The leaders emerge

by GM Cristian Chirila 

The second round of the U.S. & U.S. Women’s Chess Championship was another intriguing story. The games had everything; blunders, turnovers, as well as an unfortunate premature resignation. The open section saw some balanced games, as well as a couple of important victories by So and Sevian. In the ladies section, the situation was no longer as imbalanced as in the first round, with only two games finishing with decisive results. Let’s take a closer look at the action games in round 2!

U.S. Chess Championship

So vs Gareyev  

Gareyev is the lowest rated player in the event, which by default makes him the prey in a den full of lions.

It surely looked like that at the beginning of the game, when So out prepared Gareyev to get a solid advantage both on the clock and in the position. But things were never going to be that easy, as Gareyev defended tenaciously and managed to find the right mechanism to stir the game into equal waters.

Unfortunately for him, right before Wesley was likely ready to abandon his victory quest and agree to a draw, Gareyev blundered with the careless 49…Kd6? This allowed a beautiful tactical shot that helped So enter a Queen vs Rook and pawn endgame. So’s technique was pristine, as he converted without any problems.

Sevian vs Liang

Sevian has been on a tear recently, and the consensus among the experts is that he is very close to having a breakthrough moment that will propel him into the world’s elite. Today he faced another incredibly talented youngster in Awonder Liang, one that has experienced a surge of his own and was awarded, along with Sam, the prestigious Samford Scholarship. Sam came very well prepared and managed to get a very potent advantage on the White side of a Caro Kann.

Despite having a couple of chances to close the show before the time control, Liang’s resiliency stopped him from doing so and pushed the match into the endgame. Liang defended well throughout the endgame, but just like in Gareyev’s game, a late blunder decided the match in White’s favor. Sevian joins Xiong and So in the lead. 

[Event "US Chess Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.21"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Sevian, Samuel"]
[Black "Liang , Awonder"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2642"]
[BlackElo "2590"]
[Annotator "Cristian Chirila"]
[PlyCount "153"]
[EventDate "2019.03.21"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 e6 (7...
Nd7 {this move, specificlly aimed against the game continuation, is the main
line} 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 {transposes into a wildly analyzed
tabia position of the Caro Kann}) 8. Ne5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 Nd7 11. Bf4 {
Liang's first major think came as a response to this move} (11. f4 Be7 12. Bd2
Nxe5 13. fxe5 Bxh4 14. O-O-O Bxg3 15. Qxg3 Ne7 16. Qxg7 Rg8 17. Qxh6 Qd5 18.
Kb1 O-O-O $11 {1/2-1/2 (27) Predojevic,B (2626)-Saric,I (2692) Germany 2018})
11... Ngf6 (11... Nxe5 $5 12. Bxe5 Qa5+ 13. c3 Nf6 14. O-O Ng4 15. Rad1 Nxe5
16. dxe5 Rd8 17. Qxd8+ Qxd8 18. Rxd8+ Kxd8 19. Rd1+ $14 {1-0 (67) Sutovsky,E
(2633)-Shankland,S (2722) Batumi 2018}) 12. O-O-O Be7 13. Qf3 Qa5 14. Kb1 Qd5
15. Qe2 $14 {Black's pieces are starting to feel a bit misplaced} b5 $6 {
too weakening} 16. f3 b4 17. Rhe1 O-O 18. Ne4 Rac8 19. g4 Qb5 20. Nxd7 Nxd7 21.
Qg2 {No queen trade, as White's main plan is to break through the kingside and
get to Black's weakened monarch} Kh8 22. Qd2 Rfd8 23. Bd6 $1 {The dark squares
need to be weakened} Bf8 24. Qf4 Kg8 25. g5 h5 26. Bc7 (26. Bxf8 Rxf8 27. Qd6
Qd5 28. Qxb4 $18) 26... Re8 27. Be5 Red8 28. Bc7 Re8 29. Ng3 {Not the most
precise!} Nb6 (29... c5 $1 30. dxc5 e5 31. Bxe5 Qxc5 32. Rxd7 Qxc2+ 33. Ka1
Rxe5 34. Qxf7+ Kh8 35. Qxh5+ Kg8 36. Qf7+ Kh8 $11 {Black gets enough
counterplay for equality}) 30. Bxb6 axb6 31. Nxh5 Red8 32. Re5 Rd5 33. Rg1 (33.
Nf6+ $3 {Was a beautiful way to finish the game, though a very difficult find
in time trouble} gxf6 34. gxf6 Rxe5 35. dxe5 Kh7 36. Qg5 Bh6 37. Qh5 {[%csl
Gf7]} Rf8 38. Rg1 $18 {[%cal Gg1g7,Gh5h6] With mate to follow}) 33... Rxe5 34.
dxe5 Qe2 35. Qg4 g6 36. Nf6+ Kh8 37. Qe4 (37. Qh3 $3 {A study like maneuver}
Rd8 38. Qh1 $18 {[%csl Gd1,Gh8][%cal Gd8d1,Gh4h5,Gh5g6,Gh1h8]}) 37... Qxe4 38.
Nxe4 Rd8 39. Kc1 Ra8 40. Kb1 Rd8 41. Re1 Kg7 42. b3 Be7 43. Kc1 Rh8 44. Rh1 b5
45. Kb2 Rd8 46. Kc1 Rd5 47. f4 Rd4 48. Re1 c5 $6 {No reason to continue
pushing the pawns, as this only creates new weaknesess} (48... Bd8 $1 49. Nf6
Rxf4 50. Rd1 Bb6 51. h5 Be3+ 52. Kb1 Bd4 53. a3 c5 54. axb4 cxb4 55. Kc1 $11 {
White has lost all his advantage}) 49. Kb2 c4 50. bxc4 bxc4 51. Re3 Bf8 52. c3
Rd1 53. Nd6 Rd2+ 54. Kb1 b3 (54... Bxd6 55. exd6 b3 56. axb3 cxb3 57. Re4 Rxd6
58. Kb2 $14 {Despite the extra pawn, Black should have enough resources to
hold the draw.}) 55. axb3 cxb3 56. Re4 Rc2 $4 {The fina blunder, after which
White find the bind against Black's king} 57. Rc4 Rd2 58. Ne8+ Kg8 59. Rc8 $18
{After this there is no escape} f5 60. Nd6 Kg7 61. Rc7+ Kg8 62. Rd7 Rf2 63. c4
Rxf4 64. c5 Rf1+ 65. Kb2 f4 66. c6 f3 67. c7 f2 68. c8=Q Rb1+ 69. Kxb1 f1=Q+
70. Kb2 Qe2+ 71. Kxb3 Qd1+ 72. Qc2 Qd5+ 73. Kb4 Qd4+ 74. Kb5 Qxe5+ 75. Ka6 Qa1+
76. Kb7 Bg7 77. Ne4 1-0


U.S. Women's Championship

Gorti vs Yip

Carissa Yip was the first leader of the round, after defeating Gorti in a tense game.

More on this match in the analysis below as GM Boros Denes takes a closer look at what transpired. 

[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.22"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Gorti, Akshita"]
[Black "Yip, Carissa"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E61"]
[Annotator "GM Dennis Boros"]
[PlyCount "46"]
[SourceDate "2019.03.22"]

{A topsy-turvy game, where Carissa Yip shows how well-versed she is in dynamic
positions; with this win she joins Jennifer Yu on the top with 2/2!} 1. Nf3 Nf6
2. e3 $5 {An interesting concept, originally divised by the inventive
Alexander Grischuk!} g6 3. d4 Bg7 4. c4 O-O 5. Be2 $1 d6 {Black is forced to
avoid the Grunfeld path, because} (5... d5 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. e4 Nb6 8. h3 $1 {
and White has a healthy space advantage, therefore Carissa decides to follow
the stem game between Grischuk-Caruana.}) 6. Nc3 c6 7. O-O a6 $5 {but, in fact
she decides to choose her own plan, Yip is planning to expand on the Queenside
with b5.} 8. Qc2 Nbd7 9. Rd1 Qc7 10. b4 c5 (10... b5 {would have been more
consistent, but Yip's move does lead to sharper positions.}) 11. bxc5 dxc5 12.
d5 $1 {principled play by Akshita Gorti, she takes claim of the centre, while
still possible.} Ne5 $1 {Interestingly enough, exchanging pieces was a mistake
by Gorti!} 13. Nxe5 (13. Nd2 $1 {would have been better with an advantage, as
she will be in time to chase the 'e5' knight away with an eventual f4 and e4
expansion.}) 13... Qxe5 14. f4 Qf5 15. Bd3 Qh5 16. Bd2 (16. h3 {runs into} b5
$1) 16... e5 $1 {A great intuitive decision by Carissa! She opens up the
position, and now all of a sudden White is in trouble!} 17. dxe6 Bxe6 18. Rab1
Rad8 19. Ne4 ({Good or bad} 19. h3 {had to be played, just to stop some 20...
Ng4 funny business.}) 19... Nxe4 20. Bxe4 Qe2 $1 {An aesthetic move, with the
White pieces in multiple pins and X-rays, it's safe to say that Black is
winning.} 21. Bxb7 $1 {Exclamation point for best defense.} Bf5 $1 22. e4 Bh3 {
Played quickly, and it turns out, it's a big mistake!} ({was winning as
mentioned in the Post Mortem by Carissa Yip.} 22... Bd4+ 23. Kh1 Bh3) 23. e5 $1
Bf5 {and Gorti resigned. A tough loss for Gorti, but a well played game by
Carissa. The only defense would have been} (23... Bf5 24. Qc1 $3 {the key
move, as} Bxb1 ({if} 24... Rxd2 {then} 25. Rxd2 Qe3+ 26. Rf2 {wins}) ({but}
24... Bg4 $1 {would have kept the game going.}) 25. Bf3 Qd3 26. Ba5 {would
have even given White an advantage!}) 0-1

Yu vs Eswaran

Jennifer Yu is one of the most interesting players on the roster. She has been on a regressive rating trajectory recently (coming down from almost hitting the 2400 threshold), nevertheless her fearless style is one that has attracted a lot of fans across the board. Today she did not disappoint, as she skillfully handled the White side of a Benoni.

After repelling her opponent’s offensive, the strategic trumps that White usually enjoys in this opening started showing.  Yu transferred the majority of her pieces on the Queen side and opened the position with the timely 28. bxc5 which proved to be too much for Black’s weakened construction. The game ended at move 40, but could as well have been finished as early as move 30. Jennifer joins Carissa at the top of the table, and it seems as if the youngsters have taken a strong hold of the tournament.