Ties in both sections as we are heading for the grand finale

by Cristian Chirila 

If the Open section gave us the biggest surprises in round nine, the show in round ten was stolen by the women, who produced two decisive results in the biggest clashes of the round. Nazi Paikidze dodged a huge bullet when she defeated Tatev Abrahamyan after being completely lost once the opening ended. In the other important clash, Sabina Foisor managed to climb her way back up in a worse middle game and outplay Zatonskih after the latter once again fell into a challenging time trouble situation. The open section’s leaderboard is crowding at the top; Akobian and So drew their games while Onischuk took advantage of the state of affairs and joined the leaders after a beautiful endgame grind against the struggling Xiong. We are set for a dream championship finale!

U.S. Championship

So vs Kamsky

Wesley’s last chance to score as white in this tournament was definitely something to look forward to. The game started peaceful with white choosing to enter the Exchange Slav, an opening that is widely considered to be drawish. Nevertheless, the opening has experienced a resurgence in the last couple of years and has been tried at the top with moderate success.

Kamsky chose to play a less theoretical line opting for an early e6, leaving the light squared bishop blocked on c8. The line is considered to give white the advantage, but he was quick to prove it wrong as he equalized with ease before move 20. To some, it even looked as Wesley might be in trouble, but that’s when the co-leader showed his champion metal and pulled the breaks without allowing his opponent to get any further pressure.

The game was a solid draw that placed Wesley in pole position to win the tournament. He is facing Naroditsky tomorrow in what will surely be an unforgettable thriller.

Onischuk vs Xiong

Onischuk is not the most active player in the American circuit, but when he plays, his technical skills are exceptionally sharp. Jeffery chose the Grunfeld, an opening that bears a piercing trademark. Onischuk’s experience allowed him to outwit his younger opponent and stir the game into a slightly better endgame, which is surely something that Jeffery was trying to avoid at all costs.

Lacking patience, Jeffery tried to over simplify with 16…e5 which was all Onischuk needed to force his opponent on the defense. Slowly but surely, white started maximizing his bishop pair, and it was only a matter of time before black had to concede material.

Onischuk’s textbook precision allowed him to convert with ease and join the leaders at the top of the standings.


[Event "U.S. Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.04.08"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Onischuk, Alexander"]
[Black "Xiong, Jeffery"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2667"]
[BlackElo "2674"]
[PlyCount "103"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8.
Be3 Bg4 9. Rc1 O-O 10. Be2 Qa5 11. Qd2 cxd4 12. cxd4 Nc6 13. Qxa5 Nxa5 14. h3
Bxf3 15. Bxf3 Rfc8 16. Ke2 e5 17. dxe5 Bxe5 18. Bg4 Rc4 19. f4 Bb2 20. Rxc4
Nxc4 21. Bf2 Re8 22. Bf3 Na3 23. Rd1 Rc8 24. e5 Bc1 25. Bxb7 Rc2+ 26. Kf3 Bd2
27. Bd5 Nb5 28. Bb3 Rb2 29. g3 Nc3 30. Ra1 a5 31. e6 fxe6 32. Bxe6+ Kf8 33.
Bc5+ Kg7 34. Bd4+ Kf8 35. Bb3 Ke8 36. Rf1 a4 37. Bxc3 Bxc3 38. Bxa4+ Kf8 39.
Bb3 Bd2 40. Rf2 Bc3 41. Rxb2 Bxb2 42. Ke4 Ba3 43. Ke5 Ke7 44. g4 Bd6+ 45. Ke4
Ba3 46. Bg8 h6 47. h4 Kf6 48. Bb3 Ke7 49. g5 hxg5 50. hxg5 Kf8 51. Kf3 Kg7 52.
Kg4 1-0


U.S. Women’s Championship

Abrahamyan vs Paikidze

The most expected encounter in the ladies division was the one between the two heroines of last year. These ladies gave us a dramatic end to the 2016 U.S. Championship story, and despite their friendly relationship outside of the arena, once they shake hands at the start of the match all gloves are off.

Nazi’s opening choice once again surprised the pundits as she chose the Pirc, an opening that is quite rare at top level. Tatev played healthy chess and quickly obtained a winning position, but it was then when her nerves started becoming wobbly.

Tatev began making irrational decisions (27.Nxg5?!, 29.h4??) and allowed Nazi to take control of the game. With her clock ticking down, Tatev was unable to find her way and blundered the game under pressure.


[Event "U.S. Women's Championship "]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.04.08"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Abrahamyan, Tatev"]
[Black "Paikidze, Nazi"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2364"]
[BlackElo "2369"]
[PlyCount "74"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 a6 5. Nf3 b5 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. d5 Nc5 8. O-O b4
9. Ne2 Nf6 10. Ned4 Bb7 11. Qe2 O-O 12. a3 bxa3 13. Rxa3 a5 14. c4 Nxd3 15.
Qxd3 Nd7 16. b3 Nc5 17. Qc2 e6 18. Bd2 exd5 19. exd5 Qf6 20. f5 h6 21. Rxa5
Rae8 22. Ra7 Bc8 23. Rxc7 Bxf5 24. Nxf5 gxf5 25. b4 Ne4 26. b5 Ng5 27. Nxg5
hxg5 28. Qd3 f4 29. h4 Qd4+ 30. Qxd4 Bxd4+ 31. Kh2 Re2 32. Bb4 Kg7 33. Rd1 Be5
34. Kg1 g4 35. Rc6 g3 36. b6 Ra8 37. Re1 Bd4+ 0-1


Foisor vs Zatonskih  

The second big matchup of the day was between the revelation of the tournament, Sabina Foisor, and the four time champion, Anna Zatonskih.

Sabina has been showing top opening preparation throughout the event, but today she fell into a difficult position early. Anna seemed to be in control but once again her time trouble addiction kicked in and she fell behind on the clock. Anna could have gotten a decisive advantage with 22…Qf6! But instead, she ventured with 26…Nd3?! and quickly fell to Sabina’s dazzling tactics. It was an immense win for Sabina who is now sharing the lead with Nazi going into the championship round. Tomorrow we will surely have fire on the board!