Two Three-Way Playoffs Tomorrow at U.S. Championships

Two Three-Way Playoffs Tomorrow at U.S. Championships

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

None of the four leaders in the 2014 U.S. Championship or 2014 U.S. Women's Championship was able to win today, and both of the players trailing by a half point won to force two three-way playoffs.

GMs Alex Lenderman and Varuzhan Akobian drew, allowing GM Gata Kamsky to catch them by defeating GM Josh Friedel. All three end on 7/11.

On the women's side, both GM Irina Krush and IM Anna Zatonskih had moments where they were better, and a few where they were worse. The top two players eventually salavaged draws, allowing WGM Tatev Abrahamyan to catch up by defeating WGM Camilla Baginskaite.

GM Alex Lenderman (foreground) and GM Varuzhan Akobian

Tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Central (GMT -6) both titles will be decided by twin three-way playoffs. Kamsky gets a bye thanks to his better record against Lenderman and Akobian (he beat Lenderman earlier). Similarly, Krush gets a bye thanks to her better record against Zatonskih and Abrahamyan (she beat Zatonskih earlier).

Kamsky won three and drew eight to reach the playoffs. He is attempting to defend his 2013 title (his last loss at the U.S. Championship came 22 rounds ago, in 2012). 

GM Gata Kamsky (right)

Lenderman wasn't elated to manage only a playoff. Playing White, he wanted to cap an unlikely championship run today. "I have no idea how the playoff works - I wasn't planning on drawing this game." In fact, none of the six players admitted to knowing the tiebreak rules upon the completion of his or her game.

Kamsky played his trusty London System, which nobody has been able to blitz recently. He wasn't pleased about his bishop's placement on g1. But as he often does, he envisioned where his pieces wanted to call home, and he got them there.

"The game went up and down a lot," Kamsky said. "After the construction queen on e4 and bishop on g4, I was calm."

"It's going to be a really exciting day tomorrow," an upbeat Kamsky said.

This is the first time he has had a share of the lead the entire tournament. "Gata will be the first to tell you he didn't impress any of us," commentator GM Yasser Seirawan said. "But he did what he had to do."

GM Varuzhan Akobian

Going into the sixth hour of play on the women's side, all three tournament outcomes were still possible - an outright winner (for any of the three women), a two-way playoff, or a three-way playoff. Like the men, nothing got decided.

Abrahamyan entered the day on 5.5/8, a half-point back, and won an hour earlier to take the temporary lead. She was already relaxing at the restaurant next door, choosing not to watch her rivals' games. If both leaders lost, she could celebrate right there, but if either won, her tournament would end. Instead, both Krush and Zatonskih drew their complicated endings to set the stage for a dramatic finale tomorrow.

WGM Tatev Abrahamyan

"I wasn't thinking about the results of other games," Abrahamyan said. As for the tiebreak, she said, "I think I have good chances."

She will face Zatonskih in an Armageddon game, the same as Akobian and Lenderman. In the format, both players secretly "bid" a time that they are willing to accept. The lower bid gets that time and the Black pieces with draw odds. The higher bid takes White with 45 minutes but must win. There is no increment.

IM Anna Zatonskih

The two winners of the Armageddon games will advance to face Kamsky and Krush, who will simply be waiting.

Krush knew she was better, but couldn't find the winning sequence today against WIM Viktorija Ni. "Somehow after Kd2 I couldn't find a way to win the game," Krush said. "You have to see a lot of geometric motifs to win for Black."

Zatonskih's bishop inhibited WGM Katerina Nemcova's rooks, but Black eventually jettisoned the Exchange to get to a knight endgame, which was drawn.

"I think I had a good position from the opening, but I messed up somewhere," Zatonskih said, adding that she held out hope that she could win at the end.

Like the other players, Zatonskih didn't know the exact peculiarities of the three-way tiebreak. She thought the bye would go to the person with the better Sonneborn-Berger tiebreaks, which take into account scores against everyone, rather than just the scores against the three tied women.

Confused? The organizers released this helpful graphic!

Speaking about her Armageddon game with Abrahamyan tomorrow, Zatonskih respected her opponent's skills in reduced time controls. 

"She's a very strong rapid player," Zatonskih said. "I played her in a Death Match and she beat me." 

Krush gets to wait to see who her opponent will be as she seeks a third consecutive title. The winner of the Armageddon plays Krush in twin G/25 games. Krush had some accidental training recently - she just came back from the Women's World Rapid Championships in Russia in late April.

GM Irina Krush

"I'm kind of looking forward to it," Krush said.

The hardest working man tonight will undoubtedly be GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, who trains both Krush and Lenderman and to whom they obey and trust completely. 

GM Alex Lenderman

"I'm very sorry for Giorgi," Krush said. "It's not going to be easy for him - he has to work hard."

U.S. Championship Final Crosstable

U.S. Women's Championship Final Crosstable
FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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