Kamsky retains U.S. title

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Kamsky retains U.S. titleOnly Bobby Fischer, Sammy Reshevsky, Lev Alburt and Walter Browne did it before him: retaining the U.S. Championship title. Yesterday Gata Kamsky beat Yuri Shulman 1.5-0.5 in the final to remain U.S. Champion for at least another year, a prize he won in 1991 for the first time. The women's title will be decided today in a tie-break.

Gata Kamsky, 2011 U.S. Champion | Photo © St. Louis Chess Club

General info

The 2011 U.S. Championship and 2011 U.S. Women's Championship take place April 14-28 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The games of the Championships can be followed live here. Like last year, there's a daily live show with GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade, produced by Macauley Peterson, including trivia, polls, viewer questions and lots of prizes given away. The full 4+ hour live show is also available for replay in four parts each day at

Report Finals

By FM Mike Klein

Tuesday: Kamsky Edges Shulman; Zatonskih, Abrahamyan Draw At the 2011 U.S. Championship, the defending champion took a large step Tuesday toward repeating his title. GM Gata Kamsky unearthed a win from seemingly infertile ground against GM Yury Shulman in the first game of their two-game title match. Shulman will take White tomorrow and has to win to extend the match into a Thursday playoff.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, WFM Tatev Abrahamyan took White and played much sharper, but in the end she had to bail out into a draw against IM Anna Zatonskih. Tomorrow colors will reverse and any decisive game will produce an automatic champion.

Kamsky’s game seemed headed for placid equality until Shulman started experimenting on the kingside. After 32…f5, Kamsky said he began to have thoughts of playing for a win. The sequence of pawn exchanges three moves later confirmed his decision to keep fighting. “After he took twice on g4, I thought it was already unpleasant for Black,” Kamsky said. “Before that it was equal. He helped me a lot – self-destruction.”

Later, Kamsky found the nifty rook retreat 45. Rd8+ and 46. Rd3. This forced Shulman to exchange rooks and the resulting bishop-and-pawn endgame made the task even easier. After White’s 58th move, Shulman saw no way to stop the passed a-pawn and he duly resigned.

Kamsky retains U.S. title

For the women’s tournament, Abrahamyan entered the finals as large underdog. She played unrestrained chess – sacrificing a pawn at the outset and then employing a sideline variation. Zatonskih thought for 15 minutes, then made a trade and tried all game to try to consolidate her extra pawn. With grandmasters in the audience preferring Zatonskih’s material advantage, Abrahamyan kept up the pressure and eventually engineered a three-fold repetition of position and the split point.

Afterward, Zatonskih learned that GM Daniel Friedman, her husband who was watching the game online, found the winning tactic 23…fxe5 24. Nxe5 d4! The discovered attack on her opponent’s centralized knight would have netted Zatonskih an extra piece. “Oh my god!” Zatonskih said as she learned of the opportunity. “Unbelievable.”

Anna Zatonskih

In the third-place matches, IM Irina Krush took a better position from beginning to end. Her opponent, WGM Camilla Baginskaite, played an awkward queen maneuver early and Krush slowly punished the idea. Baginskaite’s attempt at counterplay only resulted in the weakening of her own position and Krush soon earned the win. Krush will only need a draw tomorrow to secure third place. “All the stress went away yesterday,” Krush said, referring to her lengthy match loss to Zatonskih.

GM-elect Sam Shankland matched up with his peer GM Robert Hess for third place in the U.S. Championship. Shankland had the advantage of coming off a rest day, but it was not enough to get the better of Hess. A weak c-pawn could have become a target for Shankland to attack, but the plan never came to fruition and in the end he had to play a series of careful moves to ensure a draw. “I’d rather be in the final, but I’d also rather not be at home,” Shankland said. The two will play again tomorrow with Hess having White. The winner will take third.

If either third-place match requires a tiebreak, it will be a one game Armageddon bidding match, with White getting 45 minutes and Black getting draw odds and the lowest bid time. That match will be Wednesday evening. If either championship match requires a tiebreak, it will be played on Thursday at noon local, and will consist of two rapid games followed by an Armageddon G/45 bidding match.

Interview with Gata Kamsky after his win over Yuri Shulman:

Wednesday: Kamsky Repeats, Women Head to Tiebreak 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.

Tatev Abrahamyan

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 weant 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.

Interview with 2011 Champion Gata Kamsky:

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

Games finals

Game viewer by ChessTempo


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