Sunday, March 05, 2006

US Championship Round 4: Preview

There are still quite a few round 3 games I'd like to get a chance to post, but with this being the last week of classes and finals being the week after I don't know how much time I'll have. I'll definitely mention some key games after each round in each section as I'll be following performances of players I know personally plus performances of players at the top of each section. Right now Onischuk is in clear first for Group A for the men and Baginskaite and Goletiani are tied after that. If Nakamura figures out what's wrong and starts winning some games Baginskaite should have good tiebreaks for her win today. In Group B we have a different story. There is a 5-way tie for first place with 2.5 between Shulman, Shabalov, Ivanov, Novikov, and Christiansen. There are a lot of young players on the heels of the leaders in both sections which might prove important with rounds 3-9 being played with no rest days.
So my score for yesterday was 2-4, I guess for once I picked too many draws wrong. Anyways here's my predictions for the top 3 boards in each section today:

Group A:

GM De Firmian - GM Onischuk 1/2-1/2
I think with a solid position as black Onischuk will have trouble winning. Honestly he was very resourceful to win today, but I think objectively the position should have been a draw before the piece sacrifice. I think if he can neutralize De Firmian and get a little bit of rest out of round 4 he would be quite happy. That being said, he is younger than De Firmian by quite a bit so I think he might have energy to push for a win if the opportunity arises.

GM Goldin - GM Gurevich 1-0
Gurevich plays too many openings I just don't trust. I think against a strong GM like Goldin handling the white pieces he will likely be in trouble. Plus, Goldin needs to win to stay within range of the leaders to have a chance later.

IM Friedel - IM Finegold 1-0
Okay, this might not be completely objective, but I get a feeling from Finegold's game that his form isn't perfect while I've felt like Friedel has actually had winning positions in all 3 of his games (I'm pretty sure that sacrifice wasn't completely sound today). I think with Friedel's good form and Finegold's relatively poor form this should be a good shot for Josh to win. So if I'm right about the move order it won't matter and they'll get a classical sicilian sozin variation (I think that's what it's called) which is actually a repeat from their matchup last year. Finegold actually has a really good record on the black side of this line so I wish Josh the best of luck putting a spot on it.

Group B:

GM Shulman - GM Shabalov 0-1
I think stylistically Shulman might be in trouble here so I expect Shabalov to win although I can't figure out what is tell me this. Call it ESP, I have no clue.

GM Ivanov - GM Novikov 1-0
Ivanov is a beast with white and he seems to have let Novikov off the hook in their last 2 encounters (one dating back to 1993), but I expect a fight in a very important game and Ivanov is just a monster against the Najdorf with his g3 line that has actually seen some popularity lately. I'm going to give the point to the man my friend called "the hardest worker at the board.. he's always checking theory on the board".

GM Kamsky - GM Christiansen 1/2-1/2
Seems like Kamsky is getting better winning chances with black than with white and it seems that Christiansen's preparation is good so I see no reason Kamsky should win, especially after he's let me down already twice.

Other games:
Abrahamyan, Tatev - Liu, Elliot 1/2-1/2
Both of these two are young Southern California players who probably have played eachother a few times. I'm not saying they're going to agree to a draw, but I don't think there will be that extra effort to beat a relatively familiar face.

Nakamura - Epstein 1-0
I'm just pulling for Nakamura to finally get some points on the board although we could see even more experimental openings this round, but that might not change anything.

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