Yu wins title with round to spare, Caruana catches the leaders!

By GM Cristian Chirila

The penultimate round of the 2019 U.S. Championships couldn’t have been more exciting, as the players came in ready to work extra hard for their respective goals. Fabiano Caruana completed the comeback, as he demolished Lenderman in the Petroff. The two leaders, Nakamura and Dominguez, took no major risks in their direct encounter and drew their game quickly. So fought valiantly to stay in the mix but was cut short by Sevian, who played a wonderful game and almost beat the former champion. Fortunately for So, he managed to save the game and will now need a victory tomorrow to hope for a tiebreak. His chances are slim, nevertheless, in chess everything is possible.

The big story of the round happened in the women’s section, as Jennifer Yu was crowned the new queen of American chess after defeating Anna Zatonskih, her most ardent rival, in their direct encounter. The tension was high throughout the game, as both players gave their all to reach their goals. Abrahamyan and Wang both scored important victories, and they will be fighting tooth and nail for the remaining medal spots. They will go into the final round separated by half a point, with everything to play for!

Let’s look at the most impactful games of the round!

U.S. Chess Championship

 Caruana vs Lenderman

With the two leaders likely heading toward a draw, Caruana knew exactly what he had to do in order to keep his title chances alive. A win on demand was the only satisfying result. Caruana was aware of that as he mentioned it often during his interviews. Lenderman has been off-form throughout the event and still looking to find that elusive victory. In our short chat after the game, Lenderman confessed that he wanted to give Fabiano a way to over press and commit errors, as a victory for Lenderman would help him on his bid to reach one of the world cup spots. Lenderman chose the Petroff, a decision that some people might call naïve as Caruana is by many accounts the biggest expert in this opening.

The position quickly became very unpleasant for Black after he erred with the imprecise 9…Nb4?!

This allowed Caruana to obtain a better structure and the advantage he needed to start pressuring his opponent. The ensuing middle game position was one that you never want to have against a top player, a worse position without any counterplay. Let’s take a closer look at what transpired during this key match of the day!


[Event "US Chess Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.30"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "Lenderman, Aleksandr"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2828"]
[BlackElo "2637"]
[Annotator "Cristian Chirila"]
[PlyCount "92"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. d4 Be7 7. Bd3 O-O 8.
O-O Nc6 (8... Re8 9. Ne2 Bf8 10. Ng3 g6 11. Bf4 Bg7 12. h3 b6 13. a4 a5 14. Qd2
$14 {1/2-1/2 (33) Kryvoruchko,Y (2698)-Kamsky,G (2666) Germany 2019}) 9. d5 Nb4
(9... Ne5 {Was perhaps the better choice} 10. Nxe5 dxe5 11. Re1 Nd7 12. Ne4 Nf6
13. Nxf6+ Bxf6 14. Qf3 Re8 15. c4 b6 16. Bd2 Qd7 17. Re4 c6 18. dxc6 Qxc6 $13 {
0-1 (41) Wei,Y (2729)-Yu,Y (2762) Danzhou 2018}) 10. Be2 c6 11. dxc6 bxc6 12.
a3 Nbd5 $146 (12... Na6 13. Nd4 Nb8 14. Bf4 Bd7 15. b4 $16) 13. Nxd5 Nxd5 14.
Nd4 Bd7 15. Bf3 Rc8 16. Bxd5 (16. Nxc6 {was also interesting and perhaps worth
pursuing} Bxc6 17. Bxd5 Bxd5 18. Qxd5 Rxc2 19. b4 $14) 16... cxd5 17. Be3 Bf6
18. Qd2 Qc7 19. h3 Rfe8 (19... Bxd4 $6 20. Qxd4 Qxc2 21. Qxa7 $16) 20. Rfe1 h6
21. c3 Qb7 22. Nf3 $1 {No more opposite color bishops option for Black!} Re6
23. Bd4 Be7 (23... Bd8 24. b4 Re4 25. a4 a6 26. Qd3 $16 {Black will slowly get
pushed back as he has no counterplay available}) 24. b4 a6 25. a4 Re8 26. Kh2
Re4 27. Reb1 Bd8 28. b5 a5 29. Rb2 Qa8 30. Qd3 Qb7 {Only thing he can do is
wait} 31. Nd2 Rf4 32. Nb3 Bf5 33. Qg3 $18 g5 34. b6 Qa6 (34... Bxb6 35. Nxa5
Qa6 36. Rxb6 Qxa5 37. Rb5 $18 {[%cal Ga4a8]}) 35. Nd2 Bd7 36. Rab1 Qb7 37. Nb3
Qa6 38. Nc1 Qb7 39. Nd3 Rxd4 40. cxd4 Re6 41. Nf4 Re4 42. Ne2 Bxa4 43. Nc3 Rxd4
44. Qxd6 Be7 45. Qe5 Re4 46. Nxe4 dxe4 {Fabiano closes with precision!} 1-0


We are all set for an explosive finish in the championship round today!

U.S. Women’s Championship

 Zatonskih vs Yu

This was clearly the game that commanded everybody’s attention throughout the day. The two players were separated by only half a point, and this match could have flipped the script as Zatonskih had the White pieces and a clear shot at upsetting the leader.

The ladies quickly blitzed out the first 15 moves of a known line of the Slav. It was Zatonskih who had the first long think of the day, as she contemplated her plan and decided to go for the committal 16.Rd4 idea. Yu responded with the consolidating 16…a5 and it was at this point that Zatonskih made a big strategic mistake, 17. h4?! This was simply too much, as Zatonskih launched into a flank offensive without bringing any pieces to support it. A better course of action would have been to finish her development and create a strong battery on the d-file via the Qc2-Rd1 maneuver. Yu took advantage of her opponent’s carelessness by playing the ultra-concrete 17…Nc5!

This was without a doubt the most difficult move of the game, as she had to calculate countless tense and sharp lines to make sure it worked. The ensuing complications were handled with precision by Yu, and Zatonskih erred under the looming threat of mass exchanges. Her 20.Nxe5? mistake allowed Yu to get a decisive advantage after 20…Bxf2, and she never looked back. It was all Yu until the end, as she forced Zatonskih’s resignation through a brilliant assault against her opponent’s king. The young Jennifer Yu becomes the 2019 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion in style, as she scores a whooping 9/10 and takes the coveted title home with one round to spare!

Let's take an even deeper dive into this game with GM Denes Boros expert analysis!


[Event "U.S. Womens Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.03.31"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Zatonskih, Anna"]
[Black "Yu, Jennifer"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D17"]
[Annotator "GM Dennis Boros"]
[PlyCount "66"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2019.03.31"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 $1 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7
8. g3 e5 $1 {Principled play by both players, we are in the main variation of
the Slav Defense.} 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4 Nfd7 11. Bg2 f6 $5 {Jennifer Yu's
patent, which must have came as no surprise for Anna Zatonskih, as Jennifer
had played the same exact line against Annie Wang a few rounds earlier.} 12.
O-O Rd8 13. Qc1 Be6 14. Ne4 Bb4 15. Rd1 O-O 16. Rd4 $5 {An interesting, but
somewhat risky idea, as the f2 pawn remains undefended} (16. a5 $5 {was
definitely an option for White.}) 16... a5 $1 17. h4 Nc5 {Precise play!
Jennifer initiates actions as White struggles to coordinate her pieces.} 18.
Rxd8 (18. Nxe5 {would have been the best option for Zatonskih, although} Nb3 $1
{looks scary, it runs into the the unbeliavable sacrifice} 19. Nxc6 $1 {with
chances for both sides.}) 18... Qxd8 $1 19. Nxc5 Bxc5 20. Nxe5 {a mistake.}
Bxf2+ $1 {A bolt from the blue! Suddenly all of Jennifer's pieces come to life!
} 21. Kh2 fxe5 22. Bxe5 Bd4 23. Bf4 Qb6 24. Qc2 Bb3 25. Qc1 Qb4 $1 26. Bd2 Qd6
27. Bf4 (27. Bxa5 {runs into the beautiful} Qxg3+ $3 28. Kxg3 Be5+ 29. Kg4 Be6+
30. Kh5 Rf5+ $1 31. Kg4 ({or} 31. Qg5 g6+ 32. Kh6 Bg7# {mates.}) 31... h5+ 32.
Kh3 Rf3# {double checkmate!}) 27... Qb4 28. Bd2 Qe7 $1 29. Bc3 Be3 30. Qe1 Bf2
31. Qd2 {The last critical moment, and after a minute think Jennifer Yu played}
Bxg3+ $1 32. Kxg3 Qc7+ 33. Kg4 Be6+ {and White resigned. An impressive
crowning achievement by the 17 years old Jennifer Yu, as she wins the U.S.
Chess Championship with 9 out of 10 points, with one round to spare!
Congratulations!} 0-1


Big congratulations to Jennifer!