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Kamsky and Shulman Contend for 2010 US Championship Print E-mail
By FM Mike Klein   
May 23, 2010
GM Gata Kamsky, Photo Betsy Dynako for CCSCSL 

SAINT LOUIS, May 23, 2010 – Twenty-four players came to the 2010 U.S. Championship with a dream. After nine rounds, all but two players have woken up.

In the most dramatic and meaningful round so far, GM Yury Shulman upset defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura on board one. On board two, GM Gata Kamsky dug out of a hole, and after his draw offer was refused, he delivered GM Alex Onischuk his first loss in nearly five years of U.S. Championship appearances.

Nakamura played quickly in the opening and sacrificed a center pawn to gain pressure on the kingside. He won a few pawns and pinned all his hopes on advancing his passed h-pawn. But Shulman’s pieces arrived too quickly, and the pawn never seriously threatened Shulman’s position.


“The first mistake was the opening choice,” Nakamura said. “I wasn’t 100 percent prepared.”

“In the opening I had to recall,” Shulman said. “I was having a hard time. Once I played h6 I realized I was back in my preparation. … [The move] h6 was quite a problem for Hikaru to solve.”

In the post-mortem, the players agreed that after 20…Rc8 21. Qd3 Qh7 22. Qh6 was an improvement, when White has a better chance of holding the balance. “It’s probably just a draw,” Nakamura said. “That was the best I have.”

Instead, after the queens remained and Nakamura played 22. f4, his king was too open to last much longer. Shulman’s rook got to the second rank, his queen to the king’s diagonal, and his knight was poised to jump to f5 and g3. “I forgot about these stupid ideas,” Nakamura said.

Shulman said that after his rook got to c2, he found the idea of sacrificing Rxg5 and the only thing that remained was getting the move order right.

 GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Yury Shulman and WGM Jennifer Shahade, Photo Betsy Dynako for CCSCSL 

The game only lasted 26 moves and ended well before board two, meaning Kamsky and Onishcuk knew the result while their game was still in progress. This may help explain why Onischuk turned down Kamsky’s draw offer after 41. Ne4, the first move after time control. If Onischuk had accepted, he would no longer control his own fate since he already played Shulman in the first game of the quad finals.

Kamsky claimed he was worse out of the opening but praised his defensive idea of Rd4 and f4. He said he still preferred Onischuk’s position after the offer was refused. But after the game became a rook-and-pawn endgame, Onischuk may have had better chances with 43…b4. He then ran low on time and slipped with 45…Kd5. “He played Kd5 really quickly, and I was really surprised,” Kamsky said.


Onischuk’s string of unbeaten games at the U.S. Championship ends at 49, second-best all-time to Samuel Reshevsky’s record of 82 straight games.

Shulman said going into the round that the winner of the three-round quad would need some luck to win the tournament. His knowledge of the opening came from helping prepare Kamsky for his match against GM Veselin Topalov last year. Now, he takes White against Kamsky for the title. If tomorrow’s game does not produce a winner, the two will play again in a rapid tiebreaker on Tuesday morning. Besides the $35,000 first place, the winner also gets an automatic spot on the 2010 Olympiad Team.

Nakamura and Onischuk are mathematically eliminated from winning the tournament. The U.S. Championship will again not have a repeat champion. The last person to successfully defend his title was GM Lev Alburt in the 1980s.

GM Alexander Shabalov, Photo Betsy Dynako for CCSCSL

In the final round of the Challenger’s Swiss, GM Alex Shabalov beat GM Alex Stripunsky in only 25 moves. He takes home the top prize of the Swiss, which is actually fifth-place money - $10,000.


IM Irina Krush, Photo Betsy Dynako for CCSCSL

IM Irina Krush tried but failed to earn a grandmaster norm. Needing a win today, she could only muster a draw against GM Jesse Kraai. She finishes with 4.5, an even score, and a performance rating above 2580.


See the final crosstable of the Challenger's Swiss on the official website:

Fantasy Chess Standings after Rounds 8+9. 
There was a slight delay in fantasy chess computations for rounds 8 and 9. The round eight winners were Fletcher Peavy and Michael Langer, whose team each had 32.5 points after eight rounds. They both correctly guessed the final four and had a slightly lower average team rating than the other three teams with 32.5, Ryan Richardson, Yiming Benjamin Wang and John Elmore. 

After 8 rounds

Fletcher Peavy 

1.  GM Alexander Onischuk (2765)  
  2.  GM Yury Shulman (2669)  
  3.  GM Robert Hess (2657)  
  4.  GM Alexander Shabalov (2638)  
  5.  GM Ray Robson (2607)  
  6.  IM Irina Krush (2494)  

Michael Langer

1.  GM Hikaru Nakamura (2817)  
  2.  GM Alexander Shabalov (2638)  
  3.  GM Alexander Stripunsky (2621)  
  4.  GM Benjamin Finegold (2619)  
  5.  GM Ray Robson (2607)  
  6.  GM Jesse Kraai (2528)

After 9 rounds
After nine rounds, Alexander Adams, who won a daily prize earlier in the tournament is in the clear lead with 36.5 points. He also correctly guessed the final four. Since Adams already earned a daily prize, the last daily prize of fantasy chess goes to Maxim Sigalov, who was tied for 2nd-7th with 35.5 points, and had the best tiebreaks of those who had not yet won a daily prize. 

Alexander Adams 

1.  GM Gata Kamsky (2771)  
  2.  GM Varuzhan Akobian (2671)  
  3.  GM Yury Shulman (2669)  
  4.  GM Robert Hess (2657)  
  5.  GM Alex Yermolinsky (2572)  
  6.  IM Irina Krush (2494)  

Maxim Sigalov 
  1.  GM Gata Kamsky (2771)  
  2.  GM Varuzhan Akobian (2671)  
  3.  GM Yury Shulman (2669)  
  4.  GM Alexander Shabalov (2638)  
  5.  GM Alex Yermolinsky (2572)  
  6.  GM Dmitry Gurevich (2514)  
The last game of the quads begins tomorrow, May 24 at 3 PM EST/2 PM local time and will be followed by a $10,000 guaranteed prize fund blitz tournament, starting at 8 PM. If Shulman-Kamsky is a draw, the playoff will take place at 10 AM local/11 AM EST on Tuesday, May 25.  


June - Chess Life Online 2010

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