Two tie-break matches needed at U.S. Championships (UPDATE)

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Tie-breaks needed at U.S. ChampionshipGata Kamsky, Yuri Shulman, Robert Hess, Irina Krush, Tatev Abrahamyan and Camilla Baginskaite have qualified for the next stage of the U.S. Championships. Today, in two-game rapid matches, Sam Shankland and Alexander Onischuk, and also Anna Zatonskih and Sabina Foisor, will fight for the last places. Update: Shankland & Zatonskih through - games and videos.

The Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center from outside | Photo © St. Louis Chess Club

General info

The 2011 U.S. Championship and 2011 U.S. Women's Championship take place April 14-28 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The games of the Championships can be followed live here. Like last year, there's a daily live show with GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade, produced by Macauley Peterson, including trivia, polls, viewer questions and lots of prizes given away.

Here's the latest recap video of rounds 6-7:

The full 4+ hour live show is also available for replay in four parts each day at

Report rounds 6-7

By FM Mike Klein

Round 6: Hess and Krush Ride Winning Streak to Qualification GM Robert Hess and IM Irina Krush kept up their winning streaks in round six of the U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship, respectively. In the penultimate round of preliminary play, Hess won his fourth game in a row and Krush her fifth. They have both become the first two players to automatically qualify for the semifinals in each tournament.

As in round five, Hess tried to play solidly again out of the opening. He accepted GM Larry Christiansen’s pawn sacrifice, after which he said he was “extremely satisfied” with his position. Christiansen had to play aggressively, as he began the round on the outside looking in at qualification. Hess said he is not overjoyed at his play, but “thankfully my opponents have been making mistakes as well. Fortunately I’m here with five out of six so I can laugh at my mistakes.” He added that winning four games in a row may be a rarity at the U.S. Championship but it was not as important as winning the title itself. He has already clinched sole first place in the group and with it a $2,000 bonus. Since scores are erased when the semifinals begin, his game against GM Yasser Seirawan tomorrow will only really matter for his opponent.

Robert Hess, qualified with one round to go

Robert Hess, qualified with one round to go

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, second-ranked IM Irina Krush, the defending champion, continued her domination of the field by posting her fifth win in a row after suffering an opening-round upset. In round six she took out WIM Iryna Zenyuk to become the first woman to qualify for the semifinals.

Krush is trailed by a cavalcade of players with four points. WGM Sabina Foiser and WGM Camilla Baginskaite had the quickest draw of the tournament to cement their placements. WFM Tatev Abrahamyan drew FM Alisa Melekhina in a wild affair to equal them. “My games have been so bad,” a relieved Abrahamyan said. Foisor, Baginskaite and Abrahmyan would have all earned certain qualification were it not for the timely win by top-seeded IM Anna Zatonskih, who partially bounced back with a win as Black to get to three points.

The scenarios in the women’s event for round seven are either simple or complicated, depending on Zatonskih’s game. She will play Foisor tomorrow needing a win. If she loses or draws, then Foisor, Abrahmyan and Baginskaite all join Krush in the semifinals. If Zatonskih wins, she will tie Foisor and perhaps the other two women, depending on their results. The tiebreak procedures vary depending on the number of women and the number of semifinal openings, but suffice to say they are complicated and every woman involved asked to have them explained by assistant arbiter Tony Rich after round six.


Ben Finegold analysing with Tatev Abrahamyan and Alisa Melekhina

With Hess already in, the remainder of the pack in his group tried to keep up. GM-elect Sam Shankland rebounded after a round five loss by drawing local GM Ben Finegold. Their game was one of the few in the tournament to be settled with imbalances everywhere. “I’m really disappointed with my game today,” Shankland said. “Ben sacrificed a pawn for what I thought was insignificant compensation.” Asked why he agreed to the draw, Shankland said there was too much risk in the position. “I’m either going to get mated or run my pawns through. I saw that Alex (Onischuk) had a bad position. But I don’t like losing a White against the lowest player in the competition.”

Shankland was looking over his shoulder at GM Onischuk to make sure he would not be passed in the standings. Onischuk went on to draw his game, the longest of the round, to remain tied with Shankland. The pair are the only players in the group with 3.5/6 and they are slated to play tomorrow (Onischuk has White). Should the game be decisive, the winner will join Hess in advancing past group play. If they draw, they will play again on Friday in a playoff. They could also be joined by Seirawan in that scenario, who would need to win as Black versus Hess to enter the picture.

In the other U.S. Championship group, defending champion GM Gata Kamsky outplayed IM Daniel Naroditsky from an equal position. By trading queens early, Kamsky said his teenage opponent made his first psychological mistake. “It showed me he was playing for a draw,” Kamsky said. “He was probably giving me too much respect.” The win puts Kamsky at 4.5/6 and a half-point edge over second place GM Yury Shulman, who has quietly kept up with the leader.

Shulman tried everything he could to beat GM Ray Robson, at one point eschewing several chances to repeat the position. Eventually the attack petered out and Shulman agreed to terms with his opponent when his rook and three pawns could not overcome Robson’s rook and bishop.

Shulman vs Robson

Shulman vs Robson

Round seven will also be intriguing for this group as Kamsky and Shulman, the two highest seeds in the group, are paired. Conventional wisdom suggests Kamsky will be content with a draw to ensure first place in the group. If so, Shulman would be guaranteed no worse than a playoff for the second qualification spot. He would only enter the tiebreaker match if GM Alexander Ivanov could somehow beat GM Ray Robson as Black.

Games round 6

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Round 7: Semifinals Still Murky, Tiebreaks Await The final round of preliminary group play of the 2011 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship concluded Thursday with only a partial picture of the semifinals. Some players advanced in round seven while others will have to endure a rapid-game playoff Friday.

GM Gata Kamsky and GM Yury Shulman, the reigning champion and the past champion, played a short draw to preserve their advancement. The two players were the highest seeds in Group A. Kamsky’s half-point got him to 5/7 and guaranteed his graduation. Shulman, who admitted to being nervous before the game, now sat on an undefeated 4.5/7, but he had to wait to make sure GM Alex Ivanov did not win. A few hours later GM Ray Robson dispatched Ivanov in a complex king-and-pawn ending to nullify the need for a tiebreak. Robson’s win pushed him to 4/7 and sole third place in the group, but as with all the non-qualifiers, his tournament ended today.

Robson vs Ivanov

Robson vs Ivanov

Although the position was relatively static and equal, the Kamsky-Shulman game did not go the required 30 moves before the draw was agreed. International Arbiter Carol Jarecki allowed the agreement when Kamsky complained of an acute illness. “It was her decision to make, whether to make an exception or not,” Shulman said. No update was available on Kamsky’s condition as he left the club immediately following the game.

In Group A, GM Robert Hess’ four-game winning streak ended, but his draw against GM Yasser Seirawan was more disappointing for his opponent. Hess had already guaranteed first place in his group, whereas Seirawan needed to win to have any chance of creeping into a tiebreak. The tiebreak will still occur, as GM Alexander Onischuk and GM-elect Sam Shankland had already agreed to peace. Onischuk and Shankland essentially delayed their fates for only a day. The pair will play a two-game playoff tomorrow while Hess and Shulman will enjoy their rest day and Kamsky will have a free day to convalesce. Seirawan’s draw nets him 3.5/7. The even score seems justified given his erratic form in his first tournament in eight years. For his part, Shankland was relieved he would only be in a two-person playoff. “I hope [Hess] will hold,” Shankland said. “I don’t want to deal with Yasser.”

Yasser Seirawan

Yasser Seirawan scored fifty percent in his first classical tournament in eight years

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, IM Irina Krush’s win streak also ended, but like Hess, it barely affected her tournament standing. Her draw against WGM Camilla Baginskaite earned them both invitations to the semifinals. Krush wins the top seed with her 5.5/7 score and a $1,000 prize bonus.

All attention then focused on IM Anna Zatonskih’s improbable tournament comeback. She won again today, beating WGM Sabina Foisor, to pull even with her at 4/7. The two will play a two-game tiebreak tomorrow in the same format as the U.S. Championship – two rapid games with 25-minute time control (with five-second delay), to be followed by an Armageddon match if needed.

Anna Zatonskih

Anna Zatonskih

WFM Tatev Abrahamyan nearly had to join Zatonskih and Foisor in the tiebreak, but she narrowly escaped with a draw against WIM Iryna Zenyuk. Abrahamyan thus goes through to the semis with a tie for second place with Baginskaite The two will split the $600 second-place preliminary stage bonus.

All players who did not qualify for the semifinals have the option of staying in St. Louis for the duration of the tournament. Some will do so to play in the $10,000 blitz tournament on Monday, while others will just take the time to be fans of their the club and the tournament.

Games round 7

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U.S. Championship 2011 | Preliminaries, Group A | Round 7 Standings

U.S. Championship 2011 | Preliminaries, Group B | Round 7 Standings

U.S. Women's Championship 2011 | Preliminaries | Round 7 Standings

Update: Sam Shankland upset Alexander Onischuk to go through. Anna Zatonskih beat Sabina Foisor. Here in videos:

Game 1 - Onischuk vs. Shankland and Foisor vs. Zatonskih in rapid action

Game 2 - Colors reversed in the dramatic playoff conclusion, with guest Hikaru Nakamura, and Shankland and Zatonskih post-game interviews

Tie-break games

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