18 May 2013

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 9

In the last round (round 9) of the U.S. Championships, a number of games were worth examining closely for my training purposes.  The news link above includes the Robson-Kamsky game, which I don't look at here but which was fascinating to see during the live commentary. Kamsky again drew an unbalanced endgame after some complications, eventually winning the later playoff against Ramirez.

Game 1: GM Alejandro Ramirez - GM Larry Christiansen
This was an exciting contest in a Symmetrical English that Christiansen decided to unbalance with an early ...e5.  It was White's move 23 pawn sacrifice that really unbalanced the game, however, an excellent example of a sacrifice invigorating a position.  White breaks into Black's position starting on move 34 and some complex tactics ensue.  Winning this game put Ramirez into the playoff with Kamsky.

Game 2: GM Timur Gareev - GM Conrad Holt
The opening phase saw Holt reject a possible early draw in an Exchange Slav and eventually end up in a closed position, but with some chances for both sides to try and make progress.  Choices made about where to play were worth studying, with Houdini for example suggesting White could have pursued a queenside strategy.  A long endgame struggle ends after a slip by Holt allows White to force a queen exchange that would give him a winning K+P endgame.

Game 3: FM John Bryant - Yaacov Norowitz
The Caro-Kann Bronstein-Larsen variation finally chalks up a win in this event, as Norowitz masterfully uses Black's positional characteristics to his advantage, instead of having White take over the initiative as occurred in previous games.  It is both fitting and ironic that Black's doubled f-pawns are the key to final victory.

Game 4: GM Melik Khachiyan - GM Marc Arnold
For Slav devotees, this game is an excellent illustration of why almost no one plays a fianchetto against it.

Game 5: GM Ben Finegold - GM Alex Shabalov
I include this for the final move, which is an inspired combination from Shabalov.  The knight cannot be taken without losing, nor can it be ignored.

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