12 May 2013

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 8

The most interesting games of round 8 for me were on the two top boards, where Kamsky-Gareev saw some wild swings and an eventual forced repetition by Black, while Abrahamyan-Krush was a full-on clash in a Taimanov Sicilian.  The games and comments can be found at the above link.

The most relevant game again for my studies was a Caro-Kann, the third (!) time the Bronstein-Larsen variation has appeared at the championships.  This time it was Alexander Stripunsky who essayed it as Black against Robert Hess, however, not Yaacov Norowitz.  Alas, Black again went down to defeat after failing to generate any kingside attack or meaningful counterplay.  In none of the games has Black seemed to want to be as aggressive as the opening demands; in this game, for example, he could have played the early 6...h5!? which in fact scores quite well.

Live coverage of round 9 is ongoing and it looks like Gata Kamsky may be trying to bait Ray Robson into a premature attack against his unusual, somewhat passive-looking Sicilian Kan variation.  A Kamsky win would give him clear first place. Meanwhile, Irina Krush as White only needs to draw against Camilla Baginskaite in order to ensure her title victory in the women's championship.

[Event "US Chess Championships"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2013.05.11"] [Round "8"] [White "Robert Hess"] [Black "Alexander Stripunsky"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B16"] [WhiteElo "2595"] [BlackElo "2570"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2013.05.03"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6 {the Bronstein-Larsen makes its third appearance in the championships.} 6. g3 {Hess avoids the main line with c3, as the other White players have done in this tournament. Here he chooses to immediately fianchettoes his bishop. While this is a main idea in the c3 line, the early fianchetto is rarely played.} Nd7 {has not been played before in the database. This seems like a slow way to develop.} (6... h5 { actually scores over 60 percent for Black. Kingside aggression is the key to success in this variation.}) 7. Bg2 Nb6 {an early commitment of the knight to this square, but Black now needs to get it out of the way of his bishop and queen.} 8. b3 {White focuses on pawn moves rather than piece development.} (8. Nf3 $5) 8... Bf5 (8... h5 {is what Houdini likes here, but Black evidently doesn't feel aggressive enough.}) 9. c4 Qd7 10. a4 Rd8 {with White's queenside pawns already looking menacing, Black decides not to castle long.} 11. a5 Nc8 12. a6 $14 b6 {Despite White's lack of piece development to this point, his bishops have great prospects and has a potentially better king position, while Black's king is not so comfortable.} 13. Ne2 Bh3 14. Bxh3 Qxh3 15. Nf4 Qd7 16. O-O $16 {Black's sole attacking idea on the kingside, exchanging on Bg2, has been neutralized by White, who now also has a significantly safer king.} Bg7 ( 16... Qxd4 $6 17. Qf3 {threatens c6 and gives White major attacking prospects.} Bg7 (17... Qxa1 $2 18. Qxc6+ Rd7 19. Qxc8+ Rd8 20. Qc6+ Rd7 21. Rd1) 18. Ba3) 17. Qf3 O-O {while not a poor move in this situation, it's a bad strategic sign for Black, who was not able to use the g-file for anything and now is saddled with permanent positional flaws.} 18. d5 cxd5 19. Nxd5 f5 20. Ra2 { White keeps his options open for the rook.} e6 21. Nb4 Qd4 {it appears like Black is lashing out desperately, hoping for counterplay.} (21... Qe8 {is Houdini's suggestion, which is more passive and defensive in nature.}) 22. Qb7 Qc3 23. Nc6 {White's pieces are simply dominant at this point.} Rd3 24. Ra3 { White now safely neutralizes Black's attack.} Bd4 25. b4 Qxc4 26. Rxd3 Qxd3 27. Nxd4 Qxd4 28. Bh6 {although now a pawn down, this is meaningless, as White's pieces still thoroughly dominate the board.} Rd8 29. Rc1 Nd6 30. Qxa7 Ne4 31. Be3 Qxb4 32. Qxb6 Qxb6 33. Bxb6 {the win now takes shape.} Ra8 34. a7 Nf6 ( 34... Nd6 {would be more stubborn, according to Houdini.}) 35. Bd4 Nd5 36. Rb1 {and Black cannot stop Rb8} 1-0

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