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Monday, May 13, 2013

US Chess Championships 2013 Round 8: Krush Cruises, Kamsky Holds

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2013

Hi everyone, 

SAINT LOUIS (May 12, 2013) -- In a day in which both leaders could have at least guaranteed themselves a spot in a first-place tiebreak, only one built a safety net. Round eight of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship saw GM Gata Kamsky slip with a complicated position but dwindling clock, while IM Irina Krush snatched a pawn and squashed the limited compensation to maintain her one-point lead.

Both events will need the final round, and perhaps more, to decide a champion.

Due to the complicated FIDE pairing system, Kamsky got white for the second round in a row. GM Timur Gareev lined up for the black pieces. Luckily, he did not assume the pairings and checked them this morning. “I was a little surprised, but you still have to play,” Gareev said. IA Franc Guadalupe confirmed the colors were accurate according to the FIDE rules, which prioritize color history and equalization more than which player is due a certain color.

Once again, Kamsky got nothing special from his preparation. “Obviously I was very happy with the opening,” Gareev said. He knew his chances would only come from active play before the game opened up. “I was looking for something concrete. Strategically white’s position is better with the two bishops. Two of my knights jumping into the center squares; I felt I should be better.”

But a few moves later, Kamsky began to think that his sluggish start would be completely flipped into a win. “Considering the way I misplayed the opening, I feel a little lucky,” Kamsky explained. “Once I got the two extra pawns, I got really excited, but I was low on time.”

The game turned when Kamsky’s queen invaded the seventh rank. “After Qe7 I knew I am in trouble,” Gareev said. He decided to burn his bridges, sacrifice all of his queenside pawns, and hunt down an otherwise safely-guarded white king. “Going into the endgame is the least desirable result. I just had to go for it, come what may.”

Kamsky got a promotion to a second queen, but Gareev forced a draw by repetition. After opening with four straight wins, Kamsky has come back to the pack by drawing the last four games.

The draw left the door ajar for a pair of players on board two to gain equal footing with Kamsky. GMs Alejandro Ramirez and Alex Onischuk each stood a half-point back going into the round, but a lifeless two-hour draw kept them both nipping at Kamsky’s heels. “Against this guy, you can’t get anything,” Ramirez said of his opponent. “Of course I didn’t want a draw with white.” Ramirez is seeking his first ever U.S. Championship (this is only his second appearance), while Onischuk is trying for his first title since 2006.

In the women’s championship, almost everything hinged on the game between numbers one and three. WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, who has a tournament performance rating about 300 points above her expectation, had a chance to throw the women’s tournament into complete chaos. Starting only one point behind Krush, whom she played, she took the white pieces of an Open Sicilian. Krush equalized without issue and later won, although Abrahamyan missed an important rejoinder late in the game. “I was surprised by Tatev’s decision to sacrifice the g-pawn,” Krush said. “I didn’t see the compensation. I guess we just evaluated it differently.”

Abrahamyan missed a chance to get back in the game. If 44. Qd5, after the queens trade the e-pawn and possibility of a c5 break make the position volatile. “I think it would have cost me a few years of my life if I’d seen it,” Krush said.

Afterward, Krush would not accept any congratulatory remarks. “Clearly a tie for first doesn’t make me happy in any way. That’s the minimum maximum.”

The win, coupled with IM Anna Zatonskih’s win, means the new second-place chaser is Zatonskih. Abrahamyan is mathematically eliminated from winning her first U.S. Women’s Championship. The only way Krush could not defend her 2012 title would be to lose in round nine and Zatonskih wins, and then also lose to her in a tiebreak on Monday. One of these two women will be the champion for the eighth year in a row.

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