Reports | May 20, 2012 12:05

Hikaru Nakamura clinches third U.S. Championship title

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

Event U.S. ChampionshipsPGN via TWIC
Dates May 8th-20th, 2012
Location Saint Louis, USA
System 12-player round robin

Hikaru Nakamura, Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Yasser Seirawan, Robert Hess, Varuzhan Akobian, Ray Robson, Gregory Kaidanov, Alejandro Ramirez, Aleksandr Lenderman, Yury Shulman, Alexander Stripunsky

Rate of play 40 moves in 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes to finish the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1

Videos by Macauley Peterson

By FM Mike Klein

Round 10

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Round 11

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.”

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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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U.S. Championships 2012 | Final Standings


Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


redivivo's picture

Great tournament win by Naka who showed that he was in a class of his own.

BL's picture

I like his chess, but Hikaru has to be one of the most arrogant chess players in the game... Can you think of any others?

Lee's picture

Congratulations to the team in charge of the on-line coverage.

The color commentary by Finegold and Shahade was not only informative, but lively and humorous. Not an easy task when anchoring so much footage each day.

The player interviews by Klein were great. A cut above the usual dross. Well done getting more than the usual one word answers from the players.

I happened to be watching when Kamsky uncorked his preparation against Seirawan. Great viewing.

Overall, it was a new benchmark for live coverage.

Mike Hunt's picture

Hardly Lee. The americanisation of chess event is super nauseating and definitley not popular with real chess followers. As for Finegold and Shahade dont make me laugh...I wont even say well done to the ''american'' winner as he is the most annoying of all and hugely unpopular outside of the US and rightly so.

Lee's picture

I was really hoping Kamsky would take out the event. Nakamura is just one of those guys that rubs the wrong way.

Maybe the commentary wasn't to everyone's taste, but that doesn't surprise nor bother me. I'm struggling with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam's efforts at the WCC myself but I'll just work through that minor annoyance.

Anonymous's picture

Mike doesn't like Americans it seems--an acceptable bias on chess web sites

rdecredico's picture


I have been playing and following chess for fifty years and this was exciting and good chess.

Arrogance comes with the territory, from Fischer to Kasparov.

Nakamura is personable and friendly in person and makes himself available to all sorts of people before and after games and often plays in the skittles room for hours after a tournament.

So, speak for yourself and stop pretending like you represent the world outside the don't.

I am from Sicily myself, and he is as much loved and respected there as he is stateside.

noyb's picture

Why is it that when someone is able to demonstrate objectivity, even about one's self, that everyone automatically jumps to the conclusion that that person is arrogant?

Daaim Shabazz's picture

Americanization? I don't understand what you mean. Real chess players all over the world followed the tournament. Who cares if you didn't like the format or if you think Nakamura is annoying. It was a good result and he played some good chess. If you got over your bias, you'd see it.

Matt's picture

I am outside of the US and Naka has a HUGE number of followers; who cares if he is arrogant or whaterver people want to point at; his chess is attractive and that's what counts.
Kasparov wasn't less arrogant and nobody cares.

Anonymous's picture

Mat, Naka would not be considered arrogant if he played for Japan.
Note that discussions of Naka's arrogance is almost always accompanied by references to his nationality.
Some people think that Kasparov is arrogant also; but of course no one ever says "Kasparov, that arrogant Russian"

choufleur's picture

The US style of commenting chess is quite ridiculous, especially when Shahade shows up. Compare to Shipov and you will see what I mean.
Nakamura has not half of the class of Kasparov, who wasn't arrogant at all.

xtc's picture

"Kasparov, who wasn't arrogant at all"

Buahhhah! You lose all credibility when you make a comment like that.

Mike's picture

But this style of commentating is much more thrilling and fun, instead of a russian who "just" cares about chess. Fans want to hear funny things around the players and so on. It's just another world but I like it (and many others also - so you are in the clear minority - go to shipov and watch 3 hours deep analyzing and have fun with it =)

rdecredico's picture this meant as satire?

because as a sincere statement it is supercilious.

Anonymous's picture


Abbas's picture

I don't find anything special in the final standings. The top seed won it, which is quite expected.

katar's picture

With Naka's tournament win and Anand's loss today, Nakamura has edged out Anand in the live ratings! I wonder if Anand will take this opportunity to quote Nakamura's tweetline: "After seeing people picking up rating points off of beating weaker players, I am convinced chess ratings should be weighted like in tennis."

Stephen's picture

I have met Naka twice. He didn't know me from Adam and yet he was very nice. While talking to me kids came up and he signed books for them. What more can you ask?

Mike's picture

Exactly I one saw him playing with a very little chessboard at the opening gala of dortmund. This little kid brought his chess set to him and asked for a battle and Nakamura took the challenge. So he might seem arrogant to somebody but if you look a bit closer he is a smart, funny and normal guy.

B L's picture

Perhaps regarding his arrogance he is just shy and doesn't know how to take compliments and comparisons.

Take for example how classy and witty both Carlsen and Aronian are, they don't try very hard but are still brilliant.

Daaim Shabazz's picture

Aronian is definitely a class act and also well-spoken. I've interviewed him on a couple of occasions and he is very personable as well.

John Montgomery's picture

I wish all chess events had the coverage the U.S. championship had. I loved it. Although that picture of Naka makes him look like the new host of Masterpiece Theater.

Anonymous's picture

That picture is a bit much lol.

Anonymous's picture

Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek did a nice column on the recently concluded U.S. Championships and highlights some nice games and brilliant moves:

Anonymous's picture

Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek did a nice column on the recently concluded U.S. Championship and highlights some nice games and brilliant moves:

John's picture

Arrogance comes naturally in chess. If you aren't arrogant, you are confident, so you aren't good.

Be humble all you want, but chess is like mental boxing. Would you be humble in real boxing?

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