Zatonskih Maintains Lead; Robson Pulls Away in Juniors
By Mike Wilmering and Katie Baldetti   
July 18, 2010
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Anna Zatonskih playing on the "tennis board" at the CCSCSL two-year birthday party
SAINT LOUIS, July 17, 2010 --After a week of intense competition at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Anna Zatonskih leads the US Women's with 6.5/7 while Ray Robson leads the US Junior with 5.5/7. Today Anna Zatonskih defeated Beatriz Marinello to match her score from last year at the same point in the tournament. Anna also celebrated her 32nd birthday on July 17,  just a day after the Chess Club turned two years old.



Round seven of the 2010 US Women's Championship featured a crucial match-up between IM Irina Krush and WIM Alisa Melekhina.



Krush, who started the day a half-point behind IM Anna Zatonskih, needed a win with White to keep pace with the “struggling” Zatonskih, who said she hasn’t been playing to her potential this tournament but maintained a score of 5.5/6 coming into today’s round.

Melekhina employed a King’s Indian defense, which created a complicated, double-edged position as she stormed Krush’s kingside.

Krush deviated from the main lines with 14.Nb5, rather than the more normal c5 or b4 in that position, a possible product of her extensive preparation against the King’s Indian.

“A lot of [these] players have the King’s Indian in their repertoire,” Krush said. “I did some work on this opening.”

Krush defended well and Melekhina’s attack fell short. A pivotal move, 17...g3 allowed 18.Nxa8, but Melekhina had insufficient compensation for the rook sacrifice and Krush used her advantage to roll to an easy victory.

GM Ray Robson pulled out a surprise opening by employing the King’s Indian defense against Parker Zhao’s uncharacteristic c4 opening.



“I thought he’d play e4 instead of c4,” Robson said.

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GM Ray Robson playing tennis during the CCSCSL two-year anniversary block party
Robson said he used to play the King’s Indian when he was 9 or 10, but hasn’t revisited it much since.

Similar to the Krush-Melekhina game, Robson allowed his rook to be captured on a8 (23.Nxa8), but got good compensation for the sacrifice with pawns on f4, g4 and g3 and several looming threats.

The Juniors, who were a few moves behind the Krush game, were following her line closely. Zhao said he was aware that Melekhina was also transposing to an identical King’s Indian, but wanted to deviate from Krush’s response  because he said he felt following her move-for-move would be unethical.
 
“If I’d won, it would be like Irina’s win,” Zhao said.

Robson sits atop the leaderboard with a score of 5.5/7, a full point ahead of IM Sam Shankland FM Darwin Yang and Zhao who all have 4.5/7. Shankland continues a strong push toward the top with his victory against NM Eric Rosen.

Robson’s victory makes tomorrow’s match against Yang crucial.

During the heat of the Zhao-Robson game, Yang said that he wished, with no such luck, that the two players would draw so he would only be a half a point away after his win today with Black against NM Tyler Hughes, a game that GM Ben Finegold called a blistering attack.



Yang said that he was surprised when Hughes played 17.Ndf5.  “[At] first I thought this position was rather unpleasant because he had the two bishops and I had a weak f-pawn,” he said. “And then when I thought about it I realized I had some attacking potential after 18…Rfe8, 19.Qb4, 19…Ne5.”

When Hughes played 20.Bxf5, Yang said he knew his opponent had made a decisive mistake.

“After this, it was just over because he couldn’t protect both his f2 pawn and cover the h1 square at the same time,” Yang said.

The game ended with 26...Rxc1+, and, as WGM Jennifer Shahade noted, this sharp and strategic game was a key victory for Yang.

“Tactical wins give me more enjoyment but they also give me more gray hairs,” the 13-year-old  said.

Yang needs to pull off another victory with Black against the tournament's only grandmaster if he is to have any chance to win the tournament.

WFM Tatev Abrahamyan used a key knight sacrifice (45...g5 46.Ng6+ 46...hxg6 47.Rh4+) to win against WGM Sabina Foisor to maintain a second-place tie with Krush at 6/7. 



Zatonskih and Abrahamyan square off tomorrow in the most important match-up of the 2010 U.S. Women’s Championship.

In other action, WIM Iryna Zenyuk topped WGM Camilla Baginskaite, WGM Katerina Rohonyan beat WFM Abby Marshall, FM Conrad Holt scored another win over FM Warren Harper, and FM John Bryant defeated FM Steven Zierk.

For complete standings and today’s games, visit www.uschesschamps.com. Follow the action live starting at 2 p.m. CDT.