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On Chess: Nakamura wins U.S. championship

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 24, 2012 - The 2012 U.S. Chess Championship and 2012 U.S. Women's Championship were held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in the Central West End May 7-20. There was no surprise in the championship, as the No.1 seed and world-ranked No. 5 Hikaru Nakamura won convincingly with a score of 8.5-2.5 winning six games and drawing five.

The key matchup was in the penultimate round when Hikaru, half a point behind two-time reigning champion Gata Kamsky, won with the black pieces against his archrival! Hikaru was able to win in the last round against four-time U.S. Champion Yasser Seirawan to clinch title.

The Women's Championship was hard fought with the two favorites, Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih, needing a playoff to decide who would be champion. Both scored seven points out of nine games in the round robin, so the players had to play a two-game rapid playoff to determine the champion.

Irina won the first playoff game beautifully and needed only a draw in game two, but things were going well for Anna. It looked as though an Armageddon game would be necessary, but Anna made a terrible error with only seconds left on her clock, and Irina won the match 2-0 to become 2012 U.S. Women's Champion.

The tournament was shown on the Internet at www.uschesschamps.com and tens of thousands of people from more than 150 countries worldwide watched the games live each day.

It was a great tournament for the St. Louis resident, Hikaru, who won his third U.S. championship. He played for a win with both colors and was rewarded with a resounding tenth-round victory over Kamsky in a very complicated Sicilian Najdorf variation. As a result of his great performance, Hikaru moved to No. 5 in the world rankings because reigning World Champion Viswanathan Anand is losing some rating points in his match with Boris Gelfand. 

It seems likely Hikaru will be in the top three in the world by year's end and will be a likely candidate to fight for the world championship.

His next major event is the super-strong Mikhail Tal Memorial tournament in Moscow. The newly crowned U.S. champion will look to keep the momentum going with a solid performance against the world’s best June 7-19.

For more info, visit www.chessdom.com/mikhail-tal-memorial-2012/.

Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.