So is sole leader, the womens section catches fire!
by Cristian Chirila
It was a sunny day in Saint Louis as the players arrived one by one for round 4 of the 2017 U.S. Championship & U.S. Women’s Championship at the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center. Despite the beautiful day outside, the players quickly engaged in tense battles in both fields. It was a particularly decisive round for the ladies, with four decisive results that kept us on the edge of our seats until the last moments of the day. Let’s get into the recap!
So vs Onischuk was a clear example of why Wesley is considered by the vast majority of the chess world to be the biggest threat to Carlsen’s dominance. Just like in his game against Shabalov, Wesley decided to take his opponent out of popular theory early on and played the KIA (King’s Indian Attack).
While the opening was not very ambitious, the ensuing middle game normally favors the better player. This is exactly what Wesley wanted and how the script played out. Onischuk equalized with ease, but was soon forced to find his way through the middle game maze, something that he found difficult to do. He managed to keep the game balanced early on, but when Wesley decided to break the repetition with 26.h3!?, Onischuk was caught off guard and soon started playing imprecise moves that quickly lead to a lost ending.
Wesley kept his cool, like he usually does, and ended the game with precision.
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Onischuk, Alexander"]
1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. O-O Be7 5. c4 O-O 6. b3 b6 7. Bb2 Bb7 8. cxd5
Nxd5 9. d4 Nd7 10. Re1 c5 11. e4 N5f6 12. Nc3 cxd4 13. Nxd4 Ne5 14. Qe2 Bc5 15.
Red1 Qe7 16. Na4 Bxd4 17. Bxd4 Nc6 18. Be3 Rfd8 19. Nc3 Qb4 20. Qb2 Ng4 21. Bf4
Nce5 22. a3 Qc5 23. Na4 Qb5 24. Nc3 Qc5 25. Na4 Qb5 26. h3 Nd3 27. Rxd3 Rxd3
28. hxg4 Qxb3 29. Bf1 Qxb2 30. Nxb2 Rb3 31. Nc4 Rd8 32. Nd6 Ba8 33. g5 Rc3 34.
a4 Rc5 35. e5 Rd7 36. Be3 Rxe5 37. Rc1 Rd8 38. Rc7 Rd5 39. Nxf7 Rf8 40. g6 hxg6
41. Ng5 Rd1 42. Nxe6 Re8 43. Rxg7+ Kh8 44. Rxg6 Be4 45. Bd4+ 1-0
Caruana vs Xiong was a highly important matchup to follow. Fabiano surely came into this game with a great deal of enthusiasm and high hopes.
He was playing white vs the youngest participant and with a win he could have caught Wesley at the top of the table. His preparation in the anti-Berlin was top notch as he quickly got a better endgame. But Xiong was almost implacable, and he played a flawless defensive game all the way up to move 29 when he made an inaccuracy that could have costed him dearly. Fortunately for Xiong, Fabiano didn’t find the best moves and the game soon entered a path of equality.
A good result for Xiong who managed to defend against both Nakamura and Caruana as black, and a not so good result for Fabiano who now has to fire the engines in the upcoming rounds in order to keep up with the leader.
U.S. Women's Championship
Krush vs Yu was surely the shocker of the round. Krush was coming off a sound defeat of one of her main rivals, Tatev Abrahamyan, while Yu was coming off a fairly timid game against Carissa Yip. Having more than 250 rating points advantage over her opponent, Krush was clearly the big favorite. The game looked to be going her way after an early misjudgment by Yu (14…c5?) which allowed Krush to get a dominant pawn structure in the center. Unfortunately for Krush, she returned the favor and allowed Yu to swap the queens, an exchange that severely diminished her advantage.
Slowly but surely, Yu began outplaying her more experienced opponent and ended up in a completely winning position, and that’s when the real drama started. Showing an incredible lack of experience, Yu allowed her opponent to repeat the position three times, but to everybody’s disbelief Krush decided not to claim the threefold repetition. Yu immediately changed the course of the game and soon won the endgame.
A disappointing results for Irina and a great moral booster for the young Yu!
[White "Krush, Irina"]
[Black "Yu, Jeniffer"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Bd3 O-O 7. O-O b6 8. h3 Bb7
9. Qe2 Nbd7 10. Rd1 Qc7 11. b3 Rfe8 12. Bb2 Rac8 13. Rac1 Qb8 14. b4 c5 15.
Nxd5 Nxd5 16. cxd5 cxb4 17. Bb5 Red8 18. e4 Bh6 19. Rc4 Qd6 20. Ne5 Rxc4 21.
Qxc4 Nxe5 22. dxe5 Qc5 23. Bd4 Qxc4 24. Bxc4 Kf8 25. Bd3 Rc8 26. Rb1 Rc1+ 27.
Rxc1 Bxc1 28. Kf1 e6 29. Bc4 Bg5 30. dxe6 fxe6 31. Bxe6 Bxe4 32. f3 Bd3+ 33.
Kf2 Be7 34. f4 Bc5 35. Ke3 Bf1 36. Bd5 a5 37. h4 a4 38. g3 Bh3 39. Kd3 Bf1+ 40.
Ke3 Bh3 41. Kd3 Bf1+ 42. Ke3 h5 43. Be6 Ke7 44. Bd5 Bh3 45. Kd3 Bf5+ 46. Be4
Bxd4 47. Bxf5 b3 48. axb3 a3 0-1
Virkud vs Paikidze was a tense battle that could have ended in any of the three results possible. The young debutante chose the Catalan and skillfully outplayed the reigning champion in the early middle game, obtaining an almost decisive advantage before the 20th move. Unfortunately for her, she was unable to maintain the precision and by move 30 it was Nazi who had the advantage and was pressing for a win.
Virkud’s 38.e4?? was a horrible blunder that simply should have ended the game on the spot if Nazi would have captured 38…dxe3! . It seemed as if yesterday’s tragedy was still weighing heavy on Nazi’s shoulders, as she played a series of inaccurate moves that allowed her opponent to get back into the game. Virkud was unable to deal with the complications in a fairly balanced position and faltered quickly after her bad 42.Qf3?? Nazi was ruthless with her calculation and successfully finished her opponent. A great comeback for the reigning champion, who is now sharing the lead with four other players. The battle for the title is heating up!