2018 U.S. Championships - Round 6 Recap

Today was a calm day in Saint Louis. The players seemed to have decided in unison to catch a breather, as eleven out of twelve games were drawn, with some of them being non-combative games. Let’s get right into the recap!

U.S. Championship 

Izoria vs Akobian 

This was another game that could have surely went a different path. Izoria opened with a flexible English, and after a correctly played opening, Akobian failed to find the accurate pawn sacrifice with 13…Bb6! which would have secured a very comfortable position. Instead, he allowed the full grip in the center, and could have faced tremendous danger if Izoria would have found 15.f4!. 

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The game continuation was rather mellow, and Akobian swiftly exchanged the pieces, eliminated his weaknesses, and comfortably drew the game. 

Onischuk vs Robson

One of the longer games of the round. Onischuk found yet another idea in the Grunfeld (he is known to enjoy Grunfeld endgames as white) and started pressuring Robson early on due to his better structure and potential for rook infiltration. 
Robson kept his cool and never allowed Onischuk to get a decisive advantage. A draw was agreed at move 51.

Lenderman vs Nakamura 

Lenderman came extremely well prepared for this game. His theoretical knowledge allowed him to get a significant time advantage (over an hour edge after the first 20 moves). Nakamura had to regroup and find some very accurate moves to keep the game in balance, and it was at no time in real danger despite Lenderman’s valiant attempt at destabilizing the KID. Draw was agreed at move 41 after massive simplifications. 
U.S. Women’s Championship 

Krush vs Paikidze 

A missed opportunity by Krush, who simply overpowered Paikidze in the middlegame, but was unable to convert her decisive advantage due to a series of inaccuracies. Nazi’s 26…Na7? was the mistake that could have costed the former champion her lead, but Krush returned the favor with 30.Ra1?! when 30.Qc7! would have sealed the deal and given Krush the victory. 
Despite being a pawn down, Nazi’s resilience was rewarded and the players agreed to a draw at 56. 

Gorti vs Wang 

It seemed like this would be the game where Wang finally met her demise, but her incredible resilience and accurate play under tremendous pressure paid out handsomely once again. Gorti played a beautiful game but was unable to finish the job. 
Time trouble was once again a huge factor, as Gorti started missing important resources which allowed Wang back into the game. A draw was agreed via repetition at move 64.

Yu vs Abrahamyan 

Abrahamyan’s French defense has been an important part of her repertoire throughout her entire career, and it seemed like today it will bring her another crucial victory. Obtaining material advantage was not enough, as Yu cleverly changed the character of the position by giving two pieces in exchange for a rook. 
Abrahamyan was never allowed to coordinate her piece, and towards the end it was her who had to find the best moves in order to force a draw.

Goletiani vs Feng 

Despite being the only decisive results of the round, this game simply does not bear much historical importance. Goletiani seems to be completely out of shape, as she recklessly sacrificed piece after piece for an imaginary attack. Feng calmly collected and forced resignation when her opponent’s “attacking” ideas ran out. 
Round six of the U.S. & U.S. Women’s Chess Championships brought important changes to the top of the standings and has cleared the path for what will surely be an explosive finish in the second part of the event. The general consensus among chess players is that the day before the rest day is always filled with decisive results, this one was no different. Let’s get into the recap!

U.S. Championship 

Robson vs Caruana 

Caruana’s Petroff is simply irresistible. The amount of knowledge and ideas that the young Challenger has in, what is considered by many to be a dry opening, is staggering. Robson was surprised early by Caruana’s pawn sacrifice and had to concede a large time deficit, that was ultimately critical in the last moves before time control. 

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Caruana played risky, some would argue borderline careless chess, but in the end it paid off as Robson couldn’t handle the complications and lost the thread of the game. With this victory, Caruana climbs up the ladder, and he now stands half a point behind the leader, Shankland. 

So vs Izoria 

A short but very complex battle ensued between these two warriors. Wesley was the first one to embrace the chaos with his 10.e4!? A pawn sacrifice that surely looked as if it would destabilize Izoria. The newcomer did not flinch, took the pawn, and decided to keep it at all costs for the remainder of the opening. 
But that could have costed him, as his 13…Bc5?! could have been taxed by the very powerful sacrifice, 14.Nxe6! Instead of that, Wesley  played the tame 14.Nf5 and the game soon ended after massive simplifications. 

Nakamura vs Xiong

Nakamura has been having his best tournament, especially if you look at his results from his perspective based in his expectations. He is generally a very creative, always looking for decisive results, type of player. But this event has brought him only draws, and this game was no different. Despite finally getting a serious advantage to play with, Nakamura missed his big chance when he couldn’t spot the potent 19.Nb3! or even 19.Nc4! with the same idea of temporarily sacrificing the exchange. 
The move continuation allowed black to completely neutralize white’s dynamics and force simplification at a rapid pace. The game was over at move 31.  

Onischuk vs Liang 

Except in his loss against Akobian, Liang has been an incredibly tough competitor in this tournament. He has not lost any other games, and it seemed he wasn’t even in any danger despite the massive rating average he had to face (already having played the big three). This game was no different, as he equalized quite handily with the Black pieces and forced his more experienced rival to concede a draw. 

U.S. Women’s Championship

Feng vs Paikidze 

A rather tame game between the two favorites. 
Paikidze played a very good opening and equalized with ease. On the other side of the board, Feng clearly did not have any major expectations from this game, as she did not try particularly hard to steer the game on a different path. A draw was agreed at move 34.

Zatonskih vs Krush 

A crucial match in the Women’s section, as these two ladies have 11 national titles combined, and have been at the top of their game for the past many years. 
Zatonskih’s opening did not go as planned, and despite her structural advantage, Krush’s piece activity and dynamics were utterly destructive. Through skillful maneuvering, Krush managed to break through Zatonskih’s defense and made swift work of her king’s shattered protection. The bishop pair was Krush’s best asset in this game, and her masterful use of it should be studied by young aspiring players.

Abrahamyan vs Gorti 

This game was a balanced affair, but it was Gorti who ultimately made the last mistake and allowed Abrahamyan to garner yet another victory. 
Abrahamyan’s invasion on the back ranks, coupled with a series of mating threats was too much to handle for the young Gorti, who had to resign right before the first time control. Abrahamyan has won two out of her last three games and is now approaching the podium. 

Foisor vs Sharevich 

In her attempt at repeating the brave performance of last year, Foisor seems to have placed too much pressure on herself, as she was unable to play her best chess in this year’s championship so far. Having the white pieces, Foisor clearly tried to destabilize the position and garner an advantage, but once again seemed to carelessly over press. Sharevich played a good endgame, but even so Foisor had a late chance at making a draw with the study-like 65.Kh6! 
Unfortunately for the reigning champion, the time trouble situation did not allow her to find the best move, and she had to resign a few moves later due to Sharevich’s imminent promotion.

Chess players know how to have fun, and the special program – Chess After Dark – organized by the club to celebrate a successful first half of the tournament was a complete success. Players got together immediately after the round to unwind, socialize, dance, share ideas, and most importantly have a lot of fun. Enjoy a couple of the pictures from the event!

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The Saint Louis Chess Club acknowledges Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, whose generous support makes our tournaments possible.

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