Hikaru Nakamura clinches third U.S. Championship title
Hikaru Nakamura won the U.S. Championship on Saturday after beating Yasser Seirawan with white in the last round. The top rated American grandmaster finished a full point ahead of Gata Kamsky and with a point less, third came Alexander Onischuk. A report on the final two rounds.
Hikaru Nakamura wins his third U.S. Championship | Photos courtesy of the official website
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By FM Mike Klein
The battle all chess fans waited to see at the 2012 U.S. Championship did not disappoint. GM Hikaru Nakamura beat GM Gata Kamsky for the first time ever in classical chess to take over the lead by one-half point with one game to go. Nakamura has 7.5 points to Kamsky's seven.
Playing Black in round ten, Nakamura chose the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense because he wanted a volatile position. During their last encounter, at the Tata Steel Tournament in January, Nakamura's Dragon Variation did not produce any winning chances. Today, he needed more from the opening.
Kamsky uncharacteristically labored in the opening, spending more time than his opponent for one of the first times in the event. He spent 30 minutes after 11...Na5.
Lacking his usual confidence, he was down 45 minutes on the clock a few moves later.
Later, Nakamura won a pawn, but refused to go for more.
In the post-game press conference, Nakamura said that he was not sure of the complications arising from 25...Nxc3 26. bxc3 Qxc3 27. Ng4 Qxa5 28. Nxh6+ gxh6 29. Qg4+ Kh8. While it seems Black is simply up an armada of pawns, white can chase the black queen around the board until she gives herself away for two rooks. Nakamura said he thought it was still technically winning, but he was worried about his king's safety. The alternative plan from the actual game left Nakamura up the exchange, but with a different set of difficulties ahead.
“Optically the knights are very strong, but at the same time, they don't have very many squares,” Nakamura said. He wanted to avoid an endgame where one of Kamsky's knights would sacrifice for his lone queenside pawn, as an ending with pawns on only one side can often reduce winning chances.
The defending champion's lack of time came back to hurt him on the 40th and final move of time control.
According to Nakamura, 40. Kh4 is an unrecoverable mistake. The forcing sequence beginning with the pinning of one knight and the sacrifice for another led to Kamsky searching fruitlessly for counterplay against the inexorable march of his opponent's a-pawn. While Kamsky attempted to conjure an attack with his limited material, Nakamura did not need any moves to rebuff the plan, and simply marched onward with his pawn.
“A lot of moves Gata played in this game surprised me,” Nakamura said, adding the opinion that neither he nor Kamsky is playing his best at the championship.
Nakamura thought that he was due for some good fortune, as he had better positions in several of the games that he drew.
Tomorrow, Nakamura assured everyone that he was out to win, as he gets white versus GM Yasser Seirawan. If he is able to do so, he will clinch the title, his first since 2009. Kamsky meanwhile needs some help to win his third consecutive championship. He will likely need to win as black against GM Robert Hess, then get some help from Seirawan. Should there be a tie at the end of the 11th round, the playoff will be Sunday at noon Central time.
All other games Friday were drawn, except GM Alejandro Ramirez, who beat GM Alex Stripunsky. GM Alex Onischuk retained his position in third by easily drawing GM Varuzhan Akobian.
Games round 10
After 11 exhausting days of play at the 2012 U.S. Championships, one champion has been decided, while one will require another day. GM Hikaru Nakamura took 30 moves to beat GM Yasser Seirawan today to become the 2012 U.S. Champion. It is his third title and his first since 2009.
“It has been a long two weeks,” Nakamura said. “There's a lot of pressure to perform. I feel a lot of relief.” Nakamura was the top-seeded player and according to the live ratings list, he has now pushed his rating to 2782.6, a personal best. “If I hadn't won, I'd be pretty depressed.”
Nakamura reverted back to 1. e4. He used it to win several games earlier in the tournament. Seirawan, a four-time champion, differed from his usual Caro-Kann and played the French Defense. After a 10-minute think, Nakamura unleashed 2. f4 to get the game out of charted waters. Seirawan said later it was new for him.
“This tournament is a tournament of firsts for me,” Seirawan said. “And I've never faced f4 before.”
Nakamura's capture 10. Bxf5 produced a critical moment for his opponent. Since ...g6 had just been played on move eight, Nakamura said it was natural to continue by recapturing with the g-pawn. Seirawan did just that, however upon reflection his isolated h-pawn ended up being a liability. Very short on time, Seirawan could not find a defense to the impending discovered checks on the dark-squared long diagonal. He expressed “instant regret” on his choice of which way to capture on f5. “It's just a totally bad grovel,” Seirawan said.
Nakamura had ideas all over. “He had play on both flanks,” Seirawan said. “My position was in some ways carved in half. I was defending on both wings. My position is like a sieve.”
GM Gata Kamsky, who acquiesced the lead to Nakamura yesterday by losing their head-to-head game, drew against GM Robert Hess to earn clear second place with 7.5/11. GM Alex Onischuk was third with 6.5/11 and tied for fourth were GMs Varuzhan Akobian, Yury Shulman and Alex Lenderman. Shulman's one win and ten draws makes him the only other undefeated player besides Nakamura.
GM Ray Robson's even score of 5.5/11 was good enough for seventh, while Hess grabbed eighth (5/11) and GMs Gregory Kaidanov and Alejandro Ramirez shared ninth (4/11). GMs Yasser Seirawan and Alex Stripunsky tied for 11th with 3.5/11.
Games round 11
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