Fabiano stunned, Nazi escapes after shaky opening
by Cristian Chirila
Round 7 of the U.S. Championships was a shocker! How else can you call a round in which the number three in the world and reigning champion gets defeated by the wildcard? Yaroslav Zherebukh produces the surprise of the tournament after a majestic performance against Caruana. In the women’s section, Nazi uses her unbeatable charisma to get away with a draw in a very shaky position. We had another intense round. Let’s get into the recap!
Zherebukh vs Caruana was a complete stunner! The young student from Saint Louis University, the 2017 wildcard of the open section, opened with 1.e4 and quickly announced his combative intentions. Fabiano chose against another Berlin, entering instead the long variations of the Breyer. As he was playing the second lowest rated player in the event, Fabiano’s strategy was to keep as many pieces on the board as possible, allow his opponent to potentially get a more active position, and try to ultimately maneuver and outplay Yaro in a long game.
In general, this strategy is the right approach, but Yaro was not going to get phased by any of it; he soon started outplaying his much more experienced opponent. Fabiano started erring with 23…Nh7?! A move that allowed Yaro to gain speed on the kingside and impose his will after a well-timed 26.f4!
Slowly but surely, black’s position got worse and worse with every move. Yaro could have ended the game quicker if he would have found 32.Nf5! Instead of that, he decided to keep the queens on the board and suffocate his opponent just like a boa constrictor would finish his prey.
With this win, Yaro catches So in the lead and dynamites the end of this event. It is too early to call, but a potential victory for Yaro would arguably be one of the biggest surprises in modern chess history. Only time will tell!
[White "Zherebukh, Yaroslav"]
[Black "Caruana , Fabiano"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3
O-O 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Bc2 Re8 13. Nf1 Bf8 14. Ng3 g6 15.
a4 c5 16. d5 c4 17. Bg5 h6 18. Be3 Nc5 19. Qd2 h5 20. Bg5 Bg7 21. Rf1 Qc7 22.
Bh6 Bh8 23. Ng5 Nh7 24. Nxh7 Kxh7 25. Be3 Qe7 26. f4 exf4 27. Bxf4 Kg8 28. Rf3
Bg7 29. Raf1 Nd7 30. Bh6 Bxh6 31. Qxh6 Qf8 32. Qd2 Ne5 33. Rf6 Rad8 34. Qg5 Qg7
35. Bd1 Bc8 36. Qh4 Kf8 37. Qf4 Qg8 38. Kh1 Re7 39. Bxh5 bxa4 40. Bd1 Qg7 41.
Bxa4 Qh7 42. Qg5 a5 43. Kg1 Qh8 44. R1f4 Qg7 45. Rh4 Nd3 46. Rh6 Ne5 47. Rf4
Bd7 48. Qh4 Kg8 49. Qxe7 Re8 50. Qg5 Bxa4 51. Rf6 1-0
Xiong vs Shabalov was a textbook showcase of how important opening preparation is, and how good Shabalov is at it.
The game followed an old line of the 3.Nc3 Caro Kann, an opening that has experienced a revival in the last few years due to the insurgence of engines and other analysis tools. Shabalov’s opening knowledge is incredibly vast, and by the time his preparation ended, his position was completely winning and his opponent was down to his last minutes on the clock.
The position was so hopeless that despite Jeffery’s attempts at complicating matters, Shabalov easily refuted any try and finished the game with precision at move 26! A huge win for Shabalov and a disappointing result for Jeffery, who seems exhausted after his fiery start in which he easily defended the black side of the board against Caruana & Nakamura.
U.S. Women’s Championship
Paikidze vs Sharevich was the biggest clash of the round in the women’s section. After witnessing an unprecedented two rounds without a single draw being registered, all eyes were on the ladies to see if they could sustain such an aggressive tempo. They surely didn’t disappoint! Nazi remained faithful to her strategy; she chose to open with 1.Nf3 and tried to take her opponent out of any theoretical realms as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for her, today her strategy did not yield the best results as Anna was well prepared and obtained a quick advantage out of the opening. Nazi seemed to struggle to find the right plan and her position quickly deteriorated.
Nazi’s experience came into play when her well timed draw offer right before the time control took Anna by surprise and she accepted the peaceful result in a much better position. Nazi escapes unscathed after a difficult game and maintains her #1 position on the charts.
[White "Paikidze, Nazi"]
[Black "Sharevich , Anna"]
1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 d4 3. g3 c5 4. e3 Nc6 5. exd4 cxd4 6. Bg2 Nf6 7. O-O g6 8. d3
Bg7 9. Re1 O-O 10. Na3 Nd7 11. Nc2 a5 12. b3 h6 13. Rb1 Nc5 14. Ba3 Na6 15. Qd2
Re8 16. h3 Bd7 17. Bb2 e5 18. a3 Rb8 19. b4 axb4 20. axb4 b5 21. Ba1 Nc7 22.
Nh2 Na7 23. f4 f6 24. fxe5 fxe5 25. Be4 Rb6 26. h4 Rf8 27. Rf1 Bf5 28. Bg2 Ra6
29. Bb2 Ra2 30. Na3 bxc4 31. Nxc4 Nd5 32. Ra1 Rxa1 33. Rxa1 Nb5 34. Ra5 Ndc7
35. Na3 Nd6 36. Qc2 Kh7 37. Nc4 Ndb5 38. Nf1 1/2-1/2
Nguyen vs Feng. Maggie Feng has been the pleasant surprise of the event as her enterprising and fearless style attracted many fans along the way. The game followed the strategic routes of the Stonewall Dutch, and it was Maggie that timed her attack better with 16…g5! grabbing the initiative in the process. Her pressure was too much for Emily to handle and Emily quickly started playing inaccurately. Maggie’s precision and composure seemed to belong to a much more experienced player, not a rookie playing on the biggest stage of her life.
Maggie calmly collected all her opponent’s weak pawns, transitioned into a winning endgame, and converted with ease. A masterclass by the newcomer who now trails the leader by half a point. Tomorrow’s clash against Nazi can’t come at a better time, as she will surely give her all in her attempt to vanquish the reigning champion!