Nakamura and Yu take the lead


The round before the rest day is almost always the most contested. The players want to enter the second half of the event with a bang, and it is psychologically much easier to digest and rest knowing that you won. Having to deal with a loss without getting back into the game to revenge that outcome the next day is a painful and frustrating experience.

Both championships are catching fire. In the open section, Fabiano Caruana won his first game since October 2018, breaking a dry spell that lasted 27 games and almost caused the loss of the second position in the live rating list. In the ladies section, Yu, Zatonskih, and Abrahamyan are clearly the players in form as they won their respective games and maintain the race to the top. Let’s check the most critical games of the round!

U.S. Chess Championship

Caruana vs Xiong

Carrying a heavy chip on his shoulders, Fabiano was surely looking to win his first classical game after almost half a year.

The number one position on the rating list seems far away now, but his second spot was also threatened. Another draw and Ding would have surpassed him, something had to be done. Let’s take a closer look at what happened in the marquee matchup of the day!


[Event "US Chess Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.25"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "Xiong, Jeffery"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2828"]
[BlackElo "2663"]
[Annotator "Cristian Chirila"]
[PlyCount "89"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. O-O (6. Nbd2 Be6 7.
O-O Bd6 8. b3 O-O 9. Nc4 Nd7 10. a4 Bxc4 11. bxc4 a5 12. Bg5 Be7 13. Be3 b6 14.
h3 Bd6 15. g3 $14 {1/2-1/2 (35)}) 6... Qe7 7. Nbd2 Bg4 8. h3 Bh5 9. a3 a5 10.
Nc4 Nd7 11. g4 Bg6 12. b4 {Caruana was clearly the better prepared player in
this game, as he blitzed out his moves up until this point. Xiong was down to
his last 40 minutes by this point.} Bb6 $146 (12... axb4 13. Bg5 f6 14. axb4
Rxa1 $6 (14... O-O 15. bxc5 fxg5 16. Rxa8 Rxa8 17. Qb1 $13) 15. Qxa1 Bd6 16.
Bd2 $146 {Could have been Fabiano's novelty} (16. Qa8+ Qd8 17. Qxd8+ Kxd8 18.
Ra1 Ke7 19. Bd2 Bf7 $11 {1/2-1/2 (30) Anand,V (2783)-Nakamura,H (2792) Saint
Louis 2017}) 16... O-O 17. Nh4 $14 {White has the a file and a powerful N
coming to f5, his position is better}) 13. bxa5 Bxa5 14. Bb2 f6 15. Nxa5 Rxa5
16. Nh4 O-O 17. Nf5 Qe6 18. Kh2 {White has a clear plan, he wants to force
Black to capture on f5 and open up the g file for his majors} c5 19. h4 c4 20.
h5 Bf7 $6 {Leaving the powerful N on f5 is probably not the best decision} (
20... Bxf5 21. gxf5 Qf7 22. Rg1 cxd3 23. cxd3 Kh8 24. Rg3 $14) 21. Rg1 {
Now black is in serious danger as he has not clear way of creating any serious
counterplay. White's plan is easy, he will open the g file at will and will
concentrate all his forces against Black's K} cxd3 22. cxd3 Rb5 23. Bc1 Kh8 24.
Be3 Rb3 25. Rg3 c5 26. Qe2 $6 g5 $2 (26... Qa6 $5 {the last chance to create
counterplay for Black} 27. Rag1 Be6 28. g5 Bxf5 29. exf5 fxg5 30. Rxg5 Rf7 31.
Qg4 Qf6 32. Rg6 $1 Qxf5 33. Rxg7 Qxg4 34. R7xg4 Nf6 35. Ra4 $36 {White
maintains the initiative, nevertheless it is clear that the worst has passed
for Black}) 27. hxg6 Bxg6 28. a4 Qa6 29. Bh6 Rg8 30. Rag1 Qxa4 31. Ne7 Qd4 32.
Qd1 c4 (32... Rb2 33. Be3 Qd6 34. Nxg8 Kxg8 35. Qa1 $18) 33. Nxg8 Kxg8 34. dxc4
Rxg3 35. Qxd4 exd4 36. Kxg3 $18 Bxe4 37. Rd1 d3 38. f3 Bg6 39. Ra1 Kf7 40. Ra7
Nc5 41. Be3 Ke8 42. Bxc5 d2 43. Ra8+ Kd7 44. Bb6 Kc6 45. Ba5 1-0

Namakura vs Gareev

Playing the white side against the lowest rated player in the field is always an opportunity to score, especially if your name is Nakamura and you most likely will become the sole leader with a victory. And Hikaru rose to the task!

The game started with an odd move order that led to the Fianchetto Grunfeld. Unfortunately for Timur, he didn’t seem to be familiar or willing to go into the main lines and decided to try and guess his way through an unfamiliar position. Black’s bad piece placement and lack of direction was swiftly punished by Hikaru, who took the point home effortlessly. He is now the sole leader going into the second half of the event.

U.S. Women’s Championship

Zatonskih vs Eswaran

In yet another battle between youth and experience, Zatonskih rose to the challenge and swiftly punished her opponent’s careless opening play. GM Boros once again provides his analysis on this important match.


[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.25"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Zatonskih, Anna"]
[Black "Eswaran, Ashritha"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D61"]
[PlyCount "95"]
[SourceDate "2019.03.25"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bg5 d5 (3... c5 $1 {would have been more challenging,
now the game transposes back to the Queen's Gambit Declined.}) 4. e3 Be7 5. c4
O-O 6. Nc3 Nbd7 7. Qc2 c6 8. Rd1 h6 9. Bh4 Qc7 (9... b6 {was necessary. In
these structures the Queen does not belong to "c7" square.}) 10. Bd3 a6 11.
cxd5 $1 exd5 12. O-O {Getting the Carlsbad Structure, Anna Zatonskih will
display how to play these classical positions!} Re8 13. Rb1 $5 {Interesting,
White prepares the well-known "minority attack" even at a cost of a tempo!} Bd6
14. Rfc1 Qd8 15. b4 Nf8 16. a4 Bg4 17. Nd2 Bd7 (17... Rc8 $1 {was a must,
Eswaran is wasting too much time with her bishop moves, while White is just
about ready for the b5 break.}) 18. Nf1 {Avoiding the the trick,} (18. b5 Bxh2+
19. Kxh2 Ng4+ 20. Kg3 g5 $1) 18... Ne6 19. b5 $1 Ng5 (19... a5 {was a better
try keeping the position closed.}) 20. bxa6 bxa6 21. Bg3 Ba3 22. Rd1 Nh5 23.
Be5 $1 {Not giving away the strong "g3" bishop!} Bg4 24. Ne2 Qd7 25. Nfg3 Nxg3
26. Bxg3 {After exchanging off Black's active pieces, White enjoys a risk-free
advantage.} Bxe2 27. Qxe2 a5 28. Rb6 Ne4 29. Qc2 Nxg3 30. hxg3 Re6 31. Bf5 $1 {
Winning the exchange and the game.} Qc7 32. Rb3 Bb4 33. Bxe6 fxe6 34. e4 Qd7
35. Rc1 Rc8 36. Re3 Qa7 37. exd5 exd5 38. Qd3 Qd7 39. Re2 Qg4 40. Rcc2 Qd7 41.
Qg6 Kh8 42. Re6 c5 43. Rce2 Rg8 44. Re7 Qxa4 45. Re8 cxd4 46. Rxg8+ Kxg8 47.
Re8+ Bf8 48. Qe6+ {and Black resigned. A nice positional game by Anna
Zatonskih.} 1-0

Abrahamyan vs Krush

A highly anticipated and coveted matchup was the one between Abrahamyan, coming off three consecutive wins, and the highest rated player in the event, Irina Krush. Abrahamyan opened with 1.e4 and Krush quickly responded with the Dragon!

The perfect start to what was going to be a highly entertaining scramble. Krush was clearly the better prepared player, as she blitzed out her first moves and placed Tatev under tremendous pressure. With great preparation, Krush built a big advantage on the clock and looked primed to score an important victory with the Black pieces. Unfortunately for her, she did not find the powerful 16…e5!

which would have stopped White’s attack and allowed Black to create her own initiative on the queenside. Instead of that, Krush decided to allow Abrahamyan to open the “g” file, which helped the latter build a powerful attack. Abrahamyan showcased her brand of attacking chess and closed the show with precision.  

Feng vs Yu

A crazy game this was. Feng surprised Yu in the opening and managed to build a sizable advantage. Unfortunately for her, Yu’s resilience once again was on full display as she managed to swindle her opponent and take the full point home.

The advantage changed hands often, but in the end, it was Yu who prevailed and maintained her leadership position going into the second half of the championship. The pace she has set has been unbelievable, and her 5.5/6p is a monstrous score. Whether somebody is going to be able to catch her…only time will tell!