2018 U.S. Championships - Round 3


The third round of the 2018 U.S. Champions once again was a delight to watch, as the players came well prepared and put up a great show for the fans. Their competitive spirit should be praised, as this round was peppered with great victories in both sections. Let’s get right into the recap!

U.S. Championship

Liang vs So

The young prodigy from Pittsburgh has been making waves all year long with his incredible victories against extremely strong opposition. In his games, he has showed many times that he is never phased by the status of his opponents, and he will always look to bring the heat to the board. In this game, he was playing one of the best chess players in the world, yet the young Liang was the one dictating the game from the beginning to the end.

White got an almost decisive advantage after a few careless middlegame moves by So, but failed to lock in the full point when he missed the powerful 31.f3! which would have denied the black knight access back into the game, essentially allowing white to claim an almost decisive advantage. After the miss, the game soon petered into a draw.

Lenderman vs Akobian

A very tense battle, but one in which none of the players actually managed to fully tip the scale in their favor. Akobian spent a lot of time in the early middlegame and by the 25th move he was already in severe time trouble. Nonetheless, he made all the right moves and managed to stabilize the game. Lenderman could not find a way to complicate matters and the game soon entered a peaceful path. With this draw, Akobian maintains his co-leader status but is now joined at the top of the table by none other than Fabiano Caruana.

Xiong vs Caruana

Caruana seems to be unstoppable. He plays every opening, and manages to outplay his peers quite handily.

Let’s get a closer look into what happened in this game!

[Event "US Chess Championship "] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.04.20"] [Round "3"] [White "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2665"] [BlackElo "2804"] [Annotator "Cristian Chirila"] [PlyCount "98"] {An important victory for Caruana, as he scores once again with the black pieces and catches the leaders at the top of the table.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 c5 {The Benoni! A not so appreciated option for the top players, as it is consider to give white a sizable edge.} 4. d5 d6 5. Nc3 exd5 6. cxd5 g6 7. Bf4 Bg7 8. e3 O-O 9. h3 Qe7 10. Nd2 Nh5 (10... Nbd7 11. Be2 Ne8 12. O-O Ne5 { was seen in a few other games, nevertheless Caruana had something different in mind...}) 11. Bh2 f5 12. Be2 f4 {This position is well know when we have the inclusion of a4 and a6 on the board. Without those moves black has a much better version, as his N on b8 will always have an extra path on getting back into the game. Another important aspect is that Black fully controls the b6 square, and will never have to worry about the d2 N landing there. A huge difference which might have been underestimated by Xiong.} 13. O-O (13. Bxh5 $5 fxe3 14. fxe3 Qh4+ (14... gxh5 15. Nce4 Be5 16. Qxh5 Bxh2 17. Rxh2 Na6 18. a3 Bf5 $13) 15. g3 Qxh5 16. Qxh5 gxh5 17. g4 $14 {would have been better for White }) 13... fxe3 14. Nde4 exf2+ 15. Kh1 {an unnecesarry pawn sacrifice, better was } (15. Rxf2 Rxf2 (15... Bd4 16. Bxh5 gxh5 17. Bxd6 Bxf2+ 18. Kh1 Qg7 19. Bxf8 $13) 16. Nxf2 Nf6 17. Qd2 Nbd7 18. Re1 Qf8 $13) 15... Bxc3 16. Nxc3 Ng7 17. Bf3 Nd7 18. Rxf2 Ne5 {Black has managed to finish his development and harmonize his pieces} 19. Re2 Nf5 20. Bxe5 dxe5 21. d6 Nxd6 22. Qd5+ $6 (22. Qe1 $1 { a very important idea, this is the right setup for White's heavy pieces} Re8 23. Rd1 Bf5 24. g4 Be6 25. Rxe5 Qf6 26. Qg3 Rad8 27. Rde1 {would have led to more or less equal positions}) 22... Nf7 23. Ne4 Rb8 24. Qxc5 Qxc5 25. Nxc5 b6 26. Ne4 Bf5 (26... Be6 $5 27. Kg1 Kg7 28. Rc1 Rbc8 $17) 27. Nc3 Rbd8 28. a4 a5 29. Bd5 Rfe8 30. Bxf7+ Kxf7 31. Rf1 Ke6 32. Rfe1 Kf6 33. Rf1 Ke6 34. Rfe1 Kd6 35. Re3 (35. Nb5+ {might have been the last moment where White could have saved the game, nevertheless the defense is not trivial by any means} Kd7 36. Re3 (36. Rxe5 Rxe5 37. Rxe5 Kc6 {is still very unpleasant for White, as black's pieces are much more active}) 36... h5 37. Kh2 Re6 38. Kg3 Kc6 39. Kh4 Rd2 $17) 35... Kc6 36. Nb5 Re7 37. g4 Bd3 38. Nc3 Bc4 39. Rc1 Kb7 40. Re4 Rd4 { Now the position is hopeless, especially when facing a motivated elite player.} 41. Kg1 Bb3 42. Kf2 Rd2+ 43. Re2 Rf7+ 44. Ke3 Rd4 45. Nb5 Rdd7 46. Nc3 Rf4 47. Rd2 Rfd4 48. Rf2 Bxa4 49. Rf6 Bc6 {A beautiful conversion by Caruana, who is showing no signs of slowing down his dazzling pace. He is now the co-leader of the tournament and will look to continue his run in the upcoming rounds.} 0-1

 Zherebukh vs Robson

A very instructive game by Zherebukh, who slowly but surely outpaced Robson in a symmetrical structure. Zherebukh managed to use his slightly superior Bishop after finding the right way to destabilize the pawn structure in his favor by planting his “c” pawn all the way to c5. The endgame is worth studying, as this structure is a typical one that will surely be found in some of your games one day! Zherebukh’s technique was immaculate and he takes the full point home. Both players are now on 50% after 3 rounds.

Onischuk vs Nakamura

Onischuk has been having a rocky event, as he started with an icy 0/2. His game against Nakamura looked as if it will change his trajectory, as he managed to build a winning advantage through methodical and accurate strategic play. Unfortunately for him, missing the powerful 23.Bf3! allowed Nakamura back into the game.

Despite white’s ongoing pressure, Nakamura tenaciously defended and equalized completely right before the time control. Once the time trouble possibility was out of question, the two warriors decided to call it a day and signed the scoresheets for a draw.

Izoria vs Shankland

Shankland has been having a solid event so far, without much problems in any of his games. And this was not different, as he equalized without much problems out of the opening. Despite the balanced position, Izoria started burning a lot of time on seemingly easy decisions. This allowed Shankland to put pressure on the U.S. Championship newcomer, and complicate matters at the right moment. The pressure of having to find accurate moves in time trouble was too much for Izoria, who simply crumbled right before making time control.

Shankland scores his first victory of the tournament and is now sitting at a comfortable +1, Izoria needs to change something in order to get back into the competition.

U.S. Women’s Championship

Sharevich vs Krush

A crushing victory for Sharevich, who totally overpowered her opponent after a careless opening by the latter.

More on Sharevich’s important victory as GM Boros analyzes the game below:

[Event "US Womens Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.04.20"] [Round "3"] [White "Sharevich, Anna"] [Black "Krush, Irina"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A47"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [SourceDate "2018.04.19"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 b6 4. e3 Bb7 5. Nbd2 c5 {Surprisingly this move is inaccurate,} (5... Be7 {was better.}) 6. Nc4 $1 d5 7. Nce5 $1 {a brilliant concept suggested by Susan Polgar, and successfully employed by Ashwin Jayaram. The point of the knight-manouvre is to have the double threat of Bb5+, and Ng5 threatening the f7 pawn!} Bd6 $1 (7... a6 {runs into Ng5.}) ({while,} 7... Be7 {fails to} 8. Bb5+ Nbd7 9. Nxd7 Nxd7 10. Ne5 Bc8 11. Nc6 $1 {trapping the black queen.}) 8. Bb5+ Ke7 $1 {great defence by former Women's Champion Irina Krush. The black king is relatively safe, because of the closed nature of the position.} 9. c3 Qc7 10. Ng5 Rf8 11. Qc2 h6 12. Ngf3 c4 13. Qe2 Nc6 {not bad, but} (13... Rc8 14. O-O Kf8 $1 {would have been better. Knights can prove to be much more useful in the long run in a closed position.}) 14. Bxc6 $1 { Thematic play by Sharevich, she correctly exchanges off the bishop for the dangerous knight.} Bxc6 15. g4 $5 {Interesting, Sharevich decides to grab some space on the Kingside!} Be8 $1 16. Nd2 Ng8 (16... b5 $1 {should have been preferred with plans of queenside expansion. The position would be roughly balanced.}) 17. Bg3 $1 {Prophylaxis!} f6 $6 18. Nef3 Bg6 {Black activates her bishop, but it comes at a great price; the e6 became an eternal weakness!} 19. e4 $1 {Immediately seizing the initiative, and because of the unfortunate placement of black's pieces white is much better.} Bxg3 20. hxg3 Kf7 21. Nh4 Bxe4 $1 {The best defense, Krush aims for exchanges, in hopes of tempering Sharevich's initiative.} 22. Nxe4 dxe4 23. Qxe4 Ne7 24. O-O Qc6 25. Qe2 b5 26. Rae1 Nd5 27. Qe4 Ne7 28. Qc2 Rfd8 29. Re3 $1 {doubling her rooks, black is already in great trouble.} Rd6 30. Rfe1 Nd5 31. R3e2 (31. Qg6+ $1 {would have questioned black's position immediately.}) 31... a5 32. Qg6+ $1 {the queen arrives with great force, and with black pieces completely paralysed, black's position collapses.} Kf8 33. f4 Ne7 34. Qh7 Re8 35. g5 $1 hxg5 36. fxg5 Qd5 37. gxf6 gxf6 38. Re5 $1 {the final touch!} Qc6 ({the rook is taboo, because} 38... fxe5 39. Rf1+ Nf5 40. Ng6# {checkmates.}) 39. Rh5 Rd5 40. Qh8+ Ng8 41. Ng6+ Kf7 42. Qh7# {A very well played game by Sharevich against the former US Women's Champion!} 1-0

Gorti vs Zatonskih

Despite this being the longest game of the round, it does not hold a lot of history. The two players never even teased any sort of potential imbalances in the position, and the game had to conclude when all the pieces were exchanged.

Derakhshani vs Paikidze

Paikidze has been playing stellar chess, and today was no different. The game started off extremely tame as the players quickly hurried into an equal endgame. But that’s when the maneuvering game began, and it was the former champion that came on top. Derakhshani seemed to not be at ease finding good squares for her pieces, and despite managing to double Paikidze’s pawns, she had no answer to her opponent’s swift piece play.

Paikidze accurately built the pressure, and it was only just a matter of time before Derakshani crumbled. With this victory, Paikidze moves on +2 and is now co-leader with the fierce Wang. Derakhshani failed to recover after yesterday’s tragic loss against Krush, and is now forced to score heavily if she wants to get back into title contention.

Goletiani vs Wang

Wang has been making waves this tournament, and she had not disappointed once again. Today’s game was an accurate depiction of what this talented junior brings to the table: grit, determination, and tenacity. Goletiani started off well and even managed to build a long lasting strategic advantage due to her passed ‘d’ pawn and active bishop pair. It was her lack of patience, when she lounged into the attack without firstly securing his pawns on the queenside, that spelled disaster for her.

Wang calmly collected her opponent’s pawns and then accurately defended her king against her opponent’s menacing attack. Once white’s bullets were done, Wang made use of her extra material to win the game. Wang is now tied with Paikidze at the top.

Abrahamyan vs Feng

This was one of those games in which your dynamic play only allows for a very short window of opportunity. If missed, the player that has put all the eggs in the dynamic basket usually has to deal with the consequences. Abrahamyan aggressively attacked her opponent’s king, but failed to find the beautiful 17.Nd6! which would have allowed her to continue her attack.

After the move in the game, Feng had enough time to regroup her pieces, and her extra material was used to perfection throughout the rest of the game.

Yu vs Foisor

The reigning champion, Foisor, did not have a lot of trouble finding equality out of the opening. But the endgame proved to be a complete disaster for her as she did not manage to contain Yu’s minimal advantage. After a series of inaccurate moves, Yu managed to increase her advantage and transition into a theoretically draw situation.

Unfortunately for Foisor, it was her defensive technique that failed her when she played the unfortunate 53…h4?? This pawn push immediately lost the game, as Yu was able to easily pick the overly advanced pawn and secure a second passed pawn. Yu scores her first victory, while Foisor struggles to maintain pace in her bid at a title defense.