With the exception of a single draw between two closely rated opponents, the higher-rated player won every game in the first round of the 2012 U.S. Championship.
Top seed Hikaru Nakamura blew the dust off his opening books, trotting out the hoary Evans Gambit against Robert Hess. In return, Hess sent the game even further into obscurity by employing the Stone-Ware Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bd6!?). It looks disgusting, but has been tried by some elite players including Alexander Grischuk. Further, the ...Bd6 concept is known from other openings as well, including the Spanish Four Knights.
Anyway, Nakamura had enough for the pawn, which Hess soon returned, and had been gradually increasing his advantage when he played 26.Bd5. Hess was a pawn down but maybe not yet lost when he came up with the tactically flawed plan of 26...Qb6, aiming to regain the pawn with ...Qb1+ and ...Qxa2. The good news is that Hess did regain the pawn, the bad news is that it got him mated.
I have to admit that I find Gata Kamsky's chess inscrutable. Now, in saying that I'm not immodestly claiming to understand everything that goes on in the games of other top players; of course not. But generally speaking, I've got a pretty good sense of what they're doing - not an infallible sense, and understanding x doesn't mean that one can successfully do x, either. Maybe I can't hit their high notes and my voice isn't as rich and powerful, but I can carry the melody. With Kamsky's chess, I'm often tone-deaf!
That isn't meant as an insult in any way; it's just a confession. I remember a match I played some years ago with a player roughly my rating. After the match, I admitted to my opponent that I couldn't guess any of his moves (at least it seemed that way); to my surprise, he told me the reverse: he guessed all (or at least almost all) of mine! The oddity of the story is that I won the match by a convincing margin and dominated most of the games. (Overall though, we were very close in strength; if I was better, it wasn't by much.) So to sum up: generally understanding what a player is up to doesn't mean that one can play as well as that person, and not generally understanding that player doesn't automatically indicate that the one lacking understanding is weaker.
The reason for that story, aside from a desire to express some thoughts, was to say that I found the first part of Kamsky's win over Alejandro Ramirez baffling. It looked like he met Ramirez's Kan Sicilian in a very routine and accommodating way, not doing anything to make Black's life difficult. He built up slowly, allowed Black to achieve ...b5, retreated pieces to the back rank, and took time out for prophylactic moves like 17.b3 and 20.h3. And yet after 22.Nxf4 he was comfortably better, and after 22...Qh4?! 23.Nd5 his advantage was serious. Ramirez sacrificed the exchange for a pawn, but it wasn't enough. Kamsky was grinding him down and was well on the way to victory when Ramirez blundered a piece with 38...Bf5??
In other games, Varuzhan Akobian ground down Yasser Seirawan on the white side of a Queen's Gambit Declined, Alex Lenderman won a long and complicated Russian System Gruenfeld against Ray Robson (again with White), Yuri Shulman drew a long Bogo-Indian with Gregory Kaidanov, and then there was this:
Alexander Stripunsky - Alex Onischuk:
1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.g3 Nd7 7.Qe2 d4N 8.Nb1 h5 9.h4 g5 10.hxg5 Qxg5
11.d3?? and White resigned without waiting to see what would happen next.
Round 2 Pairings:
Seirawan (0) - Hess (0)
Ramirez (0) - Nakamura (1)
Robson (0) - Kamsky (1)
Onischuk (1) - Lenderman (1)
Kaidanov (1/2) - Stripunsky (0)
Akobian (1) - Shulman (1/2)