2018 U.S. Championships - Round 8

 In what was surely one of the most important, and explosive rounds of the tournament, the players kept the spectators on the edge of their seats until the very last game of the round was finished (over 6 hours of play, a record for this year’s championships). Both championships are heating up, and the heat of the competition is unraveling throughout the halls of the Saint Louis Chess Club. Let’s get right into the recap and find out what happened in today’s round!

U.S. Championship

Zherebukh vs Izoria

The timid opening employed by Zherebukh did not pay dividends, as Izoria skillfully neutralized White’s ideas and created the unpleasant weakness on c4.

Zherebukh understood that he was no longer holding any sort of opening advantage, and quickly pulled the brakes to stir the game onto a drawing path. The players agreed to a draw at move 35 after most pieces got exchanged.

So vs Caruana

Despite this one being a wildly acclaimed game of the round, if not the tournament, So’s opening approach was mellow. His pulseless attempt at destabilizing the Petroff held no ground against Caruana’s deep understanding of important topics such as piece placement and piece exchange.

So tried to squeeze water from stone in a symmetrical endgame, but was forced to concede a draw at move 46. Caruana maintains his co-leadership position, while So remains half a point behind.

Robson vs Akobian

The marathon game of the round. The players kept the fans, commentators, and visitors on the edge of their seats all the way until the end. The game lasted 144 (!) moves and was won through pain, sweat, and a lot of tenacity. For the most part of the game, the position remained close to equality, but it was Robson who always seemed to have just a tiny edge, due to his preferred side of the material imbalance present on the board (two pieces vs rook).

Akobian held his own until deep into the endgame, where he erred and allowed Robson to get a winning advantage. Robson returned the favor and allowed Akobian to build a fortress. The players shuffled the pieces for a while, and at some point Akobian tried to claim the threefold repetition. He leaned towards Robson, telling him that with the upcoming move the position would repeat the third time. Robson denied the claim, and it was at this moment that Akobian made a huge mistake, he continued the game! Instead, he should have stopped the clock and claim it with the arbiter.

Once the game continued, Robson slightly changed the position, and when Akobian officially claimed the draw a few moves later, the claim was denied due to the different position present on the board. Obviously shook by the news, Akobian started erring and allowed the White king to approach the d pawn, which tipped the scale in Robson’s favor. The game was over after Robson skillfully proved he knew how to checkmate with Knight and Bishop, an instructive lesson for the students of the game.

Nakamura vs Shankland

One of the most imbalanced games of the round, let’s look at this one a little bit closer!


[Event "US Championship "]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.26"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Shankland, Samuel L"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteElo "2787"]
[BlackElo "2671"]
[PlyCount "75"]

1. b3 {Already a surprise from Nakamura, but not totally an unexpected move as
he has been seen promoting the Larsen countless of times in online chess.} e5
2. Bb2 Nc6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Bb5 e4 {This move is considered to be the most
critical, as Black immediately seizes the control of the center, and will
force White to give his bishop pair in the upcoming moves.} 5. f3 a6 6. Bxc6
dxc6 7. Qe2 {This is already a virgin position} (7. Nc3 Bf5 8. fxe4 Nxe4 9. Nf3
Bd6 10. O-O Qe7 11. Nxe4 Bxe4 12. d3 Bg6 13. e4 O-O-O $14 {1-0 (56) Nakamura,H
(2786)-Caruana,F (2802) chess.com INT 2017}) 7... Bf5 8. fxe4 Bxe4 9. d3 Bg6
10. Nc3 Bc5 {The B is placed on a better diagonal, attacking the e3 pawn and
potentially control the a7-g1 diagonal in case white decides to play e4.} 11.
O-O-O Qe7 12. e4 Ba3 13. g4 a5 {Black postpones the castle, as he is firstly
interested in starting a dangerous attack against the White king.} 14. g5 (14.
h4 h5 15. g5 Ng4 16. Nh3 O-O 17. Nf4 a4 18. Bxa3 Qxa3+ 19. Kb1 $13 {Looks like
a much better alternative for White, as the game continution allowed Black's
attack to develop much quicker}) 14... Nh5 (14... Nd7 $5 15. h4 h6 16. Nf3
Bxb2+ 17. Kxb2 Bh5 $15) 15. Qe3 O-O 16. Nge2 b5 17. Bxa3 Qxa3+ 18. Kb1 a4 $15 {
While Black's forces are easily being concentrated on the queenside, White's
attack on the kingside is innexistent.} 19. Nc1 (19. Nd4 $5 Qc5 (19... Qd6 20.
Nf5 Bxf5 21. exf5 axb3 22. cxb3 Nf4 $13) 20. Nce2 Rfe8 21. Rhf1 f6 22. gxf6
Nxf6 $15) 19... Rfb8 20. Rhe1 c5 21. Ka1 axb3 22. cxb3 c4 23. Nb1 Qa6 24. Rd2
f5 $6 {A completely unnecesary move!} (24... Qa5 25. Rf1 Qb4 26. Rfd1 f6 27. h4
c5 {Black's preserves an extremely potent attack}) 25. exf5 Bxf5 26. b4 (26.
Nc3 $1 c6 27. dxc4 bxc4 28. Qc5 Bg6 29. Qxc4+ Qxc4 30. bxc4 Nf4 $15) 26... Qg6
27. Rf1 c6 28. Nc3 Re8 29. Qf3 Bxd3 (29... Qxg5 $5 {more precise} 30. Rg2 Qf6
31. Kb2 Bg6 32. Qxf6 Nxf6 33. dxc4 bxc4 $17 {Black is a pawn up, and his
pieces are more active.}) 30. Nxd3 Rf8 31. Qd1 cxd3 32. Rxf8+ Rxf8 33. Rxd3
Qxg5 34. Rd6 {Now the position is already far from easy for Black, as most of
his advantage has dissipated.} Qf4 (34... Nf4 35. Rxc6 Qd5) (34... Rf6 35. Qb3+
(35. Rd8+ Kf7 36. Qb3+ (36. Qd7+ Kg6 37. Qd3+) 36... Kg6 37. Qg8) 35... Kf8 36.
Rd8+ Ke7 37. Qg8 $17 {was the variation that worried Shankland, and for good
reason as Black's king definitely does not feel completely safe in the middle
of the board. Objectively the position is better for Black, but from a
practical perspective things couldn't be more murky.}) 35. Rxc6 Qxb4 36. Qd5+
Kh8 37. Qxb5 Qf4 38. Qc5 1/2-1/2


Liang vs Lenderman

Liang has been having a solid event, but so did Lenderman who won a beautiful game against Onischuk in the previous round. The game followed a theoretical line of the Petroff and it seemed as if the players would liquidate the pieces and soon agree to a draw. But Liang had different plans, as he started looking for complications. Unfortunately for him, the overly ambitious moves he made were double edged, as they allowed Lenderman to dent into White’s pawn structure and create weaknesses. Lenderman accurately assessed Liang’s pawn push, and securely stopped it in its tracks, while at the same time picking up pawns and obtaining materials advantage.

The game was over right before the time control, when Liang’s dynamics suddenly stopped, and he had to face the music being a Bishop and several pawns down.

Onischuk vs Xiong

An early Grunfeld by the young Xiong almost lured the fans into believing they would see a sharp game. Unfortunately for them, the two players were not in the mood to take any unnecessary risks, as they chopped all the pieces off the board without much hesitation. A draw was agreed at move 30.

U.S. Women’s Championship

Wang vs Krush

One of the most intense games of the round was between Wang, representing the future of American chess, and Krush who has been the face of the American women’s chess scene for the last decades. Krush, respecting her status, got an early advantage with the black pieces, and it seemed as if Wang would finally taste defeat. But the youngster wouldn’t go away! The tenacity and practicality with which Wang was making her moves placed huge pressure on the seven-time champion, and Krush was unable to deliver the killing blow. It was then that the young Wang started believing in her chances at more than just holding a draw.

And the miracle happened, as Krush started playing bad move after bad move, ending up in a completely losing position due to her back-rank weakness. It was when Wang masterfully coordinated her pieces that Krush had to admit defeat. Wang maintains her 1 point lead and is currently playing the most inspiring chess in the tournament.

Foisor vs Paikidze

An important clash of the round, as per usual GM Boros Denes will bring the full annotation!


[Event "USWomensChampionship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.04.26"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Foisor, Sabina"]
[Black "Paikidze, Nazi"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D39"]
[PlyCount "58"]
[SourceDate "2018.04.27"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 {A modern favorite, the Ragozin!} 5.
Bg5 dxc4 $5 {an interesting wrinkle by Paikidze, now we transposed back to the
Vienna variation!} 6. e4 c5 7. e5 (7. Bxc4 {is the mainline.}) 7... cxd4 8.
exf6 {a fingerfehler, White had to give a check first!} (8. Qa4+ Nc6 9. O-O-O
Bd7 10. Ne4 $1 Be7 11. exf6 gxf6 {with a complicated middlegame.}) 8... gxf6 $1
{Both of White's pieces are under attack, so White eventually loses one piece,
Black already has a slight edge!} 9. Bh4 Nc6 $1 {No rush, as White is stuck in
an 'eternal' pin on the 'e1-a5' diagonal.} 10. a3 Ba5 11. Nxd4 Nxd4 12. Bxc4
Nf5 13. Bb5+ Ke7 $1 {A typical Vienna move, for some odd reason Black's king
feels quite safe in the center!} 14. Qa4 Nxh4 15. Qxh4 Qd5 $1 {Precise play by
Paikidze, as White is again forced to make some concessions.} 16. b4 Qe5+ 17.
Kd2 Rd8+ 18. Kc2 Bb6 19. Qxh7 Bd4 20. Rad1 Qc7 21. Rd3 e5 22. f4 Be6 23. fxe5
Bxe5 {Black is winning, as black is already ready to attack the weakened White
king.} 24. Re1 Rac8 25. Ree3 a6 26. Ba4 Qc4 27. Rxd8 Qa2+ 28. Kd1 Rxd8+ 29. Rd3
Bg4+ {and White resigned. A quick win for Paikidze, which keeps her in
contention for first place, as she faces Annie Wang tomorrow!} 0-1


Feng vs Zatonskih

This was a beautiful outplay by Zatonskih, who completely dismantled Feng’s careless play and obtained a smooth victory without much problem.

Time trouble was no longer an issue for Zatonskih, and she was able to deliver a skillful performance which places her at 5 points out of the first 8 rounds.

Abrahamyan vs Sharevich

Abrahamyan got an early lead after the opening, but it was only after Sharevich trapped her own Knight on g5 (instead of placing it on a more defensive square on f8) that she got the decisive advantage.

Abrahamyan accurately converted the extra pawn and moved to 5 out of 8 points – 2 points behind the leader Wang.

Yu vs Gorti

A game which seemed to go nowhere after the opening. The two players willingly entered an almost symmetrical endgame, and it looked as if they would soon agree to an undisputed draw. But then Gorti started erring, and Yu took full advantage of her opponent’s inaccuracies.

Yu found the rook exchange with 29. Na7! and the ensuing Knight vs Bishop endgame was simply impossible to defend for the young Gorti. Yu wins her second game in a row and now stands at a respectable 4.5/8 points.

Goletiani vs Derakhshani

After 5 losses in a row, Goletiani finally found the path to victory in her game against the out of shape Derakhshani. Goletiani chose the Anti Grunfeld, and it was obvious as early as move 6 that her opponent was nowhere close to being prepared, as she stumbled into a known opening trap. The ensuing endgame was borderline winning, and Goletiani never allowed her opponent back into the game.

An exciting finish awaits us as we enter the final three rounds of the 2018 U.S. Championships!