Record of decisive results before the free day
by Cristian Chirila
It is a well-known fact in the chess world, every player wants to go into the free day on a high note. This usually translates into sharp games that lead to decisive results. That was my prediction at the beginning of the round and the players did not disappoint. In the open section, half of the games were decisive, while in the women’s section not a single game was drawn. Today’s explosive round kept us glued to the action, the best possible way to send us into the free day and second part of the tournament!
Onischuk vs Caruana was the last game to end, and arguably the most interesting battle of the round. Fabiano’s intent was clear early on when he decided to play the KID, an opening he has not been experiencing with almost at all. Trailing by a full point behind So, he was fundamentally forced to try and paint a dynamic portrait early. The pawn structure was the dictating factor throughout the game and it looked at some point as if Onischuk could potentially upset the reigning champion and cut his title hopes short.
Unfortunately for Alexander, Fabiano’s vibrant play coupled with the mutual time trouble, caused the veteran to slip and allow his opponent to obtain a solid endgame advantage. Alexander tenaciously defended but failed to fully annihilate Fabiano’s play, and if the latter would have played 66…d5! this game could have ended with a very different result.
Fabiano lacked precision when it mattered the most and will now be forced to cut a 1 point deficit after the free day if he wants to retain his title.
[White "Onischuk, Alexander"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. Nc3 Bf5 5. g3 Ne4 6. Bd2 Bg7 7. Bg2 Nxd2 8.
Qxd2 O-O 9. O-O Nc6 10. d5 Na5 11. b3 c5 12. e4 Bd7 13. Rae1 Qc7 14. Qe3 a6 15.
e5 b5 16. e6 fxe6 17. dxe6 Bc6 18. Nd5 Qb7 19. Qg5 Rae8 20. Qh4 bxc4 21. bxc4
Bxd5 22. cxd5 Bf6 23. Ng5 Bxg5 24. Qxg5 Qb2 25. Qh4 c4 26. Re4 Qg7 27. Rf4 Rxf4
28. Qxf4 Rc8 29. Rc1 Rc5 30. Be4 c3 31. h4 Qf6 32. Qxf6 exf6 33. g4 Kf8 34. Kg2
Ke7 35. Kg3 Nc4 36. Kf4 Nb6 37. g5 fxg5+ 38. hxg5 Nxd5+ 39. Bxd5 Rxd5 40. Rxc3
Rf5+ 41. Ke3 Kxe6 42. Rc7 Rxg5 43. Rxh7 Re5+ 44. Kf3 a5 45. Rg7 Kf6 46. Rd7
Rf5+ 47. Ke3 Ke6 48. Ra7 Rc5 49. Rg7 g5 50. Rg6+ Kd7 51. Rf6 Rc2 52. Rf5 Rc5
53. Rf6 Kc6 54. Kd3 Rd5+ 55. Kc3 Re5 56. Kd3 Kc5 57. f4 gxf4 58. Rxf4 Rh5 59.
Rc4+ Kb5 60. a4+ Kb6 61. Rg4 Kc5 62. Rc4+ Kd5 63. Rd4+ Kc6 64. Rc4+ Rc5 65. Rh4
Rc1 66. Rh5 Rc5 67. Rh8 Rg5 68. Rc8+ Kb7 69. Rd8 Kc7 70. Ra8 Rh5 71. Ra6 Rd5+
72. Kc4 Rc5+ 73. Kd4 Rh5 74. Kc4 Kd7 75. Ra8 Kc7 76. Ra6 Rh4+ 77. Kb5 Rb4+ 78.
Kxa5 Rb8 79. Ra7+ Kc6 80. Rh7 d5 81. Rh1 d4 82. Rc1+ Kd5 83. Ka6 d3 84. Rd1 Kc4
85. a5 Rb2 86. Ka7 d2 87. a6 Kc3 88. Ka8 Kc2 89. Rxd2+ Kxd2 90. a7 Rb1 1/2-1/2
Akobian vs Shankland was a strategic masterpiece by Akobian, almost. The game was a Semi-Slav that quickly turned into a nightmare for black after the careless 17…Ba6?, which allowed 18.Ne5 and forced black to give up his only strategic trump, the bishop pair. Akobian developed his advantage successfully and could have ended the game multiple times; he even mentioned during his interview that he believed Sam will resign at any moment.
Unfortunately for him, imprecisions started creeping in and with 3 moves before his resignation Shankland could have saved the game with the precise 55…Kg5!.
The shocker didn’t even pass through either of the player’s minds, as mentioned during their postgame, and Akobian left home with the full point. A great result for him, as he is now standing on +1 and will face So after the free day!
U.S. Women's Championship
Paikidze vs Yip was a great example of why Nazi is the reigning champion. From opening preparation to endgame mastery, Nazi played a brilliant game aimed at targeting her opponent’s weaknesses from start to finish.
The game followed a known variation of the Catalan, in which white gets a slightly better endgame. I know how unpleasant it is to defend as black because I also had to do it against GM Ramirez, albeit in a rapid game. Nazi slowly suffocated her opponent with good moves and tactically executed her with the powerful 19.Na5!! obtaining a decisive advantage very early in the game. Yip was never able to create any counterplay and Nazi ended the game with Swiss like precision. After her painful loss in round 3, Nazi regained her mojo and is now leading the tournament alongside Zatonskih and Krush. The three ladies are the only ones from the field that have ever won a national title; they share among each other 12 national titles!
[White "Paikidze, Nazi"]
[Black "Yip, Carissa"]
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 c5 6. O-O Nc6 7. dxc5 Qxd1 8.
Rxd1 Bxc5 9. Nbd2 c3 10. bxc3 O-O 11. Nb3 Be7 12. Bb2 Nd7 13. Nfd2 Nb6 14. a4
a5 15. c4 Rd8 16. c5 Nd5 17. Nc4 Ndb4 18. Nb6 Rb8 19. Nxa5 Bxc5 20. Nxc6 Rxd1+
21. Rxd1 Nxc6 22. a5 f6 23. Bxc6 Bxb6 24. axb6 bxc6 25. Rd8+ Kf7 26. Ba3 Ra8
27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. Bd6 Rd8 29. b7 Rxd6 30. b8=Q Rd1+ 31. Kg2 Rc1 32. Qa7+ Kg8
33. Qe3 Rc2 34. Qxe6+ Kf8 35. Qe4 1-0
Zatonskih vs Virkud was another straightforward affair. Virkud equalized with ease after the opening but failed to understand the middle game complications and blundered early. Her exchange sacrifice (19…Qxa2?) was a misjudgment which swiftly led to her demise. Anna played with poise and precision and never allowed her young opponent to get back into the game.
Virkud resigned before move 30 and Anna joins the three way tie at the top of the table. The second part of the event will be fire!