Top Seeds Nakamura, Krush, Lead Going Into Final Day

Top Seeds Nakamura, Krush, Lead Going Into Final Day

Last year's U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship ended with twin three-way playoffs. The 2015 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship could repeat that if everything falls into place in tomorrow's final round.

However, if you focus on the ratings and the colors of the leaders, it is unlikely that round 11 will end with six players still alive for a championship.

Today GM Ray Robson's Scotch Four Knights didn't produce any serious chances against GM Hikaru Nakamura. They drew, keeping Nakamura's buffer at a half-game over Robson (7.0 to 6.5).

The third party to the tiebreak scenario is GM Alex Onischuk, a man who has quietly given himself a chance at his second title. In fact, after Onischuk's convincing win today over GM Sam Sevian, he trails by a point (6.0/10). He's the key player in the equation (he controls his own destiny only if Robson doesn't win); Onischuk plays Nakamura tomorrow as Black.

GM Alex Onischuk, the Head Chess Coach at Texas Tech, is showing his students he can still play.

In the ladies championship, WGM Katerina Nemcova's tenuous lead had been ebbing since round two. Today she finally relaxed her grip completely -- a time pressure blunder led to a loss to IM Nazi Paikidze. Combined with GM Irina Krush's win over WFM Jennifer Yu, Nemcova now trails for the first time since after the opening round. Paikidze caught up to Nemcova (7.0/10) and will hope that Nemcova can duplicate Paikidze's earlier win over Krush (8.0/10).

WGM Katerina Nemcova will need to beat the top player tomorrow to have a chance at first.

Today Onischuk, 39, played a model game against Sevian, 14. He won in less than three hours.

It's a common truism that more expierenced players should take youngsters into the endgame, but Onischuk said his decision to do so was made only because of his opponent's play. "Once he played ...Qc6 I thought, 'Man, it's going to be tough for him,'" Onischuk said.

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:


Onischuk said his cold is still lingering. He's a triathlete and said the longer events aren't a problem. "I remember last year I had so much energy at the end," he said. "Young players are getting tired I think!"

His support team also came to St. Louis today. Team Director Al Lawrence and Onischuk's wife both arrived today. Her flight landed and she arrived at the club minutes before Onischuk sealed victory.

"If I was told before the tournament that I would be in this situation, I would say that I'm having a good tournament," Onischuk said of being one point back and controlling his own destiny.

Could he win as Black against the world number three to get into a tiebreak? "If [Nakamura] will give me a chance of course I will try. Look, I'm playing classical chess...If he plays some crazy line and gives me a chance of course I'll take it."

GM Hikaru Nakamura and pictures of the 11 other men he's trying to best.

Today Nakamura could have put the tournament out of reach but Robson ensured no major chances were available.

"Ray doesn't play the Four Knights, but fortunately growing up I played it a lot and I'm familiar with the structure," Nakamura said.

Robson declined to go into a Berlin. "I wouldn't have gotten anything there," he said. "I played this line with h3 which I'm sure was a surprise for Hikaru," Robson said. "I didn't know I would play it until last night."

What about the style of games to expect tomorrow? Bad news for Onischuk's title chances: "I'm going to play something simple and not lose my mind," Nakamura said. The reason for him is simple. Even if Robson wins, a draw by Nakamura ensures a Monday tiebreak.

Somehow Nakamura's Red Bull is always turned toward the audience!

"I'm better than probably anyone in the world at rapid and blitz," Nakamura said, "except one, and you can probably figure out what that person is!" The implied exception, confirmed by GM Maurice Ashley, is GM Magnus Carlsen. "I've been in a million playoffs," Nakamura added.

Robson will take on the wildy unpredictable GM Timur Gareev, who is likely the best player in the field to face if you need a complicated game (although, when pressed, Robson wouldn't quite name Gareev as the best opponent for this situation: "Timur, with him anything is possible.")

Robson said he had a poor score against Gareev, but he did beat him at the 2014 U.S. Championship. He didn't reflect on his chances against Nakamura if a tiebreak occurs. "If I get into a tiebreak that's a huge success."

Besides the race for the title, the other story of the day was of course how GM Wesley So would fare after his round 9 forfeit. This actually became two stories. First the game, which was a huge success -- beating the reigning champion, GM Gata Kamsky, and as Black to boot.

"I got what I wanted and he probably pushed too hard," So said. He cited 20. h4 as "probably a mistake."

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:


After the game, Ashley asked So about the Kamsky contest, then gently pressed So to elaborate on yesterday's unprecedented events.

So spoke candidly. "I wrote (on) something besides my score sheet on a piece of paper," So said. "A reminder to me to play hard. Apparently the rules don't allow it...Unfortunately it has been a habit of mine for years.

"Nothing was working for me this tournament so I decided to go back to my old habits...This tournament has been a nightmare for me and I just want it to be finished."

GM Wesley So was able to block out the controversy and beat GM Gata Kamsky as Black.

He confirmed that he accepted the result of the forfeit and that his appeal was only for rating points (the appeals committee agreed that they could not help with this).

Ashley then asked him about GM Varuzhan Akobian, his opponent last round.

"I can understand Var not wanting to play against me," So said. "Obviously he wanted a free point."

GM Varuzhan Akobian told Chess.com yesterday that he didn't know his complaint would get So forfeited.

So and Akobian have been teammates on the U.S. National Team (So just transferred to the U.S. a few months ago but has served as a coach several times).

Akobian called So a "friend" yesterday. Ashley asked So if he considered them to be friends. "We were," So said.

Nakamura, also a teammate of So and Akobian at many events, tweeted this in response:

Back to chess! Last year Krush had to come back late in the tournament to earn a right to a tiebreak. Indeed, if this year followed the traditional nine-round format for the women, she and Nemcova would have played a playoff today.

Instead, Krush overtook Nemcova (for the first time all tournament). The six-time champ beat her young opponent without too much of a hassle.

"I didn't play accurately," Krush said. "I played pretty terribly once I got the winning position." She said she was sitting on the move ...g5 until the right position. Once played, the attack flowed freely.

She did allow that the mate was "quite pretty."

GM Irina Krush is back on top, quite familiar territory.

When asked if her experience would prove beneficial going into the final day, she said that her one-point advantage and getting White were much more important factors. 

As for yet another championship tiebreak (they have become synonymous with Krush over years), the defending champion did not care to go down that road again. "I'm sorry, I'm not interested in drama."

Tomorrow she'll play for her seventh title and fourth in a row. Chess.com asked Krush if she knew which woman had won the most U.S. Championships. "No, but I do hope one day that I will know that person!" she said self-referentially. For trivia buffs, the answer is WIM Gisela Kahn Gresser, who won nine times.

Nemcova's chances for her first championship took a serious hit when she moved her knight to the wrong square while trying to make the final moves before time control. Instead of 33. Nd6?, putting the knight on d4 and scurrying back to f3 to defend the pinned bishop would have saved White. Nemcova was playing mostly on increment by the time she sealed the fateful move. 

This was Nemcova's first loss of the event; Paikidze is now the only woman without a defeat. 

Paikidze did not seem overly optimistic of overcoming her one-point deficit tomorrow. "[Krush] is playing with White so I don't think there's a good chance she's going to lose," Paikidze said.

There were plenty more wins on the day. WIM Viktorija Ni continued her hot pace, winning again move into fourth. She now has five points from the last six games. 

WGMs Tatev Abrahamyan and Anna Sharevich also won today; they are both on +1.

WGM Anna Sharevich won today so all three Webster University team members are on a plus score.

Tomorrow's final round 11 will be at 1 p.m. Central (GMT -6) and will be broadcast live at www.chess.com/tv. If necessary for either section, a playoff will be Monday, also at 1 p.m. Central.

2015 U.S. Championship | Pairings for Round 11

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 GM So, Wesley 5.5 2788 GM Troff, Kayden W 5 2532
2 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 2.5 2633 GM Kamsky, Gata 5 2683
3 GM Shankland, Samuel L 4.5 2661 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 5 2622
4 GM Sevian, Samuel 4.5 2531 GM Holt, Conrad 4.5 2530
5 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 7 2798 GM Onischuk, Alexander 6 2665
6 GM Gareev, Timur 4 2604 GM Robson, Ray 6.5 2656

---

2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Pairings for Round 11

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 WIM Ni, Viktorija 6 2188 WCM Virkud, Apurva 3.5 2132
2 IM Paikidze, Nazi 7 2333 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 5 2235
3 GM Krush, Irina 8 2477 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 7 2279
4 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 5.5 2311 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 2 2180
5 WGM Sharevich, Anna 5.5 2267 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 5.5 2322
6 WIM Wang, Annie 2.5 1901 FM Melekhina, Alisa 2.5 2235

---

2015 U.S. Championship | Standings After Round 10

Rank Name Score Rating TPR
1 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 7 2798 2773
2 GM Robson, Ray 6.5 2656 2754
3 GM Onischuk, Alexander 6 2665 2696
4 GM So, Wesley 5.5 2788 2674
5 GM Kamsky, Gata 5 2683 2639
6 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 5 2622 2642
7 GM Troff, Kayden W 5 2532 2638
8 GM Shankland, Samuel L 4.5 2661 2606
9 GM Sevian, Samuel 4.5 2531 2628
10 GM Holt, Conrad 4.5 2530 2628
11 GM Gareev, Timur 4 2604 2572
12 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 2.5 2633 2446

---

2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Standings After Round 10

Rank Name Score Rating TPR
1 GM Krush, Irina 8 2477 2468
2 IM Paikidze, Nazi 7 2333 2381
3 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 7 2279 2359
4 WIM Ni, Viktorija 6 2188 2326
5 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 5.5 2322 2265
6 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 5.5 2311 2274
7 WGM Sharevich, Anna 5.5 2267 2263
8 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 5 2235 2229
9 WCM Virkud, Apurva 3.5 2132 2144
10 FM Melekhina, Alisa 2.5 2235 2079
11 WIM Wang, Annie 2.5 1901 2056
12 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 2 2180 1997

More from FM MikeKlein
Caruana Takes Share Of Lead; Wang Unstoppable At U.S. Championships Rd. 7

Caruana Takes Share Of Lead; Wang Unstoppable At U.S. Championships Rd. 7

2 Unlikely Leaders At U.S. Chess Championships

2 Unlikely Leaders At U.S. Chess Championships