Monday, May 06, 2013

U.S. Chess Championship, Rounds 3 & 4

Finegold - Norowitz
Black to play and win.

In Round Three, Yaacov Norowitz played a safe game against GM Robert Hess, who himself did not try anything adventurous against Yaacov's Gurgenidze system.  Though the game featured some interesting tactical exchanges, it quickly petered out to a draw.  In Round Four, Yaacov won his first game of the tournament despite the fact that he had his second black in a row against GM Ben Finegold (whose Finegold Chess blog features some nice commentary on his tourney so far.)  Finegold missed a winning shot in their game with 28.Ne4!  As the commentators suggested, he must have looked at that move but then did not follow out the line long enough to see past the fork that follows 28...Qxc1+ 29.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 30.Kxc1 Nd3+ to find that White is winning after 31.Kb1 Nxf2 32.Nxd6 with Nxf7 in the offing (an interesting example of what Dan Heisman calls a "quiescence error.")  At move 40, playing with just the increment, Yaacov did not miss his own shot at victory, finding the crushing 40...Nxa3! (see diagram above).  I offer some notes below (or download the PGN).

After his win over Finegold, Yaacov was interviewed by GM Maurice Ashley, where he revealed the story of how he was able to play Round 2 on the Sabbath.  It turns out that the main problem for observant Jews about playing on the Sabbath is not the playing itself but the writing down of their moves, which the rules of chess strictly require of all players.  According to Yaacov, it was Dr. Richard Lewis who came up with the perfect solution: Yaacov could use stickers!  Though the practice has earned Yaacov the nickname "stickers" in St. Louis, it has made it possible for him to compete.

Yaacov describes his Round 4 victory.

Yaacov's presence in the tournament has added a lot of excitement for us fellow "Kenilworthians," but the tournament itself has been great, with incredibly good live coverage and many exciting games.  For me and many chess fans, the most anticipated game of the tournament may have been  Zatonskih - Krush from Round 3 of the Women's event.  In recent years, the match-ups between these two have generally determined the Women's Championship and a sometimes bitter rivalry has grown up between them, especially since their infamous 2008 armageddon match.  After all the build-up, the game did not disappoint, with a very sharply contested Mar del Plata King's Indian that ended with a piece sacrifice and "Krushing" attack by black.  

In the men's event, I was pulling for John Bryant this round, as I have been very impressed by the attacking style of his games in St. Louis (some readers might remember that I posted an article on his tactical play in the 2011 U.S. Junior).   However, in Round 4 Bryant lost after a bad opening to GM Larry Christiansen, who is hanging on to a tie for second place with old friend and longtime rival GM Joel Benjamin.  Interestingly, this is Christiansen's 25th championship and Benjamin's 26th!  Christiansen lost in Round 3 to GM Gata Kamsky, who, at 4/4, still has a shot at the $64K prize for anyone able to duplicate Fischer's famous 1964 sweep of the U.S. Championship.  Of course, to get there he will have to beat Benjamin when they play tomorrow -- and then the next GM after that, and then another, and another, and one more after that.  Hard to imagine it being possible.

The Live Coverage at the US Chess Champs site has been great, with super commentary from WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Maurice Ashley. I noticed today that The Week in Chess (TWIC) has a nice page devoted to the US Championships, which includes the best crosstable and PGN file. 

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