Wednesday, May 21

US Champion Yury Shulman

With a short draw in the last round, Grandmaster Yury Shulman of Chicago won the 2008 Frank K. Berry US Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He finished with an undefeated score of 7.0 out of 9, half a point ahead of top rated GM Alexander Onischuk. In an interview with Chess Life Online, Shulman pointed out his round 7 win with black against GM Julio Becerra (Winawer French) as the most critical game of the tournament. However, it was the victory in round 5 with black against GM Gregory Kaidanov (Alapin Sicilian) that propelled the eventual champion into the lead. Congratulations to GM Yury Shulman for winning his first national championship!

Yury Shulman and I have known each other for a while, dating back to the 1st President's Cup (Intercollegiate Chess Final Four) in Dallas, Texas in April, 2001. I played board 5 for Stanford University while he manned the top board for the University of Texas at Dallas. We were seated together at the social mixer on the night before round 1 and have been cordial ever since. A few years later, Shulman won the 2006 US Open in Oak Brook, IL while I finished tied for 2nd place. Thanks to this tournament, we both qualified for the 2007 US Championship, where Shulman finished near the top while I languished at the bottom.

Final Standings of 2008 US Championship
  • 7.0 Yury Shulman
  • 6.5 Alexander Onischuk
  • 6.0 Sergey Kudrin
  • 5.5 Josh Friedel, Eugene Perelshteyn and Varuzhan Akobian
  • 5.0 Benjamin Finegold, Alexander Ivanov, Julio Becerra and Boris Gulko
  • 4.5 John Fedorowicz, Dmitry Gurevich, Gregory Kaidanov and Alexander Shabalov
  • 4.0 Daniel Ludwig, David Pruess, Jesse Kraai and Alex Yermolinsky
  • 3.5 Larry Kaufman, David Vigorito, Michael Langer and Dean Ippolito
  • 2.5 Sam Shankland
  • 1.5 Sergey Galant
The US Women's Championship came down to the wire, as described in detail at Chess Life Online. IM Irina Krush was leading by 0.5 heading into the last round, but needed a miracle just to save a draw against WGM Katerine Rohonyan (2318). IM Anna Zatonskih had already won her final game and was waiting for a playoff to determine the title of US Champion. Both ladies finished with an impressive score of 7.5. Unfortunately, the quality of play in the tiebreak games was low considering the amount of effort both ladies expended getting to this point. After a win and a loss at G/15 and another win and a loss at G/5, Zatonskih won on time in the final Armaggedon game. Congratulations to IM Anna Zatonskih (see photo at right) for winning her second national title!

Final Standings of 2008 US Championship
  • 7.5 Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush
  • 6.0 Tatev Abrahamyan and Katerine Rohonyan
  • 5.5 Batchimeg Tuvshintugs
  • 4.5 Tsagaan Battsetseg
  • 3.5 Iryna Zenyuk
  • 2.0 Esther Epstein and Chouchanik Airapetian
  • 0.5 Courtney Jamison
Five players with strong ties to Northern California travelled to Oklahoma for this premiere tournament. Two put together strong results while the other three must be unhappy. Mad props to GM-elect Josh Friedel for earning his third and final Grandmaster norm! His most exciting game was in a wild round 4 victory against veteran GM Boris Gulko. Friedel now needs only 10 more FIDE rating points to complete the requirements for the GM title. In fact, his next opportunity to score points comes this weekend, at the Chicago Open. Batchimeg Tuvshintugs also put together a strong performance of "plus 2" in the Women's Championship, even winning in round 7 against the eventual champion Zatonskih.

Unfortunately, GM Alex Yermolinsky, IM David Pruess and NM Sam Shankland didn't perform so well. Both the "Yermonator" and David apparently ran out of gas in rounds 7 and 8, each losing consecutive games. Sadly, Sam's will to win was crushed by a long and tragic loss to IM Benjamin Finegold in round 5. Sam: I know that you are disappointed because you did poorly, but down the road you should look back at this trip as a learning experience that propels you to even greater successes. I speak from experience as a fellow competitor who also struggled in the very same event last year.

To close, I would like to thank organizer Frank K. Berry for putting his money where his mouth is by sponsoring the US Championship for the second straight year. Mr. Berry has now donated over $150,000 to support the top chess players in America. For this, he deserves a big round of applause! Thank you! Signed, chess player and chess fan.

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