Overtime
4:32 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

On Chess: Armageddon Looms Today In U.S. Championships Finale

UPDATE 4:36 p.m.: Irina Krush is the U.S. Women's Chess Champion after winning the playoff against Tatev Abrahamyan 1-1/2 to 1/2. 

UPDATE 4:32 p.m.: Gata Kamsky is the U.S. Chess Champion after winning the playoff against Varuzhan Akobian 1-1/2 to 1/2. The women's match continues.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: In the first of two rapid matches for the U.S. Championship, Varuzhan Akobian drew the white pieces but fell into time trouble against Gata Kamsky. Akobian managed to hold off the reigning champion for a draw.

In the Women's Championship game, Irina Krush missed an early mating chance with the white pieces, but regained her footing in the endgame and promoted a pawn to a queen, prompting Tatev Abrahamyan to resign. The second rapid match in both championships will begin soon.

UPDATE 2:09 p.m.: Tatev Abrahamyan, with black, fought Anna Zatonskih to a repetition draw. Under the Armageddon rules, Abrahamyan advances to the final rapid games tiebreaker with defending champion Irina Krush.

The rapid games will begin in about 15 minutes. In both the U.S. Championship and the Women's Championship, the title will be decided with a two-game rapid match (G/25+5), with each player playing each color once. If there is still a tie, an Armageddon game will be played.

UPDATE 1:55 p.m.: In the U.S. Championship, Varuzhan Akobian bid just over 15 minutes to get black and draw odds in the Armageddon game, then mated Aleksandr Lenderman in 32 moves. Akobian will advance to play rapid games with defending champion Gata Kamsky.

The Women's Championship Armageddon game is still in progress, with Tatev Abrahamyan on the black pieces and Anna Zatonskih on white.

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as a “vast, decisive conflict or confrontation.” The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis agrees.

Armageddon will hit St. Louis on Tuesday, as the 2014 U.S. Chess Championships spill into overtime for one final day of reckoning. Both tournaments have gone fully around-the-robin, seeing 11 rounds of play in the U.S. Championship and 9 rounds of play in the U.S. Women’s Championship - but America’s top chess talent refuses to stop fighting. .

Aleksandr Lenderman will be playing for his first U.S. Championship.
Aleksandr Lenderman will be playing for his first U.S. Championship.
Credit Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Six players entered Monday’s finale with mathematical chances to win the national title, though when the day was done, nothing had added up to a decision. Each tournament finished regulation in a three-way tie for first place, triggering a playoff on Tuesday afternoon at 1 p.m. to settle the score. .

U.S. Championship leaders Varuzhan Akobian and Aleksandr Lenderman, tied entering the last round, faced off against each other in round 11 with the winner promised the crown - though neither could wrestle the other to a decision. Their draw opened up Tuesday’s playoff, but not just for the two of them: In a nightmare scenario, reigning four-time champion Gata Kamsky caught pace with the leaders at the finish line, and with momentum. After eight frustrating draws and just two wins this tournament, Kamsky’s eleventh-hour mauling of Josh Friedel on Monday was a startling announcement that the champion still had plans to fight for his throne, despite earlier declarations that the national title was up for grabs.

KAMSKY-FREIDEL Game Analysis by GM BEN FINEGOLD 

Similarly in the Women’s Championship, another third wheel has hitched a ride into the playoffs. Tatev Abrahamyan - forever the outsider looking in on the U.S. Women’s title - caught pace with leaders Anna Zatonskih and reigning champion Irina Krush, who both failed to find wins in Monday’s final round. Both Krush against Viktorija Ni, and Zatonskih against Katerina Nemcova, narrowly escaped with draws from losing positions, while Abrahamyan convincingly smashed through Camilla Baginskaite with a Nimzo to join the knot in front. Krush and Zatonskih have combined for the last nine women’s championships, while Abrahamyan seeks her first.

BAGINSKAITE-ABRAHAMYAN Game Analysis by GM BEN FINEGOLD 

The perfect combination of wins and draws has brought a three-way tie for first in both title races, forcing a playoff on Tuesday to decide the 2014 national champions. In a wonderful storyline, the playoff day will feature the introduction of a candidate to challenge each reigning champion, as both Kamsky and Krush lead by tiebreaks. The two remain the only unbeaten players in each tournament.

Both Akobian and Lenderman, as well as Zatonskih and Abrahamyan, will first battle in one 45-minute Armageddon game. The contest begins with a silent bid from both players in an attempt to win the black pieces, as well as draw-odds. Both players will bid time away from their clock, with the lowest bid receiving black and the shortened time to find a draw. The white pieces will receive the full 45 minutes and must win.

The reigning champions await the winners of the Armageddon matches. Both Krush and Kamsky will face their candidates in two rapid games, which feature 25 minutes on the clock and a 5-second-per-move increment. Should the players tie the rapid games 1-1, the 2014 national titles will be decided by one final Armageddon game.

Catch all the action live starting at 1 p.m. CT, 2 p.m. ET at www.uschesschamps.com/live.