Jingoism or patriotism? Let's be kind and assume it's the latter, as my column this week looks at some recent achievements by two of the United States's top young talents, Jeffery Xiong and Sam Sevian.
Entries in Sam Sevian (11)
In my column this week I take a look at the extraordinary tactical free-for-all between Mr. Fire on Board himself, Alexei Shirov, and the young American GM Sam Sevian from the Hasselbacken Chess Open in Stockholm. Surprisingly, it was the youngster who didn't only win but did so by navigating the complications better than his famous opponent. Definitely worth seeing if you haven't yet examined the game, and hopefully even if you have.
Vladislav Artemiev may not quite be at Wei Yi's level, but at the age of 17 and rated 2672 he's clearly a promising prospect. You can read about his victory in the Russian Higher League here. The report includes some game fragments and a full game, lists the full field for the Russian Championship (which takes place from August 8-21), and also gives the lineup for another tournament he's playing in that starts this weekend. That event features the U.S.'s own current super-prodigy, Sam Sevian, who is still but 14 years old and rated 2578. Yikes.
Here. (Hat tip: Howard Sample.) It's nice that the U.S. mainstream press is taking notice of Sam Sevian, even if, as in this case, the news is slightly negative. On the plus side, as far as the tournament (the Wijk aan Zee Challengers Group) is concerned, Sevian bounced back with a remarkable win over Vladimir Potkin in round 4 - a real triumph of perseverance against a very strong and experienced grandmaster. In the tournament where he became a grandmaster, Sevian impressed with his sharp opening preparation and attacking energy, but his victory over Potkin was a triumph of grit.
The "Showdown in St. Louis" between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was tied after four classical games, so the winner in tonight's best-of-16 blitz match would win the event and $60,000, while the loser would "only" get $40,000. After a shaky first couple of games, Nakamura felt he got in the zone, while Aronian kept getting into time trouble and all the difficulties it tends to generate. Afterwards Aronian opined that while he's a good blitz player when it's 4'+2", 3'+2" - the time control used in this match - was a bit too fast for him. In the end Nakamura won 9.5-6.5, clinching match victory with two games to spare.
In the GM norm event Sam Sevian drew his last game (a long game, not a quick handshake deal as in his previous game with the black pieces) and finished in clear first with 7.5/9, a ton of rating points and the grandmaster title. He is the youngest U.S. player to achieve the title, and the sixth-youngest of all time.
Congrats to him, to Nakamura, and also to Michael William Brown who made norm in the concurrent IM norm event as well!
In brief: game 4 of the match between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was drawn, and thus they finished the classical portion of the match 2-2 - or rather, 8-8. (Classical games were worth 4 points each, while each blitz game tomorrow will be worth a single point.) That means that whoever wins the blitz part of their competition (16 games!) tomorrow will take match victory.
Meanwhile, in the GM norm event 13-year-old Sam Sevian continues to make a mockery of the field. He took a very quick draw with Black in the morning round before dragging another bamboozled opponent to his death in his white game in the evening. His score is 7-1 and his TPR 2801. It isn't quite Fabiano Caruana at the Sinquefield Cup, but it's incredibly impressive all the same. With the white pieces he has been brutal, winning all five of his games; four with smashing attacks that went fewer than 40 moves.
After a couple of wacky match games Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian drew game 3, leaving their match tied 6-6 with one more classical game to go before the blitz battles on Tuesday. Even this game had some ups and downs though, with first Nakamura and then Aronian briefly enjoying a strong plus before equality was restored.
In the concurrent GM norm tournament, 13-year-old Sam Sevian was slowed down briefly in the morning round, drawing a tough game with an IM before beating GM Ben Finegold in the evening round in yet another tactically flashy game. He has blown past the 2500 rating level he needed to achieve his GM title, and right now has a fantastic 2873 TPR. (It's amazing to think that's pretty much just another day at the office for Magnus Carlsen.) It will be exciting to see if he can maintain and increase the level of tactical savagery he has displayed in this tournament as he grows as a player.
The ongoing world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand has drawn the lion's share of the chess world's attention the past couple of weeks, but some other interesting events have taken place in the meantime as well. Let's take a quick tour of the landscape.
1. Aronian - Nakamura. This is the main event in St. Louis, a five day match with four classical games (worth four points apiece) followed by 16 blitz games (worth one point per game). Game 1 was won by Hikaru Nakamura, when Levon Aronian got into time trouble and lost what would normally be considered a very drawish position. Today the reverse happened: it looked like Nakamura wanted to squeeze blood from a stone, and to his surprise wound up in an ending that should still have been drawn but turned out to be more challenging. He lost, and so the match is tied 4-4.
2. There are concurrent GM and IM norm tournaments in St. Louis, and the big story is taking place in the GM event, where 13-year-old Sam Sevian is about to earn - or perhaps, has now earned - his grandmaster title. He already had the three norms needed, and simply had to get his rating over 2500 at some point. He entered the tournament rated 2484, and his 4-0 start, including two wins over GMs, has brought him to the promised land. He won't be awarded the title on the spot, but he has now become the youngest American player in history to achieve the grandmaster title. Have a look at these two wins from the tournament, and you won't find his accomplishment at all surprising. Congratulations to him!
3. The Ukranian Championship finished earlier today (yesterday now, for the Ukranians themselves), and after a dramatic last round Yuriy Kuzubov and Pavel Eljanov finished tied for first with 7.5 points out of 11, with Kuzubov finishing first on tiebreaks.
4. Tal Memorial Blitz. This took place a week or so ago, but deserved to be mentioned. It was a 12 player double-round robin event spread over two days, and on day 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a fantastic score of 10/11, giving up just two draws. He received enough gifts for a couple of Christmases, and not all of them could be chalked up to his very great tactical resourcefulness. He had a big lead, but the next day he had only normal luck and scored just 6 points out of 11, but Alexander Grischuk couldn't quite catch up and finished half a point behind. Alexander Morozevich, Boris Gelfand and Sergey Karjakin tied for third. Video coverage links: day 1, rounds 1-6; day 1, rounds 7-11; day 2, all rounds.