Tuesday, May 22

US Champion Hikaru Nakamura!

2012 US Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, ranked #7 in the World, won the 2012 US Chess Championships in St. Louis.  As a three-time champion (2005, 2009, 2012), Nakamura joins an elite group of triple national champions.  Alas, he still has far to go to match Bobby Fischer and Samuel Reschevsky, who both won eight championships.

By his own admission, Nakamura struggled at times.  He scored 8.5 out of 11, drawing five games, several from favorable middlegame positions.  He actually found himself in second place with just two rounds left to play.  At least Nakamura won the only game that really mattered, black against main rival Gata Kamsky in the penultimate round.  On the final day, he placed an exclamation mark on his performance by defeating four-time champion Yasser Seirawan with surprising ease.

GM Gata Kamsky
Kamsky, the defending champion, had to settle for runner-up this year.  He matched the winner's six victories, but also lost twice to finish with 7.5 points.  Alexander Onischuk confirmed his rank as #3 in the country by placing third at 6.5.  Tied for fourth at 6.0, Yury Shulman became the only participant other than Nakamura to avoid losing.  In fact, 55% of all games proved decisive, including a dozen wins for Black.  Finally, the two youngest players, Ray Robson and Robert Hess, both gained valuable experience from their results of 5.5 and 5.0, respectively.

US Championship 

  • 8.5 Hikaru Nakamura
  • 7.5 Gata Kamsky
  • 6.5 Alexander Onischuk
  • 6.0 Varuzhan Akobian, Aleksandr Lenderman and Yury Shulman
  • 5.5 Ray Robson 
  • 5.0 Robert Hess
  • 4.0 Gregory Kaidanov and Alejandro Ramirez
  • 3.5 Yasser Seirawan and Alexander Stripunsky 

Thank you to Rex Sinquefield and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis for sponsoring and hosting yet another spectacular event.  The $166,000 prize fund attracted 12 of the top 14 chess players in the country, including the two super-GMs.  For us spectators who could not attend, the multimedia coverage and photo albums on the website were second to noneThe photos in this post come from these albums.

Personal note: I have known Nakamura for a long time, well before he turned into one of the top players in the World.  The first time I remember was at the 1999 US Open in Reno, when the 2350 rated 11-year old rising star drew a 2700 and beat a 2600.  I played Nakamura several times on ICC, but only once face-to-face.  While waiting for the first round pairings at the 2007 North American Open in Las Vegas, he asked me if I knew whom he might play in round 1.  I was only half serious when I replied that he might face me, but my prediction rang true.  Unfortunately, our game was pathetic; I lost in 38 moves.
2012 Women's Champion IM Irina Krush

The Women's Championship also featured a showdown between the top two seeds: defending champion Anna Zatonskih and former champion Irina Krush.  They quickly drew their main tournament game and ended up tied for first, both undefeated at 7.0 out of 9.  The rules called for a playoff of two games at G/25 + 5 second increment.  With some help from the clock, Krush won both rapid contestsKrush now has three titles to her name, still one less than rival Zatonskih.

IM Anna Zatonskih
US Women's Championship 

  • 7.0 Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush
  • 5.5 Rusudan Goletiani
  • 5.0 Viktorija Ni 
  • 4.5 Sabina-Francesca Foisor, Tatev Abrahamyan and Iryna Zenyuk
  • 3.5 Alisa Melekhina
  • 2.0 Camilla Baginskaite
  • 1.5 Alena Kats
Each day, I picked my favorite game(s) from the men's championship.  Enjoy!!

Round-by-Round Games

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