The Hikaru Nakamura Blog

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2010 US Championship Thoughts

May 30, 2010 • General

Hello to everyone once again. My apologies to everyone who has been eagerly awaiting blog entries for the past month. Without further ado, I shall attempt to communicate my thoughts on the 2010 US Championship, Saint Louis and the Chicago Open

here in Wheeling, Illinois.

Prior to the start of the US Championship I moved from Seattle to downtown Saint Louis. In retrospect, this decision was probably wrong, however it made a lot of sense due to my busy schedule which begins in July and doesn’t slow down until

February of 2011! At the current point in time, I am extremely happy with living in Saint Louis and it is a testament to the Midwest and Southern United States about how genuinely friendly people are. I can also not say enough about the great Thai,

Indian and Japanese restaurants which I have discovered. Overall, this move has been extremely beneficial for everyone involved except for the fact that I failed to win the tournament! However, I will now talk about this disaster!

Coming off the victory last year and all the hooplah of my moving into town, I knew it would be an uphill battle trying to defend my title this time around. The other huge issue was that I had only played in the Saint Louis Open since the end of January

(Corus). My pessimism was only increased when I drew the wrong color at the opening ceremony and got Black against GM Alex Stripunsky. Despite this, I got off to a strong (or lucky) start by beating GMs Stripunsky and Hess in the first two rounds. In

both of these games, I was in a bit of trouble but found a way to outplay both of my respective opponents. In rounds 3-5 I played Gms Kamsky,Onischuk and Shulman. These games were not too inspiring either as I played terribly against Gata Kamsky

and was clearly losing but found a way to salvage a draw. This was in a way balanced out when I missed a win against Yuri Shulman and drew that game as well. In round six, I played GM Jesse Kraai with White. After entering a queenless middlegame via

the Catalan, I found a way to trick Jesse in a rook and pawn ending and won a game which would have made Kramnik proud. This led to a big final round showdown where I needed to win or draw in order to make the quad final. Having Black against GM

and former US Champion, Larry Christiansen was going to be a challenge regardless of how I played. In a typical fashion, I forgot my preparation and this led to me being close to lost after 13 moves! Somehow I managed to suck it up and simplify it down

to a rook and pawn endgame where I was down one pawn. Despite Larry’s best efforts, I played the ending very precisely and drew the game which secured my spot in the quad final with GMs Kamsky, Onischuk and Shulman.

Prior to the start of the quad I was cautiously optimistic about my chances as I felt I had not played a single game of precise chess during the first seven games. The fact that I was even in the quad was a great feeling considering all of this. In the first

game, I obtained a small advantage against GM Kamsky, but underestimated his pawn sacrifice in the middle game which led to a sharp battle. In the end, we settled upon a repetition which left all four of us tied due to Alex and Yuri drawing their game

as well. In the second round, I felt that for the first time in the tournament, I was adequately prepared and ready to go all out against GM Yuri Shulman. Unfortunately, Yuri had am improvement over the Kasparov-Anand game in the same variation which

was roughly equal if not better for him. I found my way through the complications and the position remained balanced until I made a horrible miscalculation in the middlegame and my position fell apart. As I said in my postgame remarks, I simply felt that

my ability to calculate was off during the entire tournament, but I avoided any direct blunders which led to an immediate loss in other games. Alas, such is life! In the last round GM Alex Onischuk and I drew fairly quickly as neither of us was in a fighting

mood after our devastating losses the previous day. In all fairness, I thought it was a crime that Alex did not win the championship as he clearly played the best overall of the four of us in the quad final. However, in the end Gata was able to control his

nerves the best and won the title when he held the draw with Black in the armageddon game. My congratulations to Gata Kamsky on winning the title in 2010. However, I think that if all four of us from the quad final can play at a high level in the 2010

Chess Olympiad, we’ll have a great shot at winning the gold medal in Khanty Mansiysk this upcoming September.

I will add more thoughts in the upcoming days and weeks, but that’s all for now, folks!