Nakamura leads U.S. Championship after six rounds

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

Hikaru Nakamura is in sole lead at the U.S. Championships in Saint Louis, USA after six rounds. The highest rated American grandmaster, currently #7 in the world, won three games and drew three. Reigning champion Gata Kamsky is half a point behind, followed by Alexander Onischuk, Aleksandr Lenderman and Yuri Shulman who are on "+1".

Hikarua Nakamura, the leader after six rounds at the U.S. Championship

EventU.S. ChampionshipsPGN via TWIC
DatesMay 8th-20th, 2012
LocationSaint Louis, USA
System12-player round robin

Hikaru Nakamura, Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Yasser Seirawan, Robert Hess, Varuzhan Akobian, Ray Robson, Gregory Kaidanov, Alejandro Ramirez, Aleksandr Lenderman, Yury Shulman, Alexander Stripunsky

Rate of play40 moves in 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes to finish the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1

Videos by Macauley Peterson

By FM Mike Klein

Round 4

After four rounds of the 2012 U.S. Championship, an upset victory by GM Gregory Kaidanov has catapulted him into a first-place tie with GM Hikaru Nakamura.

Kaidanov scored the upset of the event by beating the seemingly heretofore unbeatable GM Gata Kamsky.

Kamsky had lost only once with black in eight previous U.S. Championship appearances. That game took place in 1993 against none other than Kaidanov.

Kaidanov, who only received an invitation to the event because 2011 U.S. Junior Champion Gregory Young declined, is making the most of his chances.

"Over the years, Gata's saved so many lost positions, some of which were dead lost," he said. "So until the very end, I didn't believe I could win."

This marks Kaidanov’s 18th U.S. Championship appearance. He’s managed to secure two second-place finishes in past events, but the title of U.S. Champion as of yet has proved too elusive. He has a crucial matchup tomorrow against Nakamura.

Just before reluctantly acquiescing to a peaceable draw with GM Alexander Onischuk, Nakamura was visibly frustrated at the board.

"Somehow it just felt like there should be something, like it should be winning, but maybe there's just not enough to win; it's just a symbolic advantage, perhaps," Nakamura said. "I just thought that somewhere in the middlegame Alex went wrong.”

Nakamura said he was inspired by GM Jesse Kraai, who played b6 against Onischuk two times prior.

"I just felt like trying something different,” he said.

After the post-game analysis, Nakamura discussed the game between Kaidanov and Kamsky, which was still being played at the time.

"Gregory's playing a very good game, and he's a strong player, and Gata isn't having one of his better days, but that happens,” Nakamura said.

"It's early on in the tournament," Namakura said. "And even though Gata's probably going to lose this game, I have a feeling both he and [Onischuk] are going to be my main competition towards the end.”

The game between GM Varuzhan Akobian and GM Alex Lenderman was a well-played draw.

"The opening was preparation,” Lenderman explained. “It's a new idea, but it's been played before by a Russian grandmaster, Popov, but no one else has played this idea."

Indeed, Popov has played this line with 8...g5 and 9…Ne4 before with a +1 score.

The next game to finish was the long battle between GMs Yury Shulman and Alex Stripunsky. Both players had the edge at different points, but neither could gain a significant advantage, and a draw was a fair result. 

Round 5

For the first time in the 2012 U.S. Championship, one player rests atop the leaderboard. With his win today in round five over co-leader GM Gregory Kaidanov, local GM Hikaru Nakamura took control of the tournament. With three wins and two draws, his four points are one-half point ahead of defending champion GM Gata Kamsky, who bounced back by also winning today. However, since the two top seeds have yet to play, both still control their own destiny.

Nakamura reverted to his more usual 1. d4 today, reversing his trend of advancing his king's pawn, which he had done to surprise opponents in rounds one and three. Kaidanov played a Catalan system, but Nakamura offered a temporary pawn deficit to activate his pieces. After Nakamura regained the material, Kaidanov's pieces could only entrench themselves and wait for the breakthrough.

Kamsky, whose 51-game U.S. Championship unbeaten streak ended yesterday, began a new one today by winning in a fashion that echoed Nakamura's victory. GM Varuzhan Akobian eschewed his nearly-automatic French Defense and played the cramped-but-solid Berlin Defense, known for forming a nearly impenetrable wall. But it was only a matter of time before Akobian's defenses collapsed, as Kamsky's knights finally penetrated his position,

Third-seeded GM Alex Onischuk got back into the mix by winning a topsy-turvy game against GM Robert Hess. The Yale freshman did not control his knights as well as Kamsky. Hess's initiative began to subside after 22. Nfd4, which he called the wrong knight. Onischuk rallied for an attack on the castled king, and offered two minor pieces for a rook to prise open Hess's position.

PGN file

Round 6

Round six of the U.S. Championships maintained the stasis – the top three rated players still sit one, two, three with a couple of other solid players lurking.

GM Hikaru Nakamura traded his light-squared bishop early, but compensated by forming a wedge of center pawns to blunt GM Varuzhan Akobian's king's bishop. Opening the position for the bishop pair meant Akobian had to give back the bishop, and the resulting endgame had too symmetrical of a pawn structure to produce any winning chances. The draw continued Nakamura's pattern so far, as he has alternated winning and drawing through the first six games (he has won all three times as white and drawn all three as black).

Nakamura said he was satisfied with the result. He called the ailment that began last round “just a temporary thing ... I feel fine today. I'm still a little bit sick.” He felt well enough to joke, “I'm on drugs, so everything is OK.” Nakamura has tried to win all of his games, even as black, and said he should have one more point than he does now, as he was better in rounds two and four. Though his live rating is at an all-time high and cresting 2780, Nakamura dismissed the idea that those thoughts entered into his decision making. “I had to trade queens,” he said. “If I don't, it is really dangerous. The rating will come. If I was focusing on rating, I probably would've done something suicidal.”

GM Gata Kamsky began the day one-half point back, but never entertained any winning prospects against longtime U.S. Championship nemesis GM Yury Shulman. The two have played in the finals in each of the past two events. Shulman won a pawn, but as the game gradually lost its life, he did not obtain a winning rook-and-pawn endgame. “The position I reached in the game, I don't have any chances,” Shulman said. 

Kamsky agreed with Nakamura's estimation that the winner of the tournament would need eight points. Nakamura currently has 4.5/6 and Kamsky 4/6.

Besides Nakamura, the only other competitors that have yet to lose a game remain Shulman and GM Alex Lenderman. Along with GM Alex Onischuk, the trio sit in a tie for third with 3.5/6. Lenderman nearly equaled Kamsky's score as his Caro-Kann netted him an advantageous knight against a mostly impotent bishop, but the resurgent GM Alex Stripunsky held the balance.

Crowd-favorite GM Gregory Kaidanov fell back to an even score with his second loss in a row. “After two long games against Gata and Hikaru, I felt very tired today,” he said about his loss against GM Robert Hess. Kaidanov was surprised by Hess's opening choice, and forced into a deviation due to a curious incident. After nine moves, his game was exactly like Onischuk's battle with GM Alejandro Ramirez.

U.S. Championships 2012 | Round 6 Standings


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