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Chess notes

By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff
May 31, 2010

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The US Championship included practically every top player in the nation, although we missed the presence of New Englanders Josh Friedel, Eugene Perelshteyn, and Alexander Ivanov. However, Cambridge resident Larry Christiansen, a former three-time US champion, was present and a strong contender until the end. The tourney included three of the 40 highest 40 FIDE (international) rated players in the world: Hikaru Nakamura, rated 19th at 2733, Gata Kamsky, 36th at 2702, and Alexander Onischuk, 38th at 2695. There was, of course, no Bobby Fischer or Sammy Reshevsky threatening the world leaders, but Kamsky is still a world candidate and Nakamura is an enfant terrible in any tournament, anywhere.

It turned out that the ratings were the best indicator of the results, as the three above, along with the fourth highest-rated player, Yuri Shulman, all made it to the final round robin. The tourney had an odd format, as the first seven rounds were used to choose the final four, who then were to play a round robin over three days to choose the 2010 champion. The rest of the field kept playing though nine rounds to determine the other places.

Nakamura was, in terms of opening choices, the comic of the tourney, playing the Vienna and Blumenthal gambits in the early rounds. In a sense, Kamsky and Onischuk were his straight men in playing very solid lines. In the Vienna Gambit against Onischuk, Nakamura actually defended by shifting his king to the queen’s square and his queen to the king’s square. At the end of six rounds, Nakamura, Onischuk, Shulman, and Kamsky were the leaders. In the seventh round, Christiansen, trailing by a half point, made his bid for a place in the final round robin with the white pieces against Nakamura by forcing him on the defensive. Nakamura lost a pawn but the resulting rook and pawn ending was a book draw.

In the three-game confrontations among the final four, Nakamura lost to Shulman when he overexposed his position against a French defense. Onischuk lost a rook and pawn endgame to Kamsky. Shulman and Kamsky drew their game, leaving them tied for first at the end of the round robin. They now had to play one last “Armageddon’’ game to break the tie and determine the winner.

The players bid time for what color they wanted. That is, Kamsky got black by bidding to play the final game with only 25 minutes to Shulman’s 60. The point is that with black, Kamsky needed only to draw to win the game and the title or, to put it another way, he had draw odds. After a very tense struggle with Shulman, apparently better for most of the game, and with only seconds left, Kamsky managed to hold a draw in a bishop v. knight ending. Thus was he crowned the 2010 US Chess Champion.

Brevity: A. Zatonskih v. R. Forsaa, 2010. 1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bf4 e6 5.e3 a6 6.Bd3 c5 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.0–0 0–0 9.Ne2 Nc6 10.c4 Qe7 11.Ned4 Bd7 12.Rc1 Rac8 13.cxd5 Nxd5 14.Nxf5 exf5 15.Bc4 Be6 16.Bxd5 Nb4 17.Bg5 Qd7 18.Bb3 Kh8 19.Qxd7 Bxd7 20.Ne5 Bb5 21.Rfd1. 1-0. (Black, besides being a pawn behind, has no good way to defend the bishop on d7 without losing more material to 22. a3.)

Winners: Boylston Paramount 10 round robin. Section 1: 1st, Chris Chase, 9.5, 2d, Andrew Hoy 7.5; Section 2: 1st, Jonathan Lee, 8, 2d, Daniel Schmidt, 6.5; Section 3: 1st, Khikmet Sadykov, 5.5, 2d, Frank Frazier 4.5.

Coming Events: Saturday: BCC Quads 10-6; 240B Elm, Somerville www.boylstonchessclub .org. Wednesdays June 9, 16, 23: SBCC Team Championship, United Methodist Church, Plainville. Ken Wheeler, 781-762-3798