2018 U.S. Championships - Round 2


The second round of the 2018 U.S. Championships was as promising as the first. With plenty of exciting matches on the horizon, the chess fans gathered to see the players at work; they weren’t disappointed, as we once again got a combative round in the books.

U.S. Championship

So vs Onischuk

This game perfectly portrayed the difference we often see between an incredibly strong grandmaster, Onischuk, and an elite player like So. White chose to open with 1.e4 and the players soon entered a common line of the Ruy Lopez.

Unfortunately for Onischuk, his plan with Nd7-Nb6 backfired quickly when So perfectly aligned his pieces on the kingside, and accurately found the moment to break in the center and create the necessary havoc. Once the position was destabilized, white’s pieces were simply superior. So used his immaculate technique and pocketed the full point with ease.

Akobian vs Liang

An extremely important battle was the one between the experienced Akobian, and the up and coming prodigy, Awonder Liang. Akobian used his experience to stir the game into strategic territory, where he hoped it would be easier to outplay Liang. White quickly got his opponent under severe pressure, and could have ended the game much earlier if he would have found the killing blow 26.Nxd5!

Unfortunately for him, he did not see it and had to wait for another tremendous blunder in time trouble to finish the game. With this victory, Akobian joins So at the top of the table.  

Caruana vs Lenderman

Fabiano knew that keeping up with the leaders was utterly important, as he simply just dismantled Lenderman after an unforgiving attack.

[Event "US Championship "] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.04.19"] [Round "2"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Lenderman , Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2804"] [BlackElo "2599"] [PlyCount "45"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 {The Winnawer French! An opening that often produces early imbalances, as White generally will throw every resource at destabilizing black's king, while Black will strategically try to take advantage of White's feeble pawn structure on the queenside.} 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Qa5 7. Bd2 Qa4 {An idea that has been seen very often in practice. Black is trying to stop white from playing a4 at any moment, as well as keeping an eye on the pawns on c2 and d4. The drawback to this is that he gives white a tremendeous development advantage.} 8. Qg4 Kf8 (8... g6 9. Nf3 Nc6 (9... Qxc2 {is dangerous for black} 10. Rc1 Qf5 11. Qg3 h5 12. h3 h4 13. Qg5 $14) 10. Bd3 c4 11. Be2 Qxc2 12. O-O $13) 9. h4 $5 {A very rare move that certainly shocked Lenderman, as he was simply unable to grasp the nuances of the position and completely faltered under white's extreme pressure. A move that will certainly get some attention after this game!} Nc6 10. h5 h6 11. Qd1 cxd4 $6 {Too much greed! Lenderman should have realized the extension of his problems, and start looking for simplifications with} (11... b6 $1 12. Nf3 Ba6 13. Bxa6 Qxa6 14. dxc5 bxc5 $13 {without the light square B on the board black's defensive tasks are much more manageable.}) 12. Nf3 dxc3 13. Bxc3 g5 ( 13... Bd7 $4 14. Rh4 {simply traps the queen, this rook lift is a constant threat after the exchange of the d4 pawn.}) (13... Qe4+ 14. Be2 Nge7 15. Rh4 Qh7 16. Bd3 Qg8 {is a very sad attempt at trying to play chess}) 14. hxg6 Qe4+ 15. Be2 Qxg6 16. Qd2 Nge7 17. Bd3 Qxg2 {this is simply bad, there is absolutely no way around it. Black should have understood that opening another line towards his monarch will prove to be decisive. The rest is an easy formality for Caruana!} 18. Ke2 Qg4 19. Rh4 Qg7 20. Rg1 Ng6 21. Rf4 Nce7 22. Bb4 a5 23. Rxg6 {Simple annihilation by the world championship contender!} 1-0

Nakamura vs Zherebukh

Since joining the U.S. Championship roster last year, Zherebukh has proved time and time again that he deserves to be among the best. His last year’s victory against Caruana cemented his spot and showed that he is not afraid of anybody.

Playing the black pieces against Nakamura might be intimidating, but Zherebukh kept complete control from the get go and did not allow any chances for White. The game quickly ended in a draw, and Nakamura will need to start winning very soon if he wants to keep pace with the leaders.

Shankland vs Xiong

A game without much history. Shankland found a way to a minimal advantage out of the opening, but was quickly neutralized by Xiong, who knew the necessary maneuvers to not get into any sort of trouble.

Robson vs Izoria

What started off as a tame Anti Berlin, soon regressed into a wild affair when Robson decided, in his usual combative style, to sacrifice a pawn with 22.f4! Izoria accepted the sacrifice but quickly found himself in trouble as he was unable to regroup his wandering knight back into his own base. Robson made swift use of his piece superiority and led a decisive attack against his opponent’s king. Robson is back in the mix, while Izoria will need to regroup in the upcoming rounds.

U.S. Women’s Championship

Paikidze vs Gorti

A very complex battle ensued in this game. The opening was balanced, but it looked as if Paikidze might be slightly better due to her space advantage and her upcoming minority attack.

Unfortunately for her, she timed her break badly and quickly ended up in trouble when Gorti’s knight ventured into her camp. Gorti found the right sacrifice and looked on the verge of winning the game, but her technique failed her, and she had to settle to a draw in a rook’s endgame.

Wang vs Abrahamyan

Given the rating difference, it seemed as if Abrahamyan should be the favorite in this game. Wang didn’t take unnecessary risks with the white pieces, and handily exchanged most of the pieces. Complete equality was achieved without much complaint from either player, and the two ladies soon agreed to a draw.

Krush vs Derakhshani

This game was a heartbreak for the Championship newcomer, Derakhshani. Just like in round one, she played a great game up to a certain point, but once again failed to close the show and allowed her opponent back into the game. Krush’s experience played a pivotal role in the outcome of the game, as her nerves during the time trouble moments allowed her to complete change the position’s assessment, from losing to winning in a matter of 3 reckless moves.

Derakhshani’s loss is surely disappointing, but her morale is certainly not shattered, as she promised to come back stronger in tomorrow’s game against Paikidze. Krush is back on track, and ready to make another run for the national title!

Foisor vs Goletiani

The reigning champion played an impeccable strategic game all the way into the late middlegame, when she already amassed a decisive advantage. Unfortunately for her, Goletiani’s counter strike on the queenside shocked the champion as she completely lost the thread of the game in time trouble. The game took a wild turn when Foisor decided to sacrifice a piece and go all in into the attack. The champion underestimated her opponent’s defensive resources and after the time trouble she was completely losing if only Goletiani would have found 43…Ne6! Instead, Goletiani decided to call it a night and force the draw with a perpetual. A lucky escape for the champ!

Zatonskih vs Yu

An incredible preparation lead to a crushing advantage for Zatonskih. Grandmaster Boros Denes has the extensive analysis for this game!

[Event "US Womens Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.04.19"] [Round "?"] [White "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Black "Yu, Jennifer"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D30"] [PlyCount "93"] [SourceDate "2018.04.19"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 a6 5. Bd3 e6 (5... Bg4 $1 {would have been more accurate. Now black's position will get too cramped.}) 6. b3 $1 {Making sure, black doesn't transpose back to a QGA.} (6. O-O dxc4 7. Bxc4 c5) 6... Nbd7 7. O-O Bd6 8. Bb2 Qc7 {Yu tries to stop Zatonskih from establishing a knight on e5, but the Queen just doesn't feel on c7.} (8... O-O 9. Ne5 Qe7 { would have been better.}) 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. e4 $1 {Anna Zatonskih opens up the position, and with an undeveloped bishop on c8, white gets an advantage.} dxe4 11. Nxe4 Nxe4 12. Bxe4 f5 13. Bc2 $1 {Precise play.} (13. Bd3 {would run into} e5 $1) 13... e5 14. c5 Be7 15. b4 e4 16. d5 cxd5 17. Qxd5+ Kh8 18. Ne5 Nxe5 19. Bxe5 Qd7 20. Bb3 $1 {Notice that with every move the former US Champion gains a tempo on black, because of that black's position is objectively already lost. } Qxd5 21. Bxd5 Bf6 22. Bxf6 Rxf6 23. Rfd1 g6 24. f3 exf3 25. Bxf3 Rf8 26. Rd6 $1 {clamping down black's position, the rest was an easy task for Anna Zatonskih.} Kg7 27. Re1 Rf7 28. a4 Ra7 29. Bd5 Rc7 30. a5 f4 31. Re8 Bf5 32. Kf2 Kh6 33. Kf3 Kg5 34. Be4 Bxe4+ 35. Rxe4 Ra8 36. Rd5+ Kh6 37. Red4 g5 38. Kg4 Rg8 39. Rd7 Rc6 40. Rxb7 Kg6 41. Rb6 h5+ 42. Kf3 Rxb6 43. axb6 Rb8 44. h4 gxh4 45. Rxf4 Kg5 46. Rc4 Rf8+ 47. Ke2 {black resigned. Anna Zatonskih with this win joins the leaders in the Women's Championship!} 1-0

Feng vs Sharevich

After yesterday’s loss, Maggie Feng came to this game ready to bounce back at all costs. And she did so without much effort, as she completely neutralized her opponent’s pieces and took the full point home after a convincing performance.

The result of the game was never in doubt, as she showed her class and did not let her opponent slip at any moment.