying if only to have a look at the finale.

    In the women's section, Irina Krush won against Alisa Melekhina to close to within half a point of the leader, Katerina Nemcova, who only managed to draw against Sabina Foisor.

    Thursday
    Apr092015

    U.S. Championships, Round 7: More Craziness

    This year's U.S. Championships have been full of excitement and blood on board, and have been more competitive than most fans expected. Today Hikaru Nakamura drew again, pretty comfortably with the black pieces against Sam Sevian. He has 5/7 and leads, and that's not a surprise. What is a surprise is that he has a co-leader, and it's not Wesley So or even Gata Kamsky. It's Ray Robson, who defeated Daniel Naroditsky with Black in an 85-move marathon to reclaim a share of first. Naroditsky had been losing for a long time, but well into the second time control managed to get back into the game - only to be outplayed a game and finally lose. It has been a very hard event for Naroditsky, who is in last place with just 1.5 points, but he's young and strong and will return with a vengeance.

    As for Wesley So, he's back in the hunt after a win against Alexander Onischuk. Onischuk was fine until his 28th move (28...h6 was better) and especially his blunder on move 30, when ...h5 had to be played. It's hard to know what Onischuk missed, especially since he had time on his clock and spent more than nine minutes on his 30th move. With the win, So has 4.5 points and is in clear third, half a point behind the leaders.

    Kamsky beat Conrad Holt in what Fabiano Caruana praised as a model game of exploiting the bishop pair, while Kayden Troff defeated Varuzhan Akobian after the latter's blunder on move 23. Kamsky and Troff have 4 points apiece, as does Sevian. Finally, Sam Shankland beat Timur Gareev to get back to an even score.

    In the women's championship, top seed and defending champion Irina Krush won convincingly against Annie Wang, but is still a point behind the leader, Katerina Nemcova, who ground out a tough win against Apurva Virkud. Nemcova now has 6/7 to Krush's 5.

    Rusudan Goletiani could and should have had five points as well, as she was winning against Anna Sharevich, but on the last move of the time control she blundered with 40.e4?? (39 moves too late). 40.Rxf7 instead was a very easy winner: 40...Qxd5+ (forced) 41.Qxd5 Rxd5 42.Rxg7+ Kf8 43.Rxg6 Rxe5 and now I think 44.Rxh6 Rxe3 45.Kg2 Rxb3 46.Rb6 should win, but if White deems this inadequate she can play 44.Rf6+ followed by 45.Rf3 instead, which definitely wins. After 40.e4??, she was soon mated.

    Paikidze is in third with 4.5, and Goletiani and Abrahamyan are another half a point behind.

    Wednesday
    Apr082015

    U.S. Championships, Round 6: More Upsets

    It was not a good day for the favorites in the U.S. Championship, with the top three seeds scoring a grand total of half a point between them. The leader, Hikaru Nakamura, came out of the opening against Sam Shankland, but it wasn't long before it had disappeared and Shankland had the edge. Periodically the evaluation would revert to equality and then back again in Shankland's favor, and in fact when the draw was agreed Shankland again had a slight edge.

    Thanks to the draw Nakamura remains in clear first with 4.5/6, half a point ahead of Ray Robson. Robson leapfrogged Wesley So, whom he defeated in a see-saw game. Robson was better for most of the first 25 moves, but when the game sharpened So outplayed him in the complications and was apparently on his way to a win. So had a great opportunity on move 25 with the double sacrifice 31...Rxb7! 32.Qxb7 Bd5 33.Qc7 Bxg2! The bishop can't be taken, but if it's not then it will play a major role in what should be a decisive attack on White's king. Even after missing that chance Black was better, but errors on moves 34-36 gave Robson a winning advantage he converted a few moves later.

    Meanwhile, no sooner had Gata Kamsky made his way into the chase with a win in round 5, his first victory of the tournament, did he fall back to the pack by losing in round 6. Kamsky played a Chebanenko Slav against Alexander Onischuk, quickly surrendering his "bad" light-squared bishop to achieve a solid, Fort Knox-like position without any bad pieces. Unfortunately for Kamsky, Onischuk did a very nice job of making his bishop pair count, opening the board and saddling Black with pawn weaknesses. The nature of White's advantage kept changing, but the fact of that advantage was a constant. Most of the time it was substantial in magnitude. Although Kamsky put up a lot of resistance, Onischuk was finally able to break him down and grind out the win in 88 moves.

    Onischuk now has 3.5 points, and is tied for third with Wesley So and Sam Sevian, who won again today. His opponent, Kayden Troff, was better and even winning for most of the first part of the game, and still wasn't losing until his 47th move. 47.Kg3 was a serious mistake - something like 47.h3 should have been preferred. The point is that after 47...Rd6 48.Rd6 Rxc7 White can play 49.Rxd6 when his king is on f3 but not when it's on g3, as in the latter case there's 49...Rg7+. (In the former case 49...Rf7+ 50.Rf6 is equal.) A technical task remained for Sevian, and he was up to the challenge.

    In the other two games, Conrad Holt defeated Varuzhan Akobian in a messy battle, and Timur Gareev and Daniel Naroditsky had a short and safe draw.

    In the women's championship the leader, the surprising Katerina Nemcova, managed to extend her lead over Irina Krush to a full point. Nemcova beat Jennifer Yu with the black pieces, while Krush was unable to cash in a winning advantage against Anna Sharevich and only drew. Nemcova has 5/6, a point ahead of Krush and Rusudan Goletiani, who defeated Apurva Virkud with Black. Paikidze and Abrahamyan are a further half a point behind, so at least for now the rating favorite (Krush) is anything but a runaway favorite to pick up her 7th U.S. women's championship title.

    Monday
    Apr062015

    U.S. Championships, Round 5: The Favorites Triumph

    The top seeds, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, regained their momentum today at the U.S. Championship, and occupy the two top places after five rounds, entering the first rest day.

    Nakamura essayed the Dragon against Daniel Naroditsky, and went for a surprising ...Rxc3 sacrifice. That kind of sac isn't so surprising, but as Nakamura's version involved a queen trade and didn't include the usual compensating pawn it was riskier than usual. The computer wasn't impressed by the sac, but then humans aren't computers. Naroditsky didn't maintain an advantage for very long, and when he decided to return the exchange in hopes of achieving a safe position he must have miscalculated something. 28.e5 was pretty much a blunder, and while it's hard to believe Naroditsky could have played it intending to follow up with 29.Bxe5, not seeing 29...Bh6 until it was too late, it's also hard to see what he thought he'd have after 29.Rxe5. Anyway, returning the exchange only exacerbated White's problems, and a flurry of tactics soon forced Naroditsky's resignation.

    So also won, defeating Timur Gareev on the white side of a Fort Knox French, with Gareev offering a funny twist with 9...h5. That didn't work out too badly, and Gareev was still only slightly worse by his 20th move. Unfortunately, the plan he chose with 20...Qb8 followed by 21...e5 wasn't so good, and while So didn't play perfectly he obtained the upper hand and never released it.

    So thereby reached 3.5/5, half a point less than Nakamura. With a draw, Ray Robson would tie with So, while a win would keep him in a tie for first. Instead, he lost to Gata Kamsky, leaving both players in a tie for third place. Robson outthought himself in the opening, and chose 2...d5 rather than his usual 2...g6, aiming for the Gruenfeld. His reasoning was that Kamsky always avoids mainstream theory, opting instead for lines like the London System. Robson felt that 2...d5 would be better there, only to be surprised when Kamsky played 3.c4 and headed for "normal" theory. Robson managed to keep a decent position until around move 30 or so, but that forced him to burn a lot of time. As the time control drew near and time pressure increased, Robson couldn't keep up with Kamsky's level of play, and the veteran obtained his first win of the tournament.

    The tie for third has a third player, Kayden Troff, who was unbelievably lucky against Conrad Holt, who is apparently one of his customers. Troff had a 4-0 score against Holt coming into the game, but he was totally outplayed in the opening and losing by move 13. Holt had his first chance to put Troff away on move 16 with 16.Qa3!, taking e3 away from Black's queen and preparing Bc7. Instead, he played 16.Bc7, which let Troff fight on with 16...Qe3! 19.Be6 was another error (19.Qc2!), after which the game was equal. It was only a few moves later that Holt again enjoyed a winning advantage, and he maintained it to and past the time control on move 40 as well. All Holt needed was to keep alert and make a few more accurate moves, and his two extra pawns and the terrible Black king would give him the full point.

    On move 43, Holt could have played 43.Kf3, 43.Kh1 or even the taunting moves 43.Kg1 and 43.Kf2. Instead, thinking to end the game by stopping the checks, he played 43.Kh3??? This succeeded in both aims: it did end the game, and it did stop the checks. Unfortunately for him, the way the game ended wasn't what he had in mind. Troff played 43...g5!, threatening 44...Qh6#, and to White's misfortune and Black's incredible good luck, there was no way for White to stop the mate that didn't walk into some fork or other. If White played 44.g4, Black would have 44...Qh6+ 45.Kg3 Nf1+, forking the king and queen. If instead 44.Qd6+, then 44...Qxd6 45.Rxd6 g4+ 46.Kh4 and then 46...Nf5+ picks up the rook on the fork. Holt tried 44.Rd6, but once again it was time for a fork: 44...g4+ 45.Kh4 Nf5+. Holt played three more moves and resigned in understandable disgust.

    The other two games (Akobian-Onischuk and Shankland-Sevian) were drawn, so let's turn to the women's championship. Here too, the key decisive game saw the winner enjoy a bit of spectacular luck on the way to victory. Irina Krush was falling prey to a great attack by Rusudan Goletiani, and had Goletiani played the naive and obvious 22...dxe5 she would have been well on the way to a victory. Instead, she got too clever by half with 22...Bxg2??, missing the neat rejoinder 23.Rh5! Qxh5 24.Qd4+!, forcing Black to either trade queens or play 24...Kg8, taking the g8 square from Black's rook. Either way, Black's attack was over and White enjoyed a non-trivial winning advantage. Krush slipped up and let Goletiani back into the game a few moves later, but near the time control Black returned the favor. Krush regained the advantage, this time for good. As a result Krush moved to 3.5/5, within half a point of Katerina Nemcova, who drew with Tatev Abrahamyan.

    Saturday
    Apr042015

    Recap of Everything: Women's World Championship, Aeroflot and the U.S. Championships

    (Not literally everything, of course; that might take a while.)

    The women's world championship tournament could have come to an end today, and it was close. Natalia Pogonina lost the previous game and needed to make something of her last white in game 3. After a very complicated opening resulted in a middlegame where Pogonina had a piece for three pawns, it seemed that she had the better chances for a good while. To keep and try to grow that advantage, she needed to try f4-f5 at some moment - on move 29, for example - in order to open lines for her extra piece and to clear f4 for the knight. When she delayed too long her opponent, Mariya Muzychuk, was able to lock up the white pieces and steadily encroach into her opponent's territory. I don't know if she was ever winning, but she was close. Pogonina's 43.f5 was perhaps a case of better late than never: it didn't offer her any winning chances by this point, but it had some of the same virtues as before; in particular helping the sidelined knight from h3 return to the fray. White soon returned the piece, and although she didn't get all three of her pawns back she was still able to save the game. Tomorrow Pogonina will have to win with Black to force tiebreaks; otherwise, it's over and Muzychuk is the new world champion.

    About the Aeroflot Open I will say very little. Only this: Daniil Dubov defeated Lu Shanglei in the last round to tie for first with Ian Nepomniachtchi, who only drew his game. Unfortunately for Dubov, Nepomniachtchi had the better tiebreaks, which meant the latter won the big prize: qualification to the Dortmund super-tournament at the end of June.

    On to the U.S. Championships. Today the marquee matchup took place between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, and it was a dramatic game. So was doing alright until his 28th move, 28...g5, which he regretted the moment Nakamura played 29.f4. This gave White a significant edge, but it didn't last long. After 29...gxf4 30.Qf2 Nh4 Nakamura blundered with 31.Bxf4?/??, missing the shot 31...Nf3+. In a move Nakamura went from clearly better to clearly worse, but despite a prolonged bout of head-shaking he kept his concentration and defended well. So enjoyed a tax-free extra pawn in the endgame, but Nakamura managed to reach a rook ending. All rook endings are drawn, according to the ancient wisdom of our forebears, so Q.E.D. In fact, all six games on the "men's" side were drawn. Nakamura and Robson remain the co-leaders with 3/4.

    In the women's section there were only two draws. One was round 3 co-leader Rusudan Goletiani's game against Paikidze. That allowed Katerina Nemcova to take over clear first with 3.5/4, thanks to her win with Black against Alisa Melekhina. Goletiani is in clear second, while Paikidze, Irina Krush (who defeated Apurva Vikud) and Sabina Foisor (who defeated Annie Wang) have 2.5 points. Tatev Abrahamyan won her second straight game, and she has 2/4.

    Friday
    Apr032015

    U.S. Championships, Round 3: Upsets and Stumbles Aplenty

    Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So are scheduled to play tomorrow, in round 4, and for most of the round it looked like they'd face each other with perfect scores on the line. Instead, the U.S. Championship is now without any perfect scores as Wesley So lost what had been a winning position against Sam Sevian while Hikaru Nakamura let Gata Kamsky escape with a draw.

    Nakamura is still tied for first place, but now with Ray Robson. Robson defeated Conrad Holt to reach 2.5 points, and joined Sevian as the day's only winners. Alexander Onischuk should have been a third winner, but a moment of carelessness allowed Kayden Troff to escape with a draw. (Akobian - Gareev and Naroditsky - Shankland were also drawn.)

    Being the top seed didn't do much for Irina Krush in the women's championship either, as she was mauled by Paikidze. Krush has 1.5/3, a point behind Rusudan Goletiani and Katerina Nemcova.