With the mercurial defending champion, grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura off in Europe, (and managing to defeat the current world champion, Vishwanathan Anand), grandmaster Gata Kamsky won his 4th US Chess Championship title in a 3 game playoff against Alejandro Ramirez of Costa Rica. The previous 9 rounds saw Kamsy lead the field, only to be slowed by successive draws, and allowing Ramirez to catch him. Tied going into am playoff, the first two games were hotly contested draws, however the third game proved to be decisive. The rules of the championship state that if the players are tied 1-1 going into a third game, they must play what is called, an "Armageddon match", where players bid for time and color.
Hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club, the US Chess Championship was moderated on the web by 3 of the best in US chess, Jennifer Shahade, grandmasters Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley. Chess viewing is a far cry from the the old PBS days of Fischer vs. Spassky, and commentators Shelby Lyman and Jimmy Sherwin. Most major chess events are seen, and analyzed in real-time on the web, by former champions, as well as the combatants.
The chess master Mike Klein also described the game on the internet, writing "In sealed envelopes, Ramirez wrote the time 19:45, while Kamsky’s envelope read 20 minutes even. Ramirez thus got 19:45 to Kamsky’s 45 minutes, while Ramirez had black and draw odds.
The two reprised the opening from their first rapid game. Kamsky, needing to win, decided to keep all the minor pieces on the board this time. He slowly increased his square domination while Ramirez listlessly shuffled pieces round the last two ranks. Eventually Kamsky pushed forward, and Ramirez, getting low on time, decided to take his chances in an opposite-colored bishop endgame.
With Ramirez playing only on increment, he could not defend once Kamsky got his third passed pawn. Ramirez resigned after Kamsky denuded black’s best defenders. After the game, Kamsky told Ramirez that 37…e5 was the critical mistake, without which black should hold. Ramirez agreed, explaining that he did not see 39…g4 in his calculations.“I was starting to get really nervous,” Kamsky said. “It wasn’t clear until the last move.”
Ramirez said the experience of playing worse positions was “torture”, then he was reminded that he still pockets $20,000. “I’ve never won that much in chess, ever,” he said.
After the tense playoff, Kamsky seemed more relieved than elated. He flew in from a tournament in Switzerland just days before the championship, and he has less than one week until he competes against the world’s best in Greece. “I just want to get some sleep..."
Kamsky, Gata (2741) vs. Ramirez, Alejandro (2551)
2013 US Championship Playoff, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. g3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O O-O 7. c4 Qc7 8. Na3 d6 9. Ndb5 Qd8 10. Bg5 Nc6 11. Qd2 a6 12. Nc3 Bf5 13. e4 Be6 14. Nd5 Nd7 15. Rac1 Rc8 16. b3 Re8 17. h3 Nde5 18. Kh1 Rb8 19. Nc2 Qd7 20. Nb6 Qd8 21. Be3 Nd7 22. Nd5 Nc5 23. f4 b5 24. cxb5 axb5 25. f5 Bxd5 26. exd5 Ne5 27. Nb4 Qa5 28. Bxc5 dxc5 29. Rxc5 Rbc8 30. Rxc8 Rxc8 31. fxg6 hxg6 32. Qf4 Qc7 33. a4 bxa4 34. bxa4 f5 35. Nc6 Nxc6 36. Qxc7 Rxc7 37. dxc6 e5 38. Bd5+ Kf8 39. g4 Ke7 40. gxf5 gxf5 41. Rxf5 Kd6 42. Bf3 Ra7 43. Rg5 e4 44. Bxe4 Be5 45. Rg6+ Kc5 46. Bf3 Kb6 47. Rg5 Ra5 48. h4 Kc7 49. h5 Kd6 50. h6 Rxa4 51. Rxe5 Kxe5 52. c7 1-0