Caruana wins again, Yu continues her run

by GM Cristian Chirila

Huge day at the U.S. Championships as the open section simply caught fire, and the ladies once again provided the usual dose of sharp and tactical entertainment. Nakamura continues his great tournament by scoring another key victory against the off-form Akobian. Caruana, Dominguez, and Sevian maintain the pace with the leader, while So’s aggressive Grunfeld failed to produce more than just a draw against Xiong.

In the women’s section, the leader Jennifer Yu scores yet another important victory against Foisor after a wild game. Zatonskih wins the battle between the most coveted players in the event, while Abrahamyan’s win streak ends at 4. Let take a closer look at all the critical games that took place in round 7!

U.S. Chess Championship

Gareev vs Caruana 0-1

This was a very intriguing battle from the beginning until the end.  There were no flashy sacrifices, complex tactics, or incredible blunders. This was a match with plenty of battles fought in the background. With Gareev being the heavy underdog, many experts were expecting Caruana to come out guns blazing and try to muddy the waters before outplaying his opponent in the early middlegame. This was not the case, as from the get-go Caruana chose to follow a rather dry strategy by essaying the QGA. I must admit that I was taken aback and even slightly frustrated by this approach, and I predicted the game would end without much fanfare. Gareev was making the right moves, and even looked like he might be getting ambitious at one point.

This was likely his initial downfall, as his ambitions quickly got tainted when he started erring before the second time control with 51.bxa4?!

This allowed Caruana to obtain a slight advantage, which he carefully nursed into a decisive advantage. These heavily weighed games are never won easily, and Caruana returned the favor with the careless 66…Rd5? throwing away the advantage and allowing Gareev to get a R+B vs R endgame for the second time this event. It looked as if Gareev’s defense would hold, but it was Caruana’s perseverance in the face of disaster that ultimately paid off when Gareev erred for the final time with 122.Rg3?? allowing Caruana to close the show with precision.

Akobian vs Nakamura 0-1

From the beginning of the game one thing was made clear to the audience, Nakamura came to play! His unorthodox opening approach was in striking contrast to Caruana’s peaceful strategy. Nakamura saw his ideas paying off quickly, as the off-form Akobian was unable to tame the energy infused into the position by his opponent.

Akobian’s last chance to achieve equality was right before he played the erroneous 21.Raf1?! instead of the correct 21.Nb5! which would have allowed him to create enough counter play for equality. It was all Nakamura after that, as the 4-time champion’s technique did not fail him throughout the final stage.

Robson vs Sevian 0-1

This was simply a power play by Sevian. The type of game that gives such a boost of confidence that sometimes translates into a continued push to the top. It happened to Shankland last year, it could happen to Sevian this tournament. Let’s take a closer look at what transpired in this critical match!


[Event "US Chess Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.27"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Robson, Ray"]
[Black "Sevian, Samuel"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2686"]
[BlackElo "2642"]
[Annotator "Cristian Chirila"]
[PlyCount "50"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 {The Berlin, one of the most solid defenses in
chess.} 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. O-O Nd7 7. c3 (7. Nbd2 O-O 8. Nc4 Re8 9. Be3
f6 10. h3 a5 11. a4 b6 12. Nfd2 Bb4 13. f4 exf4 14. Bxf4 Nf8 15. c3 Be7 16. d4
Ng6 17. Bh2 Be6 18. Kh1 $14 {0-1 (39) Zhigalko,S (2604)-Karjakin,S (2753) St
Petersburg 2018}) 7... O-O 8. d4 {Immediately challenging the center} Bd6 (8...
exd4 $6 9. cxd4 Bd6 10. Bg5 f6 11. Qb3+ Kh8 12. Bh4 $14) 9. Bg5 f6 10. Bh4 Qe8
11. Nbd2 {Now the N will no longer have the active c3 square after the
exchange on d4} Nb6 12. h3 $6 {This is the first mistake, which allows Black
to get a serious initiative} (12. a3 Be6 13. Bg3 Rd8 14. Qc2 $13 {[%cal Gc3c4,
Gb2b3,Gf1e1,Ga1d1]}) 12... exd4 13. cxd4 Qg6 {Everything comes with tempo,
White is in trouble!} 14. Kh1 (14. Qb3+ Kh8 15. Kh1 Re8 16. Rfe1 Be6 17. Qc2 f5
$13) 14... Be6 15. a3 Bf4 16. Re1 f5 $1 17. exf5 Bxf5 {The bishops are too
strong!} 18. Qb3+ Nd5 $17 19. Qxb7 $4 {This is simply suicidal as it allows
Black's pieces to completely dominate the board} (19. Nc4 Be4 20. Rxe4 Qxe4 21.
Re1 Qg6 22. Nce5 Bxe5 23. dxe5 a5 $17) 19... Rab8 20. Qxa7 Rxb2 21. Nc4 Bxh3 $1
{Closing the show in style} 22. gxh3 Qd3 23. Kg2 Bd6 24. Ng1 Rfxf2+ 25. Bxf2
Qg3+ 0-1


U.S. Women’s Championship

Krush vs Zatonskih 0-1

Before the event this was surely the most anticipated battle. These ladies share 11(!) titles between each other and are still the highest rated players in the event. Nevertheless, the scores going into this battle were quite the opposite, with Zatonskih chasing the leader while Krush simply has not found herself throughout the event. GM Boros once again provides his analysis of this crucial battle!


[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.28"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Krush, Irina"]
[Black "Zatonskih, Anna"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D35"]
[Annotator "GM Denes Boros"]
[PlyCount "68"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2019.03.28"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 $5 {Ever since the Classical World Championship
Match between Kasparov-Karpov 1984/1985, this move is considered as a
reputable weapon. It is no wonder that it is featured in the key match of the
day!} 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 $1 {The most principled, Krush is planning to post
her knights on e2 instead of the usual f3.} Nf6 6. e3 Bf5 7. Nge2 (7. Qb3 Nc6 {
is the other main variation.}) 7... O-O 8. Rc1 c6 9. Ng3 Bg6 10. h4 h6 11. h5
Bh7 12. Bd3 {White is planning to create an outpost on "f5", but Anna
Zatonskih came very well prepared for this very exact plan!} Bxd3 13. Qxd3 Bd6
14. Bxd6 Qxd6 15. Nf5 Qd7 16. g4 Na6 17. f3 Ne8 $1 {A great idea divised by
Grandmaster Daniel Fridman, Zatonskih's husband.} 18. Kf2 Nd6 19. Rcg1 f6 $1 {
and suddenly White's attack runs out of steam- the position is equal.} 20. Ne2
Nc7 21. Nxd6 Qxd6 22. Ng3 Qd7 23. Nf5 Nb5 24. b4 a6 $1 {Overprotection.
Zatonskih is ready to take control of the d6 square, so Irina Krush decides to
switch, and play on the Queenside instead.} 25. Rb1 Nd6 26. Rhc1 {an
inaccuracy that cost Krush the game.} (26. Nxd6 Qxd6 27. a4 {would have been
around equal.}) 26... a5 27. a4 axb4 28. Rxb4 b5 $1 {Opening up the position,
taking advantage of the fact that White has over-extended} 29. axb5 Nxf5 30.
gxf5 Qd6 31. Qd2 Ra2 $1 32. Qxa2 Qh2+ 33. Kf1 Qxa2 34. bxc6 Qa3 {and White
resigned. An important win for Anna Zatonskih, as she is only a half point
behind the current leader, Jennifer Yu.} 0-1

Yu vs Foisor 1-0

What a twisted game this was. Yu started off guns blazing and looked that she might be finishing off the careless Foisor before any other result would come in. But Foisor’s grit should not be underestimated, as she carefully defended and posed as many conversion problems for her opponent as possible.

Yu’s 18.Nb5? was simply a blunder that allowed Foisor fully back into the game . The ensuing endgame was a tense affair, in which the advantage passed hands continuously. Foisor was the last one to err, as she avoided the repetition with 47…Ke6??

Instead of the simple 47…Rh2. Her decision is simply inexplicable, as her winning chances were pretty much nonexistent at that point. Yu took full advantage of Foisor’s over exuberance and finished the game with precision. She continues to be the sole leader going into the final 4 games.