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US Chess Championships 2011 (KO Day 5)

Kamsky eases to US title, Zatonskih and Abrahamyan playoff after much crazyness

Gata Kamsky was the class act of the 2011 US Championship.

Gata Kamsky was the class act of the 2011 US Championship. |

It took Gata Kamsky 19 years between titles last year but his 3rd title came quickly as he joined a select band of players to retain the US Chess Championships. This hadn't been done since Lev Alburt in 1984-5 and the only other players to do it are Sammy Reshevsky, Bobby Fischer and Walter Browne. The 2nd game was itself a damp squib as Kamsky, and indeed possibly both players, were pretty sure that white was in trouble in terms of winning chances after only 7 moves. Kamsky duly showed that white was perhaps the only player in danger in the position. Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan played a crazy game that swung wildly in fortunes before a draw became the final result, they will playoff on Thursday for the title. Shankland and Krush finished 3rd in the men's and women's events respectively. Read FM Mike Klein's report, see videos, games and tables.

Kamsky Repeats, Women Head to Tiebreak By FM Mike Klein

After an opening miscue led to a struggle for equality, GM Yury Shulman conceded a draw to GM Gata Kamsky and with it the title of 2011 U.S. Champion. Kamsky also won the title last year in another final-round game with Shulman. Kamsky won $40,000 for first place, plus $2,000 more for winning his preliminary group. His first title was in 1991.

Kamsky won yesterday in the first game of their match, putting Shulman in a must-win situation today, but he never seriously pressed. "I had to survive all game," Shulman said. Shulman is the 2008 U.S. Champion, and he earned $30,000 for his second-place finish this year.

"He should have done what he did last year against me in the rapid game - played slowly to build up pressure," Kamsky said. "After he played e4, I realized it was almost done." Shulman agreed that his seventh move was imprecise. "I should have shown some fight," Shulman said.

Prior to Kamsky, the last American to successfully defend his national championship was GM Lev Alburt in 1984-1985.

In the U.S. Women's Championship, IM Anna Zatonskih and WFM Tatev Abrahamyan played more than five hours before the game ended in a draw. The two nearly played down to king versus king. Their two-game classical match ended in a 1-1 tie, necessitating tiebreaks tomorrow. They will play a two-game rapid match (G/25 with five-second increment), followed by a G/45 Armageddon bidding match if needed. The winner will earn the title of U.S. Women's Champion and $18,000. Second place earns $12,000.

"I thought I was totally lost," Abrahamyan said after the game ended. Players who had already finished their tournament were downstairs furiously analyzing the endgame. Few definite conclusions were made and the two women had a host of important decisions to make with less than two minutes remaining on their clocks.

In the third-place matches, defending champion IM Irina Krush never faced serious problems in her game with WGM Camilla Baginskaite. "White has to be very precise for an edge, but that wasn't my goal today," Krush said. The drawn game follows Krush's win yesterday to give her a match win and third in the U.S. Women's Championship. She also qualified for the Women's World Cup. After playing chess for two weeks with only a day's rest, Krush left the press room and said, "This ordeal is over." Krush won $9,500 for third place and an additional $1,000 for winning the round-robin. Baginskaite earned $7,000 plus a $500 round-robin bonus.

GM Robert Hess and GM-elect Sam Shankland followed their draw yesterday with another today. Shankland barely flinched as Black in playing his entire game by only using up one minute on his clock. A frustrated Hess reluctantly repeated the position to ensure he would not get a worse game, and IA Carol Jarecki allowed the early repetition after consulting with the players.

The match skipped any rapid game and went to an Armageddon tiebreak. Shankland bid 20 minutes and Hess' envelope was opened to reveal a bid of 19 minutes, 55 seconds. Hess took less time but had the Black pieces and draw odds. Shankland played a complicated system and the resulting imbalance left Hess with too little time to hold the position. With the win, Shankland earned $20,000 and easily his best finish in the U.S. Championship. Hess earned $17,000 for fourth place ($15,000 plus a $2,000 bonus for winning his preliminary group). In 2009, Hess finished in second place.

The final games of the U.S. Women's Championship will start Thursday at noon local, 1 p.m. Eastern. To follow the action, go to

1) Live interview with 2011 Champion Gata Kamsky.

2) The nail-biter of an ending in Wednesday's Women's Final! Don't miss it!

ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis
Kamsky, Gata - Shulman, Yuri 1-0 57 E04 Catalan
Shulman, Yuri - Kamsky, Gata ½-½ 37 D15 Slav Defence
ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis (USA), 23-25 iv 2011
Name Ti NAT Rtng 1 2 Total Perf
Kamsky, Gata g USA 2733 1 ½ 2815
Shulman, Yuri g USA 2622 0 ½ ½ 2540
ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis
Shankland, Samuel L - Hess, Robert L ½-½ 40 E04 Catalan
Hess, Robert L - Shankland, Samuel L ½-½ 21 B13 Caro Kann Exchange
Shankland, Samuel L - Hess, Robert L 1-0 29 E20 Nimzo Indian
ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis (USA), 23-25 iv 2011
Name Ti NAT Rtng 1 2 3 Total Perf
Shankland, Samuel L m USA 2512 ½ ½ 1 2 2690
Hess, Robert L g USA 2565 ½ ½ 0 1 2387
ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis
Abrahamyan, Tatev - Zatonskih, Anna ½-½ 42 C02 French Advance
Zatonskih, Anna - Abrahamyan, Tatev ½-½ 70 E63 King's Indian 6...Nc6
ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis (USA), 23-25 iv 2011
Name Ti NAT Rtng 1 2 Total Perf
Zatonskih, Anna m USA 2499 ½ ½ 1 2326
Abrahamyan, Tatev wf USA 2326 ½ ½ 1 2499
ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis
Baginskaite, Camilla - Krush, Irina 0-1 40 A07 Barcza System
Krush, Irina - Baginskaite, Camilla ½-½ 32 E32 Nimzo Indian 4.Qc2
ch-USA Playoff Saint Louis (USA), 23-25 iv 2011
Name Ti NAT Rtng 1 2 Total Perf
Krush, Irina m USA 2472 1 ½ 2535
Baginskaite, Camilla wg USA 2342 0 ½ ½ 2279

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