U.S. Champs Round 5: Nakamura, Nemcova Stay on Top; Krush, So Half-Step Behind

U.S. Champs Round 5: Nakamura, Nemcova Stay on Top; Krush, So Half-Step Behind

Easter Sunday at the 2015 U.S. Chess Championships saw some powerful attacks and incredible swings as GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Wesley So, GM Gata Kamsky and GM Irina Krush all won their games in style.

Nakamura continued his fearlessness with the black pieces against GM Daniel Naroditsky, choosing the double-edged Sicilian Dragon. The choice nearly backfired as he got into a lot of trouble out of the opening and felt he needed to opt for a thematic, yet dubious exchange sacrifice to complicate matters.

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The fearless leader. | Photo: Lennart Ootes. 

“I decided to just be practical and sacrifice the exchange,” Nakamura said. “I think objectively it’s probably losing but over the board it’s difficult to find the right plans. Daniel lost the thread with 19.Ne2 and 20.Nd4 … and once he played 24.f5, all hell broke loose -- but the complications favored me.”

Nakamura’s risky strategy paid off, winning on the board by the 30th move and forcing resignation a few moves later. 

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:

Meanwhile GM Ray Robson, the co-leader entering Sunday’s fifth round, went down to a vicious attack by reigning champion GM Gata Kamsky. Overall, the game was quite complicated -- Kamsky held the initiative in the middlegame, but was unable to break through Robson’s defenses.

“In the opening I thought I was slightly better,” reasoned Kamsky. “I had a space advantage, and I had some nice pieces and an attack, and then I misplayed it somewhere. Because after he played 21…b3, I lost the thread of the game, and I thought Black had completely equalized.”

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Robson's mistake of putting his king on h6 was punished swiftly. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Although Robson’s position was objectively fine, he had used up a lot of time and started to go very wrong with 30…N2d3 and 31…Kh6, allowing Kamsky to re-launch his attack and finish the job.

In the post-mortem with GM Maurice Ashley, Kamsky showed a surprising lack of ambition towards winning the event, saying, “I keep getting older, and that’s not a good factor if you want to win the championship.”

GM Wesley So had a tough game Sunday but was able to crack GM Timur Gareev’s French Defense, first winning a pawn before slowly realizing his advantage by the first time control. The unpredictable Gareev actually resigned on Wesley’s 43rd move, during which Wesley revealed, “being a gentleman I had to shake his hand,” but he wasn’t 100 percent sure whether Gareev was resigning or offering a draw!

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Realizing his advantage calmly. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

In one of the wildest games of the tournament, GM Conrad Holt exchanged tactical blows with GM Kayden Troff in a Grunfeld where both sides’ kings stayed exposed for the entire game. Holt gained the upper hand in the complications and held a decisive advantage through most of the game -- until he played 43.Kh3? overlooking the powerful response 43…g5! Troff launched a devastating counterattack.

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:


“I had no idea what was going on for half of that game, and I was just trying to make good moves,” Troff said. “The problem with chess players is that we like to be brilliant, and that sometimes costs us.”

After this victory, Troff is tied for third with 3/5 and grateful for his resilience. “Playing-wise, I don’t think I should be tied for third, but what I promised myself in all my games is that I go in there and fight. That’s really been the difference for me.”

In the 2015 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, WGM Katerina Nemcova was able fight to a draw against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, holding on to the tournament lead with 4/5. The draw, however, also allowed reigning women’s champion GM Irina Krush to regain some ground thanks to a topsy-turvy victory over IM Rusudan Goletiani.

In a pseudo-Dutch Defense, Goletiani started throwing the gauntlet at Irina’s king with the highly committal 12…Nfg4 and 13…Qh4!? -- indicating she had no plans for a strategic affair. Goletiani’s aggression continued with kingside advances of 14…g5 and 15…f4, as well as her sacrifice of 19…Bxh3!, throwing the game into complete mayhem. The complications left Krush with a bishop and knight against Goletiani’s rook, with both kings quite vulnerable. Unfortunately, Goletiani could not hold the balance, and Krush was able to fully coordinate her pieces and launch a decisive attack.

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold:

“I definitely feel lucky, because I had a critical position that I was definitely losing at some point,” Krush said. “I thought I should be better positionally, but I was not able to prove that, and I certainly got under very heavy fire.”

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 GM Irina Krush was in trouble today, but managed to pull through. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

The win pulls Krush to 3.5/5, just a half-point behind Nemcova.

“I assess that my opponents are playing well, because obviously I’m not really getting any free gifts,” Krush said about her overall tournament, entering the rest day. “From the way they’re playing, you can tell they’re being very enterprising.”

Other results of the day include IM Nazi Paikidze drawing with WGM Anna Sharevich, as did WGM Sabina Foisor against FM Alisa Melekhina. WCM Apurva Virkud defeated WFM Jennifer Yu, and WIM Viktorija Ni defeated WIM Annie Wang.

2015 U.S. Championship | Round 5 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Nakamura,Hikaru 2798 2892 4.0/5
2 So,Wesley 2788 2792 3.5/5
3 Kamsky,Gata 2683 2720 3.0/5 8.00
4 Robson,Ray 2656 2676 3.0/5 7.00
5 Troff,Kayden W 2532 2699 3.0/5 4.75
6 Sevian,Samuel 2531 2677 2.5/5 6.50
7 Akobian,Varuzhan 2622 2650 2.5/5 6.00
8 Onischuk,Alexander 2665 2589 2.5/5 5.75
9 Shankland,Samuel L 2661 2563 2.0/5
10 Gareev,Timur 2604 2511 1.5/5 4.00
11 Holt,Conrad 2530 2504 1.5/5 2.75
12 Naroditsky,Daniel 2633 2422 1.0/5

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2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Round 5 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Nemcova,Katerina 2279 2448 4.0/5
2 Krush,Irina 2477 2396 3.5/5
3 Goletiani,Rusudan 2311 2381 3.0/5 8.50
4 Paikidze,Nazi 2333 2345 3.0/5 8.25
5 Foisor,Sabina-Francesca 2276 2308 3.0/5 5.75
6 Abrahamyan,Tatev 2322 2146 2.5/5 6.00
7 Virkud,Apurva 2132 2309 2.5/5 5.00
8 Melekhina,Alisa 2235 2168 2.0/5 4.75
9 Sharevich,Anna 2267 2181 2.0/5 4.00
10 Ni,Viktorija 2188 2188 2.0/5 3.50
11 Yu,Jennifer R 2180 2025 1.5/5
12 Wang,Annie 1901 2008 1.0/5

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Monday, April 6 will be a rest day for both championships. Round six will begin on April 7 at 1:00 p.m. CDT, with live commentary from GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley.

Reprinted with permission from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

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