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    Entries in 2015 U.S. Championship (13)

    Thursday
    Apr022015

    U.S. Championships, Round 2: The Favorites Win

    It was another strange day at the U.S. Championships. The main event is led by the two favorites, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, and both are 2-0. Nakamura won pretty cleanly against Varuzhan Akobian, and while he played it down in the postgame interview I think the rest of us find it noteworthy that he is now #2 on the live rating list. Not bad at all! Also not bad is Wesley So's position at #5 on that same list. (If only Fabiano Caruana - now #3 - would also represent the U.S. What an Olympic team that would be!) However, while So won, the manner of his victory will leave him anything but satisfied. He was repeatedly winning against Sam Shankland, and repeatedly gave that advantage away. The game was a horror show, and it culminated in a bizarre blunder by Shankland on the final move, in a position where he was probably within sight of the draw. The less said about this game, the better, so let's move on to other action.

    Ray Robson is alone in third place with 1.5/2 after a draw with Alexander Onischuk, and then five players have a point apiece, including Akobian and Onischuk. A third is Gata Kamsky, who drew a good fighting game with Sam Sevian. The fourth one-pointer is Conrad Holt, who bounced back from yesterday's loss to defeat Timur Gareev, and the fifth player with a 50% score is Kayden Troff, who won convincingly against Daniel Naroditsky.

    In the women's section Irina Krush won pretty easily against Viktorija Ni, while Tatev Abrahamyan was crushed by Alisa Melekhina. The win of the round was Katerina Nemcova's attacking effort against Anna Sharevich, culminating in mate on move 29. Sharevich played very poorly, in my humble opinion, but sometimes that's not so much a matter of bad form as it is the result of playing an opponent who drags you into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position. Either way, Nemcova played very well and won a pretty game. She is tied with Krush for first with 1.5/2, along with Apurva Vikud and Rusudan Goletiani.

    Wednesday
    Apr012015

    The U.S. Championships, Round 1: A Bumpy Start

    Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So both won in round 1 of the U.S. Championship, and in Nakamura's case it was a very quick win. Nevertheless, neither player is likely to feel satisfied with their performance. Nakamura stood seriously worse coming out of the opening against Conrad Holt, and was perhaps even lost. The key moments came on moves 22 and 25, and it's possible that they formed a single unit. Holt could have played 22.Bh5 (intending Bg6) or 22.Ng2, with a big advantage either way. Instead, he played 22.Bf1?, and after 22...Bd3 23.Bh3 Nc2 24.Be6+ Rf7 played 25.Nf5??, which is pretty nearly the worst move on the board. It's a logical move with a creative idea: if Black plays 25...Nxa1 White's attack smashes through after 26.Nxg7. Unfortunately for Holt, Black has 25...Ne1, which essentially wins on the spot. Black threatens both 26...Qg2# and 26...Nf3+ picking up the queen, and the fundamental problem for White is that retracting the last move with 26.Nh4 walks into 26...Qg2+! 27.Nxg2 Nf3#. Rather than have that combination get published everywhere Holt preferred to give knight checks on e7 and g6 before resigning.

    Unlike Nakamura, So came out of the opening in great shape. The problem was that he kept letting his opponent, Daniel Naroditsky, slip away after getting a serious advantage. Fortunately for So, Naroditsky got himself into the soup a third time with the mistaken exchanging combination starting with 32...Nexc4, and this time there was no escape.

    In other games, third seed Gata Kamsky got nothing against Sam Shankland, and they split the point after 30 moves. Alexander Onischuk also got nothing with White against Timur Gareev and also eventually drew, but unlike the Kamsky-Shankland game Black (Gareev) had pretty good winning chances along the way.

    The other two games finished with a winner. Ray Robson had an easy day against Kayden Troff, whose 19...d5? introduced a long forcing sequence that ended with 28.Bxh1. I have no doubt that Troff calculated to that point, so he must have seriously misevaluated the resulting position. White's bishop pair and queenside pawns proved stronger than Black's rook and kingside pawns, and Robson won pretty comfortably. Finally, Varuzhan Akobian tortured Sam Sevian for a long time, and finally managed to grind out the full point.

    In the women's section, the top two seeds also stumbled, but in their games this made an impact on the scoretable. Irina Krush was fortunate to escape with a draw against Sabina-Francesca Foisor, while Tatev Abrahamyan could not be rescued after 24.Qf2? axb4 25.Rxf6??, and she lost to Annie Wang. It's not an auspicious start, but with ten rounds to go there's certainly enough time for her to recover from the defeat. Round 2 is tomorrow.

    Tuesday
    Mar312015

    The U.S. Championships Start Tomorrow (Wednesday)

    The semi-retired Gata Kamsky has won the last two U.S. Championships, but in neither event did he have to overcome U.S. #1 (and now world #3) Hikaru Nakamura. In this year's U.S. championship, he'll not only have to outperform Nakamura, but world #8 Wesley So as well. On the women's side, Irina Krush will be going for her 27th straight title (give or take...it'll be "just" her 7th title and fourth in a row, if she wins). For some reason her main rival, 4-time champ Anna Zatonskih, isn't playing, so her toughest opposition may come from Tatev Abrahamyan.

    Play begins each day at 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis = 2 p.m. ET. The pairings will be determined tonight, and both tournaments are 12-player round-robins. Sticking to the men's event, what do you think: Nakamura, So, or the field?

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