2011 US Chess Championship – GM Gata Kamsky Vs GM Varuzhan Akobian – Round 2

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Kamsky played an aggressive opening, sacrificing a pawn very early to develop a lasting initiative. Akobian played his usual French Defense and did not hesitate to take the pawn, however he was forced to hold on for dear life as Kamsky played extremely forceful and pressing chess. Kamsky has come out swinging, and has 1.5/2 points at the time of this article’s release. Kamsky must be the hands-down favorite to win the US Championship this year, as the US #1 Rated Player, GM HIkaru Nakamura, has elected not to play for fear of lowering his FIDE rating (~2760 FIDE, top five in the world). Certainly understandable for HIkaru, as he is making a very serious bid to contend for the World Championship in the coming years and the top players in the US simply are not rated high enough for him to be able to raise his rating.

To explain the basic format and details of this year’s event – it is taking place between April 15-28 in St. Louis, Missouri. There are 16 players divided into 2 groups, the players will play 7 rounds in these sub-groups in a round-robin format – then the top 2 players from each group will proceed to the semi-finals and finals. The US Championship has been changing the format of the tournament for the past few years, hoping to stimulate more interest. Personally, I like the current format (although it is somewhat confusing!) because the semi-finals and finals matches should be very interesting.

My picks for the tournament:
#1: Gata Kamsky – The only player rated above 2700 with a ton of top-level experience. Kamsky is no stranger to winning high-pressure tournaments, and if he can continue playing aggressively he will be very tough to beat.

#2: Yury Shulman – He is an absolute monster. An extremely aggressive player with a fantastic intuition/natural feel for the game. Shulman has never reached 2700 FIDE, however it would not surprise me if he does in the next few years.

#3: Larry Christiansen – LarryC is a beast. He has won the US Championship in 1980, 1983, and 2002. He also shared 1st place at Linares 1981 with none other than Anatoly Karpov. He also demonstrates an excellent natural feel for the game and is a very dangerous attacking player.

#4: Alexander Shabalov – Not his first US Championship, as he has won the event 4 times! Shabalov is a fierce attacking player and capable of taking anyone down. His play seems to have declined somewhat in recent years, however he is definitely someone to keep a close eye on – especially in this event.

Final standings

Group A

1 GM Kamsky, Gata 2733 x ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 5.0
2 GM Shulman, Yuri 2622 ½ x ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 4.5
3 GM Robson, Ray 2522 ½ ½ x 1 ½ ½ 1 0 4.0
4 GM Ivanov, Alexander 2540 ½ 0 0 x 1 ½ ½ 1 3.5
5 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2611 0 ½ ½ 0 x ½ 1 ½ 3.0
6 GM Ehlvest, Jaan 2586 0 0 ½ ½ ½ x 1 ½ 3.0
7 GM Stripunsky, Alexander 2578 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 0 x 1 2.5
8 IM Naroditsky, Daniel 2438 0 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 0 x 2.5

Group B

1 GM Hess, Robert L 2565 x 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 5.5
2 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2678 0 x ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 4.0
3 IM Shankland, Samuel L 2512 ½ ½ x ½ 0 1 1 ½ 4.0
4 GM Seirawan, Yasser 2636 ½ ½ ½ x ½ ½ 0 1 3.5
5 GM Shabalov, Alexander 2590 0 ½ 1 ½ x 0 0 1 3.0
6 GM Kaidanov, Gregory S 2569 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 x 1 0 3.0
7 GM Christiansen, Larry M 2586 0 0 0 1 1 0 x ½ 2.5
8 GM Finegold, Benjamin 2500 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1 ½ x 2.5

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