Wednesday, March 01, 2006

US Championships

For those of you who don't know, the US Championships are starting tomorrow. They are taking place in San Diego so I might even go down and visit for a day or two. There are quite a few players I am friendly with playing so it would be cool to see them in action in such a strong event. The tournament it has a strange format this year: the 64 player field is split up into two 32 player fields and after 9 rounds the winners of the two sections on tie-breaks will play each other in a two-game rapid playoff to determine the US Champion. Personally I think this format is horrible since it requires that the champion be decided on rapid games, but the organizers want a rapid finish since the games tend to be pretty exciting because rapid chess is pretty random.

The first round has some of the largest disparities of the tournament so not too many upsets are expected. There will of course be a few draw upsets where the lower rated player draws a higher rated player, but even this will be rare. Here are my predictions for full-point upsets:

So this is probably one of my weaker predictions. But I have a feeling Nakamura will get saucy and play the very dubious 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5?! when playing down against this tough theoretically well prepared player and I can't imagine Friedel knowing this pairing for over a week isn't prepared to outright refute it if Nakamura does venture. However, I also wouldn't be surprised if Nakamura avoided this discussion altogether and just played the normal 2. Nf3 or even started with 1. d4, who knows.

Sarkar - Schulman
Personally I like Schulman's play and he's coming off a very good result from the World Cup, but sometimes his preparation is for some rather passive lines and I think Sarkar is going to be looking to prove something in the first round with his determined stare down.

Schneider - Kudrin
Schneider is a young improving player with white in the first round. Honestly hard for me to give a good reason for this or my previous predictions, but I felt like predicting some good upsets.

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