Nakamura, Nemcova Stay On Top; Krush, So Half-Step Behind

An Easter Sunday victory pushed GM Hikaru Nakamura to clear first of the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship entering Monday's rest day. // Kevin Duggin photo

By FM Kostya Kavutskiy

Easter Sunday at the 2015 U.S. Chess Championships saw some powerful attacks and incredible swings as GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Wesley So, GM Gata Kamsky and GM Irina Krush all won their respective games in style.

Nakamura continued his fearlessness with the Black pieces against GM Daniel Naroditsky, choosing the double-edged Sicilian Dragon. The choice nearly backfired as he got into a lot of trouble out of the opening and felt he needed to opt for a thematic, yet dubious exchange sacrifice to complicate matters.

“I decided to just be practical and sacrifice the exchange,” Nakamura said. “I think objectively it’s probably losing but over the board it’s difficult to find the right plans. Daniel lost the thread with 19.Ne2 and 20.Nd4 … and once he played 24.f5, all hell broke loose -- but the complications favored me.”

Nakamura’s risky strategy paid off, winning on the board by the 30th move and forcing resignation a few moves later.

GM Daniel Naroditsky vs. GM Hikaru Nakamura Annotations by GM Josh Friedel

Meanwhile GM Ray Robson, the co-leader entering Sunday’s fifth round, went down to a vicious attack by reigning champion GM Gata Kamsky. Overall, the game was quite complicated—Kamsky held the initiative in the middlegame, but was unable to break through Robson’s defenses.

“In the opening I thought I was slightly better,” reasoned Kamsky. “I had a space advantage, and I had some nice pieces and an attack, and then I misplayed it somewhere. Because after he played 21…b3, I lost the thread of the game, and I thought Black had completely equalized.”

Although Robson’s position was objectively fine, he had used up a lot of time and started to go very wrong with 30…N2d3 and 31…Kh6, allowing Kamsky to re-launch his attack and finish the job.

In the post-mortem with GM Maurice Ashley, Kamsky showed a surprising lack of ambition towards winning the event, saying, “I keep getting older, and that’s not a good factor if you want to win the championship.”

GM Gata Kamsky vs. GM Ray Robson Annotations by GM Josh Friedel

GM Ray Robson slipped off the U.S. Championship lead after falling to reigning champion GM Gata Kamsky on Sunday afternoon. // Kevin Duggin photo

GM Wesley So had a tough game Sunday but was able to crack GM Timur Gareev’s French Defense, first winning a pawn before slowly realizing his advantage by the first time control. The unpredictable Gareev actually resigned on Wesley’s 43rd move, during which Wesley revealed “Being a gentleman I had to shake his hand,” but he wasn’t 100% sure whether Gareev was resigning or offering a draw!

In one of the wildest games of the tournament, GM Conrad Holt exchanged tactical blows with GM Kayden Troff in a Grunfeld where both sides’ kings stayed exposed for the entire game. Holt gained the upper hand in the complications and held a decisive advantage through most of the game -- until he played 43.Kh3? overlooking the powerful response 43…g5! Troff launched a devastating counterattack.

 “I had no idea what was going on for half of that game, and I was just trying to make good moves,” Troff said. “The problem with chess players is that we like to be brilliant, and that sometimes costs us.”

After this victory, Troff is tied for third with 3/5 and grateful for his resilience. “Playing-wise, I don’t think I should be tied for third, but what I promised myself in all my games is that I go in there and fight. That’s really been the difference for me.”

GM Conrad Holt vs. GM Kayden Troff Annotations by GM Josh Friedel

GM Conrad Holt lost a round 5 heartbreaker after slipping up late in his game against GM Kayden Troff. // Lennart Ootes photo

In the 2015 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, WGM Katerina Nemcova was able fight to a draw against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, holding on to the tournament lead with 4/5. The draw, however, also allowed reigning Women’s Champion GM Irina Krush to regain some ground thanks to a topsy-turvy victory over IM Rusudan Goletiani.

In a pseudo-Dutch Defense, Goletiani started throwing the gauntlet at Irina’s king with the highly committal 12…Nfg4 and 13…Qh4!? -- indicating she had no plans for a strategic affair. Goletiani’s aggression continued with kingside advances of 14…g5 and 15…f4, as well as her sacrifice of 19…Bxh3!, throwing the game into complete mayhem. The complications left Krush with a bishop and knight against Goletiani’s rook, with both kings quite vulnerable. Unfortunately, Goletiani could not hold the balance, and Krush was able to fully coordinate her pieces and launch a decisive attack.

“I definitely feel lucky, because I had a critical position that I was definitely losing at some point,” Krush said. “I thought I should be better positionally, but I was not able to prove that, and I certainly got under very heavy fire.”

The win pulls Krush to 3.5/5, just a half-point behind Nemcova.

“I assess that my opponents are playing well, because obviously I’m not really getting any free gifts,” Krush said about her overall tournament, entering the rest day. “From the way they’re playing, you can tell they’re being very enterprising.”

GM Irina Krush vs. IM Rusudan Goletiani Annotations by GM Josh Friedel

GM Irina Krush knocked down IM Rusudan Goletiania on Sunday afternoon, heading into the rest day a half-point behind the lead. // Lennart Ootes Photo

Other results of the day include IM Nazi Paikidze drawing with WGM Anna Sharevich, as did WGM Sabina Foisor against FM Alisa Melekhina. WCM Apurva Virkud defeated WFM Jennifer Yu, and WIM Viktorija Ni defeated WIM Annie Wang.

Monday, April 6 will be a rest day for both championships. Round 6 will begin on April 7 at 1:00 p.m. CDT, with live commentary from GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley.