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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 5, 2011

Kamsky repeats as U. S. champion

By Peter Henner

For the second year in a row, Gata Kamsky won the United States chess championship, held in St. Louis last month. Kamsky is also the United States representative in the world championship matches, which will begin later this year.

Fourteen grandmasters, one grandmaster-elect, and one international master competed in two round-robin sections of eight players each. The top two players in each section qualified for a two-round knockout tournament.

Kamsky scored 5-2 to win his section ahead of Yury Shulman, and they joined 19-year-olds Sam Shankland and Robert Hess (a New York City high-school football star) in the playoff.  After  Kamsky defeated Shankland, and Shulman defeated Hess,  Kamsky won the two game final 1 1⁄2 - 1⁄2 to win the $42,000 first prize.

The international standard time control for chess tournaments has long been 40 moves in 2 ½ hours. However, the U.S. championship was played at the relatively fast time control of 40 moves in 90 minutes, with 30 minutes plus 30 seconds a move for the rest of the game.

Ties, either for a place in the finals, or as happened in the two-game playoff match between Shulman and Hess, were broken by an  “Armageddon” game, played at the time control of game in 45 minutes, with Black having “draw odds.”  Colors were determined by a "bidding system”: each player offered to reduce his time allotment, and the player willing to accept the greater reduction in time chose whether or not to play White or Black.

International Master Anna Zatonskih won her fourth U.S. Women’s Championship and an $18,000 first prize. Although she finished fourth in the eight-woman round-robin, she won her semi-final playoff against first-place finisher, three-time champion Irina Krush, and she won the final against Camilla Baginskaite, both by Armageddon games, after Baginskaite defeated Tatev Abrahamyan in the other semi-final.

All eight competitors were born outside of the United States and all of them were rated over 2300. The photographs of the players show very glamorous women, a far cry from the popular image of chess players as studious old men.  (See http://saintlouischessclub.org/player-bios-view/483).

Capital District Chess League update

The Capital District Chess League schedule is more than halfway completed. The two teams from Troy, RPI and the Uncle Sam Club, have completed their schedules, and Saratoga B has only one match remaining. However, the strongest teams have yet to play each other.

The standings: Albany A  3-0, Schenectady Geezers 3-0, Saratoga A 3 1⁄2 - 1⁄2,  Albany B 3-1, Schenectady 2 1⁄2 - 1 1⁄2, Uncle Sam 3-4, Saratoga B  1⁄2 -5 1⁄2 , and RPI 1⁄2 - 6 1⁄2 .

In recent matches, the Geezers defeated Schenectady by 2 ½  - 1 ½ . Although Schenectady’s Patrick Chi defeated Michael Mockler on Board 1, and Board 2 was a hard-fought draw, where Schenectady’s Phil Sells  was unable to win, despite being a piece up against the Geezers’ John Phillips.

However, on Board 3, the Geezers’ Bill Little got a gift when John Barnes blundered early and veteran Richard Chu hung on to take advantage of endgame mistakes by Schenectady’s other junior player, Dilip Aaron, on Board 4.

Albany B defeated Saratoga B by 3-1, with John Morse defeating Dave Finnerman, me defeating Matt Clough, and Art Alowitz defeating Cory Northrup on Boards 1-3. Jason Denham, a member of the Albany club who plays for Saratoga B, defeated Albany’s Ken Rossman  on Board 4.

Prospects in the league improved for the Albany B team (which will adopt a better name than just “the B team” next year) with the addition of a new player, Kavanna Mallana. She  moved to the Capital District from India two-and-a-half years ago and played her first game in the league on Wednesday, May 4, against the Albany  A team. I believe she is the first woman to play a game in the league since its inception many years ago.

This week’s problem: Another Zugzwang

Two weeks ago, I presented an example of zugzwang, a situation where a chess player loses because he must make a move. This week’s problem is a study, composed in the Ninth Century by Zairab Katai, an Arab chess composer, with only four pieces on the board. White wins by forcing Black into zugzwang.

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