2018 U.S. Championships - Round 11

The final round of the 2018 U.S. Chess Championships has been as explosive and exciting as one could have imagined. There were four players battling for glory going into today’s games: Sam Shankland, Fabiano Caruana, Annie Wang, and Nazi Paikidze. The outcome couldn’t be more dramatic!

U.S. Championship – The Shankland / Caruana affair

Shankland went into today’s round as the leader, half a point ahead of Caruana. Most scenarios were surely favoring the Californian, but he could not fall asleep at the wheel. Caruana played white against Onischuk, and it was clear that the new challenger would do everything in his power to break through the experienced Grandmaster and try to catch up with the leader.

Caruana had no other option, he had to go for broke. Being in Shankland’s shoes, the strategy was much more difficult. He was playing the white pieces against the young super talent Awonder Liang, who has had a solid event up to this point. Shankland’s options were: 1. Play it safe, hope that Caruana doesn’t win or 2. Play for a victory, take risks, if a win comes your way you’re the new U.S. Champion.

For obvious reasons the choice was not easy. Shankland chose a combination of the two, he played a rather strategic and simplified line of the exchange Caro-Kann. Luckily for him, it was the young and effervescent Awonder that made his decision for him by playing the ultra-sharp 7…e5!? for which Shankland was thoroughly prepared! Shankland blasted off a precise series of moves that obviously placed Liang under tremendous pressure.

On the other side of the fence, Caruana was playing a masterpiece of his own. Outplaying Onischuk in a Ruy Lopez, which was the perfect opening for the tournament position he was in. The young challenger was playing precise, poised chess, and it looked clear that Onischuk would have a very rough day at the office. The tournament was in the air, nobody knew what would happen next. Would Caruana manage to win; would Shankland win his game as well?

Shankland understood that the situation had changed, and he now needed to win in order to secure the title. As he continued pounding on his opponent’s king with all his might, Liang remained restricted and had to watch his position crumble.

Without any counter play, Liang slowly but surely had to accept the hard truth: defeat was unavoidable. Despite Fabiano’s quick victory, Shankland kept his composure and converted his own advantage with confidence.

Shankland was now the U.S. Chess Champion!


[Event "US Championship "]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.29"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Shankland, Samuel L"]
[Black "Liang, Awonder"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2671"]
[BlackElo "2552"]
[PlyCount "85"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Bf4 Bg4 7. Qb3 e5 (7...
Qd7 {would have probably been a much better approach by Liang. The upcoming
game is a rather strategical, maneuvering game. The game continuation is a
total mess, for which Shankland was clearly the better prepared player.}) 8. h3
({Relevant:} 8. dxe5 Nh5 9. Be3 Nxe5 10. Bb5+ Nc6 11. h3 Be6 12. Qd1 Nf6 13.
Nf3 Bd6 14. O-O O-O 15. Nbd2 Qd7 16. Re1 a6 17. Bf1 Rac8 18. Nb3 Ne4 19. Nbd4
Bb8 20. Qc1 Qd6 21. Ne2 d4 22. Bf4 Qc5 23. Nexd4 Bd5 24. Bxb8 Rxb8 25. Qf4 Rbe8
26. Bd3 Nf6 27. Nxc6 Qxc6 28. Nd4 Qb6 29. Qd2 g6 30. a3 Ne4 31. Qc2 Nc5 32. Bf1
Qf6 33. g3 Nb3 34. Rxe8 Rxe8 35. Rd1 Nxd4 36. Rxd4 Qf3 37. Rxd5 Qxd5 {Wei,Y
(2743)-Navara,D (2740) Yancheng 2018 0-1 (61)}) 8... exf4 9. hxg4 Qe7+ 10. Kf1
O-O-O $146 ({Predecessor:} 10... Ne4 11. Qc2 O-O-O 12. Nd2 Re8 13. Bxe4 dxe4
14. Re1 f5 15. gxf5 e3 16. fxe3 fxe3 17. Rh3 Qc7 18. Rexe3 Rxe3 19. Rxe3 Bd6
20. Ne2 Rf8 21. Rf3 Re8 22. Ne4 Bf8 23. Qd3 Qf7 24. b3 h6 25. Nf4 {1-0 (25)
Demchenko,A (2671)-Yurtseven,M (2415) Lisbon 2018}) 11. Nd2 g6 {too passive!} (
11... g5 {Was required, as Black needs to develop a quick counter on the
kingside.} 12. Ngf3 (12. Ndf3 h5 13. Re1 Qc7 14. gxh5 g4 $13) 12... h5 13. Re1
Qc7 14. Ne5 Kb8 15. gxh5 g4 $13) 12. Re1 Qc7 13. g5 Nh5 14. Be2 $1 {An
incredibly strong move. Shankland understands that the K on h5 is actually a
good piece, as Black's idea was to open the h file and start threatening Ng3!
with a discovery check.} (14. Ngf3 h6 15. gxh6 Bxh6 16. Kg1 Bg7 17. Bb5 a6 18.
Bxc6 Qxc6 $13) 14... Ng7 15. Ngf3 Ne6 16. Bb5 Bg7 17. Qa4 Rd6 18. Nb3 b6 $2 {
A terrible move, which simply deals the game to Shankland. The weakness of the
light squares will now prove decisive} (18... a6 {a much better defensive idea}
19. Bxc6 Rxc6 20. Nc5 Nxc5 21. dxc5 Re6 22. Rh4 Qxc5 23. Rxf4 $14) 19. Nc1 $16
Nb8 20. Nd3 Kb7 21. Nb4 Qd8 22. Ne5 Qc7 23. Qb3 Rhd8 24. Rxh7 $18 {Shankland
breaks through Liang's defense, and the rest of the game is just a formality
for the new champion!} a6 25. Bd3 Ka7 26. Qa4 a5 27. Bb5 Kb7 28. Nbd3 Rg8 29.
Nf3 Rh8 30. Rxh8 Bxh8 31. a3 Nc6 32. Bxc6+ Rxc6 33. Nde5 Bxe5 34. Nxe5 Rd6 35.
Qe8 Rd8 36. Qxf7 Nxg5 37. Qxc7+ Kxc7 38. Nxg6 f3 39. Nf4 Kc6 40. gxf3 Nxf3 41.
Re6+ Kb5 42. Ke2 Ng1+ 43. Kd3 1-0


U.S. Women’s Championship – Wang breaks at the buzzer.

The show goes on in the ladies’ division, as the unexpected happened!

Annie Wang started off blazing hot, and her position against Foisor looked completely dominant. On the other side, Paikidze was playing a sharp but rather messy game against the experienced Goletiani.

At this juncture in the round things were looking great for Wang, who looked primed to win her first U.S. Women’s Championship title and become one of the youngest victors this tournament has seen.

Then, the inexplicable happened. Wang began to play disastrous moves, and quickly found herself in a sea of trouble when Foisor’s rooks found their preferred avenue on the “G” file. Wang collapsed quickly and allowed her opponent to exchange her two rooks for the queen, as well as preserve a decisive attack on her now exposed king. Foisor closed the show with confidence, as she never allowed Wang to come back into the game.


[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.29"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Foisor, Sabina"]
[Black "Wang, Annie"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D61"]
[PlyCount "73"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2018.04.30"]

1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Qc2 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Nc3 h6 8. Bh4
c5 {a solid opening choice by Annie Wang.} 9. cxd5 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Nxd5 11. Bxe7
Nxe7 12. O-O-O $5 (12. Be2 Nf6 {is slightly better for White, but 2017 U.S.
Champion, Sabina Foisor wants more!}) 12... Qa5 (12... a6 $5 {was an
alternative, with the plan to expand on the Queenside.}) 13. Nb3 Qe5 14. g4 $1
{trying to attack the Black king.} Nf6 15. Be2 Bd7 16. h4 Rfc8 $1 {, but it
turns out that Annie Wang's attack is quicker!} 17. Kb1 Nfd5 18. Ka1 $1 {the
only defence.} Bc6 19. Rhg1 Nb4 {a step in the wrong direction,} (19... Nxc3 {
would have guaranteed Black a stable advantage, as} 20. Qxc3 Qxc3 21. bxc3 Bd5
{would leave White with too many pawn weaknesses.}) 20. Qd2 $1 {suddenly White
gains back the initiative!} Ned5 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. g5 hxg5 23. Rxg5 Qf6 24.
Rdg1 Ne7 25. Rxg7+ $1 {the most precise, now Black is in real trouble.} Qxg7
26. Rxg7+ Kxg7 27. Qd4+ f6 28. Qd6 Kf7 29. Nc5 Bd5 30. Bh5+ Kf8 31. b4 Rxc5 32.
bxc5 f5 33. f3 Rc8 34. e4 fxe4 35. fxe4 Bxe4 36. Qxe6 Bd5 37. Qf6+ {and Black
resigned. A painful loss for Annie Wang, as Paikidze drew her game against
Goletiani, which means that the Womens Championship will be decided in the
playoffs tomorrow!} 1-0


As soon as the game finished, Paikidze offered a timely draw and Goletiani accepted.

We are now headed for the playoffs, may the best woman win!