Nakamura Beats Kamsky to Take Lead at U.S. Champs

  • SonofPearl
  • on 5/18/12, 11:09 PM.

Nakamura Beats Kamsky to Take Lead at U.S. Champs
By FM Mike Klein

The battle all chess fans waited to see at the 2012 U.S. Championship did not disappoint. GM Hikaru Nakamura beat GM Gata Kamsky for the first time ever in classical chess to take over the lead by one-half point with one game to go. Nakamura has 7.5 points to Kamsky's seven.

Playing Black in round ten, Nakamura chose the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense because he wanted a volatile position. During their last encounter, at the Tata Steel Tournament in January, Nakamura's Dragon Variation did not produce any winning chances. Today, he needed more from the opening.

Kamsky uncharacteristically labored in the opening, spending more time than his opponent for one of the first times in the event. He spent 30 minutes after 11...Na5. Lacking his usual confidence, he was down 45 minutes on the clock a few moves later.

Gata Kamsky labored in the opening

Gata Kamsky 2012 US Champs round 10.jpg

Later, Nakamura won a pawn, but refused to go for more. In the post-game press conference, Nakamura said that he was not sure of the complications arising from 25...Nxc3 26. bxc3 Qxc3 27. Ng4 Qxa5 28. Nxh6+ gxh6 29. Qg4+ Kh8. While it seems Black is simply up an armada of pawns, white can chase the black queen around the board until she gives herself away for two rooks. Nakamura said he thought it was still technically winning, but he was worried about his king's safety. The alternative plan from the actual game left Nakamura up the exchange, but with a different set of difficulties ahead.

“Optically the knights are very strong, but at the same time, they don't have very many squares,” Nakamura said. He wanted to avoid an endgame where one of Kamsky's knights would sacrifice for his lone queenside pawn, as an ending with pawns on only one side can often reduce winning chances.

Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura 2012 US Champs round 10.jpg

The defending champion's lack of time came back to hurt him on the 40th and final move of time control. According to Nakamura, 40. Kh4 is an unrecoverable mistake. The forcing sequence beginning with the pinning of one knight and the sacrifice for another led to Kamsky searching fruitlessly for counterplay against the inexorable march of his opponent's a-pawn. While Kamsky attempted to conjure an attack with his limited material, Nakamura did not need any moves to rebuff the plan, and simply marched onward with his pawn.

“A lot of moves Gata played in this game surprised me,” Nakamura said, adding the opinion that neither he nor Kamsky is playing his best at the championship.
Nakamura thought that he was due for some good fortune, as he had better positions in several of the games that he drew.

Tomorrow, Nakamura assured everyone that he was out to win, as he gets white versus GM Yasser Seirawan. If he is able to do so, he will clinch the title, his first since 2009. Kamsky meanwhile needs some help to win his third consecutive championship. He will likely need to win as black against GM Robert Hess, then get some help from Seirawan. Should there be a tie at the end of the 11th round, the playoff will be Sunday at noon Central time.

All other games Friday were drawn, except GM Alejandro Ramirez, who beat GM Alex Stripunsky. GM Alex Onischuk retained his position in third by easily drawing GM Varuzhan Akobian.


US Chess Champs 2012 table round 10.png


US womens Chess Champs 2012 table round 8.png

Tomorrow's final day for the U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship will begin at 1 p.m. Central, 2 p.m. Eastern. Tune in to for live commentary from GM Ben Finegold and WGM Jennifer Shahade.


Photos by Studio314

5992 reads 15 comments
3 votes


  • 4 years ago


    Seirawan is at 11th. so does not look like he has a chance. Naka will not let this slip away.

  • 4 years ago


    Already decided before you posted, NextTime.  Naka beats Seirawan in 30 moves, wins the US Champs by a full point, 2782.6 in the live ratings.

  • 4 years ago


    Naka is too confidence 4 tomorrow ,u'll see a surprise

  • 4 years ago


    there is only one Bobby Fischer

    go on Nakamura !

  • 4 years ago


    40.Nb6,  might  of  be  better  for  Kamsky.

  • 4 years ago


    Once again, thanks for the excellent reporting!

  • 4 years ago


    Lenderman haveing a decent tourney....but Naka rocks

  • 4 years ago


    Nakamura will probably win the US Championship.

  • 4 years ago


    Great win for Naka. That a-pawn just went rolling. 

  • 4 years ago


    The rise of asian chess.

  • 4 years ago


    Sigh... I've been rooting for Kamsky. Sure he could still technically win the championship but after losing to Nakamura if he won the championship in anything less than a classical time controlled playoff, it wouldn't feel right. Nakamura should win this year, he has earned it. 

  • 4 years ago


    Looking at the cross tables one can easily notice that the former soviet union chess school is dominating both contests, especially the women one.

  • 4 years ago


      This has been a great tourney for fighting chess, lot's of interesting games.

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