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Four-time U.S. chess champ retains title in epic match

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Caption: Chess champ Gata Kamsky, right (Credit: US Chess Championships)

If you think chess isn't a spectator sport, you obviously haven't been watching the right matches.

Gata Kamsky retained his title of U.S. chess champion Monday night in a marathon game that proved so challenging and suspenseful, it went into the chess equivalent of extra innings.

Dueling grandmasters Kamsky and his opponent Alejandro Ramirez battled one another for more than three hours, making over 150 moves each. After two head-to-head rounds, they were tied.

And that's when it got cool.

Technically, the third game was just a tiebreaker. But chess officials know the value of some razzle dazzle, so the rules dictated Kamsky and Ramirez must play an "Armageddon match."

In an Armageddon match, players bid for time and color. The player with the white pieces must capture the king to win the match, but the player with black pieces only needs to reach a draw. The player with white pieces, though, has more time to consider his or her moves, which can be a notable advantage.

Kamsky, in this case, had the white pieces.

"It feels a bit awkward," Kamsky said after the match. "I consider us equals. Someone just got luckier than the other."

For the victory, Kamsky -- who is now a four-time champ -- pocketed $30,000. Ramirez might have enjoyed the title, but he's hardly upset about the loss since he still won a substantial $20,000.

"I’ve never won that much in chess, ever," he said.

Kamsky won't have a lot of time to bask in his victory. In less than one week, the U.S. champ will hit the road for Greece, where he'll compete against the world's best chess players.

"I just want some sleep," he said.

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