Krush Gets Closer, Nakamura Wins With 'Moronic' Play

Krush Gets Closer, Nakamura Wins With 'Moronic' Play

After GM Hikaru Nakamura's lead whittled away to nothing over the last two rounds of the 2015 U.S. Championship, a quick win with Black to regain sole first place today did not exactly leave him sanguine.

"The way I played is just moronic," he said after the win over GM Kayden Troff. "I got exactly what I wanted, then I started playing Mickey Mouse moves."

Meanwhile, GM Irina Krush inched closer to the woman she's been chasing all event, WGM Katerina Nemcova. Krush beat FM Alisa Melekhina in her opponent's favorite opening, while Nemcova drew WGM Sabina Foisor.

In a day full of wild clashes, GM Wesley So lost his third game of the tournament after he didn't get enough for his piece against GM Conrad Holt. The defeat makes it exceedingly unlikely that anyone can catch Nakamura, except for GM Ray Robson (the two play Saturday in round 10).

Today Robson drew GM Sam Shankland; unlike in round seven, this time the queen endgame didn't offer any winning chances.

GM Hikaru Nakamura checked on GM Ray Robson's game several times today.

Back to Nakamura, who seemingly played one of his better efforts with Black at this year's tournament. He has won in a King's Indian and a Dragon, but in both of those games his opponents had definite chances.

What else did he have in his St. Louis grab-bag? A novelty in the Benoni! Nakamura said he prepared 14...g5 just for today's game. "If White gets in f4, White's probably better," he explained.

"You won't see me playing the Benoni too much."

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:

What may look like a smooth win didn't appear so to Nakamura, who is preparing for the final FIDE Grand Prix event next month. A selection of quotes:

  • "Optically it looks really good, but it's just rubbish."
  • "I wouldn't have the score I have if I was playing against other players."
  • "[...Bd7] is just a stupid move...Rb3 is just winning."
  • "Somehow I seem to be finding all the right moves after I move."

Why so critical? Nakamura said that's the mindset of a world-class competitor. "Most top players are like that, because if you aren't, you won't improve." And while he expresses frustration in public, he said other elite players do it behind closed doors.

Nakamura has said this is a tune-up for the FIDE Grand Prix, and so is gauging his satisfaction as though he played the same moves against those caliber players.

He added that he's had to take many risks at Black against lower-rated players as too many rating points are on the line.

A misleading picture -- Nakamura is merely checking his (correct) analysis before the final invasion on White's king.

"In Gibraltar and Zurich, for the most part, I played pretty close to perfect chess," he said. "Maybe I'm lucky it's happening here and not at other tournaments."

Second-seeded So could have remained within striking distance; instead he lost his third game (all have come against younger players). He has played only one draw from eight games.

GM Conrad Holt's 55-minute brain freeze didn't spoil things for him.

Holt played confidently early, despite the world top-ten opponent offering a piece in the first dozen moves. But after the logical 17...Re8, Holt went into the tank. It took him more than 55 minutes to emerge with 18. Rd1, the longest think of anyone in the event.

"I didn't remember anything at this point," Holt said. He had prepared this line recently for the Pan-American Collegiate Championship (he plays for the University of Texas at Dallas).

Just two moves later, Holt needed to extricate himself from a weakened king position but So assisted by offering a pawn that didn't need to be included.

"I didn't look at [...b5] at all," Holt said. "I'm glad it didn't do anything for him."

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:

Holt felt vindicated by seeing his early advantage through to completion. "I finally had some validation for all these winning positions out of the opening," he said.

Robson had won two in a row after Monday's lone rest day, but today he stalled against Shankland in a position that all the top brass claim computers don't understand.

Springtime in the afternoon brings direct sunlight to exactly one chair at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Today, Robson got the rays but not the win.

"These positions are extremely deceptive," Shankland said. "The computers always love Black."

"It looks like he's just crushing me on the a-file, but my rook on d2 cements everything," Robson said. Nakamura agreed that the computer evaluation of this middlegame is not to be trusted.


In a rare moment of caution for the swashbuckler, Robson said he didn't go for more complications on the kingside because he wanted to preserve his chances for the title.

"I'm trying to win the tournament, so I don't want to do anything stupid," he said. Even so, he thinks it's still Nakamura's tournament to win.

Finally, we present two games that encapsulate the difference in wildly divergent playing styles. First observe GM Alex Onischuk's convincing positional bind over GM Daniel Naroditsky, a game that even impressed world number seven GM Anish Giri.

GM Alex Onischuk played his best game of the event against the struggling GM Daniel Naroditsky.

Now break out the anxiety medicine for GM Timur Gareev's wildfire du jour. His White openings are even more unpredictable than Nakamura's Black openings. Today, a Trompowsky system that he "learned from a 2200." What's not clear is if that 2200 told him to sac the b-, d-, e-, and f-pawns before move 20?!

More flamboyant: GM Timur Gareev's shirts or his openings?

In one of the weirder final positions you'll see from grandmasters, Black never got his queenside off the ground. If Oliver Sacks were present, he'd likely call this "chess hemianopsia."

Gareev may have understated his decision-making when he called his game "adventurous, not solid." 

Is this kind of chess for you? For Onischuk, a former U.S. champion, it is most definitely not. Onischuk said he can never play chess like Nakamura. "He played the game against Naroditsky that I could never play," Onischuk said. "Just a level I don't understand."

Most players heaped praise like this on Nakamura, balancing out the top American's self-deprecation. All, that is, except Shankland. "If this is what 2800 means, I'm definitely going to be there one day," Shankland ribbed his Olympiad teammate.

Moving on to the ladies, Nemcova's lead was cut in half when she got nothing out of the opening against Foisor.

WGM Nemcova is still undefeated and still maintains sole first.

Krush cut the lead to a half-game by beating Melekhina's fearsome attacking formation in the Sicilian Alapin, the lawyer's go-to weapon against 1...c5. The six-time champion said that her research indicated 14. Bg5 is a new move for Melekhina. "It's a pretty dangerous-looking setup," Krush said, adding later however that "the final impression was pretty convincing for Black."

GM Irina Krush is a tad closer to her fourth-straight title after a timely exchange sac.

In other play, IM Rusa Goletiani recovered with a win against WIM Annie Wang, while WIM Viktorija Ni also notched a win against youngster WFM Jennifer Yu.

WIM Viktorija Ni is the face of concentration.

IM Nazi Paikidze only mustered a draw in a crazy piece-for-pawns position and thus falls 1.5 points off the pace, tied with Goletiani for third.


Krush and Nemcova are still slated for that final-round showdown on Sunday.

We close with the sad necessity of chess tournaments and of becoming a grownup: Melekhina hands over her tax forms to Arbiter and Club Director Tony Rich.


This is her first U.S. Women's Championship since leaving college. She lamented the "slightly" different tax bracket she's in now (Melekhina is a practicing intellectual property attorney in New York City).

All rounds begin at 1 p.m. Central time (GMT -6) and live coverage can be found at www.chess.com/tv.

2015 U.S. Championship | Pairings for Round 9

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 GM Kamsky, Gata 4.5 2683 GM Troff, Kayden W 4 2532
2 GM So, Wesley 4.5 2788 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 3 2622
3 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 1.5 2633 GM Holt, Conrad 3.5 2530
4 GM Shankland, Samuel L 4 2661 GM Onischuk, Alexander 4.5 2665
5 GM Sevian, Samuel 4 2531 GM Robson, Ray 5.5 2656
6 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 6 2798 GM Gareev, Timur 3 2604

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2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Pairings for Round 9

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 4 2235 WCM Virkud, Apurva 3 2132
2 WIM Ni, Viktorija 4.5 2188 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 6.5 2279
3 IM Paikidze, Nazi 5 2333 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 2 2180
4 GM Krush, Irina 6 2477 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 4.5 2322
5 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 5 2311 FM Melekhina, Alisa 2 2235
6 WGM Sharevich, Anna 4 2267 WIM Wang, Annie 1.5 1901

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2015 U.S. Championship | Standings After Round 8

Rank Name Score Rating TPR
1 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 6 2798 2816
2 GM Robson, Ray 5.5 2656 2780
3 GM So, Wesley 4.5 2788 2678
4 GM Kamsky, Gata 4.5 2683 2676
5 GM Onischuk, Alexander 4.5 2665 2674
6 GM Shankland, Samuel L 4 2661 2653
7 GM Troff, Kayden W 4 2532 2637
8 GM Sevian, Samuel 4 2531 2665
9 GM Holt, Conrad 3.5 2530 2626
10 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 3 2622 2538
11 GM Gareev, Timur 3 2604 2552
12 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 1.5 2633 2403

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2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Standings After Round 8

Rank Name Score Rating TPR
1 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 6.5 2279 2449
2 GM Krush, Irina 6 2477 2415
3 IM Paikidze, Nazi 5 2333 2328
4 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 5 2311 2323
5 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 4.5 2322 2231
6 WIM Ni, Viktorija 4.5 2188 2296
7 WGM Sharevich, Anna 4 2267 2267
8 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 4 2235 2247
9 WCM Virkud, Apurva 3 2132 2214
10 FM Melekhina, Alisa 2 2235 2075
11 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 2 2180 2002
12 WIM Wang, Annie 1.5 1901 2010

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