April 15, 2024

Upstarts Sneak Into U.S. Chess Semifinals

The pretournament favorites, including the defending champions among the men and women, have qualified for the semifinals, which start Saturday. But two upstarts have also qualified and one top player was eliminated in tie-breaker games on Friday.

Unlike last year, the men’s and women’s tournaments are being held concurrently. The men’s field had 16 players and was divided into two preliminary groups, with the top two in each group advancing to the semifinals. The preliminaries were round robins, meaning each competitor faced all the others in his group once.

In the A group, Gata Kamsky, the defending champion, was the top qualifier, winning three games and drawing four. Yuri Shulman, the 2008 champion and No. 2 seed, joined him in the semifinals by winning twice and drawing his other games.

Ray Robson, a 16-year-old grandmaster, finished third. He also won twice, but a loss in Round 5 to Daniel Naroditsky, a 15-year-old international master, was the difference.

The surprising winner of the B group was Robert Hess, a 19-year-old grandmaster and the third-lowest-ranked player in the section. Hess actually had the most impressive performance in the preliminary rounds. He won four consecutive games and clinched first place with one round to go.

The highest-ranked player in the group was Alexander Onischuk, the 2006 champion. This was not his year, however. He lost to Hess in Round 3 and had to scramble to tie for second with Samuel Shankland, the 2010 United States Junior Champion. In tie-breaker games on Friday, Onischuk was outplayed and Shankland advanced.

In the women’s championship, Irina Krush, the defending champion, got off to a rocky start by losing to Sabina-Francesca Foisor. But she then reeled off five wins, including a victory over her archrival, Anna Zatonskih, the champion in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Zatonskih was clearly in poor form as she also lost to Tatev Abrahamyan, who finished tied for second with Camilla Baginskaite, the 2000 champion. Abrahamyan and Baginskaite advanced to the semifinals, while Zatonskih beat Foisor in tie-breaker games on Friday to claim the last spot.

The semifinals will be held Saturday and Sunday with tie-breaker games, if needed, on Monday. The final is Tuesday.

The prize fund for the men’s championship is $170,000, with $40,000 for first. The women’s prize fund is $60,000, with $18,000 for first. As in 2009 and 2010, Rex Sinquefield, a businessman, is supplying the prizes. He also financed the building of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, where the championships are being held.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=135d34658d8ce7a0eea3f028a9f9a2bb

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