Thursday, March 09, 2006

US Championship Round 7: Results / Round 8: Preview

Today had a lot of exciting games and lots of decisive results. Only 8 draws in 32 total games. The group leaders both won their respective games and now Onischuk and Shulman lead their groups by a full point both playing the only player within 1 point of them in round 8. This means that both have an opportunity to clinch 1st with wins (although 2 draws will do it also). Both of these leaders played convincingly in their victories.
In board 2 of group A Southern California player Varuzhan Akobian managed to win a lost rook and pawn endgame, now that's technique! Friedel beat Dlugy in a nice game to make amends for his loss yesterday which now puts him back into that group tied for 3rd. Nakamura is trying to continue his comeback with a win this round over GM De Firmian in typical Nakamura fashion. He got a bad position from the opening but continued to move quickly and put a lot of pressure on De Firmian who fell apart in time trouble.
Probably craziest game of the round was Kamsky's win over Novikov. It was a Bg5 Najdorf that got into an endgame where Kamsky was trying to make good with his Q+N vs Q+B. On move 41 Novikov sacrficed his bishop for a dangerous passed pawn and then won another pawn which was captured on move 44 in the process leaving him with a queen plus three pawns versus Kamsky's queen, knight, and 1 pawn. Kamsky couldn't trade queens under any condition to win and really pressed hard trying to win something delightful to see from Kamsky this tournament. So Kamsky was finally successful in breaking through, but he was going to have a problem due to the 50 move rule, but on move 92 Kamsky finally broke through with a move that would allow a queen trade on the following move into a winning queen endgame. It came down to one of the last possible moves for him to win.


Group A: Onsichuk(6), Akobian (5), 7 others (4.5)
womens: Goletiani(3.5), Baginskaite, Ross, Zenyuk (3)

Group B: Shulman (6), Kamsky (5), Novikov, Christiansen, Perelshteyn, Fishbein, Yermolinsky (4.5)

Exciting results this round, I managed to predict 3/6 results correct this round, but the ones I got wrong all ended under very strange circumstances just to tease me. Anyways my predictions for this round are:

Group A:

GM Akobian - GM Onischuk 1/2-1/2
I think stylistically Akobian will have a tough time against Onischuk just because Onischuk is the stronger player and their play is pretty similar. I really think this game has the possibility for all 3 results due to how important a win is for Akobian.

GM Nakamura - GM Gurevich 1-0
Nakamura played very well in his last game and I'm sure has gotten a lot of his confidence back so I expect him to be in proper form to beat Gurevich. I have warned myself not to doubt Gurevich in earlier rounds, but I think this result is my best prediction. However, I think the chance of Nakamura winning Group A are essentially nil. Since Onischuk has been leading the whole time even .5/2 in the last 2 rounds will probably seal him first on tiebreaks assuming he doesn't lose to Akobian. Of course if Onischuk does lose to Akobian then for Nakamura to win on tiebreaks would probably require none of the other 4.5s to finish with 6.5 which is possible, but would probably require a lot of luck as there is at least one more possible. But Nakamura is NOT mathematically eliminated just damn close.

GM Ibragimov - IM Friedel 0-1
This prediction is not based on my feeling that Friedel is better than Ibragimov more that it seemed in the last round that Ibragimov is getting tired over the course of a long event. This was probably the reason for his failure to convert in the last round of last year's US Championship and this year there were far fewer rest days. Josh has been fighting hard, it wouldn't be completely inconceivable to see a draw here, but I think he'll have a good shot for the full point.

Group B:

GM Shulman - GM Kamsky 1/2-1/2
I DO expect Kamsky to be pushing for the full point, but I think if Shulman were going to collapse it would've been last round. Kamsky has only one win with black so far and I expect this trend to continue. Shulman has especially strong interest in drawing here as it will likely lock up the group on tiebreaks.

GM Fishbein - GM Novikov 0-1
I can't imagine Novikov is happy with his loss last round and otherwise seems to be in good form. I think he'll come out in round 8 with a taste for blood. Let's also not forget that while Fishbein has the same score he doesn't have a single win against a player with a plus score and only one draw in that group.

GM Christiansen - IM Perelshteyn 1/2-1/2
I heard that for the first time in a few years Christiansen actually analyzed before this event which explains his results so far, but Perelshteyn's only loss is to Ivanov so his preparation is also looking pretty good. I expect Christiansen to fight hard, but in the end a draw is what I expect.

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