2021 U.S. & U.S. Women's Chess Championships: Day 11 Recap

After a dramatic final round the three leaders of the 2021 U.S. Championship (GM Fabiano Caruana, GM Wesley So, and GM Sam Sevian) will battle for the title in a rapid playoff tiebreak to take place tomorrow, October 19. While Caruana was the only one with chances to secure the title outright, all three players drew their final round games to finish with 6.5/11.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, tournament champion IM Carissa Yip drew her last round game after surviving a lost position against WGM Katerina Nemcova, ending with a final score of 8.5/11. Meanwhile WGM Begim Tokhirjonova was able to secure clear second place with 7.0/11, drawing her game to jump ahead of GM Irina Krush, who finished in clear third. 

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 11

U.S. Women’s Championship - Final Standings

2021 U.S. Championship

With the three leaders (Caruana, So, Sevian) entering the round tied for first and three more (Dominguez, Lenderman, Robson) just a half-point behind, a playoff scenario was quite likely going into today’s round. Sevian was the first to finish his game, after allowing a forced draw by repetition as Black against GM Daniel Naroditsky. The next key game to finish was So - Robson, where the players quickly found themselves in a dead-equal endgame arising from a 4.Qc2 Nimzo.

The two draws gave Caruana a chance to clinch the title outright with a win over his last-round opponent, GM Sam Shankland. Essaying the Catalan, Caruana got a pleasant position from the opening from where he could safely put pressure. Shankland defended well for most of the game, but facing time-trouble decided to sacrifice his queen for a rook and bishop. Once the players reached the time control Caruana was left with a winning position, but was unable to maintain his advantage in the endgame. After one mistake, Shankland was already on the better side of equality, and the game was eventually drawn.

The key moment where 45.e6! c4 46.e5! would have left White with excellent winning chances. Instead, Caruana played 45.Rd1 c4 46.e6, where after 46...Reg3 Black had enough counterplay to survive. | ½-½, 66 moves

 Overall an amazing comeback by Caruana, who started the event with 2.5/6. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The only other player who could join the tie for first was GM Alex Lenderman, but he was unable to generate any winning chances against GM Lazaro Bruzon, and eventually had to hold a queen endgame down a pawn.

Ending the tournament on a high note was GM John Burke, who played a fine attacking game to upset GM Jeffery Xiong:

22.Qxh6!+- gave White a decisive attack, with the deadly threat of Ne4-f6+. | 1-0, 25 moves

The 2020 U.S. Junior Champion finished with a respectable 5.0/11. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

2021 U.S. Women’s Championship

Although IM Carissa Yip had already secured first place yesterday, the rest of the standings were still very much up for contention going into the final round. GM Irina Krush and WGM Begim Tokhirjonova entered the round tied for second with 6.5/10, but only Tokhirjonova was able to score, drawing her game against WGM Thalia Cervantes. Meanwhile, Krush ended up blundering and losing to WGM Tatev Abrahamyan to finish in clear third place.

Krush’s 34.Bc1? was the losing mistake, allowing Black to trap White’s bishop after 34...Rxg2+ 35.Kxg2 Re1-+. The only defense was 34.Ba1!, with idea 34...Rxg2+ 35.Kxg2 Re1 36.a3!, with approximate equality. | 0-1, 46 moves

After a nightmare start of 1.0/4, Tatev won her last three games to finish in shared 4th place with 6.0/11. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

Also tying for 4th place along with Abrahamyan were WGM Katerina Nemcova, who came extremely close to defeating Yip, and WIM Ashritha Eswaran, who closed out the tournament with a win over WGM Sabina Foisor.

A successful first campaign and 2nd place finish for tournament newcomer WGM Begim Tokhirjonova. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The playoff tiebreak for the 2021 U.S. Championship will take place Tuesday, October 19 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.