Sevian joins the leaders, Abrahamyan wins third straight in Round 5

The fifth round of the U.S. Championships was a tamer affair in terms of decisive results, in both the open and the women’s section. With that being said, there were still plenty of intriguing stories written throughout the day. The games are heating up, and with every passing round, mistakes become costlier. Let’s take a closer look at the key games of the round!

U.S. Championship

Akobian vs Sevian

Despite going into this round with the same score, this match was an affair between two players with very different tournament situations and overall form. Akobian has been struggling to leave his mark and even felt frustrated at times for not being able to convert his chances. Sevian on the other hand has been playing very lively games, always looking to create chances and complicate matters on the board.

This difference in approach seemed to be playing out during their direct encounter as well. Let’s take a closer look at what happened on the board.

[Event "US Chess Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.24"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Akobian, Varuzhan"]
[Black "Sevian, Samuel"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2625"]
[BlackElo "2642"]
[Annotator "Cristian Chirila"]
[PlyCount "69"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 d6 7. g3 e5 {
An interesting line, which allows Black to immediately challenge White's
structure.} 8. Nf3 (8. dxe5 dxe5 9. Bg2 Nc6 10. Nf3 Re8 11. Bg5 h6 12. Rd1 Qe7
13. Bxf6 Qxf6 14. O-O Bg4 15. h3 Bh5 16. g4 Bg6 17. Rd2 Rad8 18. Rfd1 $13 {
1-0 (37) Dreev,A (2667)-Harikrishna,P (2726) Dubai 2014}) 8... Nc6 9. Bg2 Ne4 (
9... e4 10. Nd2 d5 11. e3 $13) 10. Qe3 f5 11. b3 (11. dxe5 dxe5 12. b3 Nd4 13.
Nxd4 exd4 14. Qd3 Nc5 15. Qd1 $14) 11... Qf6 12. Bb2 exd4 13. Nxd4 Bd7 14. Rb1
Qg6 15. O-O (15. Nb5 {the critical moment, White should not have allowed Black
to centralize his pieces that easily} Rac8 16. O-O Nc5 17. b4 f4 18. Qd2 $13 {
leads to a very complicated situation}) 15... Rae8 16. Qf4 a6 17. Rfe1 h6 (
17... Ne5 18. Rbd1 Qh5 19. f3 Nc5 $15 {Black's pieces have a more harmonious
placement}) 18. Rbd1 Ne5 19. Nf3 Ng4 20. Rf1 Qf7 21. Nd4 $6 (21. h3 Ngf6 22.
Qc1 c5 23. Kh2 Qh5 $36) 21... Qh5 22. h3 Ngf6 23. Qf3 Qg6 24. e3 Ng5 (24... b5
{opening up a second front would have been better} 25. cxb5 axb5 26. Rfe1 c5
27. Ne2 Kh7 $40) 25. Qxb7 f4 $1 26. exf4 Nxh3+ 27. Bxh3 Bxh3 28. Rfe1 Ne4 29.
Qd5+ $4 {The blunder!} (29. f5 $1 {was still fine for White} Qh5 30. Rc1 Bxf5
31. Nxf5 Qxf5 32. Qd5+ $11) 29... Kh7 {Now everything is lost, as White will
be unable to stop Black's attack on the light squares} 30. Ne2 Bf5 31. Kg2 Nc5
32. Nc3 Rxe1 33. Rxe1 Nd3 34. Re4 Bxe4+ 35. Qxe4 0-1

Dominguez vs Xiong

Despite the peaceful result, this was one of the key games of the round. Just like in the game between Var and Sam, the trajectory and general trend of these two players differed significantly. Dominguez was coming off a miracle save against Caruana, which surely helped boost his confidence. Xiong was coming off a difficult loss with the White pieces against Robson, which certainly affected his mood. Dominguez was well prepared against Xiong’s Najdorf and got a pleasant position out of the opening, with the fight being disputed around the d5 square. The game took an unexpected turn when Xiong played the careless 17…d5? allowing White to seize the initiative with the powerful 18.b4!.

Dominguez played with poise throughout the middle game, and it looked as if he would take the full point home. But chess is never that easy, and factors such as time come into play.

As the players were approaching the time trouble zone, Dominguez failed to find the best moves and let his advantage slip when he exchanged the queens. This allowed Xiong to use his bishop pair and create enough counter chances and equalize the game. A draw was agreed in a rook and pawn endgame at move 65.

Gareev vs Liang

Gareev has been in the spotlight, for reasons that didn’t have much to do with his chess performance. Today he faced the youngest player in the field, Liang, who has been struggling in this event as well. The game started with a balanced reversed Sicilian hybrid. Liang seemed to be handling the middlegame better than his opponent and was slowly building his advantage. Unfortunately for him, he did not find the powerful 28…Nd4! and with that his advantage dissipated. The players entered an equal endgame, but right before the time control Liang played the inexplicable 40…Nf4? This move was simply a blunder, as it allowed Gareyev to win a pawn and start pressing for a victory. Liang’s defense was subpar, and Gareev swiftly converted the rook endgame with an extra pawn.

U.S. Women’s Championship

Eswaran vs Abrahamyan

This was an important match due to the tournament situation and individual trend, as both players were coming into this game with back to back victories under their belt.

There were also some scores to be settled, as Eswaran was the one to knock Abrahamyan down in the last round of the 2016 championship when a simple draw would have been enough for the latter to win the title. Let’s see what happened this time, as GM Boros once again provides his detailed analysis.

[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.25"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Eswaran, Ashritha"]
[Black "Abrahamyan, Tatev"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C16"]
[Annotator "GM Denes Boros"]
[PlyCount "82"]
[SourceDate "2019.03.25"]

1. e4 e6 {Tatev returns with the Classical French Revenge! She already won a
nice tactical game with the French against Carissa Yip, so she returned to her
favorite opening, once again!} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 b6 $5 {A rare, but
interesting idea, which featured a lot in the Grischuk-Caruana Champions
Showdown.} 5. a3 (5. Qg4 {is an interesting alternative.}) 5... Bxc3+ 6. bxc3
Qd7 $5 7. Qg4 f5 $1 {the point.} 8. Qg3 Ba6 9. Bxa6 Nxa6 10. Nh3 h6 11. Nf4 g5
12. Ne2 Ne7 13. h4 O-O-O $1 {sacrificing a pawn for the initiative, but white
is clearly behind development, so it makes sense to open up the position as
early as possible!} 14. Qd3 (14. hxg5 {was better.}) 14... Nb8 {now White is
just lagging in development without the extra pawn, black is just better.} 15.
a4 Nec6 $1 {preparing the thematic Hc6-a5-c4 plan.} 16. Ng3 $1 {Trying to
achieve the same, but heading towards f6!} f4 17. Nh5 Na5 18. Nf6 Qf7 19. Qh3 (
19. h5 {would have been better as mentioned by Tatev Abrahamyan in her
post-game interview.}) 19... Nc4 20. hxg5 hxg5 21. Qxh8 Rxh8 22. Rxh8+ Kb7 23.
Rh6 Nd7 $1 {an elegant piece sacrifice which works, because of the
discoordinated white rooks.} 24. Kf1 (24. Rh7 Qg6 25. Rxd7 Qxc2 {is near
decisive, it's quite difficult to parry the simple Qxc3+ and the eventual rook
loss.}) 24... Nxf6 25. exf6 Nd6 26. a5 Nf5 27. Rh3 Qxf6 28. Rd3 Nd6 {the
knight returns to c4 once again, which means the battle is over. The beautiful
pony will decide the game, as the miserable c1 bishop has no place left to go.}
29. Bd2 Nc4 $1 30. axb6 cxb6 31. f3 Nb2 {Material is material, but it does
feel a little heartbreaking to part ways with such a great piece!} 32. Be1 Nxd3
33. cxd3 Qf5 {Black is winning.} 34. Rd1 a5 35. Rd2 a4 36. Ke2 e5 37. Ra2 b5
38. Bf2 e4 39. dxe4 dxe4 40. Rb2 e3 41. Be1 a3 {and White resigned. A nice win
by Tatev Abrahamyan, as she joins the race for first place with her third
consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships!} 0-1

Yip vs Feng

Yip has been having a very animated event, as she has yet to make a single draw. Her aggressive and fearless brand of chess has been on full display, and her games have always attracted a wide audience due to their tactical nuances.

This round was no different, as Yip decided to take a more topical stance against the French by following the main lines after 2.d4 instead of 2.f4?! which she played against Abrahamyan. Feng did not fully understand the position and started mixing ideas early on with 11…Qc7 & 12…Kg8 which gave Yip enough time to structure her attack on the kingside and blast open the position with 15.g3! Feng’s position quickly became hopeless, and Yip confidently cruised to victory.

With Abrahamyan winning her 3rd game in a row and Yip slowly getting back into the mix, the Women’s section is shaping up to be a fierce battle in the second half of the event.