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Nakamura & Krush are the New U.S. Champions! Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
April 14, 2015
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GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Irina Krush, Photo Lennart Ootes
GM Hikaru Nakamura (8.0/11) and GM Irina Krush (8.5/11) both sealed the deal to win the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship and 2015 U.S. Women's Chess Championship. Leading by a half-point over GM Ray Robson going into the last round, Nakamura pulled out the victory against 2006 champion GM Alexander Onischuk after Onischuk lost the thread in a deceptively tricky endgame. Meanwhile Krush just needed to draw against WGM Katerina Nemcova and managed to methodically trade all the pieces off to secure the draw and with it her seventh title.

Nakamura used the Scotch Gambit, a rare guest at top levels against Onischuk but did not emerge out of the opening with a tangible advantage. After a trade of queens there were just a few pawns left on the board, leading commentators and spectators to believe the game would be soon drawn.



"Objectively it was just equal somewhere around move 16-17," said Nakamura. Despite the equality, Nakamura put pressure on Onischuk and ended up with an extra passed b-pawn, after which Onischuk could not find a precise defense in order to hold. "I found 22.Rb1 which I think is a nice move, and I think 22...Nc5 was probably the critical blunder." said Nakamura. Onischuk then went for counterplay against the f2-pawn with 25...Nd3 and 26...Re2, but blundered with 27...Nxf2, allowing Nakamura to fork both of Black's rooks with 28.Nd4, winning a decisive chunk of material.

This is Nakamura's fourth U.S. title and first since 2012, when he last participated in the event. Now $45,000 richer, Hikaru shed some light on what it's like to be the top seed and favorite in the event: "When you play tournaments like this it's much different than playing against the top players in the world in that you're pretty much forced to try to win every game, regardless of color. I think that adds a lot of extra stress." Hikaru also said he's looking forward to his next event, the FIDE Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk, where a strong performance will likely qualify Nakamura for the 2016 Candidates Tournament.

During the round as most thought Nakamura would be held to a draw the focus shifted to Robson, who was facing GM Timur Gareev with Black. Yet again Gareev showcased his unorthodox style-after choosing the rare Veresov Opening he shocked commentators on nearly every move. First was the strange decision to play 8.a4 and 9.Ra3, and even more eyebrows were raised when Gareev left his bishop on b5 hanging, a speculative sacrifice. Robson accepted the sacrifice but later regretted it, saying "Probably I shouldn't have taken on b5, I think I should have just played 13...f5, protecting the e4-pawn."



Gareev had some vague compensation for the piece but the biggest factor was Robson's quickly dissipating time, as he sorted through complications and tried to make the most out of his extra piece. As the game went on Gareev did not make the best use of his chances, and his initiative eventually died out, leaving Robson with too much extra material. 

Robson's win means he will finish in clear second place with 7.5/11. "Definitely my best result in the U.S. Championship, and one of the best results of my career." said Robson. "I thought I've been playing well lately and I continued that in this tournament."

Finishing in clear third was GM Wesley So (6.5/11), who won his second game in a row to leapfrog Onischuk (6.0/11) in the final standings. Wesley exploited a serious error in the opening by GM Kayden Troff to reach an endgame with a clear extra pawn. He then gradually built his advantage and had few problems converting the full point. Rounding out the results include fighting draws between GM Sam Shankland vs. GM Varuzhan Akobian and GM Daniel Naroditsky vs. GM Gata Kamsky. And in one of the craziest games of the event, GM Sam Sevian vs. GM Conrad Holt lasted 100 moves, with Holt losing on time in an endgame where he had two extra pawns.

After a decisive penultimate round in the 2015 U.S. Women's Chess Championship all Krush needed to secure first place was a draw against the previous tournament leader Nemcova. Krush chose the quiet English Opening, gained a small edge out of the opening and systematically forced exchanges until the players reached a dead-drawn rook endgame. "It was very important for me to go into the game with the right mindset." said Krush. "The way it turned out obviously there weren't a lot of fireworks on the board. I was prepared for this game to go in any direction."

Since Nemcova had lost yesterday to IM Nazí Paikidze she was a full-point behind Krush and could not find any chances to mix things up. "If I had won yesterday, I definitely would have played for the win today." said Nemcova (7.5/11), who ended up tied for second along with Paikidze. "I am so happy about the chess I played here." she added.

This is Irina Krush's seventh U.S. Championship title and fourth in a row. Despite a rocky start with 1.5/3 Krush went on a furious comeback, winning six out of her next eight games, with two draws. Looking back at her tournament she singled out her round six draw with WGM Anna Sharevich, in which she missed several chances to win the game. "I think the hardest point for me here was after my game with Anna [Sharevich], the draw. [...] I was really distraught after that game." Showing true champion spirit Krush then won her next four games in a row, effectively clinching the title by round ten. Not hiding her ambitions for the future Krush said: "I'd like to break the record one day, which is nine women's titles, won by Gisela Gresser."

IM Nazí Paikidze (7.5/11) finished as the only undefeated woman in the field, ending her event with a fairly lackluster draw against WGM Sabina Foisor. "I'm extremely happy, it's my first [U.S. Championship] and I finished with 2nd place. I didn't expect that to be honest, before the tournament."

Finishing in clear fourth is WIM Viktorija Ni (7.0/11), a fine result considering she started with just 0.5/3. In her game today she solidly outplayed WCM Apurva Virkud and launched a decisive kingside attack.



And in fifth place is Sharevich (6.5/11), who finished with a nice win over WGM Tatev Abrahamyan.



At the closing ceremony, USCF Executive Director Jean Hoffman, announced that the Saint Louis Chess Club and the USCF have an agreement to host the 2016 Championships in Saint Louis. Mayor Slay tweeted with enthusiasm:

And then the chessplayers unwound with what's now a post Championship tradition-a dance party.

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Dance Party! Photo Lennart Ootes


Coming up later this month is Battle of the Legends: Garry Kasparov vs. Nigel Short, a rapid/blitz match that will take place April 25-26, with a special autograph session with the two legends on April 24.

 
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