2021 U.S & U.S. Women's Chess Championships - Day 1 Recap

The 2021 U.S. Championship & U.S. Women’s Championship kicked off today, featuring 24 of the country’s top players battling it out for two national titles. In the U.S. Championship, only GM Ray Robson and GM John Burke managed to win their first round games, while in the U.S. Women’s Championship GM Irina Krush, WGM Katerina Nemcova, WIM Ashritha Eswaran, and tournament newcomer WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova all started off with a victory.

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an additional 30 second increment per move starting from move one.

 U.S Championship - Standings after Round 1

U.S. Women’s Championship - Standings after Round 1

2021 U.S. Championship

Today’s first round in the U.S. Championship saw the top seeds under heavy pressure early on, with World No. 2 GM Fabiano Caruana falling seriously worse out of the opening against Bruzon, So facing difficulties against Xiong, and Dominguez in huge trouble against Lenderman. But somehow they all managed to survive their positions, and all three games were drawn.

In the meantime, Robson played an excellent game to defeat Naroditsky, making the most of his space advantage in an Alekhine Defense:

22.d5! was a powerful breakthrough, giving Robson a decisive advantage in activity. | 1-0, 48 moves

Robson has previously finished second and third in the U.S. Championship, but has yet to win a title. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The 2020 U.S. Junior Champion GM John Burke, making his U.S. Championship debut, also won his game, a wild back-and-forth struggle against GM Darius Swiercz. In the critical moment, Swiercz missed his chance to land a decisive combination and instead fell into a slightly worse endgame, which Burke promptly converted.

After 23...f6, Swiercz missed a winning opportunity in 24.axb5 axb5 25.exf6 Rxf6 26.Rxa7+!, leading to a decisive attack. Instead 24.exf6 was played, allowing Black to defend after 24...Rxf6 25.axb5 cxb5! 26.Qa3 Qd6!= | 0-1, 47 moves

The 20-year-old Burke qualified to the U.S. Championship by winning the 2020 U.S. Junior Championship. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

2021 U.S. Women’s Championship

In the U.S. Women’s Championship there were four decisive games today, with multiple games decided in mutual time-trouble. Top seed and eight-time U.S. Champion GM Irina Krush won fairly smoothly against WIM Megan Lee, outplaying her opponent in a sharp 7.Qf3 Taimanov Sicilian.

23...c4! was an excellent pawn sacrifice from Krush, generating a strong attack on the queenside after 24.Qxe5 f6 25.Qb5+ Kf7-+ | 0-1, 29 moves

GM Irina Krush is off to a strong start in her pursuit to win a 9th national title. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

Nemcova also won, taking down the #3 seed Zatonskih, while Eswaran used her advantage in an opposite colored bishops middlegame to defeat Sharevich.

29.Nd3! was the decisive move, winning material in view of the pinned rook on f4. | 1-0, 31 moves

In what was the craziest game of the day, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan maintained a near-decisive advantage for most of the round against WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova (also known as ‘Begim’), only to slip up at the very last moment, allowing her opponent serious counterplay which turned the game in Black’s favor.

After 59...Qf7 White played the natural 60.a3 to secure the back rank, but overlooked 60...Rf2!, which gave Black tremendous counterplay. | 0-1, 66 moves

Tournament newcomer ‘Begim’ Tokhirjonova is originally from Uzbekistan, currently attending the University of Missouri. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Round 2 of the 2021 U.S. & U.S. Women's Chess Championships will take place tomorrow, October 7 starting at 12:50 PM CT. Catch all the action live with grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley and Cristian Chirila on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.