By FM Mike Klein
St. Louis, May 16, 2010 – GM Gata Kamsky and GM Hikaru Nakamura have met over the board three times, and all three games failed to produce a winner. They battled to a 37-move draw Sunday at the 2010 U.S. Championship, held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Their draw last year at the same event was two fewer moves, but both games were hard fought.
[imagefield_assist|fid=4376|preset=bdynako-preview|lightbox=true|title=IM Irina Krush let a winning position slip away against GM Varuzhan Akobian.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=375|height=240]Nakamura showed his willingness to fight as Black, playing the uncompromising King’s Indian Defense, which has seen a revival of sorts at the championship. For the second round in a row, two games featured the opening, the other being GM Yury Shulman against GM Alex Shabalov.
Through 12 moves, Kamsky and Nakamura followed Ivanchuk-Radjabov, Wijk aan Zee, 2009. Kamsky said after the game he was unaware of the exact game, but liked his position after 13. Nd2, which differed from Ivanchuk’s 13. exf5. “I thought White had a nice advantage, but it was not so easy to make progress,” Kamsky said. “Black defended well.”
Facing a cramping passed pawn on e6, Nakamura blockaded the invader and held back the attack to secure the half point. “Somewhere in the middlegame I went wrong,” Nakamura said. “I think …Be5 was bad."
"I had a lasting advantage after Nf3 but I was short on time,” Kamsky said. He suggested 23. c6 with the idea of putting his knight on c5 as a promising divergent path.
Overall, Kamsky seemed pleased with his play. “I’m just warming up I guess,” he said.
“So far the tournament has gone as expected,” Nakamura said. “All three of us have gotten off to a good start.”
Nakamura’s reference was to GM Alexander Onischuk, the third seed and his self-admitted number one rival. Passing over the obvious choice of Kamsky, Nakamura said at Saturday’s press conference that Onischuk’s recent results make him the champion’s toughest challenger.
Onischuk, playing Black and beginning the round one half point behind the leaders, caught up with an incredibly deep idea that led to victory over GM Sergey Kudrin. Commentators thought he sacrificed an exchange out of desperation, but actually Onischuk saw[imagefield_assist|fid=4377|preset=bdynako-preview|lightbox=true|title=Chief Arbiter Carol Jarecki (left) offers final instructions to GM Joel Benjamin (center) and IM Sam Shankland.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=375|height=248] well ahead of time that his dark-squared bishop would be up to the task. His artistry culminated with a rampaging knight and the full point.
“I want to qualify for the final four, then look at the other results,” Onischuk said when asked about the top game of the round. “I have my own problems to solve.”
He gave a wry smile when told of Nakamura’s praise, which widened a little more when told that during an in-round phone interview, world number one GM Magnus Carlsen also included him with Nakamura and Kamsky as potential winners of the title. “I would be really surprised if one of us three didn’t win,” Onischuk said.
After a six-hour marathon, GM Varuzhan Akobian was the last to get to the 2.5 score group. In a case of the hunter becoming the hunted, his opponent IM Irina Krush pressed too far to break Akobian’s blockade. Krush’s king march was a carbon copy of the most famous king march in history, Short-Timman, Tilburg, 1991. But Akobian barred entry with his rook, eventually freed his bishop, then used a series of mating nets to win back the exchange and force Krush’s resignation after 113 moves.
Thus the field of four with 2.5 netted these round four pairings: Nakamura – Onischuk on board one and Akobian – Kamsky on board two. All four of these players were part of the last U.S. Olympiad team. The final member of the 2008 bronze-medal winning team, Shulman, promoted to a queen and Shabalov’s bare king did not survive. Shulman had a support group here today, as his parents and a young student were there to congratulate him.
[imagefield_assist|fid=4378|preset=bdynako-preview|lightbox=true|title=GM Larry Christiansen uses a MonRoi to enter his move. |desc=|link=none|align=left|width=375|height=252]Keeping the streak alive, the players again produced more decisive games than draws. This time there were eight winners out of 12 games, and overall the tournament has produced 23 winners out of 36 games.
Getting on the board for his first win was GM Ray Robson. The 15-year-old dispatched GM Dmitry Gurevich in the shortest game of the day, only 24 moves. “He miscalculated with b4,” Robson said. “Here it doesn’t work tactically. He gets his pawn back but loses his light-squared bishop, which weakens his kingside.” A lot of fans were predicting big things for Robson, and this win gets him back on track. “After the first two games, I don’t want to think about qualifying (for the round-robin) anymore," he said. "There’s not a lot of pressure on me.”
The other youngster, GM Robert Hess, is now 2-1 after a wild win over GM Melikset Khachiyan. Hess benefited from a bit of luck. Even though Khachiyan played a rare defense to the Ruy Lopez, Hess prepared for it because he happened to be sitting next to Khachiyan at the 2008 World Open when Khachiyan played it against another grandmaster. Khachiyan blitzed out his preparation but was stymied with Hess’ brilliant defense 16. Nd2 and follow-up retreat 18. Nb1! “It’s hard to believe after Nb1 it kills the whole thing,” Khachiyan said.
“I knew Melik(set) had something up his sleeve, so I was a little bit weary,” Hess said, explaining that he reviewed the opening before the game.[imagefield_assist|fid=4379|preset=fullsize|lightbox=true|title=GM Alexander Onischuk proved he is a top contender with a brilliant win over GM Sergey Kudrin in round three.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=326|height=375]
Also winning was GM Joel Benjamin, who got his first win of the tournament against IM Sam Shankland, and GM Jesse Kraai, who beat former roommate GM Vinay Bhat. Four games were drawn: GM Larry Christiansen – GM Jaan Ehlvest, GM Alex Yermolinsky – GM Aleksandr Lenderman, GM Ben Finegold – GM Gregory Kaidanov, and the aforementioned Kamsky-Nakamura.
The 2010 U.S. Chess Championship is open to the public and will feature grandmaster commentary by GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Live Spectators can access the event by purchasing a membership to the CCSCSL, which costs just $5/month for students and $12/month for adults. The championship quad finale will take place May 22-24 and will culminate with the $10,000 U.S. Championship Blitz Open at 8 p.m. on Monday, May 24, an event that will feature U.S. Championship competitors and some of the top players from across the country.
Follow all the action live at uschesschamps.com.