2021 U.S. & U.S. Women's Chess Championships: Day 10 Recap

IM Carissa Yip clinched victory in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Championship with a round to spare, after defeating IM Nazi Paikidze in today’s penultimate round. With an unreachable score of 8.0/10, Yip also made history by becoming the first woman ever to defeat four former champions in a U.S. Women’s Championship. Currently tied for 2nd place are GM Irina Krush and WGM Begim Tokhirjonova, with 6.5/10.

The 2021 U.S. Women’s Champion, IM Carissa Yip

In the U.S. Championship, GM Fabiano Caruana managed to catch the leaders after winning on demand as Black against GM Alex Lenderman, overtaking his spot in the standings. Caruana is now tied with GM Wesley So and GM Sam Sevian in first with 6.0/10 heading into the final round tomorrow. Just a half-point behind and still in contention are GM Leinier Dominguez, GM Alex Lenderman, and GM Ray Robson, currently sitting on 5.5/10.

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 10

U.S. Women’s Championship - Standings after Round 10

2021 U.S. Championship

The key match-up of the day took place between two of the leaders heading into today’s round, GM Sam Sevian and GM Wesley So. A typically quiet London System quickly turned dynamic as So sacrificed a pawn out of the opening in exchange for long-term piece activity. Both players missed chances for an advantage before eventually settling for a repetition, in a position where White’s extra pawn was more or less balanced by Black’s potential threats.

With an extra pawn, Sevian was a little better but had difficulties securing his king on the queenside. | ½-½, 30 moves

After today’s sharp struggle both Sevian and So will be tied for first going into tomorrow’s final round. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The draw gave Caruana a chance to catch up, as he faced the other leader going into today’s round, Lenderman, with the Black pieces. Essaying the King’s Indian Defense, Caruana used an opportunity for a thematic exchange sacrifice (15...Rxc3) to greatly unbalance the game. As the game went through heavy complications in mutual time-trouble, Lenderman could not maintain the balance and ended up with a lost position once the first time control was reached.

 15...Rxc3! left Caruana with fantastic positional compensation as he grabbed the pawn on e4 next. | 0-1, 59 moves

Back from the dead, Caruana delivered in another ‘must-win’ game today. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

2021 U.S. Women’s Championship

Despite leading the event by a full-point, Yip went for the strategically risky Hippopotamus setup, ceding a lot of space to Paikidze in the opening. Although White was clearly better out of the opening, the position remained complicated with all of Black’s pieces aimed at White’s king.

Facing a potentially dangerous attack on the kingside and approaching time-trouble, Paikidze self-destructed with the move 22.f4, opening up the position in Black’s favor. Yip quickly sacrificed a piece to further expose White’s king, and soon used her mass of pawns on the kingside to unleash a devastating attack. 

24...Ng4+! was a powerful sacrifice by Yip--after 25.hxg4 hxg4+ 26.Kg1, Black played the calm 26...dxe5!-+, with a decisive attack on the kingside. | 0-1, 35 moves

Shortly after Paikidze resigned, WGM Thalia Cervantes and GM Irina Krush repeated moves in an equal endgame where neither side could make progress. The draw allowed Carissa to secure the title, as it meant no players could catch her in the tournament any longer.

A fifth straight win and first national title for the 18-year-old IM Carissa Yip. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

Winning her third straight game was WGM Begim Tokhirjonova, who defeated WGM Katerina Nemcova to jump into a tie for second place with Krush. After Nemcova sacrificed a pawn in the opening, she wasn’t able to generate enough play, as Tokhirjonova managed to simplify the position into a decisive endgame.

Tokhirjonova’s 12...Be6! forced an endgame in which White was left without any compensation for Black’s extra pawn. | 0-1, 57 moves

A hat-trick for Tokhirjonova, who will be fighting for second place in tomorrow’s final round. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

The final round of the 2021 U.S. & U.S. Women's Chess Championships will take place Monday, October 18 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.