Chess24 Sopiko Scotch

US Chess Championships 2011 (2)

Christiansen and Foisor start with perfect 2/2 in the US Championships

Aggression eventually paid off for Gata Kamsky. Photo ©

Aggression eventually paid off for Gata Kamsky. Photo © |

Favourite Gata Kamsky came to the board in aggressive mood and his opponent clearly felt it. However the game itself was not an especially good one from Kamsky and he frittered away a decisive advantage to nothing before Akobian's final mistake (31...b2! instead of 31...g5??). The A-Group is regarded by everyone in Saint Louis as the stronger one and perhaps this is backed up by the fact that this is the only decisive game so far. Larry Christiansen moved to 2/2 in the B-Group with a crushing victory against Yasser Seirawan. Christiansen prepared a newish idea against the Caro-Kann that he rightly guessed Seirawan wouldn't know. Seirawan's response left him lost straight away. Kaidanov too was crushed by Sam Shankland. The women's group saw all decisive games. Sabina-Francesca Foisor let a won position drift to a drawn one before her opponent blundered, she now has 2/2. Favourites Krush and Zatonskih both won easily. Read Mike Klein's official press release account of the second round.

Only 2 Remain Perfect after Round 2 By FM Mike Klein

Only a pair of rounds into the 2011 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship and already the whittling of the 24-player field is complete. Only two players have unblemished records - one in each tournament - but they got there in very different ways Saturday afternoon. Both events are taking place at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis from April 14-28.

Larry Christiansen exposed Yasser Seirawan's lack of modern theoretical knowledge and sharpness in round 2. Photo ©

Grandmaster Larry Christiansen, a three-time U.S. Champion, pushed his record to 2-0 first with another whitewash. This time his focus was the queenside and his opponent was Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan. The two have played more than 20 times, including at 12 prior Championships (of the other matchups today, no other men had played more than twice). Seirawan had said before the tournament began that he hoped to survive the opening, where his mastery has dulled since his hiatus from tournament chess began in 2003. That fear came true.

"The three worst things that could happen to a chess player happened to me today," Seirawan said. "First, the opening was bad. Then both my king and queen got checkmated."

Christiansen offered his b-pawn in the same way that GM Sergey Karjakin did to GM Pavel Eljanov at last year’s Chess Olympiad. Seirawan, unfamiliar with the game, took the bait. Like Eljanov, he soon wished he had not. In the post-game analysis it was Christiansen showing off his knowledge of the variation. "[The move] Qb1 has been around," Christiansen said. "You know, I did my homework. Not only do we have a mating attack, but let’s trap his queen too. It’s an embarrassment of riches."

"From my side, I’m going, ‘Geez, I walked into this hurricane,’" Seirawan said.

Sabina-Francesca Foisor beat Alisa Melekhina to be the only player on 2/2. Photo ©

While it took that game a mere 17 moves to produce a winner, Woman Grandmaster Sabina Foisor needed 79 turns to overcome the dogged determination of FIDE Master Alisa Melekhina. Foisor took sole possession of the lead in the women’s tournament, and her double pawn sacrifice of 25. f4 and 26. e5 showed a perspicacious understanding of the position. Many fellow players and spectators, several of which were higher rated, praised the idea. Still, after Foisor pried apart her opponent’s king’s shelter, Melekhina gamely repulsed the attack and set up a timely blockade. Foisor’s 70. a5 was not calculation as much as it was the last salvo, but without ample time to hold the fortress, Melekhina allowed a decisive breakthrough.

"I thought I was winning and then and then I gave her a lot of counterplay," Foisor said. "In the end I thought that I’m not winning." The game was a bit of revenge for Foisor, as Melekhina has won their matchup at the last two U.S. Women’s Championships. Foisor began the 2009 Championship 3-0 but faltered badly in the final six games. She promised no celebrations would occur until after the event. Since she is missing her college classes, Foisor joked that she wants to succeed so she can silence her professors’ entreaties about the worthiness of skipping classes.

Gregory Kaidanov just had a disaster against Sam Shankland. Photo ©

The other miniature of the day came from an unlikely game. GM-elect Sam Shankland chose the normally-reserved Slav Defense against GM Gregory Kaidanov. The center pawns traded early, unfurling some open diagonals that Shankland rode to a devastating attack on Kaidanov’s castled king.

"I don’t know if Kaidanov has lost in 18 moves with White in the last 20 years," Shankland said. "I got extremely lucky of course - I think it was more his doing than mine. It just wasn’t his day."

Shankland’s sudden attack came from a queen lift, first up to d4, then across to h4, to join forces with his well-posted bishops. He said the maneuver would have been much more ineffective if Kaidanov had not played 14. Bxc4 and instead kept his light-squared bishop on d3. From there, it could generate a counterattack via the b1-h7 diagonal.

After settling in for the first round, the second round gave more decisive results. Seven of the 12 matches produced winners, including all four of the games in the U.S. Women’s Championship.

Irina Krush knew more about the Blumenfeld Gambit than her opponent Abrahamyan and won easily to ease the pain of her round 1 disaster. Photo ©

Defending Champion IM Irina Krush recovered easily from her first-round oversight, defeating WFM Tatev Abrahamyan. All of the women have played each other several times over, so Abrahamyan tried to spring a surprise on Krush with the rare Blumenfeld Gambit. Krush actually tried out the opening herself at last year’s championship.

"She clearly didn’t know anything about the Blumenfeld," Krush said. "She took a gamble that I didn’t know anything. I knew just a little bit more than her."

Anna Zatonskih obtained a winning position right out of the opening. Photo ©

IM Anna Zatonskih, considered one the pre-tournament favorites, picked up her first win by netting some early material and beating WIM Iryna Zenyuk. Zatonskih is the only player with 1.5 out of two. Four women out of the eight will advance to the semifinals after round-robin play. WGM Camilla Baginskaite earned her first point by defeating IM Rusudan Goletiani.

Gata Kamsky was in aggressive mood in Round 2. Photo ©

Defending U.S. Champion GM Gata Kamsky bubbled over in the press room when showing his victory over GM Varuzhan Akobian. Like Christiansen, Kamsky left his b-pawn undefended and proceeded to show his opponent why it was poisoned.

Varuzhan Akobian fought hard against Gata Kamsky and almost saved the day. Photo ©

"I spoke with Emil (Sutovsky) and told him I wanted to sacrifice some stuff today," Kamsky said. "He told me, ‘Don’t do that!’" Sutovsky is Kamsky’s friend and in the past has also served as his "second."

Kamsky enthusiastically showed some variations to the crowd. "Ne4 was, how do you say, beautiful?" He admitted to getting carried away with aesthetics and criticized his two-knight maneuver 26. Ne7+ and 27. Ng5+. He claimed to find an unlikely defense for Akobian. In showing it off to the audience, he ended with a position of perfect stasis for both sides. The result, he said, reminded him of something famed chess composer Leonid Kubbel might create.

All other round-two games ended in draws, including GM Jaan Ehlvest against GM Ray Robson, GM Alexander Stripunsky against GM Alexander Ivanov, GM Alexander Shabalov against GM Alexander Onischuk, IM Daniel Naroditsky against GM Yury Shulman and GM Robert Hess against GM Ben Finegold. Of the list, Hess had the best chance to win, but missed a winning knight invasion late in the game.

Every player in both tournaments now has at least one-half point. Leading the U.S. Championship’s Group One is Kamsky with 1.5/2, but six other players in that group trail him by a half-point. Leading Group Two is Christiansen, while Onischuk and Shankland are on 1.5/2. The top two men from each group will qualify for the semifinals.

Tomorrow the most important matchup will be Shankland - Christiansen, with the latter having Black for the first time in the event.

Log on to at 2 p.m. local, 3 Eastern Time for live coverage of round three.

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Another important aspect of our mission is to develop in-school and after-school scholastic chess programs. Chess teaches valuable lessons for developing students like problem solving, critical thinking, spatial awareness and goal setting. If you'd like more information about the CCSCSL, our mission or our programs, or if you'd like to support our cause with a financial contribution, please call us at 314.361.CHESS (2437), or e-mail

Hikaru Nakamura gave the US Championships a miss in order to make the point that he felt he'd moved beyond that. It didn't prevent him being a guest at the event. He took the opportunity to announce that he will play Ruslan Ponomariov in May in Saint Louis to give him some match experience. Photo ©

ch-USA GpA Saint Louis (USA), 15-21 iv 2011 cat. XIV (2579)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Kamsky, Gata g USA 2733 * ½ . . . . . 1 2768
2. Ivanov, Alexander g USA 2540 ½ * . . ½ . . . 1 2655
3. Shulman, Yuri g USA 2622 . . * . ½ ½ . . 1 2508
4. Ehlvest, Jaan g USA 2586 . . . * . ½ ½ . 1 2480
5. Stripunsky, Alexander g USA 2578 . ½ ½ . * . . . 1 2581
6. Naroditsky, Daniel f USA 2438 . . ½ ½ . * . . 1 2604
7. Robson, Ray g USA 2522 . . . ½ . . * ½ 1 2598
8. Akobian, Varuzhan g USA 2611 0 . . . . . ½ * ½ 2434
Round 2 (April 16, 2011)
Kamsky, Gata - Akobian, Varuzhan 1-0 34 C11 French Defence
Ehlvest, Jaan - Robson, Ray ½-½ 46 A13 Reti Opening
Stripunsky, Alexander - Ivanov, Alexander ½-½ 33 A46 Queen's Pawn Opening
Naroditsky, Daniel - Shulman, Yuri ½-½ 30 C06 French Tarrasch
ch-USA GpB Saint Louis (USA), 15-21 iv 2011 cat. XIV (2580)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Christiansen, Larry M g USA 2586 * . . . 1 . 1 . 2
2. Shankland, Samuel L m USA 2512 . * . ½ . . . 1 2760
3. Onischuk, Alexander g USA 2678 . . * . ½ 1 . . 2738
4. Hess, Robert L g USA 2565 . ½ . * . ½ . . 1 2506
5. Shabalov, Alexander g USA 2590 0 . ½ . * . . . ½ 2439
6. Finegold, Benjamin g USA 2500 . . 0 ½ . * . . ½ 2428
7. Seirawan, Yasser g USA 2636 0 . . . . . * ½ ½ 2384
8. Kaidanov, Gregory S g USA 2569 . 0 . . . . ½ * ½ 2381
Round 2 (April 16, 2011)
Christiansen, Larry M - Seirawan, Yasser 1-0 23 B12 Caro Kann Advanced
Hess, Robert L - Finegold, Benjamin ½-½ 48 B18 Caro Kann
Shabalov, Alexander - Onischuk, Alexander ½-½ 30 C45 Scotch Game
Kaidanov, Gregory S - Shankland, Samuel L 0-1 18 D45 Anti-Meran Variations
ch-USA w Prelim Saint Louis (USA), 15-21 iv 2011 cat. V (2363)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Foisor, Sabina-Francesca wg USA 2350 * . 1 . . 1 . . 2
2. Zatonskih, Anna m USA 2499 . * . . . ½ . 1 2467
3. Krush, Irina m USA 2472 0 . * 1 . . . . 1 2338
4. Abrahamyan, Tatev wf USA 2326 . . 0 * 1 . . . 1 2407
5. Baginskaite, Camilla wg USA 2342 . . . 0 * . 1 . 1 2346
6. Melekhina, Alisa f USA 2304 0 ½ . . . * . . ½ 2231
7. Goletiani, Rusudan m USA 2367 . . . . 0 . * ½ ½ 2100
8. Zenyuk, Iryna USA 2245 . 0 . . . . ½ * ½ 2240
Round 2 (April 16, 2011)
Foisor, Sabina-Francesca - Melekhina, Alisa 1-0 79 E91 King's Indian Classical
Krush, Irina - Abrahamyan, Tatev 1-0 20 E10 Blumenfeld Counter Gambit
Baginskaite, Camilla - Goletiani, Rusudan 1-0 40 A70 Benoni
Zenyuk, Iryna - Zatonskih, Anna 0-1 31 E30 Nimzo Indian Leningrad

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