Nakamura clinches his 5th US Championship Title!

By GM Cristian Chirila

While the Women’s section was decided in round 10, the U.S. Chess Championship was open to a wide array of outcomes going into the final day. All the ingredients for one of the most exciting rounds of the year were there: three of the top five were tied at the top of the standings, one of them was looking like a clear favorite to win it, and this was the championship round – anything could happen!

 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship

While the focus was on the open section, some ladies were still fighting for the remaining medals. Abrahamyan was trailing Zatonskih by half a point. Abrahamyan drew her game, and fortunately for her Zatonksih was unable to find herself against the former champion, Foisor. GM Boros provides analysis for the game that decided the final standings.


[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.04.01"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Foisor, Sabina"]
[Black "Zatonskih, Anna"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D24"]
[Annotator "GM Dennis Boros"]
[PlyCount "71"]
[SourceDate "2019.04.01"]

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 a6 $5 {a combative idea by Anna Zatonskih.}
5. Bg5 dxc4 6. a4 h6 (6... Bb4 $5 7. e3 b6 8. Bxc4 Bb7 {is an alternative as
played in the game Boros-Shankland.}) 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. e3 Qd8 9. Bxc4 Be7 10.
O-O O-O 11. Qe2 Nc6 12. Rad1 $1 {It turns out that even though Zatonskih has
the bishop pair, she lacks space. White is better.} Qe8 13. e4 Nb4 14. Rfe1 Bd7
15. Bb3 $1 {Foisor keeps the tension.} b5 16. Ne5 bxa4 17. Nxd7 Qxd7 18. Bxa4
Qc8 19. Qh5 c5 20. d5 Rd8 21. Re3 Bg5 22. Ree1 Be7 23. g3 Rb8 24. Re3 exd5 25.
exd5 Bg5 26. Re4 Rb6 27. d6 $1 {Opening the position up, and unfortunately for
Zatonskih, her pieces are not ready for the onslaught.} g6 28. Qe2 Kg7 29. Re8
$1 {preparing the "d7" pawn push.} Rxe8 30. Bxe8 Bf6 31. d7 Qc7 32. Bxf7 $1 {
and now White is winning.} Rb8 33. Be8 Nc6 34. Qe6 Ne5 35. Qxf6+ Kxf6 36. Nd5+
{and Black resigned. A very well played game by the 2017 US Champion, Sabina
Foisor!} 1-0


U.S. Chess Championship

The Setup

Dominguez has been on a stellar run and proved to everybody that there is no such thing as board rust. He hasn’t played a classical game in two years, yet he showed that class is never lost, as he won game after game and converted his advantages with surgical precision time and time again. Today, he was facing the lowest rated player of the event, Timur Gareyev, who is as unpredictable as they come. Another important factor was that he was playing with the White pieces.

This is the perfect position to be in a must win situation. Dominguez knew the scale of this opportunity, the fans knew it, and most importantly his co-leaders knew it!

Nakamura was surely the one with the second chance, as he was facing Jeffery Xiong who seemed to have had lost some steam throughout the event. While he was the rating favorite, it was clear that the biggest factor in this matchup was the color he was playing with. Nakamura had the Black pieces and mentioned during his interview after round 10 that he believed there was an 80% chance Dominguez would win his game. He approached his game against Jeffery as a must win situation, a decision that would later prove to be decisive.

The last man to join the leaders pack, Fabiano Caruana, had the most difficult pairing. Despite being the highest rated player in the mix, he was also facing the strongest opposition in Sam Shankland, the 2018 champion. But the most important factor was that he had the Black pieces, just like Nakamura. The one difference was that Shankland knew how to kill the game and make a draw. Unfortunately for Caruana, Shankland wasn’t going to look for a fight in this one.  

The Outcome

Caruana drew first after an uneventful game, and his fate was no longer in his hands. Dominguez and Nakamura fought tooth and nail until the last moments of the round, but, in the end,  there was only one man standing.

Dominguez outplayed Gareyev throughout the game and looked as if he would become the new champion. The championship newcomer had the win in his pocket if only he would have played 26.f5! instead of the safer but much weaker 26.fxe5?

This slippage allowed Black into the game. Gareyev found the only move 33…a3!! which forced an equal endgame. On the other side of the playing hall, Nakamura was pacing nervously, going back and forth from his game to Dominguez’s.

He knew that his victory was close; he just outplayed his young opponent in a complex battle stemming from the Dutch.


[Event "US Chess Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.31"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Xiong, Jeffery"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2664"]
[BlackElo "2746"]
[Annotator "Cristian Chirila"]
[PlyCount "116"]

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. d5
Na5 9. b3 (9. Nd2 {I much more agree with this plan as it makes the central
break with e4 much more accessible} c5 10. Qc2 a6 11. b3 b5 12. Bb2 Bd7 13. e3
Rb8 14. Rab1 Qe8 15. Ne2 $16 {1-0 (62)}) 9... c5 10. Bb2 a6 11. Ng5 Rb8 12. Qd3
Qe8 13. Nd1 b5 14. Qd2 Nb7 15. Ne3 Nd8 16. Nh3 $6 $146 (16. Rab1 h6 17. Nh3 Ne4
18. Bxe4 fxe4 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Nf4 $14 {1-0 (33) Paluch,A-Ackley,P (1946)
ICCF email 2011}) 16... Bd7 17. Rad1 b4 $1 {[%cal Ga6a4,Ga4b3,Ya8a1] This move
shows understanding of the structures, as Black's initiative had no
continuation with the pawn on b5} 18. Qc2 a5 19. Nf4 a4 {White is too slow} 20.
h4 Ra8 21. Qb1 (21. Rfe1 Ra6 22. Bf3 {[%cal Ge3g2,Ge2e4]} Nf7 23. Nd3 g5 $36)
21... Ra6 22. Bf3 Qf7 23. Neg2 $6 (23. Rfe1 Ng4 24. Bxg4 fxg4 25. Bxg7 Qxg7 26.
Qe4 axb3 27. axb3 Qf6 $15) 23... Ng4 24. Bxg4 fxg4 25. e4 Bxb2 26. Qxb2 Qg7 {
Now Black is breaking through.} 27. Qxg7+ Kxg7 28. e5 Bf5 29. exd6 (29. Ne3
axb3 30. axb3 Ra3 31. exd6 exd6 32. Rfe1 Rxb3 $15) 29... exd6 30. Rfe1 Nf7 31.
Re7 (31. Ne6+ {was the much better alternative} Bxe6 32. dxe6 Ne5 33. Re4 axb3
34. axb3 Nf3+ 35. Kf1 Ra3 $15) 31... Kf6 32. Rb7 axb3 33. axb3 Rfa8 34. Ne3 Ra1
35. Kf1 Ne5 36. Rxa1 Rxa1+ 37. Ke2 Nf3 $19 {Black is simply too active, and
Hikaru's conversion is flawless.} 38. Nxf5 Kxf5 39. Ke3 Re1+ 40. Kd3 Ne5+ 41.
Kd2 Ra1 42. Ne6 h6 43. Rb6 Ra3 44. Kc2 Ra2+ 45. Kd1 Nd3 46. Rxd6 Nxf2+ 47. Ke1
Nd3+ 48. Kd1 Ke4 49. Nc7 Nf2+ 50. Ke1 Kd3 51. Rxg6 Ne4 52. Kf1 Nxg3+ 53. Kg1
Ne2+ 54. Kh1 Ke3 55. Rf6 Ra1+ 56. Kg2 Rg1+ 57. Kh2 g3+ 58. Kh3 Rh1+ 0-1


This is a game that will be analyzed by many, where Nakamura was simply the better player. The 2019 U.S. Chess Champion was crowned in the 6th hour of play, after a brilliant display of chess from the now 5 time champion. Dominguez and Caruana were close and had their fair share of chances.

Nakamura wanted it more and took the final victory to win his fifth U.S. Chess Championship title!