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    Entries in Alejandro Ramirez (3)

    Tuesday
    May142013

    Kamsky Wins U.S. Championship in Playoff

    Alejandro Ramirez had a great tournament and gave Gata Kamsky a run for his money, but in the end experience prevailed as Kamsky won the U.S. Championship by finally defeating his opponent, in the Armageddon game. Before that they played a pair of 25-minute games, and while Kamsky was better in each he simply couldn't put his opponent away. Ramirez proved himself an adept defender, as indeed he also did in their classical game in round 8.

    After the draws, it was time for the Armageddon game, and as you may recall from previous U.S. Championships they do things with a twist there. As usual, the player getting Black receives draw odds, meaning that if the game finishes in a draw he wins the playoff. The twist comes in how they determine who gets what color. The player with White, whoever it ends up being, gets 45 minutes (plus a 5-second increment after every move; Black also gets the 5-second increment). But who gets Black and how much time Black will have is determined by a bidding process: both players secretly write down how much time they would be willing to have to play with the black pieces, and the low bidder gets his wish. Kamsky bid 20 minutes, and Ramirez, simulating ESP, bid 19 minutes and 45 seconds. (I suppose if he really had ESP he'd have gone for 19 minutes and 59 seconds, but the point was that it was a clever bid.)

    In the rapid games Ramirez handled the concrete play quite well, and was able to move quickly in those situations. In the Armageddon game, Kamsky tried a different tack, basically holding the position, avoiding exchanges and trying to gently suffocate the black pieces. This proved very effective, as Ramirez lacked the time to keep solving the more vague problems being posed. Eventually Ramirez fell very short of time, and then the moment was right for Kamsky to initiate concrete play. Without enough time to work out the problems, Ramirez lost ground, lost material, and finally lost the game. Still, it was a great performance, and in addition to $20,000 and a bunch of rating points, he clearly earned Kamsky's respect, too.

    As for Kamsky, he netted $30,000 and his fourth U.S. Championship title. Intriguingly, he was rather subdued after winning, and expressed himself as somewhat disappointed that one of the young guns didn't win. He still seems intent on retiring once he turns 40, and wants to see the future of U.S. chess in good hands. It seems to me that things are going in the right direction, but it will be a pity for American chess (though of course, not necessarily for Kamsky himself) if he really does follow through with his planned retirement. Anyway, congratulations to him, to Alejandro Ramirez, and to Irina Krush for picking up her 5th women's championship the day before.

    Monday
    May132013

    U.S. Championships, Round 9: Krush Wins the Women's Title; Kamsky and Ramirez Need a Playoff

    In the women's championship, Irina Krush came into the last round needing only a draw against Camilla Baginskaite to seal clear first, and that's just what she got. She played it safe, but even within those self-imposed parameters she managed to outplay Baginskaite and win a pawn. That should have been enough to win, and under normal circumstances I suspect she would have closed the deal. Perhaps overly excited about clinching tournament victory, she got a bit careless and allowed her opponent some counterplay. Wisely, she decided to regain her bearings, reset her sights, and offer a draw. It was accepted, and her resulting score of 8/9 won the event (and $18,000), half a point ahead of Anna Zatonskih, who defeated Sabina Foisor in the last round. Tatev Abrahamyan took third with 6.5 points. (Full standings here.)

    In the main event, Gata Kamsky could have clinched clear first with a win over Ray Robson, but although he seemed close to winning Robson managed to keep just enough activity to sneak out with a draw. That left the door open for any one of three players to catch him: Alejandro Ramirez (who faced Larry Christiansen), Alexander Onischuk (facing Kayden Troff) and Conrad Holt (whose opponent was second-seeded Timur Gareev). Two failed, but one succeeded.

    Onischuk had the white pieces and a big rating advantage against Troff, but despite that never came close to winning. The game was drawn, and Troff secured his first GM norm - not bad for anyone, especially for someone who turned 15 less than a week ago!

    Holt had a crazy game with Gareev that should have ended in a draw, but perhaps Holt wanted so desperately to win that he rejected a simple drawing continuation a few moves before the finish. I don't know that it was the last drawing chance, but it was certainly the easiest: 77...Qxd5 78.Bxd5 Nf5+ followed by 79...Nd4 and then capturing the b-pawn. Maybe he missed it, or maybe he hallucinated and forgot that 78...Nf5 was check (if it weren't check, White would have Be4, pinning and winning). Or, as I suggested above, he wanted to go for the win at all costs. Whatever the story, he didn't manage to catch Kamsky.

    Ramirez did, however, to his own surprise and delight, outplaying Christiansen and finishing with a nice attack in an ending with heavy pieces. Ramirez (who incidentally became a GM at 15) will have a playoff match with Kamsky tomorrow/today (Monday) at 12:00 noon St. Louis time, and they will play two 25-minute games. If it's tied after that, then they will have a bid Armageddon game.

    (Full standings here.)

    Wednesday
    May092012

    2012 U.S. Championship, Round 2: Six Lead With 1.5/2

    To put it in a sentence, all five of yesterday's winners drew while one of yesterday's "drawers" won. Thus Nakamura, Kamsky, Akobian, Lenderman and Onischuk (the last two with each other) all drew while Kaidanov won, and so all six lead the 2012 U.S. Championship with 1.5 points. Hess and Shulman have a point apiece, Ramirez and Robson each have half a point, and Seirawan and Stripunsky have castled kingside (0-0).

    Ramirez - Nakamura was a Fianchetto Gruenfeld that wound up drawn. Nakamura outplayed Ramirez and won the exchange, but with a somewhat exposed king he had to be accurate to convert it into a win. The crucial moment came when he played 35...Kf7?; 35...Kh7! 36.Bxh6 Qf3 37.Be3 f4!! was the path to victory. In the final position Ramirez could have played for a win, but decided to call it a day.

    Robson - Kamsky saw the latter choose the unusual 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 b6. I don't know if Kamsky believes in this or felt it was good for a one-time try, but it worked. Indeed, he seems to have acquired an advantage, but 22...Qxb4 more or less allowed a forced draw. 22...Nxe4 is an attempt for more, when White must try either 23.Ba3 or 23.Qh6 to stay afloat.

    Onischuk - Lenderman was a "correct" draw in a Ragozin system. White had a very small pull for a long time, but Black gradually managed to neutralize the pressure and hold the game.

    Akobian - Kaidanov was another instance of the correct draw genre, a sort of Chebanenko Slav where Black temporarily sacrificed a pawn, only to win it back a few moves later and reach a dead drawn ending.

    Kaidanov - Stripunsky was a sort of Catalan/Semi-Slav hybrid. White gambitted a pawn for long-term pressure, and it paid off when Black played 24...Be6 rather than 24...Rb6. Black was soon forced to give up his queen, as 27...Nd7 28.Ne7+ Kh8 29.Rd4 (threatening the stock mating combination 30.Qxh7+ Kxh7 31.Rh4#) 29...h6 30.Bxd7 Bxd7 31.Qd2 wins a piece while maintaining an overwhelming position. In the game, Stripunsky's 27...Qxd1+ 28.Qxd1 Bxf5 29.Qd4 Rd8 30.Qxa7 gave White a queen for a rook and knight, which wasn't enough. He put up a lot of resistance, but Kaidanov never let him off the hook, and converted in 53 moves.

    Finally, Seirawan - Hess was a 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian where Seirawan pushed and pushed and finally overpressed. 27.Ng3, keeping Black's queen out, would have given him an edge, while Qd1 on move 28 or 30 would have kept approximate equality. Perhaps Seirawan missed Hess's 31...Rb3, after which White was down a pawn for nothing. Soon it was two pawns, and Hess converted it into a full point without difficulty.

    Round 3 Pairings:

    Shulman (1) - Seirawan (0)
    Stripunsky (0) - Akobian (1.5)
    Lenderman (1.5) - Kaidanov (1.5)
    Kamsky (1.5) - Onischuk (1.5)
    Nakamura (1.5) - Robson (.5)
    Hess (1) - Ramirez (.5)

    Ramirez - Nakamura, with some notes, can be replayed here.