SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The US Championship begins its semi-final stage today, with just 4 players playing knockout matches: defending champion gm Gata Kamsky, gm Robert Hess, 19-year old sensation gm Sam Shankland and gm Yuri Shulman. The match up today will see Kamsky vs Shankland; the other is (clearly) Hess vs Shulman.
Yesterday’s play-off qualifier between Shankland and Onischuk was a bit of a surprise for Onischuk fans, but no doubt it was an equal match in terms of quality of chess and chess strength. The 19-year old Shankland is no doubt part of the new generation that is emerging in US-chess, which most likely will be even stronger than the previous generation.
The critical game of this match was the 2nd game (games are played at active time controls). This is the position after White’s 31st move:
After a sharp opening , White decided to sacrifice a piece for several pawns, which soon turned out to be 3 pawns. In the position here, however, White’s pawns are not very dangerous and it is unlikely that they can move much further down the board. A draw result seems very common-sense to me.
However, the time control is fast and in this kind of situation it is easy to lose one’s objectivity and find oneselve outplayed for no other reason than the fast time control! This is what happens here to Onischuk, I think
Computer engines suggest right off the bat 31…Qd8 hitting the d-pawn. After the more or less forced 32.Qa6 Rxd4 should lead to a perpetual check after White take sthe Knight. However, Onischuk felt he might do better by keeping the game unclertain and played to control the c-file with 31…Rc6.
The game continued for quite a while, and to make a long story short, the pawns proved stronger than the piece. Not such a bad game for the spectators! That is what they pay for….
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/h49RgrXZVQI width=”480″ height=”300″]
The above are the cross-tables of the 2-round robbins that decided the 4-top finishers who today start the semi-finals. Virtually all of the top US players participated (!) and the play was very hard fought with many interesting games.
Irina Krush in great form
The US Women’s Championship is taking place simultaneously. Krush won the qualifying tournament (she lost a game early on and then won 5 in a row!) She will now play the semi-finals against Zatonskih, while Abrahamyan will be matched up against Baginskaite.
It is a pleasure to witness such a professional-level of organization as in the 2011 US Championships, with live broadcast of the games, minute by minute commentary by Ashley and Shahade, and to be able to access a web site with so much useful and interesting information.
No doubt this can only happen with sponsorship and lots of it, but even so I have rarely seen such a superb job done on a national chess championship anywhere in the world! It reminds me of the calibre of top-level professional sport.
No wonder chess is thriving south of the Canadian border….
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS