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    Entries in Gata Kamsky (30)

    Saturday
    May112013

    U.S. Championships, Round 8: Kamsky, Krush Lead Entering The Final Round

    Gata Kamsky has been leading the U.S. Championship from the start, but hasn't quite managed to slam the door on his pursuers. Today he had the second seed, Timur Gareev, on the ropes thanks to a pair of sound extra pawns. Gareev shed them going for a desperate counterattack, and it worked well enough for him to save a draw. The key moment came on move 32, when Kamsky was faced with the threat of ...Nf3+. There were four sorts of ways to deal with the threat: move the king, move the rook, defend the f3 square or counterattack (e.g. the rook on c6 or the queen on e7). The third and fourth options were pretty good (e.g. 32.Re3 or 32.Qe7), and the second - moving the rook - was best of all, at least if the move was to d1. Kamsky chose the first option, which lost most of his advantage. It's a natural move, because then one no longer has to worry about ...Nf3+, whether it involves a fork or not. The drawback was that f2 lacked protection, and when Gareev finally managed play 36...Qxf2 the position was a forced draw, as was elegantly demonstrated in the game's conclusion. A good save by Gareev, but he remains a full point behind Kamsky.

    Had there been a winner in the Alejandro Ramirez-Alexander Onischuk contest, that person would have caught Kamsky in first. They drew quickly though (not by design, I'm sure), and Kamsky kept his edge. They remain tied for second (half a point behind), and they were caught there by Conrad Holt. Holt beat Joel Benjamin, taking advantage of his passed c-pawn after Benjamin chose 22...Rf8(?) rather than the necessary 22...Rc8. Holt would have kept some chances after the latter move, but probably not enough to win. After 22...Rf8 the c-pawn survived, and Holt combined its advance with threats to the black king to finish the job.

    Leading Round 9 Pairings:

     

    • Robson (4.5) - Kamsky (6)
    • Ramirez (5.5) - Christiansen (5)
    • Gareev (5) - Holt (5.5)
    • Onischuk (5.5) - Troff (4.5)

     

    The women's championship saw Irina Krush face a major test, and she passed it convincingly. Tatev Abrahamyan was within a point and had the white pieces against Krush. Her big chance! Krush has long been a very well-prepared player though, and today she produced an early novelty in the trendy "Brazilian Taimanov" with 12...Bb7. (12...Ne5 is the usual move, though Black has tried several other moves as well.) Maybe White's best is to take on c6, but Abrahamyan's 13.Bd3 doesn't look ideal. White meets 12...Nxd4 with 13.Qxd4, but that's impossible here, so Krush took on d4, then kicked the bishop with ...e5 (and thanks to the bishop on b7, there's no Nd5 to worry about) and then planted the offside knight on f4. Maybe now Abrahamyan should have played 16.h4, keeping the g-pawn, but maybe she was worried about 16...Bb4. It's funny that in many Sicilians White is frightened, and properly so, of the exchange sac with ...Rxc3 - sometimes even when Black doesn't get a pawn for further compensation. In the Taimanov, however, exchanging lines of the form 1...Bxc3 2.Qxc3 Qxc3 3.bxc3 rarely concern White, even though Black ruins White's pawn structure without sacrificing anything.

    Abrahamyan kept some compensation for a long time, though never quite enough, but then the game took a sharp tactical turn on move 41. Had Krush played the safe 41...Rg7 she would have maintained a large, probably winning advantage, but she thought she could get away with 41...g3. She did get away with it after the natural 44.e7(?); if, however, Abrahamyan played the cool 44.Qd5! she would have equalized the chances: 44...Qxd5 (forced) 45.exd5 g1Q 46.Bxh7+! Kf8 47.Rxg1 Rxg1+ seems to be a draw. Black has too much to worry about with White's e-pawn and possible c5 pawn sacs in the air.

    Missing this one chance, Abrahamyan lost and fell out of the race for first. Anna Zatonskih won her game though (against Iryna Zenyuk), and remains alive in the race for first. Here are the crucial final round pairings:

     

    • Krush (7.5) - Baginskaite (4)
    • Zatonskih (6.5) - Foisor (3.5)

     

    Saturday
    May112013

    U.S. Championships, Round 6 & 7: Kamsky, Krush Continue To Lead

    Gata Kamsky still leads the U.S. Championship, but after three straight draws the field is closing in a bit. In round 6 he made a comfortable draw with Black against third-seed Alexander Onischuk, and was seemingly in control in round 7 against Alejandro Ramirez when he was hit by a brilliant shot: 30...Bh3!! This essentially forced a draw on the spot, and if Kamsky fails to win the title this year this game may loom large, as he could have maintained a serious edge earlier, e.g. with 29.Rff6. But then again, who couldn't miss a move like 30...Bh3, especially from a ways back?

    Onischuk drew in round 7 with Conrad Holt (my dark horse contender for the title) with some difficulty, but a draw's a draw and he is tied with Ramirez, half a point behind Kamsky entering the penultimate round. They will play on board 2 today, with Ramirez getting White.

    About Holt: if there was a prize for the "move of the tournament", he, like Ramirez, would be in the running. In round 6 against Larry Christiansen, there was a remarkable bit of tactical one-upsmanship. Holt's 43...Qc6 looked very strong, threatening both the rook on a8 and 44...Rg4+, picking off the queen. It looked like the move would net the exchange, as 44.Rxf8+ Kxf8 45.Qxf5+ seemed like White's best; White would keep some small chances, but Black would be winning. Instead, Christiansen uncorked the ingenious 44.Ra7! This not only saved the rook, but it saved the queen, too, as 44...Rg4+?? walks into 45.Nxg4 Qxf3 46.Nf6+ Kh8 47.Rh7#!

    Holt admitted to missing that move, but he rose to the occasion and trumped it with the spectacular 44...Bc5!! (which Christiansen missed). This is a subtle double attack: the rook is attacked, of course, and so is White's queen. Black once again threatens ...Rg4+, because after Nxg4 Qxf3 Nf6+ the king can go to f8 rather than h8, and then there is neither mate nor perpetual check. (White could try to set up the perpetual, e.g. with 45.dxc5 Rg4+ 46.Nxg4 Qxf3 47.Nf6+ Kf8 48.Rd7 - a pattern worth remembering if you're not already familiar with it - but Black can break it up with 48...Qc6.)

    Back to the standings: facing Kamsky in round 8 will be the second seed, Timur Gareev, whose performance has been sluggish, at least given what one might expect from his rating. Nevertheless, he has worked his way back into contention, and after defeating Ray Robson in round 7 he has closed to within a point of Kamsky. Unluckily for Gareev, while both he and Kamsky were due for Black this round, the color clash was resolved in Kamsky's favor, and he (Kamsky) will get the white pieces.

    Key Round 8 Pairings:

    • Kamsky (5.5) - Gareev (4.5)
    • Ramirez (5) - Onischuk (5)
    • Holt (4.5) - Benjamin (4.5)

    In the women's championship Krush's run at perfection ended when she was held to a draw by Sabina Foisor in round 6, but she bounced back with a win in round 7. Tatev Abrahamyan closed to within half a point by winning in round 6, but then she drew in round 7 to again fall a full point off the pace. Also a point back is Anna Zatonskih, who has won her last two games. Round 8 is crucial, as Abrahamyan has White against Krush. (The women's event is a round-robin, as opposed to the Swiss system in the "men's" event.)

    Key Round 8 Pairings:

    • Abrahamyan (5.5) - Krush (6.5)
    • Zenyuk - Zatonskih (5.5)

    Tuesday
    May072013

    U.S. Championship: Kamsky Draws (But Still Leads); Krush Still Perfect

    Looks like the "Fischer prize" to be awarded to any player who manages to achieve a perfect score in the U.S. Championship will go unclaimed another year, as the last player with a perfect score, Gata Kamsky, was held to a draw in round 5 by Joel Benjamin. Kamsky still leads, but Alexander Onischuk is nipping at his heels, half a point behind. They play in round 6, and Onischuk will have White. On board two Benjamin has White against Alejandro Ramirez, who defeated Sam Shankland to reach 3.5 points, the same score Benjamin has. Four others have 3 points, and down it goes from there.

    In the women's championship Irina Krush won again (no Fischer prize for them, as far as I know), defeating the also perfect - in the opposite direction - Sarah Chiang. (Chiang is a first-timer and just 15, so this is a bit of a baptism by fire for her. On the other hand, while she's the lowest-rated player in the field, she's not so much lower-rated that she should go through the tournament without scoring. So let's hope she can stay mentally tough and pick up some points.) Krush is 5-0, now a point ahead of Tatev Abrahamyan, who drew with Anna Zatonskih (who now has 3.5). Krush defeated Zatonskih in round 3, and will play Abrahamyan (with Black) in round 8.

    Tuesday
    May072013

    U.S. Championships Update: Kamsky, Krush Lead Their Divisions with 4-0 Scores

    Gata Kamsky may not be showing his best form at the U.S. Championship, but as a big rating favorite and an enormously experienced player, he has so far overcome his fatigue from the Grand Prix in Zug to fend off challenges from Larry Christiansen and one of my dark horse contenders, Conrad Holt, to emerged unscathed so with a 4-0 score. His closest contenders at the moment are a point behind: Joel Benjamin, whom he will face in round 5; third-seeded Alexander Onischuk, and Christiansen; the latter two will play in round 5.

    In round 3 many of the underdogs took a step back while the favorites have reasserted themselves, but in round 4 the youngsters and rookies showed that they are still very much in the fight. And meanwhile, second-seeded Timur Gareev and perennial contender Yuri Shulman are both still languishing at 50%. (Full round 5 pairings and scores can be seen here.)

    Meanwhile, Irina Krush is having her way in the Women's Championship, having defeated her constant rival Anna Zatonskih in a hard battle in round 3 (and with the black pieces, no less). She followed it up with a victory over another former U.S. Women's Champion, Anjelina Belakovskaia, and sits very comfortably at 4-0. Nevertheless, competition remains. Tatev Abrahamyan also entered round 3 with a 2-0 score, and although she lost half a point in round 3 a win in round 4 has her very much in contention with 3.5 points. She's in for a big test in round 5 with Black against Zatonskih, and if she's still in contention by round 8 she'll have the white pieces against Krush. No one else has more than two points, so for now it looks like a three-horse race, which may drop to a two-horse race after this next round concludes.

    Friday
    Sep072012

    Olympiad, Rounds 8 & 9: USA Beats Russia, Four Teams Lead

    U-S-A! U-S-A!

    Naturally, I'm happy as an American that the U.S. team upset the Russians. But everyone else (except the Russians) should be, too, as it turned what was on the verge of becoming a runaway for the gold medals back into a dogfight with lots of teams still in the running.

    First, though, let's get back to round 8. Russia entered the round with a one point lead over their closest pursuers (Ukraine and China), and left it looking like the luckiest team in the world. China drew with Azerbaijan, while Russia came away with a very fortunate victory over Ukraine. Vladimir Kramnik played terribly with White against Vassily Ivanchuk, but escaped in a rook ending a pawn down. (Ivanchuk seemed to think that he had missed a win, and was absolutely distraught afterwards.) Meanwhile, Alexander Volokitin failed to hold a pawn-down rook ending against Sergey Karjakin and lost, and so the Russians escaped with a 2.5-1.5 victory and took a two point lead going into round 9. Just three rounds remained, and they had played all their main rivals. (Or so it seemed.)

    Round 9 didn't work out so well for the Russians. On board 4, Dmitry Jakovenko had a pretty easy time of things with Ray Robson. The game continued to move 71, but the result had seemed inevitable for a long time. On board 3 Alexander Onischuk got nothing against Karjakin, and that game was a quick draw. So it came down to Hikaru Nakamura vs. Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk vs. Gata Kamsky. In both games, the Americans were pressing, but whether it would be enough to win the match or only draw was unclear practically until the very end.

    Kramnik was fine with Black coming out of the opening, and was even fine for a while after sacrificing the exchange. By move 40, however, he was clearly lost, but Kramnik kept hanging in there. On move 45, Nakamura's best was to take the h-pawn, but proably worried about Black's counterplay after 45.gxh4 Bf4 he chose 45.Ra2, surrendering a pawn and losing the lion's share of his advantage. Kramnik's 52nd and 53rd moves lost the progress he had made, and with interest (...Re8 would have been better on either move), and with 54.Rg5+ followed by 55.Rxg3 and 56.c7 the win would have been trivial. Nakamura's method was more complicated, and it seems that he missed some of Kramnik's subsequent defensive ideas, but after 59...Re7 he confidently executed a forced win with 60.Rxe7 Kxe7 61.c7 e2 62.c8N+! After that it was a routine technical task that I'm sure he enjoyed tremendously.

    That game finished just a few minutes after Grischuk-Kamsky, which had gone back and forth between looking like a draw and a win for Kamsky. After 43 moves, Black was up a pawn in a rook and bishop ending, with all the pawns on the same side of the board. I'm not sure if the position then was objectively won or not, but obviously Black would have all the fun.

    A curious moment came on move 48, when Kamsky chose not to play 48...Rxh2. The rook won't get trapped after 49.Kg1 Rh3 because Black has a little trick: if 50.Rh6 Kf7 51.Rh7+ Kg6 52.Rh6+ Kg7 53.Kg2 White would be able to draw, were it not for 53...Be5!, winning. Another interesting line is 52.Rb7 (instead of 52.Rh6+ in the previous variation) h4 53.Rb6. This might have been what concerned Kamsky. If 53...hxg3, 54.Be5 wins the bishop; if Black's king tries to run, then he'll either fail or drop the f-pawn: 53...Kf7 54.Rb7+ Ke8 55.Rb5=. But there is a solution: 53...Rxg3+! After 54.Bxg3 hxg3 55.Rb4 Bg5 followed by ...f4 Black is winning.

    Having rejected this, Kamsky's advantage diminished greatly, and had Grischuk chosen 55.Ke1 rather than 55.Be3 I think the draw would have been achieved without much more sweat. Grischuk's move was objectively good enough, going for rook vs. rook and bishop, but unless you're a computer or a well-rested human with plenty of time, that's a very dangerous decision. Sure enough, just a few moves later, his 61.Re7? lost the game (61.Rd8, 61.Rf8+ and 61.Rh8 would have maintained the draw), and with that and Nakamura's victory a few moments later, the Americans had won and caught the Russians in first.

    But not only the Russians. Armenia beat Germany 2.5-1.5, and China shellacked the Philippines 3.5-.5. Prior to this round, the Philippines had been one of the great surprise stories, and in particular their grand old man Eugenio Torre had enjoyed remarkable success, drawing Ivan Cheparinov in round 6, defeating Ferenc Berkes in round 7 and then Nigel Short in round 8!

    Here then are the leading pairings for today's round 10:

    China 15 - USA 15
    Argentina 14 - Russia 15
    Netherlands 14 - Armenia 15
    Azerjbaijan 13 - Ukraine 14

    Official site here, all the pairings here.

    Sunday
    Jul222012

    Ivanchuk Wins ACP Golden Classic

    Vassily Ivanchuk put a nice exclamation point on a very successful outing in Amsterdam, defeating Anna Muzychuk (impressively, with Black) to win the ACP Golden Classic. His score of 5/6 was good for a 2967 TPR - alas, the tournament wasn't rated. Still, it was a nice performance for the "old" guy, and hopefully he can continue fighting the good fight for the 40+ set.

    Gata Kamsky also played well, scoring 4.5 points and, like Ivanchuk, he went undefeated. The result may not be a particularly memorable one, given a career as prestigious as his, but his last round win over Baadur Jobava will be. This game will probably give your computers a migraine:

     

    Jobava (2730) - Kamsky (2744)
    1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 d5 7. Be2 Ne4 8. cxd4
    Bb6 9. O-O Bg4 10. Be3 f5 11. exf6 Qxf6 12. Nc3 O-O-O 13. Na4 Kb8 14. Nxb6 axb6
    15. a4 Bxf3 16. Bxf3 Rhe8 17. b4 Nd6 18. a5 b5 19. Qc1 Nc4 20. Bg5 Qxd4 21.
    Bxd8 Rxd8 22. a6 Nxb4 23. axb7 Kxb7 24. Rb1 c5 25. Rd1 Qe5 26. Re1 Qf6 27. Rb3
    Kb6 28. Bd1 Rd6 29. Bc2 h6 30. Re8 Re6 31. Rf3 Rxe8 32. Rxf6+ gxf6 33. Bg6 Rd8
    34. Qxh6 Ne5 35. Bf5 d4 36. Qxf6+ Nec6 37. h4 c4 38. h5 d3 39. h6 d2 40. Bg4
    d1=Q+ 41. Bxd1 Rxd1+ 42. Kh2 Rd7 43. g4 Nd3 44. g5 Nde5 45. Qf4 b4 46. Qe3+ Kb7
    47. Qc5 c3 48. f4 Rd2+ 49. Kg3 c2 50. h7 Rd3+ 51. Kg2 Rc3 52. Qb5+ Kc7 53. Qf1
    c1=Q 54. Qxc1 Rxc1 55. h8=Q b3 56. Qh7+ Nd7 57. g6 b2 58. g7 Ne7 0-1
    The third game, between Le Quang Liem and Emil Sutovsky, ended in a hard-fought draw, so the final standings look like this:
    1. Ivanchuk 5 (of 6)
    2. Kamsky 4.5
    3. Sutovsky 3.5
    4-5. Muzychuk, Le Quang Liem 3
    6. Sasikiran 1.5
    7. Jobava .5 (Oof. There's at least one player who's glad this wasn't rated!)

     

     

    Friday
    May182012

    2012 U.S. Championship: Nakamura Defeats Kamsky, Leads With One Round To Go

    The penultimate round of the 2012 U.S. Championship was dramatic. Gata Kamsky had seized the lead with an impressive win in the previous round, while Hikaru Nakamura, who had a long and probably somewhat disappointing draw, was half a point behind. They were paired and Kamsky had White, which would seem to put him in the catbird seat for his third championship title in a row.

    So one would think, but Nakamura pulled out the win. Kamsky made some decisions that many spectators didn't grasp, but then spectators - even GMs - often find themselves confused by his play. By itself, that's not news, though it was interesting to hear Nakamura mention after the game that he generally failed to guess Kamsky's moves as well! Nakamura was better much of the way, but Kamsky's very active play kept things crazy, and he was in range of a draw despite a material deficit. What cost him was probably time trouble. Had Kamsky played 36.Nc5 the position would have remained equal; instead, he played 36.f3 and Nakamura took over again.

    In other games, Seirawan-Kaidanov, Lenderman-Hess and Akobian-Onischuk were all pretty easygoing draws. Shulman-Robson was also drawn but wasn't perfunctory. Theirs was a complicated and eventful struggle, and at the end when it seemed as if Shulman would win with an extra piece, Robson fought on and somehow managed to survive. Shulman was out of the running for first in any case, but this must have been very disappointing for him. Finally, Stripunsky's attack to build a kingside attack in a Closed Sicilian against Ramirez failed, but the counterattack succeeded and Ramirez won.

    Last Round Pairings:

    Nakamura (7.5) - Seirawan (3.5)
    Hess (4.5) - Kamsky (7)
    Ramirez (4) - Lenderman (5)
    Robson (5) - Stripunsky (3)
    Onischuk (6) - Shulman (5.5)
    Kaidanov (4) - Akobian (5)

    The women had the day off, so that everyone will finish together tomorrow (Saturday). Zatonskih and Krush are tied for first there, while it's still possible that the Championship proper could also finish in a tie. If either event finishes with a tie for first, tiebreaks will take place on Sunday.

    Friday
    May182012

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: Kamsky-Seirawan, 2012 US Championship

    His chances of winning a third straight U.S. Championship took a big hit tonight when he lost to Hikaru Nakamura, but overall it has been a pretty good event for Gata Kamsky. Coming into today's round he was in clear first, and his previous game was an impressive win over Yasser Seirawan on the white side of a Classical Caro-Kann. Kamsky had prepared a nasty surprise that had probably been intended some time earlier for Veselin Topalov, but it was Seirawan who wound up the victim.

    The winning combination was very attractive, and the game is also valuable for us to follow in White's theoretical footsteps, both in that precise position but also in a more general way. The g4 idea Kamsky used has become popular across a range of Classical Caro-Kann positions, and so it's important for players on both sides of the dispute to be familiar with them.

    So there's both an aesthetic and an educational component to this week's show, which as always can be viewed free of charge (free registration required) and will be available on demand for the next month or so.

    Thursday
    May102012

    The 2012 U.S. Championship, Round 3

    It was another good day for the favorites, as top seeds Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky both won with White and share the lead in the 2012 U.S. Championship with 2.5/3.

    Nakamura used the trendy 9.g4 Yugoslav Attack against Ray Robson's Dragon Sicilian. Robson was the first to innovate with 16...Nb6 (16...Rad8 had been usual in the few games to reach that point). That more or less committed Black to an exchange sac three moves later, but although Robson had a bishop and two pawns for the rook, his tripled e-pawns negated some of that compensation. White was always better, and Nakamura finished things off with a well-calculated mating attack. He allowed Black to promote a pawn, with check, no less, but Black was helpless against the "blind pigs" (a pair of rooks on the 7th rank).

    Alexander Onischuk is the U.S.'s reliable third seed, so Kamsky's win was significant. Kamsky's usual anti-theory approach proved effective once again as he used the London System not in a bid for an advantage (at least not an overt bid) but to create a position where the best player (him) could fight for a win. Typical Kamsky, he made lots of prophylactic moves (6.h3, 9.a3, 12.Bh2) and still managed to have some pull after 16 moves. Once Kamsky played 20.Na5 several imbalances were about to favor him; in particular, the bishop pair and a superior pawn structure. It isn't always better to have the two bishops, but when the opponent has ragged pawns it can be a huge advantage.

    The crisis came after Onischuk's 30th move, 30...h5. Kamsky had been massaging his advantage, trying to make something of his bishops and Black's weak d-pawns, but 30...h5 was the proverbial red cape to a bull. Kamsky sacrificed a pawn for a kingside attack, and although it might not have been objectively best it put Black under a lot of pressure near the end of the time control. 38...Ne6 may have maintained equality, but Onischuk's 38...Qd5 was inaccurate and his next move a blunder. After 39.Rb8 g6? 40.Re8! Rc7 41.Bxg6! Black's position was collapsing, and 43...Rb7? was the final straw. Maybe Onischuk initially thought White was forced to go for a perpetual, but after 48.Qe8+! he resigned, seeing that after 48...Kg7 49.Qd7+ Qxd7 50.exd7 Black would be unable to prevent White from making (and keeping) a new queen.

    In other games...

    Lenderman-Kaidanov was an unusual Tarrasch Defense where Black was better most of the way but couldn't figure out how to convert it. One possibility is 26...d4, which isn't winning but gives Black an important trump. After missing or neglecting that chance, the game was balanced and soon finished in a draw.

    Hess seemed to have the advantage on the white side of a trendy Kan line against Ramirez, but with some neat tactics Ramirez reached a drawish, and eventually drawn, ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops.

    Stripunsky got on the scoreboard, defeating Akobian with White in a Tarrasch French. Akobian's 7...Nfd7 was highly unusual, moving the knight before it was kicked with e5, and after 9...a4 they reached a position that had only been seen in five previous games. In four of those games White played the pedestrian 10.Nbd4, but Stripunsky followed the fifth with 10.h4!?, daring Black to take the piece on b3. The idea, of course, is that White has 11.Bxh7+, when accepting the Greek Gift would be fatal. 11...Kh8 might be playable, but Akobian nixed the whole thing with 10...f5. This reduced White's attacking options somewhat, but White enjoyed an edge thanks to his dark-squared control. Black sacrificed a pawn for some draw-compensation, but that left once he sac/blundered the e-pawn on moves 25-28. After 30.Nxa4 White was three pawns up, and that was more than enough for Stripunsky to win.

    Unfortunately for Seirawan, his miseries continued, and now he's 0-3. He played very quietly with Black against Shulman, looking for or at least not resisting a draw, and after 22 moves it seemed likely (though not guaranteed) that he would achieve it. The knight swap on move 35 was a bit of an error though; had Black played 35...Bd5 or 35...g6 (36.Nxd6 Kxd6 37.Ke4 Bd5+ pushes the king back) he'd have enjoyed equality and the draw would have been in sight. Still, it seemed that a draw was most likely, but after 37...Bg8 that ceased to be the case. Instead 37...hxg5 38.fxg5 g6 39.Kf4 Bf7 holds down the fort on the kingside, and now Black can push on the queenside to keep things balanced. (40.Kg4 Ke5 41.h5 gxh5+ 42.Kh4 c4 43.Bxh5 Bd5 44.Be8 Bf3 should hold.) Black's last two moves make a bizarre impression, but the problem is that he's in zugzwang. Most of his pawn moves are terrible (and he'll soon run out in any case), his bishop can't move and he can't afford to let White's king penetrate to the kingside. So he retreated to f8 in hopes of playing ...Bg8, but Shulman's 42.Kf6! stops that: 42...Bg8 43.Bxg8 Kxg8 44.Ke7 followed by f6-f7-f8Q. So Seirawan resigned.

    Round 4 Pairings:

    Seirawan (0) - Ramirez (1)
    Robson (.5) - Hess (1.5)
    Onischuk (1.5) - Nakamura (2.5)
    Kaidanov (2) - Kamsky (2.5)
    Akobian (1.5) - Lenderman (2)
    Shulman (2) - Stripunsky (1)

    Tuesday
    May082012

    2012 US Championship, Round 1: The Favorites Win

    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)

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