Quad finals U.S. Championship start today

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Kamsky, Onischuk, Nakamura, Shulman in quad finals U.S. ChGata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Hikaru Nakamura and Yury Shulman Thursday reached the quad finals of the U.S. Championship in St. Louis. After a rest day, the tournament resumes today with the first of the decisive three rounds.

The 2010 U.S. Chess Championship takes place May 13-25 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Missouri. The event features a new format, which includes a 24-player, seven-round Swiss tournament followed by a four-player Championship final. In the event that there is no clear U.S. Champion after the quad finals, there will be a championship playoff. More info in our first report.

Rounds 5-7

Of the seven players who we sharing the lead after four rounds, only two continued with victories. Gata Kamsky and Alexander Onischuk, the second and third seeds, both won as White, against Larry Christiansen and Varuzhan Akobian respectively.

Against Christiansen's off-beat Ruy Lopez, Kamsky put up a strong center and then thought up some subtle queen moves. “I had to do something,” Kamsky said afterwards. “My experience with Larry is that he’s a very aggressive player.” Instead of “attacking” he thought this game should be called “positionally-based, with aggressive intentions”.

Onischuk extended his U.S. Championship unbeaten streak to a record 46 games by beating Akobian. 28...a5 was a mistake and Black's final chance to save the game may have been 31…e3.

Onischuk-Akobian, after 31.Qc5 Onischuk-Akobian

After 31...e3!? 32.fxe3 Qxe3+ 33.Qxe3 Nxe3 34.Kf2 Nxf1 35.Kxf1 the ending is drawn according to Onischuk.

In round 6, an uneventful draw between the pre-round leaders and two decisive games on boards two and three landed Kamsky, Onischuk, Nakamura and Shulman atop the tables with 4.5 points. “I played the Catalan,” Nakamura said. “Generally speaking that is a draw. I just felt like playing something simple rather than going for complications.” The reigning champ fell behind on the clock for one of the first games in the event and became worried that Kraai’s celerity meant some home cooking. “I didn’t want to walk into anything,” Nakamura said.


Kraai said he simply missed the pin 26…Rc8, which offered better resistance. Kamsky, advising Kraai after the game, claimed even before the wholesale trades Black should have played …a5 before White played it. “But okay, I can defend passive positions,” Kamsky said. Understanding Nakamura’s reputation, Kraai said he did not feel comfortable crouching into a ball and defending for several hours.

Also winning to tie for the lead was Shulman, who beat Alex Stripunsky. Like Nakamura, Shulman won a rook-and-pawn endgame due to his more active rook.

On Thursday the three top boards ended in a draw, and so indeed the four names to proceed to the quad finals were Kamsky, Onischuk, Nakamura and Shulman. Only Shulman and Onischuk split the point in a peaceful manner, though.


Kamsky's draw against Shabalov didn't go smoothly. The 2007 World Cup winner began shaking his head in disbelief when he overlooked Shabalov's cunning defence 22…Bg6 at the end of a long variation. He had only considered 22…Kg8, which wins for White after 23. Qd5+.

Kamsky-Shabalov Kamsky-Shabalov Here Black played 22...Bg6!.

Though short on time, Kamsky gathered himself and found a way to capture several pawns whilst simultaneously weakening Shabalov’s king. “It was a pretty unpleasant scenario,” Kamsky said. “I was looking to minimize the damage.” Kamsky then found what he called an “extremely strong defensive maneuver” – bringing his rook to the fourth rank to defend his king on the g-file. Black then ran low on time and after Shabalov whispered “draw,” Kamsky ran his clock down to 1:20 and agreed.


The last qualifier for the finals would come down to board two. Christiansen, a veteran of decades of championships, needed to win as he began the round one half point behind defending champion Nakamura. Known for his attacking style, Christiansen built up a strong center and spatial advantage. “I was guardedly optimistic,” Christiansen said. Nakamura was not content playing passively and struck with the strange-looking thrust 8…g5. World Champion GM Viswanathan Anand, calling in from Spain live during the on-air commentary [see video Calling Anand below!], questioned the move. “I’m not sure if Nakamura knows how to (play solidly),” Anand said. “But he doesn’t lack confidence, that’s for sure.”


As the game petered out into a pawn-up endgame for Christiansen, the crowd at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis gathered around the monitors. Players who generally left the club after their games stayed to see the result. GM Maurice Ashley, commentating on the game, saw Christiansen move his rook around to press for the win. “You’re going to sit here and you’re going to suffer young man,” Ashley said of Christiansen’s mindset. Eventually, too many pawns were traded and Nakamura held on to qualify.

Today is the first of three rounds of quad finals, with Nakamura-Kamsky on the program. The winner of the final will win $35,000. The other 20 players will play two more rounds of the Swiss event, where the winner takes home $10,000.

Report borrowed heavily from FM Mike Klein's excellent round-by-round coverage.

Photos © Betsy Dynakov, more here.

US Ch 2010 Round 7 Standings
US Ch 2010 Round 7 Standings

Selection of games rounds 5-7

Game viewer by ChessTempo


The organizers allowed us to embed their video show player, which is licensed under the Creative Commons license (”BY-NC-ND“).


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