Decisive Nerves

By GM Cristian Chirila

The closer we get to the finish line, the higher the stakes are and the nerves are starting to produce the first victims. That was the case in the crucial encounter between Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan in which we witnessed the blunder of the tournament. In the U.S. Championship we were delighted with some top encounter and plenty of decisive games including Caruana’s shattering win as Black against the solid Lenderman. Let’s get right into the fun part and recap this crazy round!

2016 U.S. Championship

Xiong vs. So ½ - ½

This game was one of the first ones to finish, and rightfully so. Jeffery knew that trying to outprepare and outplay an elite GM is a difficult task and he decided to go for a drawing line against the wild Wesley So. Wesley knew the theory as well as the ensuing endgame and effortlessly drew his game against the talented junior. He is now trailing half a point behind Caruana and will need to produce a miracle in order to catch him.

Lenderman vs. Caruana 0-1

Fabiano explained after his game that he was not willing to take unnecessary risks. In comparison, Lenderman was ready for a fight and stated in the press conference that due to his tournament situation, he was willing to do anything in his power to get a positive result against the mighty Fabiano. Let’s see how his battlecry was expressed on the board!

Onischuk vs. Nakamura ½ - ½

This was second to last game to finish in the men’s section—a high intensity battle which could prove decisive at the end of the event. Onischuk played a dubious opening and soon found himself in the position of defending a difficult endgame with a weak isolated pawn.

Nakamura threw everything he had at his opponent but failed to miss a tricky resource (49.Be1!) that allowed White to equalize instantly. He is now trailing but a full point and has recognized that his title chances are quite slim after today.

Robson vs. Shankland ½ - ½

This is a matchup that could prove extremely influential in the bid for the 2016 Olympic team that will travel to Baku later this year. Both Robson and Shankland are among the favorites to join the big three in their attempt to fight for the gold. We were all waiting for an exciting battle with each player stressing on their qualities and trying to take advantage of their opponents mistakes; unfortunately it was nothing of that sort, with a dull game and a dull result being concluded early on.

Shabalov vs. Akobian 0-1

Both these players were going to salvage part of their tournament by scoring an important win after a never ending wave of negative results. Shabalov was coming off back-to-back loses while Akobian was in search for his first win in the 2016 U.S. Championship. It was only one of them that would obtain what they wanted and today that was Akobian. After a fairly balanced opening and middlegame, the players entered an endgame that was slightly superior for Black, nothing more than that. Unfortunately for Shabalov, he was the first one to blink as he blundered with 28. Rb8 which allowed for a quick finish after 28…Rxf2. An important victory for Akobian, and a terrible loss for Shaba.

Kamsky vs. Chandra 1-0

Kamsky has been at the top of the American chess for almost two decades now and he surely came with a very motivated mindset in this game. On the other hand, the young Chandra still had the chance of completing his final GM norm, but only if he would have won all his remaining three games—a difficult task in a routine open tournament and an almost impossible job in the U.S. Championship. Kamsky decided to take an unambitious route and try to outplay his opponent from move one. And boy was he right! Chandra comfortably equalized from the opening but failed keep the pace and the veteran finally managed to impose his will on the American Junior Champion.

Here are the matchups for round 10 of the U.S. Championship


U.S. Women’s Championship

Zatonskih vs. Abrahamyan 0-1

All the fans that have been following this event knew that this is going to be a very important match in regard to the history of this championship. The two women were ready to provide us with the best chess entertainment, which unfortunately ended up too fast.

Let’s see how the two ladies fared in this high intensity encounter.

Foisor vs. Paikidze ½ - ½

This game was definitely a short-lived story. As we approach the final rounds of the championship, it is quite often that we see very calculated decisions taken by the players in crucial situations. This game was one that belonged to the cautious category, as Sabina tried to confused her opponent with a rare line of the QID.

Nazi was happy with a draw and went for the forced 12…Nd5 which lead immediately to a perpetual.

Krush vs. Yu ½ - ½

This game was a high-intensity encounter that should have ended in a different result. The young Jennifer was in full control throughout the game and could have finished her opponent in more than one instance. Unfortunately for her, time trouble was a danger that she could not avoid and was ultimately the leading factor in the outcome of the game. After missing the easy 62...Re1+ that would have led to a massive advantage for Black, Jennifer had to convince herself that her chance slipped and had to accept the draw. Once again, Irina saves a completely losing position and maintains a striking distance to the leader.

Nemcova vs. Bykovtsev ½ - ½

Katerina has been having an oscillating event and today was one of the games that could have went terribly wrong if her opponent would have taken the given chances. White played a decent game but failed to correctly assess the middlegame and took the wrong decisions at the important junctures. There were plenty of winning moves for Black throughout the game but Agata was not able to find them and the game soon petered into an endgame.

Black was still having the upperhand but the lack of technicality was felt and Katerina managed to save a difficult position.

Gorti vs. Eswaran ½ - ½

The tension between two of the leading juniors in the country could have been felt all throughout the game. Unfortunately for the chess fans watching, that can’t be said about the moves played in this game also. The players were overly cautious and quickly stirred the game into a completely drawish opposite color bishop endgame.

Melekhina vs. Yip ½ - ½

Alisa has been having one of the worst tournaments of her life, and as she was coming into this game she knew the priority was to stop the bleeding and avoid another painful loss. The game was an extremely complex battle with the advantage switching sides quite often throughout the game. Alisa was first to have a clear middlegame advantage, but it was Yip that could have ended the game almost immediately if she would have played 46…Bxh3! Instead, she chose to win an exchange and Alisa was able to salvage a broken position. Finally the losing streak is over and Alisa can now focus on remediating her tournament situation in the last two matches.

The penultimate round will be a thriller, here are the matchups for tomorrow afternoon: