It was a sunny day in Saint Louis as the players arrived one by one for round 4 of the 2017 U.S. Championship & U.S. Women’s Championship at the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center. Despite the beautiful day outside, the players quickly engaged in tense battles in both fields. It was a particularly decisive round for the ladies, with four decisive results that kept us on the edge of our seats until the last moments of the day. (The full recap on the official site)
So vs Onischuk was a clear example of why Wesley is considered by the vast majority of the chess world to be the biggest threat to Carlsen’s dominance. Just like in his game against Shabalov, Wesley decided to take his opponent out of popular theory early on and played the KIA (King’s Indian Attack). While the opening was not very ambitious, the ensuing middle game normally favors the better player. This is exactly what Wesley wanted and how the script played out. Onischuk equalized with ease, but was soon forced to find his way through the middle game maze, something that he found difficult to do. He managed to keep the game balanced early on, but when Wesley decided to break the repetition with 26.h3!?, Onischuk was caught off guard and soon started playing imprecise moves that quickly lead to a lost ending.
Wesley kept his cool, like he usually does, and ended the game with precision. Caruana vs Xiong was a highly important matchup to follow. Fabiano surely came into this game with a great deal of enthusiasm and high hopes. He was playing white vs the youngest participant and with a win he could have caught Wesley at the top of the table. His preparation in the anti-Berlin was top notch as he quickly got a better endgame. But Xiong was almost implacable, and he played a flawless defensive game all the way up to move 29 when he made an inaccuracy that could have costed him dearly. Fortunately for Xiong, Fabiano didn’t find the best moves and the game soon entered a path of equality.
A good result for Xiong who managed to defend against both Nakamura and Caruana as black, and a not so good result for Fabiano who now has to fire the engines in the upcoming rounds in order to keep up with the leader.
U.S. Women’s Championship
Krush vs Yu was surely the shocker of the round. Krush was coming off a sound defeat of one of her main rivals, Tatev Abrahamyan, while Yu was coming off a fairly timid game against Carissa Yip. Having more than 250 rating points advantage over her opponent, Krush was clearly the big favorite. The game looked to be going her way after an early misjudgment by Yu (14…c5?) which allowed Krush to get a dominant pawn structure in the center. Unfortunately for Krush, she returned the favor and allowed Yu to swap the queens, an exchange that severely diminished her advantage.
Slowly but surely, Yu began outplaying her more experienced opponent and ended up in a completely winning position, and that’s when the real drama started. Showing an incredible lack of experience, Yu allowed her opponent to repeat the position three times, but to everybody’s disbelief Krush decided not to claim the threefold repetition. Yu immediately changed the course of the game and soon won the endgame. A disappointing results for Irina and a great moral booster for the young Yu!
Virkud vs Paikidze was a tense battle that could have ended in any of the three results possible. The young debutante chose the Catalan and skillfully outplayed the reigning champion in the early middle game, obtaining an almost decisive advantage before the 20th move. Unfortunately for her, she was unable to maintain the precision and by move 30 it was Nazi who had the advantage and was pressing for a win.
Virkud’s 38.e4?? was a horrible blunder that simply should have ended the game on the spot if Nazi would have captured 38…dxe3! . It seemed as if yesterday’s tragedy was still weighing heavy on Nazi’s shoulders, as she played a series of inaccurate moves that allowed her opponent to get back into the game. Virkud was unable to deal with the complications in a fairly balanced position and faltered quickly after her bad 42.Qf3?? Nazi was ruthless with her calculation and successfully finished her opponent. A great comeback for the reigning champion, who is now sharing the lead with four other players. The battle for the title is heating up!