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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

1996 US Championship

Tal Shaked
     The US Championship only became an annual event in 1983 and after the 1995 Championship it was only 8 months later that the next one was held in Parisappany, New Jersey. 
     In this tournament the generation that had dominated the championship for 15 years was starting to fade; even six-time winner and fixture since 1973, Walter Browne was missing. Plus most of the tournament participants were former Soviet players. In addition, Craig Crenshaw, the patron of brilliancy prizes and other awards since 1981 had died. As an aside, I played a correspondence game against Dr. Crenshaw, a civilian scientist working for the Army, in the 1971 Golden Knights and won an interesting game on the black side of a K-Indian. 
     There were only four players in this tournament who had not been born in the Soviet Union and three of them Joel Benjamin, Nick deFirmian and Larry Christiansen were former champions. The other was Tal Shaked. 
     The tournament began with a surprise. At the age of 18, Shaked was the youngest player in the event and he had turned in a minus score in the US Junior a few weeks earlier, but he started off in this tournament with three straight wins. At the half way mark he was in first place with Alex Yermolinsky trailing him by a half point. Then Shaked, who was starting the toughest part of his schedule, lost to Shabalov and scored only two draws in his final six games. 
     While Shaked was losing to Shabalov, Yermolinsky lost to Gregory Kaidanov, but after that, Yermo took off on a winning streak. He knocked Boris Gulko out of his chances of winning the event by defeating him in a double-edged endgame followed by wins over Shaked and Igor Khmelnitsky. 
     An aging Larry Christiansen, 40 years old, was poised for a strong finish in after defeating Kaidanov in the sixth round and despite following that up with four straight draws he was in third place with three rounds to go. But, his time scramble loss against Alexander Ivanov knocked him out of the running. 
     At the end of 12 rounds Gurevich, who had never finished better than a tie for fourth place, found himself in second place a half point behind Kaidanov and Yermolinsky. That meant the key game of the tournament was the last round match-up between Gurevich, playing white, and Yermolinsky. Yermolinsky likely would have accepted a draw around move 30, but it appeared Kaidanov was losing to Lev Alburt.  Yermo, not sure if he needed a full point or just a half point, kept playing. Kaidanov ended up losing, but in the meantime Gurevich made some mistakes that allowed Yermo to score the win, giving him first place by a full point. 
     What happened to Tal Shaked? He gave up chess, except for blitz chess on the internet, in 1999 to go into a business career. Shaked received his masters in computer science from the University of Washington in 2004 and went to work as a software engineer for Google. His website is HERE. He has a wide variety of interests, but barely mentions chess! 

1) Yermolinsky 9-4 
2-3) Gulko and Kaidanov 8-5 
4) D. Gurevich 7.5-5.5 
5) A. Ivanov 7-6 
6-11) Alburt, Benjamin, Christiansen, deFirmian, Dzhindzikashvili, Shabalov 6-7 
12) Shaked 5.5-7.5 
13-14) I. Ivanov and Khmelnitsky 5-8 

     Here is Shaked's nice fourth round win over Dimitry Gurevich who was playing in his 12th championship since arriving in the US in 1980. 

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