USA Championships

The weather changes very quickly in Saint Louis. One day is hot and humid, the next day the temperature drops down about twenty degrees. It rains and rains and then suddenly the sun appears as if nothing happened.
The USA championship was following the weather forecast. No one knew what happens until the very end. Especially, at the gentlemen’s tournament.
It was Alex Lenderman who took the lead after four rounds, scoring excellent 3.5/4. His tournament preparation seemed perfect.
However, two losses after and Alex got overshadowed by Varuzhan Akobian. The latter started solidly with four draws but those were followed by four straight wins. Var was greatly supported by his good friend GM Gabriel Sargissian and was not shy of opening preparation either.
In the meanwhile, the rating favourites were not doing that well. Timur Gareev started well with 3/4, but then lost a game and… made only three draws till the end of the event. It seems as Timur before and after a loss are two completely different players.
The reigning champion Gata Kamsky was having trouble in scoring full points. He stood solidly on +2 score almost till the end of the tournament. He did not lose a game, but everyone was extremely solid when playing the champion and Gata just could not score.
It was not a great surprise that somewhere around the tournament equator Kamsky was very pessimistic about his chances.
Contrary to him, Lenderman kept optimistic and after his second straight loss posted the following comment on his facebook page: ”Behind all the clouds and rain there still always is sun!”
And the sun shone on his street again. In the next rounds he took back his plusses to make it to a decisive final round game against Akobian.
None of them was able to score though and they were caught up by Kamsky who won his last game to Josh Friedel. It was a three-way tie!
Surprisingly, it was the champion who had the best tie-break. Thus, he could wait for the finalist in the Armageddon game between Lenderman and Akobian. According to the rules, in case of a tie the champion had to be determined in a rapid play-off, and if needed an Armageddon game should have been played. Akobian won with Black and had to play Kamsky in the final.
In the meanwhile, the ladies section looked no less thrilling.
The main contenders for the title Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih were caught up by the “Blue Penguin” Tatev Abrahamian in the final round (purple here). Krush had the best tie-break, thus Zatonskih and Abrahamian had to define the second finalist in yet another Armageddon game.
An excellent opportunity for all the spectators!

Zatonskih was the favourite and she quickly got great attacking position. Alas, she forgot to give a couple of forced (and needed checks!) and instead of converting the attack into a win felt into desperate position. Abrahamian on her behalf did not even care about the win and forced a draw to secure her final spot. This was already a sensation!
The final matches were Kamsky-Akobian and Krush-Abrahamian.
The more experienced player though kept their own. Both Kamsky and Krush won their white games and drew with black. The champions defended the titles.
Krush won her sixth championship and Kamsky-fifth!
Looking back at the championship one can only admire to the excellent organization.
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis CCSCSL which hosted the event is situated at the best part of the city, surrounded by original and beautiful private residences. While walking around you can spot squirrels and wild rabbits walking freely in the bushes.
The park and the zoo are situated in Forrest Park within a walking distance as well as the Historical and Art museums. The luxurious Chase Plaza hotel hosted the players and on their way to the venue they had plentiful choice of excellent food. They could also visit the Lester’s restaurant which is literally attached to the club whenever they like.
Facing the CCSCSL is the Hall of fame with the largest chess piece in the world in front of it. There on the free day a chess/music show took place where the games were accompanied by psychedelic music.
The organizers have provided tickets to all the players for the baseball match of the local St. Louis Cardinals team but it was cancelled due to the rain.
The main sponsor of the event and founder of the club Rex Sinquefield lived with the chess battles and did not miss a move of the tournaments.
My young student Ashritha Eswaran did very well at the event and scored 3.5/9. Unfortunately, she came one point short to the WIM norm. A draw in the final round (in a very promising position!) would be sufficient for a fifth place.
This is irrelevant though as a much more important and valuable thing is the experience that she got from the tournament. A curious fact is that Ashritha is the only USA born player in the ladies ‘section.
Oh, yes, she was also awarded the best game price of the women event for her first round win:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)

[Event "USA-ch (Women)"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2014.05.08"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Ni, Viktorija"]
[Black "Eswaran, Ashritha"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A46"]
[WhiteElo "2206"]
[BlackElo "1979"]
[Annotator "Dejan Bojkov"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/4p1k1/1pR3p1/1PbP3p/P6K/8/8 w - - 0 55"]
[PlyCount "58"]
[EventDate "2014.05.08"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[EventCategory "1"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2014.05.24"]

{Viktorija had conducted the middlegame very well and achieved much better
position. However, this took plenty of time on her clock and she was already
feeling the discomfort of the second time trouble.} 55. Re5 {A step in the
wrong direction. White could have won with the study-like:} (55. a4 $1 Bf1+ 56.
Kh2 bxa4 57. b5 g4 (57... a3 58. b6 Ba6 59. Ra5) 58. Kg1 $3 {[%csl Rf1][%cal
Yg1f1] Which wins decisive tempo in comparison to the line:} (58. b6 g3+ 59.
Kg1 Ba6 60. Ra5 $2 {when it is Black who wins:} Bb7 61. Ra7 Bf3 62. b7 h3 63.
b8=Q h2+ 64. Kf1 h1=Q#) 58... Bd3 59. b6 Be4 60. d5 $1 $18 {[%csl Ye4][%cal
Rb6b7,Ye4b7] Diagram [#]}) 55... Kh5 56. a4 $6 ({It was probably not too late
to admit the mistake-} 56. Rc5) 56... bxa4 {Now a forced line runs:} 57. b5 a3
58. b6 a2 59. Ra5 Bd5 60. Kh2 (60. b7 Bxb7 61. Rxa2 g4+ 62. Kh2 Kg5 {does not
seem like something that White would like to play.}) ({It was only here that
White realized that the calculated "coup the grace":} 60. Rxa2 {has a flaw:}
g4+ 61. Kh2 g3+ 62. Kh3 (62. Kg1 h3 $19) 62... Bxa2 63. b7 {Diagram [#]} Bc4 $3
{[%csl Rf1,Yh3][%cal Rc4f1,Rf1h3]} 64. b8=Q (64. Kg2 Bd5+ {[%csl Yb7,Yg2][%cal
Rd5b7,Rd5g2]}) 64... Bf1# {[%csl Yh3]}) 60... g4 61. Ra3 Kg5 62. Ra5 Kh5 63.
Ra3 g3+ {Ashritha realized that she has no losing chances anymore and started
looking for the win.} 64. Kh3 {The only move.} (64. Kg1 h3 {[%cal Gh3h2] loses
on the spot.}) 64... Kg5 65. Ra5 Kh5 66. Ra3 Kg5 {Ashritha was also low on
time and decided to repeat the moves to gain some time.} 67. Ra5 Kh5 68. Ra3
Kg5 69. Ra5 Kh5 {True, she repeated them four times instead of two and
Viktorija could have claimed the draw. In the meanwhile the annotators J.
Shahade and Y. Seirawan as well as M. Ashley were somewhat disappointingly
anticipating the draw offer, when the thunder came:} 70. Ra3 {Diagram [#]} e5
$3 {A bautiful winning theme. Ashritha have spotted it long before the move
repetition!} 71. dxe5 {Played with seconds on the clock, I do not think that
anyone can blame Viktorija for not finding the idea:} (71. b7 $1 Bxb7 72. Rxa2
Bc8+ ({Or:} 72... exd4 73. Ra5+ Kg6 74. Ra4 $11) 73. Kg2 Kg4 74. dxe5 h3+ 75.
Kg1 {[%csl Yg3,Rh2,Yh3][%cal Ra2h2,Rh3h2] and White is saving herself thanks
to the sacrficie of the rook for the two pawns.}) ({One point of the idea is
seen in the line:} 71. Rxa2 Bxa2 72. b7 Be6+ 73. Kg2 Bd5+ $19) 71... Bc4 $1 {
[%cal Rc4f1] This bishop is a magical piece!} 72. Kg2 (72. b7 Bf1#) 72... Kg4 {
[%cal Gh4h3,Ga2a1,Rc4d5] All of a sudden all the black pieces are perfectly
co-ordinated.} 73. b7 Bd5+ {A tempo! And... wrong... The win was instant:} (
73... h3+ $1 74. Kg1 h2+ 75. Kg2 Bd5+ {[%cal Rh2h1]}) 74. Kf1 Bxb7 75. Ra4+ Kf3
76. Rxa2 {Diagram [#] It is once again a draw. But it ain't over until it is
over...} h3 77. Kg1 Bd5 78. Rd2 Bc4 79. Rc2 {White slips one more time and one
more study idea will appear on the board.} ({White does not need the pawn-} 79.
e6 $1 {was the cleanest road to the draw-} Bxe6 80. Rd3+ Kf4 81. Rd4+ Ke3 82.
Rh4 $11) ({It was not that obvious which square to choose for the rook, but
the fourth rank check was needed! Therefore:} 79. Rb2 $1 Be2 (79... Bd5 80. e6
Bxe6 81. Rb5) 80. Rb3+ $1 {This is the big difference!} Kf4 81. Rb4+ Kg5 82.
Rb1 Bf3 83. Rb2 $11) 79... Be2 $1 {[%csl Ge2,Gf3,Yg1,Gg3,Gh3][%cal Rh3h2] The
black pieces surrounded the king.} 80. Rc3+ ({No time for queening-} 80. e6 h2+
81. Kh1 Kf2 82. Rxe2+ Kxe2 83. Kg2 h1=Q+ $1 84. Kxh1 Kf2 85. e7 g2+ 86. Kh2
g1=Q+ 87. Kh3 Qg3#) 80... Kg4 81. e6 h2+ 82. Kg2 {Diagram [#]} ({Or the
familiar checkmate:} 82. Kh1 Bf3+ (82... Kh3 {[%cal Re2f1,Rf1g2] would also
work.}) 83. Rxf3 Kxf3 84. e7 Kf2 85. e8=Q g2+ 86. Kxh2 g1=Q+ 87. Kh3 Qg3#)
82... Bf1+ $3 83. Kh1 Kh3 {Checkmate is inevitable.} (83... Kh3 84. Rc2 g2+ 85.
Rxg2 Bxg2#) 0-1

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