2018 U.S. Championships - Round 10

The championship rounds are always the most promising. The tension, the suspense revolving around the result, all of these and more are what makes us love chess. With only one round to go, the stakes are at their peak, and the players will battle tooth and nail for the top spot in both divisions. But first let’s look at how we got here and get right into the recap!

U.S. Championship

Onischuk vs Shankland

The two most important actors in this year’s championship play are undoubtedly Shankland and Caruana. These two have been racing against each other for the whole tournament, and the dazzling pace at which they are competing has kept others at bay.

Onischuk started the game in a promising way, but the middle game was once again only Shankland. Starting with his fierce 12…g5! Shankland took control of the game, revolving around the powerful knight on e4 and the overall control of the light squares. Onischuk was unable to tame Black’s initiative and lost a difficult R+N vs R+B endgame. Shankland’s piece activity coupled with the structural weaknesses that plagued white throughout the game allowed the leader to capitalize and take yet another step toward the title.

Zherebukh vs Caruana

And what better runner up to keep you on your toes than the world championship challenger, Fabiano Caruana. The young titan has been having the year of his life, with three tournament wins out of his last four, and a secured bid for the world chess crown. It appears he is not stopping anytime soon. The black pieces have been deadly in the hands of Caruana, who once again proved it with a smooth victory against Zherebukh, the player that made history last year when he defeated Caruana in a positional masterpiece.

That was not the case in this year’s edition, as Caruana swiftly outplayed Zherebukh in a closed Sicilian. Just like in the game of Shankland, another explosive …g5! move made its way, and after its inclusion on the board it was all over for White. The control of the important e5 square, and the drowning pressure forced Zherebukh to resign at move 31. Caruana is half a point behind Shankland going into the decisive final round.


[Event "US Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.28"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Zherebukh, Yaroslav"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2640"]
[BlackElo "2804"]
[PlyCount "61"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 a6 4. g3 b5 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. d3 Nc6 7. O-O d6 8. Ng5 h6
9. Nh3 Nf6 10. f4 Be7 11. f5 ({Relevant:} 11. Kh1 Qc7 12. Bd2 O-O-O 13. a4 b4
14. Ne2 d5 15. e5 Nd7 16. c3 a5 17. d4 Ba6 18. Rc1 b3 19. f5 Rdf8 20. Nhf4 Nd8
21. Qxb3 Nb6 22. Be3 Nc4 23. Rf3 g5 24. f6 g4 25. fxe7 gxf3 26. exf8=Q Rxf8 27.
Bxf3 Nxe3 28. dxc5 Nc6 29. Nd4 Nxe5 30. Re1 Nxf3 31. Rxe3 Nd2 32. Qc2 Nc4 33.
Rf3 Qxc5 34. Qf2 Re8 35. Nd3 Qd6 36. Rxf7 Ne5 37. Nxe5 Qxe5 38. Nc6 Qe4+ 39.
Kg1 Bb7 40. Qc5 Qe1+ {Bacrot,E (2708)-Karjakin,S (2781) Paris 2017 1-0}) 11...
b4 12. Ne2 $146 ({Predecessor:} 12. Nb1 exf5 13. Rxf5 O-O 14. c4 Nd7 15. Rf1
Bf6 16. Nf4 g6 17. Nd2 Bg7 18. Nf3 Nde5 19. Nxe5 Nxe5 20. Kh1 h5 21. Rb1 Bc8
22. Bh3 Ng4 23. Bg2 Ra7 24. h3 Ne5 25. b3 a5 26. d4 Nc6 27. dxc5 dxc5 28. Qd5
Qb6 29. Qg5 Nd4 30. Nd5 Qd8 31. e5 Qxg5 32. Bxg5 Bxe5 33. Be7 Nf5 34. Bxc5
Nxg3+ 35. Kg1 Bd4+ 36. Bxd4 Ne2+ 37. Kh2 Nxd4 38. c5 Be6 39. Rbd1 Nb5 40. c6
Rc8 41. Nf4 Re7 {Tripoteau,N (2258)-Bricard,E (2456) Plancoet 2003 1/2-1/2})
12... exf5 {Despite White's looming initiative on the kingside, Black remains
solid and now gains control over the important e5 square!} 13. Rxf5 O-O 14. c4
$6 {Now this might already be a serious strategical innacuracy, as Black will
now be able to plant a K on e5 without having to worry about any pawns
disturbing him} (14. a3 a5 15. Rf1 Ne5 16. Nef4 Qd7 17. Nf2 $11) 14... bxc3 15.
bxc3 Ne5 16. c4 Bc8 17. Rf1 Rb8 $15 {Taking control of the important open file,
and limiting the white B's movement, as he is now needed to stop black's
invasion on b2} 18. Nhf4 $6 {not evaluating correctly the consequences of
Black's next move} g5 $1 19. Nd5 Nxd5 20. cxd5 Bf6 {Black's control of the
dark squares is simply decisive.} 21. d4 cxd4 22. Nxd4 Bg4 $19 23. Qa4 (23. Qe1
Nf3+ 24. Bxf3 Bxd4+ 25. Be3 Bxa1 26. Bxg4 Bg7 $19) 23... Nd3 24. Qc4 Rb4 25.
Qxd3 Bxd4+ 26. Be3 Bxa1 27. Rxa1 Qf6 28. Re1 Rc8 29. h3 Bd7 30. Qxa6 Rc2 31.
Rf1 0-1


Robson vs So

After his blistering hot start, Wesley has been unable to maintain the pace and has made eight consecutive draws. Today’s game was no different than most of the other draws: he equalized, got a slightly better endgame, but was unable and unwilling to try for an advantage. With this draw, So is out of the race for the championship, as he is one point and a half behind the leader Shankland.

Three players score first victories

This was also the round of first victories for three of the players. Nakamura drew first blood after completely dismantling Akobian’s position in a tactical masterpiece.

The two youngsters, Liang and Xiong, also had their best days at this year’s championship as they outfoxed their respective opponents in hotly contested battles. While Xiong’s victory was smooth and precise, Liang’s path to victory was slightly more treacherous, as he had to defend a worse position against Izoria before swindling him and taking the full point home.

U.S. Women’s Championship

Wang vs Zatonskih

The big clash of the round was obviously the one between the leader Wang and one of the players from the chasing pack, Zatonskih. Wang took an inspired decision when she chose to check her opponent’s theoretical knowledge in a well-known line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

It felt very strange to see Zatonskih entering the main line without knowing the nuances, as she burned through almost all her time before Wang was even out of her preparation. With more than an hour advantage on her clock plus a favorable position, it looked as if the young prodigy would close the show right then and there and claim the title. But it was not meant to be, as she played a few conservative moves that didn’t help her attack, allowing Zatonskih to get back and equalize the game. Wang could not be terribly upset with the result, as she remains the favorite to win it all in the last round!

Abrahamyan vs Paikidze

Paikidze was the only player within striking distance of the leader. Being one point behind, she knew her only chance at bridging the gap was to go all out against the always forefront Abrahamyan. Paikidze’s new opening gamble was a flop as she fell under serious strategical pressure.

The pressure soon turned into a decisive material advantage for Abrahamyan. And then Caissa decided to give Paikidze the wink, as Abrahamyan horrendously misplayed the last moves of the game allowing Paikidze to force resignation right before the time control. With this victory, Paikidze narrows the gap between her and Wang to half a point, relaunching the tournament and delaying the crowning of a new champion until the last moment.  

Goletiani vs Krush

Krush has been having a tournament filled with ups and downs. GM Boros once again provides analysis for this beautiful game of the round.


[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.28"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Goletiani, Rusudan"]
[Black "Krush, Irina"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A13"]
[PlyCount "84"]
[SourceDate "2018.04.29"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 e6 4. c4 dxc4 5. Qa4+ c6 {A typical reaction to the
Reti sideline. Black is hoping to gain space on the Queenside.} 6. Qxc4 b5 7.
Qc2 Bb7 8. O-O Nbd7 9. b3 {solid move, a different line starts with} (9. Nc3)
9... Be7 10. Bb2 O-O 11. Nc3 Qb6 $1 {A very good move by Krush. The Queen is
extremely well placed on b6.} 12. d3 c5 13. e4 Rac8 14. Nd2 Nb8 $1 {A very
nice manouvre, Black is preparing to occupy the all important d4 square.} 15.
Ne2 Nc6 16. a3 Rfd8 17. Rac1 Rd7 18. Nf3 Rcd8 19. Rfd1 b4 $1 {Black's
positional pressure is unpleasant. Krush creates a second weakness in
Goletiani's position.} 20. a4 Ba6 21. Nf4 Rc8 22. Rd2 Rdc7 23. h4 Nd4 24. Qd1
Nd7 25. Bh3 Bf6 26. Ne1 Ne5 $1 {The decisive manouvre, Krush brings her other
knight to 'a5', setting up decisive threats, that White just cannot parry.} 27.
Nfg2 Nec6 28. Rb1 Na5 29. Bc1 Naxb3 $1 {A principled sacrifice. Black is
winning as White's pieces are just too tied up!} 30. Rxb3 Nxb3 31. Qxb3 c4 32.
dxc4 Bxc4 33. Qb1 Ba2 34. Qxa2 b3 35. Qa3 Rxc1 36. e5 Bxe5 37. a5 Qb8 38. Rd8+
Rxd8 39. Qxc1 b2 40. Qb1 Qc7 41. Nc2 Qxa5 42. Nge3 Qa1 $1 {A nice positional
performance by Irina Krush!} 0-1


The other games in the ladies’ section were drawn without much controversy, as the whole tournament seems to be currently focusing on the draconian battle between Wang and the tenacious Paikidze, who simply wouldn’t give up until the last moment.

It all comes down to the last round, where the new U.S. Chess Championships victors will be crowned!