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US Chess Championships 2011 (5)

Intense battle and terrible errors in US Championships Round 5

Robert Hess has 4/5 in the B-Group but Kaidanov will be asking himself how he lost an ending he was pressing in.

Robert Hess has 4/5 in the B-Group but Kaidanov will be asking himself how he lost an ending he was pressing in. |

The 5th round of the US Championship was hugely important, with some very strange errors and the near elimination of one of the favourites in the women's event in a round with only three draws. Alexander Onischuk was impressive in defeating Larry Christiansen and getting himself into contention for qualification, but Robert Hess's win against Gregory Kaidanov and Ben Finegold's loss to Yasser Seirawan continained inexplicably weak play. Elo favourite Anna Zatonskih lost to Tatev Abrahamyan and is close to elimination. Abrahamyan played great until she had a position where it is difficult to imagine a more overwhelming position. Yet she almost blew it all before recovering to win. Read Mike Klein's report, see the games, results and standings below.

Desperate Push for Qualification Continues By FM Mike Klein

Round five of the U.S. Championship produced the most fighting chess so far at the 2011 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship. Players of the Black pieces won an astounding six games, and half of the games went into the sixth hour. Three-fourths of the games ended with a winner, and even the defending champion could not get an easy day off.

GM Robert Hess stretched his lead by getting a chess "turkey." He won his third game in a row to move to four points, the most of any player in the U.S. Championship. The young grandmaster chose an opening against GM Gregory Kaidanov with low risk where his pawn majority could be pressed. "I got exactly what I wanted with three against two on the queenside," Hess said. "It's annoying to play for Black." Hess said he had great respect for his veteran opponent, and referencing his opponent's nickname, Hess said, "I wasn't going to play something risky against Grisha."

GM Sam Shankland, tied with Hess in Group B going into the round, did not attain such a stable position. He entered the preparation of GM Alexander Shabalov, and for 14 moves his opponent played automatically. After accepting an exchange sacrifice, Shankland found his pieces tied down and his supposed material advantage illusory. "None of my rooks ever did anything," Shankland said. Talking to Shabalov after the game, Shankland said, "You beat me like four games in a row with Black. It's not fair." Shabalov replied, "I would still trade places with you." Shankland stays with three points, while Shabalov's win got him to two out of five. Shabalov is still mathematically alive to finish in the top two of his group, if only barely. When asked what he has left to play for, Shabalov joked, "There's always money!" Each place difference for the non-qualifiers is about $1,000 difference.

GM Larry Christiansen entered the round in sole possession of third place in the group, but he yielded that placement to GM Alex Onischuk after losing their head-to-head battle. "I didn't get so much from the opening even though I knew the line," Onischuk said. Though the win puts him in third place for the time being, Onischuk was quick to explain that he has to work in the last two rounds. "Still it's not clear if I'm going to qualify," he said. Going into the tournament, Onischuk was a heavy favorite to be a qualifier to the semifinals.

In other Group B action, GM Yasser Seirawaran recovered from a slow start to win his first game of the event by besting GM Ben Finegold after the latter willingly entered a complicated but losing king-and-pawn endgame. Finegold felt frustrated after the game. While he resigned in a losing position, he said that the variation Seirawan prepared to continue with was not the best and would have led to a draw.

In Group A, both GM Yury Shulman and GM Gata Kamsky protected their lead by negotiating draws. Shulman's draw versus good friend GM Varuzhan Akobian came without too much fuss, but Kamsky had to work for quite some time against GM Alexander Stripunksy. Kamsky closed the entire position by locking up the pawns but a determined Stripunsky fought hard to open an avenue for attack. After exhausting all resources, Stripunsky settled for a split point. Kamsky was highly critical of his own play, but both he and Shulman remain in the drivers' seats with 3.5 out of five.

Ray Robson lost to 15 year old Daniel Naroditsky. Photo ©

GM Ray Robson failed to catch up as his knight got ensnared on the a-file against 15-year-old IM Daniel Naroditsky. Robson extricated his knight, but at great cost, and his younger opponent eventually barreled down the edge of the board to win the game. "He defended like a tiger," Naroditsky said. "He was down to five seconds each move but he found the best move each time." Both Naroditsky and Robson now sit at 2.5. The even score is outstanding for the former but represents a missed opportunity for the latter.

GM Alexander Ivanov and GM Jaan Ehlvest also drew their complicated queen versus two rooks ending.

Alisa Melekhina lost to Irina Krush. Photo ©

In the U.S. Women's Championship, IM Irina Krush moved into sole possession of the lead for the first time in the tournament by winning her fourth game in a row. Krush outmaneuvered FM Alisa Melekhina in an equal ending to get to four points. Melekhina insisted she is playing well but is not finding any luck in her games. Early tournament leader WGM Sabina Foisor suffered her first hiccup of the event. She lost to IM Rusudan Goletiani, but Foisor remains tied for second place with two rounds to go.

Anna Zatonskih against Tatev Abrahamyan. Photo ©

Equaling Foisor with 3.5 out of five is WFM Tatev Abrahamyan, who won for the first time ever against IM Anna Zatonskih. Despite having an extra queen, bishop, and pawn about to promote, Abrahamyan almost threw away the win. "I finally play one good game and I can't finish it well!" she said. After her king took a long walk to the other side of the board, Abrahmyan found shelter and netted the point. Zatonskih will need to move quickly in rounds six and seven to qualify for the semifinals.

WGM Camilla Baginskaite won her third game to continue to come back from an opening-round loss. Her victory over WIM Irina Zenyuk moved her to 3.5 and with a great chance to qualify.

The top four women are Krush with 4/5 and then Foisor, Abrahamyan and Baginskaite with 3.5/5.

In round six, the young Naroditsky will face defending champion Kamsky. Asked what his strategy was, Naroditsky joked that he would be "groveling," a term chess players use to mean they are hoping for a draw. Christiansen will be desperate against Hess, and Shulman will try to keep place against Robson.

The top four women need to do little more than to play for draws, so Zatonskih will need to find a way to win as Black against Goletiani.

Visit today at 2 p.m. Local, 3 p.m. Eastern for live coverage of round six.

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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 * . . 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 2716
2. Shulman, Yuri g USA 2622 . * ½ ½ 1 . ½ 1 2699
3. Naroditsky, Daniel f USA 2438 . ½ * ½ 0 1 . ½ 2576
4. Akobian, Varuzhan g USA 2611 0 ½ ½ * . ½ 1 . 2578
5. Ivanov, Alexander g USA 2540 ½ 0 1 . * . ½ ½ 2591
6. Robson, Ray g USA 2522 ½ . 0 ½ . * 1 ½ 2589
7. Stripunsky, Alexander g USA 2578 ½ ½ . 0 ½ 0 * . 2456
8. Ehlvest, Jaan g USA 2586 0 0 ½ . ½ ½ . * 2422
Round 5 (April 19, 2011)
Kamsky, Gata - Stripunsky, Alexander ½-½ 94 A00 Irregular Openings
Akobian, Varuzhan - Shulman, Yuri ½-½ 30 E76 King's Indian Four Pawns
Ivanov, Alexander - Ehlvest, Jaan ½-½ 68 B32 Sicilian Labourdonnais
Robson, Ray - Naroditsky, Daniel 0-1 61 B94 Sicilian Najdorf with 6.Bg5
ch-USA GpB Saint Louis (USA), 15-21 iv 2011 cat. XIV (2580)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Hess, Robert L g USA 2565 * ½ 1 . . 1 ½ 1 4 2809
2. Shankland, Samuel L m USA 2512 ½ * . 1 ½ 0 . 1 3 2661
3. Onischuk, Alexander g USA 2678 0 . * 1 . ½ 1 ½ 3 2634
4. Christiansen, Larry M g USA 2586 . 0 0 * 1 1 ½ . 2583
5. Seirawan, Yasser g USA 2636 . ½ . 0 * ½ 1 ½ 2551
6. Shabalov, Alexander g USA 2590 0 1 ½ 0 ½ * . . 2 2523
7. Finegold, Benjamin g USA 2500 ½ . 0 ½ 0 . * 1 2 2534
8. Kaidanov, Gregory S g USA 2569 0 0 ½ . ½ . 0 * 1 2338
Round 5 (April 19, 2011)
Hess, Robert L - Kaidanov, Gregory S 1-0 68 C11 French Defence
Shankland, Samuel L - Shabalov, Alexander 0-1 39 E06 Catalan
Onischuk, Alexander - Christiansen, Larry M 1-0 43 E21 Nimzo Indian 4.Nf3
Finegold, Benjamin - Seirawan, Yasser 0-1 52 B17 Caro Kann
ch-USA w Prelim Saint Louis (USA), 15-21 iv 2011 cat. V (2363)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Krush, Irina m USA 2472 * 1 0 . 1 1 . 1 4 2609
2. Abrahamyan, Tatev wf USA 2326 0 * ½ 1 1 1 . . 2555
3. Foisor, Sabina-Francesca wg USA 2350 1 ½ * . . 0 1 1 2491
4. Baginskaite, Camilla wg USA 2342 . 0 . * ½ 1 1 1 2497
5. Zatonskih, Anna m USA 2499 0 0 . ½ * . 1 ½ 2 2265
6. Goletiani, Rusudan m USA 2367 0 0 1 0 . * ½ . 2198
7. Zenyuk, Iryna USA 2245 . . 0 0 0 ½ * 1 2223
8. Melekhina, Alisa f USA 2304 0 . 0 0 ½ . 0 * ½ 2015
Round 5 (April 19, 2011)
Zatonskih, Anna - Abrahamyan, Tatev 0-1 70 E63 King's Indian 6...Nc6
Goletiani, Rusudan - Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 1-0 67 A30 English Symmetrical
Zenyuk, Iryna - Baginskaite, Camilla 0-1 37 E31 Nimzo Indian Leningrad
Melekhina, Alisa - Krush, Irina 0-1 72 B52 Sicilian Rossolimo

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