Sunday, March 05, 2006

US Championship Round 3 Preview

First of all, I'd like to point out that the US Championship blog entitled "Champ Blog" is now online, you can check that out here. It's really a lot of fun, I don't know if it'll be the same this year with people e-mailing in the comments, but the pictures and commentary tend to be very entertaining. On to other news, we're entering round 3 starting tomorrow with 4 perfect scores left in the tournament only 2 of which can possibly survive this round. Once again I'll be predicting the top 3 boards in each section while throwing my view in for a few other games.

Score so far: (3-3) although I was off by half a point in all my incorrect games.
My predictions:

Group A:

GM Onischuk - IM Gonzalez 1-0
My friend mentioned to me he thinks Onischuk is going to win the tournament, personally I think nobody has more than a 20% chance at this point. Looking at some games looks like this will be a Slav, not exactly clear to me what kind of position will arise. Last time they played it was a slightly off line in the Slav that I have played before after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dc which I actually believe is quite good for black but pretty tricky to play in practice. In their last encounter Onischuk won quickly, but I wouldn't expect him to repeat this line so eagerly as it looks like he could have had a bad position after 10 moves or so. Either way, I expect a top glass GM like Onischuk to come out on top with white.

GM De Firmian - GM Ibragimov 1/2 - 1/2
De Firmian plays a solid and rather ambitious line against the French with 7. Nf3, I don't expect Ibragimov to take any exceptional risk to play for a win, but in their last encounter it seemed he equalized quite easily so I won't be surprised if Ildar finds a way to win, I will be more surprised if somehow he finds a way to lose though.

IM Finegold - IM Schneider 0-1
While I'm not one to give too much weight to past games, Finegold is 0-2 against Schneider in two games with white. He seemed to have real trouble against the noteboom in their last encounter. Actually for this reason I wouldn't be too surprised if Finegold whipped out 1. e4, he has done it a few times although I don't know when he chooses it and it's pretty rare.

Group B:

GM Novikov - GM Shulman 1/2-1/2
In the games I've found between these two Shulman is 2.5-1.5, but three of these games have been as white and I don't think Novikov will be out for blood this round. I expect a draw right around move 30 when they're finally allowed to.

GM Becerra - GM Kamsky 0-1
I realize Kamsky has been rather peaceful in last year's US Championship and this one's so far. But I don't expect him to be too solid. I'm betting Kamsky will whip out a 2.. e6 Sicilian and receive a pretty double edged game. If he plays 1.. e5 he could get in trouble as he doesn't have the best record with that lately anyways.

GM Shabalov - FM Milman 1/2-1/2
Don't let his title confuse you, Milman has all the requirements for the IM title except having sent in his application, even has a GM norm under his belt. This guy is a beast and he has no fears facing anybody. Shabalov hasn't seemed to be in particularly good form lately whereas Milman just seems to get better and better. Expect a draw but possibilities for all 3 results.

Other predictions:
GM Benjamin - IM Friedel 1/2-1/2
Anybody paying attention here knows I'm a big fan of Josh's play, but I'm trying to be objective here. Even last round I predicted a win and there were certainly good opportunities for that. This round it will likely be an Archangel variation of the Ruy Lopez where Josh is somewhat of a specialist, but in recent games Benjamin has been avoiding the sharper lines. I expect a draw, but will be rooting for Friedel to win.

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