Bad Day For Best Players In St. Louis

Bad Day For Best Players In St. Louis

After writing in these pages yesterday about the successes of the three prohibitive favorites, they all struggled in round three of the 2015 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship

GM Irina Krush lost her first game at the championship in four years, GM Wesley So lost as White to the youngest player in the field, and GM Hikaru Nakamura allowed a last-minute salvo to spoil his win. Collectively, the group went 0.5/3, ensuring the $64,000 "Fischer Prize" is safe for another year.

"It's a lot of fun to see chaos," GM Maurice Ashley said while summing up the day's action.

GM Sam Sevian with the biggest win of his career.

"I probably didn't analyze the opening too deeply," So said of his loss to GM Sam Sevian, the youngest grandmaster in the world. So's former teammate concurred.

"I think he made a very bad opening choice," GM Ray Robson said. "It plays to Sevian's style, it's not a very good line in general. It's just a mistake."

So reached for the right word but came up with the same one. "It was a mistake going for such a dangerous line without knowing all the subtleties...These (young) players are born with computers. Sam probably when he was six. I started using computers when I was 10!"

Still, after pitching a knight to decimate Black's kingside and collecting enough pawns to fill a Volkswagen, So looked to be inches from a 3-0 start in his first U.S. Championship. The only problem? All those open lines were filled with Black pieces, which were primed on his own king.

So faced forced mate in six when he finally capitulated. "I was told he's very good at mating people!" So said.

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold coming soon:

When did Sevian know he would win? "After ...Qxg5 I knew." So offered a draw one move later, which Sevian said he "knew he couldn't take." Perhaps because he was about to beat the world number five, Sevian's body began shaking in the final moves. He said he had to remind himself it was just another guy, and Black was winning against anyone sitting in the opposite chair.

So "plummeted" back to world number eight, right back where he began the event. 

As for Nakamura, he played the longest game of the day. For most of it, he could have expected to take over sole first place. Better for most of the game against GM Gata Kamsky, a late oversight cost him a half-point and created another tie at the top (this time with Robson, who won today to also move to 2.5/3).

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is running out of new colors for its shirts. This year GM Gata Kamsky wears the orange.

So what happened? Kamsky said he didn't expect 2...e6 (instead a King's Indian). "I didn't prepare for this tournament much because of some things going on." Later, his pieces were in solitary confinement for hours until the resource 55. Nf7?! appeared. It still loses but gave practical chances!

"The last few moves, I was just shuffling pieces around, waiting for him to finish me off," Kamsky explained. "I was really proud when I found Nf7."

It's not a mood ring for Nakamura, but if it were, it would have turned black after today.

Both 55...Qc6 and 55...Qc5 still win (the computer even seems to think 55...Kxf7 wins, but only a masochist would consider the recommended ridiculous lines where Black's king walks to the middle with the assistance of his two bishops).

Instead Nakamura offered his queen but White can escape with some funny knight hopping. The final position is an aesthetically pleasing fortress, but that's small consolation for leaving a half-point on the floor. The live transmission briefly showed 1-0 before correctly displaying that the draw was the result.

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:

Kamsky's unbeaten streak at the championship ran to 24 games. The last man to take him out? Nakamura in 2012, also as Black.

Speaking of unbeaten streaks, Krush had not lost in St. Louis since 2011, having won three straight titles without defeats. That all ended today versus tournament newcomer IM Nazi Paikidze, whose accurate temporary piece sac created central pawns that steamrolled the six-time champ.


The former Georgian star recently married an American and began studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Some of Paikidze's notions of life in the U.S. turned out false: "The typical stereotypes are not true -- Americans are so friendly."

She said the Georgian Championship was a little stronger (her best finish was second), but there was one major difference -- no press ("I was very nervous about the media"). Paikidze was told at the players meeting to expect interviews, so she had to "prep" how to handle that too.

The women always play up the stairs and to the left.

One thing that helped her feel at home? IM Rusa Goletiani, another Georgian native. The two are generationally different and had never met before this week, but they eagerly spoke their native tongue to each other. A quick language lesson: according to Goletiani, "nazi" means "soft" in Georgian and is pronounced like the rapper "Nas" with a long "e" at the end.

Paikidze is strong enough to qualify for the U.S. National Team, but she must not leave the country while waiting for her green card to be processed. Consequently, she will miss the Women's World Team Championship later this month. "It would be an honor to play for the U.S." she said.

Three winners in one shot! Goletiani talks to Abrahamyan while Paikidze waits for her opponent.

Time to talk about the "field," which has caught up to the pre-tournament favorites. Let's go back to Goletiani, who has used some good fortune to springboard to the top. She won today and is tied for the lead at 2.5/3 with fellow winner WGM Katerina Nemcova. As previously reported, Goletiani survived an abysmal position to salvage an opening-round draw (against Nemcova), and yesterday she won a drawn ending. Before showing her win today, let's back up to yesterday and show a Troitsky-esque resource her opponent missed:

Back to today, WIM Viktorija's Ni's husband and former U.S. Champion GM Yury Shulman came to town, but he could only look on as Goletiani's knight on d3 spoiled the reunion. Of course, Shulman also served as Goletiani's coach for the U.S. women's team, so maybe the game was really Shulman-Shulman?!

For her thoughts on her successful return to high-level chess, here's an exclusive interview.

Nemcova also ascended to 2.5/3 after youngster WIM Annie Wang spoiled a solid position by allowing White's rooks to break through. After that Black's position collapsed expeditiously.


"Girls don't have so many drawish results; they play to win," Nemcova said as tournament commentator WGM Jennifer Shahade half laughed and half cringed. This week's small sample size: The ladies have produced only five draws in 18 games (28 percent); the men eight of 16 (50 percent).

Webster teammates Sharevich and Nemcova talk before the round begins.

Nemcova recently graduated from the University of Texas at Brownsville and is on the Webster University team while completing her graduate studies in public relations. She said being around GM Susan Polgar and all of her grandmaster teammates is great practice. "There are many stronger opponents waiting for me."

In other action, scoreless WGM Tatev Abrahamyan removed her bagel by taking out upstart NM Apurva Virkud. "I won a chess game!" Abrahamyan said facetiously.

Besides Nakamura, Goletiani and Nemcova, the last member of the 2.5-point club is GM Ray Robson.

Robson joins Nemcova as Webster team members atop the tables.

Chess mortals might be scared by White's attack, but Robson held it together and won with a fast counterattack.

Chess.com caught up with Robson and asked him about wide-ranging subjects like declining the World Team Championships and why his parents moved to Myanmar. Here's the video interview:

Lastly, GM Varuzhan Akobian was left frustrated again. Before today's game, he explained that he knew the improvement to his round two game versus Nakamura but didn't play it. Today, GM Timur Gareev's opening was more flamboyant than his shirt. After 1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 h6?! Akobian was only able to muster a draw.

Tomorrow's anticipated battle between Nakamura and So might have lost a little perfect-score luster, but their second-career meeting looks to be the first of many in St. Louis. They've played much more if you venture outside of classical chess, including a 10-point shellacking by Nakamura in a recent Chess.com Death Match.

Don't look so worried! GM Kayden Troff survived a lost position to draw GM Alex Onischuk.

Tomorrow's round four starts at 1 p.m. Central (GMT -6). Live commentary can be found at www.chess.com/tv.

2015 U.S. Championship | Pairings for Round 4

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 GM Troff, Kayden W 1.5 2532 GM Shankland, Samuel L 1 2661
2 GM Sevian, Samuel 1.5 2531 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 0.5 2633
3 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2.5 2798 GM So, Wesley 2 2788
4 GM Gareev, Timur 1 2604 GM Kamsky, Gata 1.5 2683
5 GM Robson, Ray 2.5 2656 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 1.5 2622
6 GM Onischuk, Alexander 1.5 2665 GM Holt, Conrad 1 2530

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2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Pairings for Round 4

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 WCM Virkud, Apurva 1.5 2132 GM Krush, Irina 1.5 2477
2 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 2.5 2311 IM Paikidze, Nazi 2 2333
3 WGM Sharevich, Anna 1 2267 WIM Ni, Viktorija 0.5 2188
4 WIM Wang, Annie 1 1901 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 1.5 2235
5 FM Melekhina, Alisa 1.5 2235 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 2.5 2279
6 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 1 2322 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 1.5 2180

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2015 U.S. Championship | Standings After Round 3

Rank Name Score Rating TPR
1 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2.5 2798 2885
2 GM Robson, Ray 2.5 2656 2849
3 GM So, Wesley 2 2788 2733
4 GM Kamsky, Gata 1.5 2683 2663
5 GM Onischuk, Alexander 1.5 2665 2597
6 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 1.5 2622 2644
7 GM Troff, Kayden W 1.5 2532 2651
8 GM Sevian, Samuel 1.5 2531 2698
9 GM Shankland, Samuel L 1 2661 2576
10 GM Gareev, Timur 1 2604 2481
11 GM Holt, Conrad 1 2530 2561
12 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 0.5 2633 2387

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2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Standings After Round 3

Rank Name Score Rating TPR
1 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 2.5 2311 2507
2 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 2.5 2279 2433
3 IM Paikidze, Nazi 2 2333 2391
4 GM Krush, Irina 1.5 2477 2252
5 FM Melekhina, Alisa 1.5 2235 2211
6 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 1.5 2235 2352
7 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 1.5 2180 2134
8 WCM Virkud, Apurva 1.5 2132 2297
9 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 1 2322 1971
10 WGM Sharevich, Anna 1 2267 2106
11 WIM Wang, Annie 1 1901 2128
12 WIM Ni, Viktorija 0.5 2188 2101

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