2018 U.S. Championships - Round 6

Round six of the U.S. & U.S. Women’s Chess Championships has brought important changes to the top of the standings and has cleared the path for what will surely be an explosive finish in the second part of the event. The general consensus among chess players is that the day before the rest day is always filled with decisive results, this one was no different. Let’s get into the recap!

U.S. Championship

Robson vs Caruana

Caruana’s Petroff is simply irresistible. The amount of knowledge and ideas that the young Challenger has in, what is considered by many to be a dry opening, is staggering. Robson was surprised early by Caruana’s pawn sacrifice and had to concede a large time deficit, that was ultimately critical in the last moves before time control.

Caruana played risky, some would argue borderline careless chess, but in the end it paid off as Robson couldn’t handle the complications and lost the thread of the game. With this victory, Caruana climbs up the ladder, and he now stands half a point behind the leader, Shankland.

So vs Izoria

A short but very complex battle ensued between these two warriors. Wesley was the first one to embrace the chaos with his 10.e4!? A pawn sacrifice that surely looked as if it would destabilize Izoria. The newcomer did not flinch, took the pawn, and decided to keep it at all costs for the remainder of the opening.

But that could have costed him, as his 13…Bc5?! could have been taxed by the very powerful sacrifice, 14.Nxe6! Instead of that, Wesley  played the tame 14.Nf5 and the game soon ended after massive simplifications.

Nakamura vs Xiong

Nakamura has not been having his best tournament, especially if you look at his results from his perspective based in his expectations. He is generally a very creative, always looking for decisive results, type of player. But this event has brought him only draws, and this game was no different. Despite finally getting a serious advantage to play with, Nakamura missed his big chance when he couldn’t spot the potent 19.Nb3! or even 19.Nc4! with the same idea of temporarily sacrificing the exchange.

The move continuation allowed black to completely neutralize white’s dynamics and force simplification at a rapid pace. The game was over at move 31.  

Akobian vs Shankland

This was definitely the game of the round. Let’s give it a closer look.


[Event "US Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.23"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Akobian , Varuzhan"]
[Black "Shankland, Samuel L"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2647"]
[BlackElo "2671"]
[PlyCount "118"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 dxc4 7. Qxc4 {
Black's ideas are quite clear in this Nimzo. He conceded his bishop pair for a
sensible lead in development, which will allow him to activate his pieces
early on and place a great deal of pressure on white's central pawn. If White
manages to stabilize the game, his bishop pair will be a great asset.} b6 8.
Nf3 Ba6 9. Qa4+ Qd7 10. Qc2 h6 {Shankland's surprise. Akobian has played this
line before, against none other than the former world champion, Anand.} (10...
Qc6 11. Qxc6+ Nxc6 12. Bf4 O-O-O 13. Rc1 Kb7 14. g3 Rhe8 15. Bg2 Nd5 16. Bd2 e5
17. dxe5 Nxe5 18. Nxe5 Rxe5 19. e3 Kb8 20. Bc3 Nxc3 21. Rxc3 Re6 22. Bf3 Red6
23. Rc2 c5 24. Be2 Bb7 25. f3 Bc6 26. b3 Bd5 27. Rb2 c4 28. bxc4 Bxc4 29. O-O
Bxe2 30. Rxe2 Rd3 31. Ra1 Rd1+ 32. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 33. Kg2 Ra1 34. e4 Rxa3 35. f4
Rc3 36. e5 Kc8 37. Rd2 b5 38. Rd5 b4 39. Rb5 b3 40. f5 a6 41. Rb6 Kc7 42. Rb4
a5 {0-1 (42) Akobian,V (2647)-Anand,V (2782) Riadh 2017}) 11. g3 Bb7 12. Bg2
Be4 13. Qd1 Nc6 14. O-O Rd8 15. Be3 O-O $15 {Black is obviously in control, as
he is the only one with a clear target: the d4 pawn!} 16. Rc1 Qd5 17. Qa4 Ng4
$6 {Not the best} (17... a5 18. Qc4 (18. Rfd1 $4 b5 $19) 18... Qxc4 19. Rxc4
Bd5 20. Rc2 Be4 21. Rc4 Bd5 $11 (21... Nd5 $6 $11 22. Ne1 Bxg2 23. Kxg2 Nxe3+
24. fxe3 Rd6 25. Nd3 $14 {And black will have difficulties on the c file})) 18.
Rc3 Nxe3 19. fxe3 Qd6 20. Nh4 $6 (20. Rfc1 $1 {A very natural move, which is
very difficult NOT to make. Akobian confessed that he does not understand why
he didn't go for this, as it was his intention to activate rooks for a very
long time.} Ne7 21. Rxc7 $16) 20... Bxg2 21. Nxg2 Ne7 22. Qxa7 Nd5 {Despite
being a pawn down, Black has serious compensation due to his piece activity}
23. Rc2 Ra8 (23... e5 $1 24. Qa6 Nf6 25. Qc4 exd4 26. Qxc7 Qxc7 27. Rxc7 dxe3
28. Nxe3 Rfe8 $11) 24. Qb7 c5 25. dxc5 bxc5 26. Qb5 $2 (26. Rxf7 $1 {A huge
miss by Akobian, who in time trouble, started panicking and losing the thread
of the game.} Rxf7 27. Qxa8+ Rf8 28. Qa5 Qe5 29. Qd2 $16) 26... Rfb8 27. Qd3
Qe5 28. Rxc5 $2 {mistake after mistake} Qxb2 29. Rfc1 Rd8 30. Qe4 Qxe2 31. R5c2
Qb5 32. Nf4 Nf6 33. Qb4 Qe5 34. Qc5 Qxc5 35. Rxc5 g5 36. Ne2 Rxa3 37. Rc8 Rxc8
38. Rxc8+ Kg7 {This is just a hopeless endgame, and the conversion is a
formality for Shankland.} 39. Rc3 Ra1+ 40. Kg2 Ra2 41. Kf1 Ne4 42. Rd3 g4 43.
Rd4 f5 44. Rd3 Kf6 45. Rd8 Ng5 46. Rh8 Ra1+ 47. Kg2 Nh3 48. Rb8 Re1 49. Rb2 Ke5
50. Ra2 Ke4 51. Ra4+ Kxe3 52. Ra3+ Ke4 53. Ra2 Ke5 54. Rb2 Kf6 55. Ra2 e5 56.
Ra6+ Kg5 57. Ra2 Kh5 58. Rb2 f4 59. gxf4 Rxe2+ 0-1


Zherebukh vs Lenderman

A game without must history, as the players seemed eager and ready to recharge their batteries during the rest day. A draw.

Onischuk vs Liang

Except in his loss against Akobian, Liang has been an incredibly tough competitor in this tournament. He has not lost any other games, and it seemed he wasn’t even in any danger despite the massive rating average he had to face (already having played the big three). This game was no different, as he equalized quite handily with the Black pieces and forced his more experienced rival to concede a draw.

U.S. Women’s Championship

Feng vs Paikidze

A rather tame game between the two favorites.

Paikidze played a very good opening and equalized with ease. On the other side of the board, Feng clearly did not have any major expectations from this game, as she did not try particularly hard to steer the game on a different path. A draw was agreed at move 34.

Wang vs Derakhshani

This was the battle between the leader and the bottom of the pack. Despite the massive point gap between the two, Wang was only a very slight rating favorite going into the battle. Once again, GM Denes Boros will fully annotate this game.


[Event "US Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.23"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Wang, Annie"]
[Black "Derakhshani, Dorsa"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E32"]
[PlyCount "113"]
[SourceDate "2018.04.24"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 b6 7. Bg5 h6 8.
Bh4 Ba6 $5 {an interesting alternative to the usual} (8... Bb7 {mainline}) 9.
e3 d5 10. Nf3 Nbd7 11. Bd3 c5 12. cxd5 cxd4 (12... Bxd3 {would have been
interesting, because after} 13. dxe6 c4 14. exd7 g5 $1 {Black would have a big
inititative for the sacrificed pawn.}) 13. Nxd4 Bxd3 14. Qxd3 Nc5 15. Qe2 g5
16. Bg3 Qxd5 17. O-O {Annie Wang reached a slightly better position, and from
here on she will use every little chance to put pressure on Dorsa
Derakhshani's position.} Nfe4 18. Rfd1 Rfd8 19. Rac1 Nxg3 20. hxg3 Nb3 $1 {
Well played. Black tries to eliminate White's active pieces, at this moment
White's advantage is minimal.} 21. Nxb3 Qxb3 22. Rd2 $1 {A nice subtle move,
which prepares the Rc7 invasion.} Rac8 {normal, but slightly inaccurate. Black
could equalize with the very precise move} (22... Qa4 $1 {as} 23. Rc7 {now
would be met by} Rac8 $1 {and after} 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 {the queen would be
safeguarding the d7 square, therefore the position would become level.}) 23.
Rxc8 Rxc8 24. Qh5 $1 Kg7 25. Rd7 Rf8 26. Qe2 $1 {Annie Wang withdraws her
queen, but the strong rook on d7, provides White a stable advantage.} a5 27.
Qd2 $1 {Another little move. Now Black is in serious trouble!} Qc4 28. Rb7 Qc5
29. b4 axb4 30. axb4 Qe5 31. Rxb6 Ra8 $1 {Looking for counterplay.} 32. Rc6 Qd5
(32... Ra3 $1 {would have given real chances for counterplay, despite Black
being a pawn down.}) 33. Qxd5 Ra1+ 34. Kh2 exd5 35. Rc5 $1 {immediately
attacking the weak d5 pawn.} Ra2 36. f4 gxf4 37. gxf4 Ra3 38. Rxd5 Rxe3 39. b5
Rb3 40. g3 Rb2+ 41. Kh3 Rb4 42. Kg4 Rb3 43. Rc5 {There is no need to rush, and
with this move Annie Wang signals her intentions.} Kh7 44. Kf5 $1 {the winning
concept, the king will march to the Queenside and with that the game is
decided.} Kg7 45. g4 Rb4 46. Ke5 f6+ 47. Kd6 Rxf4 48. b6 Rxg4 49. b7 Rb4 50.
Kc6 $1 Rxb7 51. Kxb7 Kg6 52. Kc6 h5 53. Kd5 Kf5 54. Kd4+ Kg4 55. Ke3 h4 56. Kf2
f5 57. Kg2 {and Black resigned. A well-rounded game by Annie Wang, which
propels her into the lead in the US Women's Championship!} 1-0


Zatonskih vs Krush

A crucial match in the Women’s section, as these two ladies have 11 national titles combined, and have been at the top of their game for the past many years.

Zatonskih’s opening did not go as planned, and despite her structural advantage, Krush’s piece activity and dynamics were utterly destructive. Through skillful maneuvering, Krush managed to break through Zatonskih’s defense and made swift work of her king’s shattered protection. The bishop pair was Krush’s best asset in this game, and her masterful use of it should be studied by young aspiring players.

Abrahamyan vs Gorti

This game was a balanced affair, but it was Gorti who ultimately made the last mistake and allowed Abrahamyan to garner yet another victory.

Abrahamyan’s invasion on the back ranks, coupled with a series of mating threats was too much to handle for the young Gorti, who had to resign right before the first time control. Abrahamyan has won two out of her last three games and is now approaching the podium.

Foisor vs Sharevich

In her attempt at repeating the brave performance of last year, Foisor seems to have placed too much pressure on herself, as she was unable to play her best chess in this year’s championship so far. Having the white pieces, Foisor clearly tried to destabilize the position and garner an advantage, but once again seemed to carelessly over press. Sharevich played a good endgame, but even so Foisor had a late chance at making a draw with the study-like 65.Kh6!

Unfortunately for the reigning champion, the time trouble situation did not allow her to find the best move, and she had to resign a few moves later due to Sharevich’s imminent promotion.

Goletiani vs Yu

Another player that has not been in great shape is Goletiani, who after yesterday’s debacle was once again unable to keep control of her game. Yu skillfully took advantage of her opponent’s mistakes, and finally converted a beautiful rook endgame.

Chess players know how to have fun, and the special program – Chess After Dark – organized by the club to celebrate a successful first half of the tournament was a complete success. Players got together immediately after the round to unwind, socialize, dance, share ideas, and most importantly have a lot of fun. Enjoy some of the pictures from the event!