2018 U.S. Championships - Round 5


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

Shankland vs Caruana

After yesterday’s disaster, Caruana was surely looking to get a game and try to bounce back. Unfortunately, doing so against a well prepared player such as Shankland could potentially bear some risks. Caruana chose the borderline suicidal 8…g6? which immediately allowed White to get a huge attack due to his lead in development and better pieces.

Caruana understood the danger he was in, and calmly accepted a pawn-down endgame. Shankland had his chances to convert, especially right before the time control with the move 40.Kh3!, a subtle and potent move that would have surely created some difficulties for Caruana. He did not find it and the players agreed to a draw only 4 moves later.


[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "?"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[PlyCount "104"]

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 Bb4 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nd5 Bc5 8. e3
Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. d3 {This position shouldn't be bad, simply because Black has
only made natural moves, developing his pieces and not creating any
weaknessess. But the reality is not as easy to decipher, as Black needs to
very extremely precise in order to fully equalize.} Nxd5 11. cxd5 Ne7 12. g4
Bg6 13. d4 {The critical moment} exd4 (13... Bb6 $1 {This sacrifice not easy
to spot, especially when you have spent only 39 seconds on your move!} 14. dxe5
Be4 {Black solves his biggest problem, the light-square B.} 15. Qa4 Bxd5 16.
Rd1 Bxf3 17. Bxf3 d5 18. Bg2 f6 19. e6 c6 $13 {0-1 (66) Zimmermann,F (2024)
-Vorwerk,H (2204) GER email 2006}) 14. Nxd4 Qd7 15. e4 $6 {not the best,
allowing Black to activate his pieces and break White's strong center.} (15. b3
$14 {This was Yasser's choice during the broadcast. White is is getting ready
to activate his dark square B and will surely maintain a comfortable advantage
throughout the middle game.}) (15. f4 $1 Bxd4 (15... f5 16. Ne6 Rf6 17. Kh2 Bb6
18. g5 Rxe6 19. dxe6 Qxe6 20. Bxb7 $16) 16. Qxd4 f5 17. e4 {White's initiative
is overpowering} (17. g5 $14) 17... fxg4 18. f5 gxh3 19. Bxh3 Bh5 20. Kh2 Qb5
21. Rg1 $18) 15... c6 16. dxc6 bxc6 17. Nf5 Rad8 18. Qc2 Bxf5 19. exf5 Bd4 20.
Rb1 c5 21. b4 Nc6 22. bxc5 (22. b5 {would have been a good way of trying to
create some imbalance.} Nb4 (22... Ne5 23. Bd5 c4 24. Qd2 Bb6 25. f6 $40) 23.
Qb3 Rb8 24. a3 Na6 25. Bf4 $16) 22... dxc5 23. Bf4 Nb4 24. Qc4 Nd5 25. Bxd5
Qxd5 26. Qxd5 Rxd5 {Now the game is simply equal, and the rest has no weight
on the final result.} 27. Rb7 c4 28. Rc1 c3 29. Be3 Bxe3 30. fxe3 Rd2 31. Rxc3
Rxa2 32. Rbc7 f6 33. Rc8 a5 34. Rxf8+ Kxf8 35. Rc7 a4 36. Ra7 a3 37. h4 h6 38.
g5 hxg5 39. hxg5 fxg5 40. e4 Re2 41. Rxa3 Rxe4 42. Kg2 Kf7 43. Ra6 Re5 44. Kg3
Rxf5 45. Kg4 Re5 46. Rb6 g6 47. Ra6 Kg7 48. Ra8 Kh6 49. Rh8+ Kg7 50. Ra8 Kf6
51. Rf8+ Kg7 52. Ra8 Kf6 *


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!.

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

Xiong vs So

A game without much history, as Jeffery decided to allow a rather forced repetition early on.

Liang vs Zherebukh

Another game without much history. The two players decided to repeat a sharp, but very known theoretical line which leads to a forced repetition. The game was drawn in less than 30 minutes.

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.

Sharevich vs Zatonskih

The longest game of the day. Once again, GM Denes Boros brings us the complete annotations for this crucial battle.


[Event "US Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.22"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Krush, Irina"]
[Black "Paikidze, Nazi"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E48"]
[PlyCount "111"]
[SourceDate "2018.04.23"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 {Irina Krush chose the Nimzo-Rubinstein
variation, which usually leads to highly complicated strategic games.} O-O 5.
Bd3 d5 $1 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Nge2 b6 {Paikidze plays the most principled line,
and now the position will get very positional.} 8. O-O Bb7 (8... Ba6 $5 {would
have been interesting, with the intention of getting rid of White's only
active piece.}) 9. a3 Bd6 10. b4 $1 {grabbing some space.} a6 11. Qb3 Qe7 12.
b5 a5 {Inaccurate, Black should have opened up the position in hopes of
getting counterplay on the Queenside.} (12... axb5 $1 13. Nxb5 Nbd7 {would
have been better, with the idea to equalize with an eventual c5 push.}) 13. a4
Rd8 14. h3 {after these last few moves, the opening phase concluded, White is
clearly better, because of the potential weakness on 'd5'.} c5 $1 {Paikidze
seizes her chance, to create counterplay before Krush could consolidate.} 15.
bxc6 Nxc6 16. Nb5 Bb4 17. Bb2 Rac8 18. Bf5 Rb8 19. Rac1 g6 20. Bd3 Ne4 21. Bxe4
Qxe4 22. Ba3 $1 {Notice how Krush exchanges off her bishops! She is correctly
following the maxim of retaining knights for closed positions. Paikidze is in
trouble.} Rbc8 23. Nf4 Ba6 24. Nd3 Bxa3 25. Qxa3 Bxb5 26. axb5 Na7 {under
pressure Paikidze commits a serious mistake, and} 27. Ne5 $1 {Krush takes her
chances!} Nxb5 28. Qb2 (28. Qe7 $1 {would have been near winning, because} Qf5
{loses to the neat computer move} 29. Nc6 Re8 {and now} 30. g4 $3 Qf3 31. Ne5
$3 {and Black runs out of moves, as Black will lose material.}) 28... Nd6 29.
Qxb6 {still winning, but now Paikidze will make Krush work for the win.} Ra8
30. Ra1 {too passive, energetic play would still give a huge advantage for
Krush with} (30. Qc7 Qh4 31. Rc6 $1 {and Black's position is under too much
pressure.}) 30... Nc4 $1 {a great defensive move by Paikidze. The lone "c"
pawn will save the day!} 31. Nxc4 dxc4 32. Rxa5 Rab8 $1 {Keeping the tension
in time trouble.} 33. Qc7 Rdc8 34. Qd7 c3 35. Ra7 $1 {Keeping the tension in
time trouble.} Qe6 $1 {Liquidating into a rook ending with decent drawing
chances!} 36. Qxe6 fxe6 37. Rc1 c2 38. Raa1 Rb5 39. Kf1 e5 $1 {the key move,
Krush has to exchange pawns, which will allow Paikidze to build up an unlikely
fortress!} 40. dxe5 (40. Ke2 exd4 41. exd4 Rb4 42. Ra2 Rxd4 43. Raxc2 Rxc2+ 44.
Rxc2 {would lead into a fairly simple draw.}) 40... Rxe5 41. Ke2 Rc7 $1 42. f4
Rec5 43. Ra3 h5 44. g4 Kf7 $1 {Now Paikidze correctly decides to wait, and
indeed there seems to be no way for Krush win the endgame.} 45. g5 R5c6 46. Rd3
Kg7 47. h4 Kf7 48. Kd2 Kg7 49. Rd4 Kf7 50. e4 Ke6 51. Rd8 Rc4 52. Ke3 Rc3+ 53.
Rd3 R3c4 54. Rd8 Rc3+ 55. Rd3 R3c4 56. Rd8 {and draw agreed. A resilient
defense by Nazi Paikidze and that keeps her in the lead in the US Women's
Championship!} 1/2-1/2


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.

Derakhshani vs Foisor

After two consecutive losses, it was clear that Derakhshani should try to stop the bleeding and make a much needed draw. Foisor equalized with ease, and it was her who had a slight pull in the ensuing endgame. It was nevertheless a very minimal advantage and the two players had to agree to a draw after all the pieces were exchanged.