Nazi Paikidze and Sam Shankland are the U.S. Chess Champions Print
Wednesday, 02 May 2018 09:27

2018 U.S. Championships: Palyoff

Drama unfolded during the playoff Monday in Saint Louis, as the best women chess players in the nation went head to head in a rapid chess match that was going to decide the victor.

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Annie Wang has been leading the whole event and was only caught in the last round by Nazi Paikidze due to an unexpected slip against Foisor. Today she came prepared, but the nerves were stretched to the maximum for both players. The players went over the rules with the arbiter and the games started at 1 PM sharp, with Wang having the white pieces.

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The opening battle was won by Nazi, who came with sharp theoretical ideas and got a dynamic Nimzo position. She sacrificed the pawn in the process, and it certainly looked as if Wang would collapse under the tremendous pressure. But that was not the case, as the youngster played a sequence of precise moves while her more experienced opponent erred almost decisively. Stabilizing the position allowed Wang to use her extra material and back Paikidze’s pieces, and the Californian super talent ended the first game with an effervescent attack.

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All eyes were on Paikidze in the second game, as she was forced to win in order to remain in the match. Her strategy was good as she played a slow, maneuvering game, as well as keeping almost all of the pieces on the board.

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The opening was a success but once again the early middle-game started favoring Wang. Paikidze’s kingside looked broken and her attack on the other side seemed quite mellow. Wang was unable to keep her nerves in check and badly erred with 19...Nxb4? which allowed Paikidze to grab the initiative and control the game. Paikidze’s technique was impeccable, as she tied the match with a strikingly fast attack on Black’s king. We were going to Armageddon!

Immediately after the game, the arbiter of the competition alongside the players drew the colors for the Armageddon blitz match. Wang picked black! That meant she would start with less time, but she would win the title in case of a draw. Paikidze seemed happy with the outcome, as the momentum was clearly shifting in her favor.

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As the game started you could feel Paikidze’s ferocious energy, as she was playing at a mind-boggling tempo, pressuring her young opponent on time and on the position.

The game couldn’t go smoother for Paikidze, who simply outclassed Wang in the final moments of the match. The game was over, the players shook hands and the thunderous hall erupted into a concert of applause. Nazi Paikidze is the new, 2018 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion!

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2018 U.S. Championships: Round 11

The final round of the 2018 U.S. Chess Championships was as explosive and exciting as one could have imagined. There were four players battling for glory going into today’s games: Sam Shankland, Fabiano Caruana, Annie Wang, and Nazi Paikidze. The outcome couldn’t be more dramatic!

U.S. Championship – The Shankland / Caruana affair

Shankland went into today’s round as the leader, half a point ahead of Caruana. Most scenarios were surely favoring the Californian, but he could not fall asleep at the wheel. Caruana played white against Onischuk, and it was clear that the new challenger would do everything in his power to break through the experienced Grandmaster and try to catch up with the leader.

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Caruana had no other option, he had to go for broke. Being in Shankland’s shoes, the strategy was much more difficult. He was playing the white pieces against the young super talent Awonder Liang, who has had a solid event up to this point. Shankland’s options were: 1. Play it safe, hope that Caruana doesn’t win or 2. Play for a victory, take risks, if a win comes your way you’re the new U.S. Champion.

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For obvious reasons the choice was not easy. Shankland chose a combination of the two, he played a rather strategic and simplified line of the exchange Caro-Kann. Luckily for him, it was the young and effervescent Awonder that made his decision for him by playing the ultra-sharp 7…e5!? for which Shankland was thoroughly prepared! Shankland blasted off a precise series of moves that obviously placed Liang under tremendous pressure.

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On the other side of the fence, Caruana was playing a masterpiece of his own. Outplaying Onischuk in a Ruy Lopez, which was the perfect opening for the tournament position he was in. The young challenger was playing precise, poised chess, and it looked clear that Onischuk would have a very rough day at the office. The tournament was in the air, nobody knew what would happen next. Would Caruana manage to win; would Shankland win his game as well?

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Shankland understood that the situation had changed, and he now needed to win in order to secure the title. As he continued pounding on his opponent’s king with all his might, Liang remained restricted and had to watch his position crumble.

Without any counter play, Liang slowly but surely had to accept the hard truth: defeat was unavoidable. Despite Fabiano’s quick victory, Shankland kept his composure and converted his own advantage with confidence.

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Shankland was now the U.S. Chess Champion!

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U.S. Women’s Championship – Wang breaks at the buzzer.

The show goes on in the ladies’ division, as the unexpected happened!

Annie Wang started off blazing hot, and her position against Foisor looked completely dominant. On the other side, Paikidze was playing a sharp but rather messy game against the experienced Goletiani.

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At this juncture in the round things were looking great for Wang, who looked primed to win her first U.S. Women’s Championship title and become one of the youngest victors this tournament has seen.

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Then, the inexplicable happened. Wang began to play disastrous moves, and quickly found herself in a sea of trouble when Foisor’s rooks found their preferred avenue on the “G” file. Wang collapsed quickly and allowed her opponent to exchange her two rooks for the queen, as well as preserve a decisive attack on her now exposed king. Foisor closed the show with confidence, as she never allowed Wang to come back into the game.

As soon as the game finished, Paikidze offered a timely draw and Goletiani accepted.

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We are now headed for the playoffs, may the best woman win!

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2018 U.S. Championships: Round 10

The championship rounds are always the most promising. The tension, the suspense revolving around the result, all of these and more are what makes us love chess. With only one round to go, the stakes are at their peak, and the players will battle tooth and nail for the top spot in both divisions. But first let’s look at how we got here and get right into the recap!

Onischuk vs Shankland

The two most important actors in this year’s championship play are undoubtedly Shankland and Caruana. These two have been racing against each other for the whole tournament, and the dazzling pace at which they are competing has kept others at bay.

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Onischuk started the game in a promising way, but the middle game was once again only Shankland. Starting with his fierce 12…g5! Shankland took control of the game, revolving around the powerful knight on e4 and the overall control of the light squares. Onischuk was unable to tame Black’s initiative and lost a difficult R+N vs R+B endgame. Shankland’s piece activity coupled with the structural weaknesses that plagued white throughout the game allowed the leader to capitalize and take yet another step toward the title.

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Zherebukh vs Caruana

And what better runner up to keep you on your toes than the world championship challenger, Fabiano Caruana. The young titan has been having the year of his life, with three tournament wins out of his last four, and a secured bid for the world chess crown. It appears he is not stopping anytime soon. The black pieces have been deadly in the hands of Caruana, who once again proved it with a smooth victory against Zherebukh, the player that made history last year when he defeated Caruana in a positional masterpiece.

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That was not the case in this year’s edition, as Caruana swiftly outplayed Zherebukh in a closed Sicilian. Just like in the game of Shankland, another explosive …g5! move made its way, and after its inclusion on the board it was all over for White. The control of the important e5 square, and the drowning pressure forced Zherebukh to resign at move 31. Caruana is half a point behind Shankland going into the decisive final round.

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Three players score first victories

This was also the round of first victories for three of the players. Nakamura drew first blood after completely dismantling Akobian’s position in a tactical masterpiece.

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The two youngsters, Liang and Xiong, also had their best days at this year’s championship as they outfoxed their respective opponents in hotly contested battles. While Xiong’s victory was smooth and precise, Liang’s path to victory was slightly more treacherous, as he had to defend a worse position against Izoria before swindling him and taking the full point home.

Wang vs Zatonskih

The big clash of the round was obviously the one between the leader Wang and one of the players from the chasing pack, Zatonskih. Wang took an inspired decision when she chose to check her opponent’s theoretical knowledge in a well-known line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

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It felt very strange to see Zatonskih entering the main line without knowing the nuances, as she burned through almost all her time before Wang was even out of her preparation. With more than an hour advantage on her clock plus a favorable position, it looked as if the young prodigy would close the show right then and there and claim the title. But it was not meant to be, as she played a few conservative moves that didn’t help her attack, allowing Zatonskih to get back and equalize the game. Wang could not be terribly upset with the result, as she remains the favorite to win it all in the last round!

Abrahamyan vs Paikidze

Paikidze was the only player within striking distance of the leader. Being one point behind, she knew her only chance at bridging the gap was to go all out against the always forefront Abrahamyan. Paikidze’s new opening gamble was a flop as she fell under serious strategical pressure.

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The pressure soon turned into a decisive material advantage for Abrahamyan. And then Caissa decided to give Paikidze the wink, as Abrahamyan horrendously misplayed the last moves of the game allowing Paikidze to force resignation right before the time control. With this victory, Paikidze narrows the gap between her and Wang to half a point, relaunching the tournament and delaying the crowning of a new champion until the last moment.

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The other games in the ladies’ section were drawn without much controversy, as the whole tournament seems to be currently focusing on the draconian battle between Wang and the tenacious Paikidze, who simply wouldn’t give up until the last moment.

It all comes down to the last round, where the new U.S. Chess Championships victors will be crowned!


2018 U.S. Championships: Round 9

Another exciting round in Saint Louis, as the favorites to win the event have once again showed their good form and continued their respective streaks. The most important change after today is at the top of the open championship table, where Shankland is now the sole-leader. Let’s get right into the recap and see what happened in today’s critical round!

Caruana vs Nakamura

A dramatic game ensued between these two titans of the chess world. Nakamura came extremely well prepared, and his theoretical knowledge allowed him to gain a serious advantage on the clock, as well as a more pleasant position on the board.

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Caruana was on the back foot the entire game and could have been severely punished if Nakamura would have played the piece sacrifice he intended to. Instead, Nakamura hesitated to deliver the blow and Caruana was able to harmonize his defensive forces. The game ended in a draw when Caruana found a nice repetition.

Akobian vs So

This was not the most exciting game of the round. Akobian was obviously not in the mood to take any unnecessary risks after losing three games in a row. His cautious play determined the outcome of the game, with Wesley not looking to destabilize the position in dramatic fashion. The players agreed to a draw at move 35.

Lenderman vs Robson

This was a much more interesting draw. Lenderman showed impeccable opening preparation and was looking like he might be able to pull yet another victory, which would have been his third in a row. Robson defended tenaciously, but even so, Lenderman should have capitalized on his magnificent advantage with the move 21.Qa4! which would have secured the victory.

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After missing the easy tactic, Robson was able to regroup his pieces, finish his development, and fully equalize the game. It ended in a draw at move 71.

Paikidze vs Wang

The game that held the most weight this round was the clash between the leader, Wang, and the runner up, Paikidze.

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Despite playing a rather sharp opening, Paikidze’s opposite castling did not intimidate Wang, who immediately activated her pieces and started creating problems for the former champ. The tension could be felt, as none of the players were willing to take unnecessary risks. Wang had everything to lose, while Paikidze feels like she could catch up with the youngster in the remaining games. A draw was agreed via repetition at move 30.

Krush vs Abrahamyan

A very good performance by the 7-time U.S. Champion, Irina Krush. The experienced Grandmaster stirred the game into the direction she wanted, an easy to press position with a stable, long-term advantage.

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Krush dented into her opponent’s structure, created the isolated pawn, and used her great technique to secure an important victory.

Gorti vs Feng

This combative game between the two youngsters was the last game to finish. The players entered an equal endgame, but Feng immediately erred with the overly ambitious 30…e4? This allowed white to corral the advanced pawn and secure the victory with ease after obtaining the material advantage. Feng played all the way until checkmate but could have resigned much earlier.

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Sharevich vs Goletiani

Goletiani seems to have found a new wave of enthusiasm and motivation after being interviewed by Maurice. While Sharevich might not have played her most precise game, it is important to give praise to Goletiani’s spotless game. Black checked all the important points: she equalized, created a weakness in her opponent’s camp, and capitalized on it with great precision. Sharevich was forced to concede when her opponent’s forces invaded her camp.  


2018 U.S. Championships: Round 8

In what was surely one of the most important, and explosive rounds of the tournament, the players kept the spectators on the edge of their seats until the very last game of the round was finished (over 6 hours of play, a record for this year’s championships). Both championships are heating up, and the heat of the competition is unraveling throughout the halls of the Saint Louis Chess Club. Let’s get right into the recap and find out what happened in today’s round!

Zherebukh vs Izoria

The timid opening employed by Zherebukh did not pay dividends, as Izoria skillfully neutralized White’s ideas and created the unpleasant weakness on c4.

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Zherebukh understood that he was no longer holding any sort of opening advantage, and quickly pulled the brakes to stir the game onto a drawing path. The players agreed to a draw at move 35 after most pieces got exchanged.

So vs Caruana

Despite this one being a wildly acclaimed game of the round, if not the tournament, So’s opening approach was mellow. His pulseless attempt at destabilizing the Petroff held no ground against Caruana’s deep understanding of important topics such as piece placement and piece exchange.

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So tried to squeeze water from stone in a symmetrical endgame, but was forced to concede a draw at move 46. Caruana maintains his co-leadership position, while So remains half a point behind.

Robson vs Akobian

The marathon game of the round. The players kept the fans, commentators, and visitors on the edge of their seats all the way until the end. The game lasted 144 (!) moves and was won through pain, sweat, and a lot of tenacity. For the most part of the game, the position remained close to equality, but it was Robson who always seemed to have just a tiny edge, due to his preferred side of the material imbalance present on the board (two pieces vs rook).

Akobian held his own until deep into the endgame, where he erred and allowed Robson to get a winning advantage. Robson returned the favor and allowed Akobian to build a fortress. The players shuffled the pieces for a while, and at some point Akobian tried to claim the threefold repetition. He leaned towards Robson, telling him that with the upcoming move the position would repeat the third time. Robson denied the claim, and it was at this moment that Akobian made a huge mistake, he continued the game! Instead, he should have stopped the clock and claim it with the arbiter.

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Once the game continued, Robson slightly changed the position, and when Akobian officially claimed the draw a few moves later, the claim was denied due to the different position present on the board. Obviously shook by the news, Akobian started erring and allowed the White king to approach the d pawn, which tipped the scale in Robson’s favor. The game was over after Robson skillfully proved he knew how to checkmate with Knight and Bishop, an instructive lesson for the students of the game.

Liang vs Lenderman

Liang has been having a solid event, but so did Lenderman who won a beautiful game against Onischuk in the previous round. The game followed a theoretical line of the Petroff and it seemed as if the players would liquidate the pieces and soon agree to a draw. But Liang had different plans, as he started looking for complications. Unfortunately for him, the overly ambitious moves he made were double edged, as they allowed Lenderman to dent into White’s pawn structure and create weaknesses. Lenderman accurately assessed Liang’s pawn push, and securely stopped it in its tracks, while at the same time picking up pawns and obtaining materials advantage.

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The game was over right before the time control, when Liang’s dynamics suddenly stopped, and he had to face the music being a Bishop and several pawns down.

Wang vs Krush

One of the most intense games of the round was between Wang, representing the future of American chess, and Krush who has been the face of the American women’s chess scene for the last decades. Krush, respecting her status, got an early advantage with the black pieces, and it seemed as if Wang would finally taste defeat. But the youngster wouldn’t go away! The tenacity and practicality with which Wang was making her moves placed huge pressure on the seven-time champion, and Krush was unable to deliver the killing blow. It was then that the young Wang started believing in her chances at more than just holding a draw.

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And the miracle happened, as Krush started playing bad move after bad move, ending up in a completely losing position due to her back-rank weakness. It was when Wang masterfully coordinated her pieces that Krush had to admit defeat. Wang maintains her 1 point lead and is currently playing the most inspiring chess in the tournament.

Abrahamyan vs Sharevich

Abrahamyan got an early lead after the opening, but it was only after Sharevich trapped her own Knight on g5 (instead of placing it on a more defensive square on f8) that she got the decisive advantage.

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Abrahamyan accurately converted the extra pawn and moved to 5 out of 8 points – 2 points behind the leader Wang.

Yu vs Gorti

A game which seemed to go nowhere after the opening. The two players willingly entered an almost symmetrical endgame, and it looked as if they would soon agree to an undisputed draw. But then Gorti started erring, and Yu took full advantage of her opponent’s inaccuracies.

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Yu found the rook exchange with 29. Na7! and the ensuing Knight vs Bishop endgame was simply impossible to defend for the young Gorti. Yu wins her second game in a row and now stands at a respectable 4.5/8 points.

Goletiani vs Derakhshani

After 5 losses in a row, Goletiani finally found the path to victory in her game against the out of shape Derakhshani. Goletiani chose the Anti Grunfeld, and it was obvious as early as move 6 that her opponent was nowhere close to being prepared, as she stumbled into a known opening trap. The ensuing endgame was borderline winning, and Goletiani never allowed her opponent back into the game.

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An exciting finish awaits us as we enter the final three rounds of the 2018 U.S. Championships!


2018 U.S. Championships: Round 7

The U.S. Championships deliver once again. As expected, the players returned to the board after the rest day with renewed energy and acute desire for winning. We are entering the last stretch and the games have been explosive; let’s get into the recap and see what happened in today’s crucial round!

Caruana vs Akobian

Everything went well for Caruana in this game. His preparation was impeccable, as the novelty 10.0-0-0 completely threw off Akobian, who was unable to find his way out of the maze. The game took an ugly turn after Caruana’s aggressive pawn sacrifice with 13.f6!

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Akobian’s position didn’t withstand the pressure, and with great precision Caruana hunted down his opponent’s king. It was all over at move 30, and Caruana catches Shankland at the top of the table with 4 rounds to go.

Lenderman vs Onischuk

The last decisive result in the open section was the positional masterclass presented by Lenderman, who overpowered his good friend in a completely equal endgame. As the players exchanged the queens, it seemed as if the game would be over in no time.

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Lenderman persevered and slowly started pushing Onischuk’s pieces backward. Black’s timid play was punished, as Lenderman started placing his pieces on their ideas squares, leaving Black no choice but to accept capitulation immediately after the first time control.

Liang vs Robson

The young newcomer had plenty of opportunities to finish his more experienced rival. Unfortunately for him, the lack of experience at this level once again had its say. The biggest chance Liang had came early on, when Robson allowed 17.Nxc7! which would have finished the game on the spot, as Robson would lose material and fall under an utterly destructive attack.

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Liang continued to press even after the game’s continuation, but the magnitude of that chance was never presented again. Robson’s tenacity paid off in the end, as he held the difficult endgame to a draw.

Xiong vs Zherebukh

A very balanced game, in which Xiong looked primed to get an advantage at one juncture in the game. After playing a good Catalan and obtaining a minimal advantage, Xiong had the choice of going with the active 28.Ne4! or the less active 28.Ne2?!.

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Unfortunately for him, he chose the latter and his advantage evaporated in the next couple of moves. An unfortunate outcome for Xiong, who is still searching for his first victory in this year’s championship.

Paikidze vs Zatonskih

Paikidze’s opening completely backfired when she mis-played her knights on the side early on. This allowed Zatonskih to pressure her pieces and send them back to their own base, at a loss of tempo.

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Zatonskih skillfully opened the position, and it seemed as if Paikidze’s king would not see the end of the tunnel. Fortunately for her, Zatonskih’s time trouble addiction once again kicked in and she failed to convert her advantage. A huge draw for Paikidze, who remains in close contention for first place despite her horrible start to today’s game.

Yu vs Feng

A fun game for sure! Yu opened with 1.b4 and soon was facing a difficult position. That’s when the fun began, as Yu boldly sacrificed a piece for two pawns and an impressive center. Despite the sacrifice’s dubious feel, Feng was unable to deal with the complications and ended up being much worse in no time.

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Yu’s pawn avalanche in the center was decisive, and the youngster wins consecutive game, placing her at a respectable 50% score.

Derakhshani vs Abrahamyan

Derakhshani got an almost decisive advantage very early on, as Abrahamyan did not know how to react to her opponent’s early theoretical ideas. In the ensuing endgame, White’s bishop pair coupled with the passed “h” pawn should have been decisive. Unfortunately for Derakhshani, her lack of form once again proved decisive as she allowed Abrahamyan back into the game through a series of inaccuracies.

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Once Black regained control, the draw agreement was reached.

Gorti vs Goletiani

Goletiani’s bad form was once again the culprit, as she failed to tame a fairly simple position and blundered the game with the inexplicable 31...Rc6?? This huge mistake was swiftly punished by the young Gorti, and the game ended just a few moves later.


2018 U.S. Championships: Round 6

Round six of the U.S. & U.S. Women's Chess Championships brought important changes to the top of the standings and has cleared the path for what will surely be an explosive finish in the second part of the event. The general consensus among chess players is that the day before the rest day is always filled with decisive results, this one was no different. Let's get into the recap!

Robson vs Caruana

Caruana's Petroff is simply irresistible. The amount of knowledge and ideas that the young Challenger has in, what is considered by many to be a dry opening, is staggering. Robson was surprised early by Caruana's pawn sacrifice and had to concede a large time deficit, that was ultimately critical in the last moves before time control.

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Caruana played risky, some would argue borderline careless chess, but in the end it paid off as Robson couldn't handle the complications and lost the thread of the game. With this victory, Caruana climbs up the ladder, and he now stands half a point behind the leader, Shankland.

So vs Izoria

A short but very complex battle ensued between these two warriors. Wesley was the first one to embrace the chaos with his 10.e4!? A pawn sacrifice that surely looked as if it would destabilize Izoria. The newcomer did not flinch, took the pawn, and decided to keep it at all costs for the remainder of the opening.

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But that could have costed him, as his 13...Bc5?! could have been taxed by the very powerful sacrifice, 14.Nxe6! Instead of that, Wesley played the tame 14.Nf5 and the game soon ended after massive simplifications.

Nakamura vs Xiong

Nakamura has been having his best tournament, especially if you look at his results from his perspective based in his expectations. He is generally a very creative, always looking for decisive results, type of player. But this event has brought him only draws, and this game was no different. Despite finally getting a serious advantage to play with, Nakamura missed his big chance when he couldn't spot the potent 19.Nb3! or even 19.Nc4! with the same idea of temporarily sacrificing the exchange.

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The move continuation allowed black to completely neutralize white's dynamics and force simplification at a rapid pace. The game was over at move 31.

Onischuk vs Liang

Except in his loss against Akobian, Liang has been an incredibly tough competitor in this tournament. He has not lost any other games, and it seemed he wasn't even in any danger despite the massive rating average he had to face (already having played the big three). This game was no different, as he equalized quite handily with the Black pieces and forced his more experienced rival to concede a draw.

Feng vs Paikidze

A rather tame game between the two favorites.

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Paikidze played a very good opening and equalized with ease. On the other side of the board, Feng clearly did not have any major expectations from this game, as she did not try particularly hard to steer the game on a different path. A draw was agreed at move 34.

Zatonskih vs Krush

A crucial match in the Women's section, as these two ladies have 11 national titles combined, and have been at the top of their game for the past many years.

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Zatonskih's opening did not go as planned, and despite her structural advantage, Krush's piece activity and dynamics were utterly destructive. Through skillful maneuvering, Krush managed to break through Zatonskih's defense and made swift work of her king's shattered protection. The bishop pair was Krush's best asset in this game, and her masterful use of it should be studied by young aspiring players.

Abrahamyan vs Gorti

This game was a balanced affair, but it was Gorti who ultimately made the last mistake and allowed Abrahamyan to garner yet another victory.

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Abrahamyan's invasion on the back ranks, coupled with a series of mating threats was too much to handle for the young Gorti, who had to resign right before the first time control. Abrahamyan has won two out of her last three games and is now approaching the podium.

Foisor vs Sharevich

In her attempt at repeating the brave performance of last year, Foisor seems to have placed too much pressure on herself, as she was unable to play her best chess in this year's championship so far. Having the white pieces, Foisor clearly tried to destabilize the position and garner an advantage, but once again seemed to carelessly over press. Sharevich played a good endgame, but even so Foisor had a late chance at making a draw with the study-like 65.Kh6!

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Unfortunately for the reigning champion, the time trouble situation did not allow her to find the best move, and she had to resign a few moves later due to Sharevich's imminent promotion.

Chess players know how to have fun, and the special program - Chess After Dark - organized by the club to celebrate a successful first half of the tournament was a complete success. Players got together immediately after the round to unwind, socialize, dance, share ideas, and most importantly have a lot of fun. Enjoy a couple of the pictures from the event!

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2018 U.S. Championships: Round 5

Today was a calm day in Saint Louis. The players seemed to have decided in unison to catch a breather, as eleven out of twelve games were drawn, with some of them being non-combative games. Let’s get right into the recap!

Shankland vs Caruana

After yesterday’s disaster, Caruana was surely looking to get a game and try to bounce back. Unfortunately, doing so against a well prepared player such as Shankland could potentially bear some risks. Caruana chose the borderline suicidal 8…g6? which immediately allowed White to get a huge attack due to his lead in development and better pieces.

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Caruana understood the danger he was in, and calmly accepted a pawn-down endgame. Shankland had his chances to convert, especially right before the time control with the move 40.Kh3!, a subtle and potent move that would have surely created some difficulties for Caruana. He did not find it and the players agreed to a draw only 4 moves later.

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Izoria vs Akobian

This was another game that could have surely went a different path. Izoria opened with a flexible English, and after a correctly played opening, Akobian failed to find the accurate pawn sacrifice with 13…Bb6! which would have secured a very comfortable position. Instead, he allowed the full grip in the center, and could have faced tremendous danger if Izoria would have found 15.f4!.

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The game continuation was rather mellow, and Akobian swiftly exchanged the pieces, eliminated his weaknesses, and comfortably drew the game.

Xiong vs So

A game without much history, as Jeffery decided to allow a rather forced repetition early on.

Liang vs Zherebukh

Another game without much history. The two players decided to repeat a sharp, but very known theoretical line which leads to a forced repetition. The game was drawn in less than 30 minutes.

Onischuk vs Robson

One of the longer games of the round. Onischuk found yet another idea in the Grunfeld (he is known to enjoy Grunfeld endgames as white) and started pressuring Robson early on due to his better structure and potential for rook infiltration.

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Robson kept his cool and never allowed Onischuk to get a decisive advantage. A draw was agreed at move 51.

Lenderman vs Nakamura

Lenderman came extremely well prepared for this game. His theoretical knowledge allowed him to get a significant time advantage (over an hour edge after the first 20 moves). Nakamura had to regroup and find some very accurate moves to keep the game in balance, and it was at no time in real danger despite Lenderman’s valiant attempt at destabilizing the KID. Draw was agreed at move 41 after massive simplifications.

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Krush vs Paikidze

A missed opportunity by Krush, who simply overpowered Paikidze in the middlegame, but was unable to convert her decisive advantage due to a series of inaccuracies. Nazi’s 26…Na7? was the mistake that could have costed the former champion her lead, but Krush returned the favor with 30.Ra1?! when 30.Qc7! would have sealed the deal and given Krush the victory.

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Despite being a pawn down, Nazi’s resilience was rewarded and the players agreed to a draw at 56.

Gorti vs Wang

It seemed like this would be the game where Wang finally met her demise, but her incredible resilience and accurate play under tremendous pressure paid out handsomely once again. Gorti played a beautiful game but was unable to finish the job.

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Time trouble was once again a huge factor, as Gorti started missing important resources which allowed Wang back into the game. A draw was agreed via repetition at move 64.

Yu vs Abrahamyan

Abrahamyan’s French defense has been an important part of her repertoire throughout her entire career, and it seemed like today it will bring her another crucial victory. Obtaining material advantage was not enough, as Yu cleverly changed the character of the position by giving two pieces in exchange for a rook.

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Abrahamyan was never allowed to coordinate her piece, and towards the end it was her who had to find the best moves in order to force a draw.

Sharevich vs Zatonskih

The longest game of the day. Once again, GM Denes Boros brings us the complete annotations for this crucial battle.

Goletiani vs Feng

Despite being the only decisive results of the round, this game simply does not bear much historical importance. Goletiani seems to be completely out of shape, as she recklessly sacrificed piece after piece for an imaginary attack. Feng calmly collected and forced resignation when her opponent’s “attacking” ideas ran out.

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Derakhshani vs Foisor

After two consecutive losses, it was clear that Derakhshani should try to stop the bleeding and make a much needed draw. Foisor equalized with ease, and it was her who had a slight pull in the ensuing endgame. It was nevertheless a very minimal advantage and the two players had to agree to a draw after all the pieces were exchanged.


2018 U.S. Championships: Round 4


The fourth round couldn't get any more shocking. Caruana lost after over pressing against the tenacious Izoria, while in the U.S. Women's Championship the ladies were out for blood as they entertained the fans with six decisive results. Clearly this was the bloodiest round of the tournament. Let's get right into the recap!

So vs Lenderman

A very tense game in which Wesley certainly looked as if he could tip the scales in his favor. Lenderman defended with pinpoint accuracy though, and in the end, it was So who had to agree to a draw.

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Given Fabiano's loss, So is now tied at the top of the table with Akobian and Shankland.

Akobian vs Xiong

Akobian came very well prepared for Xiong's Grunfeld and it seemed as if he would be the victor of the round. Once again, the level of defense in this championship proved to be extremely high, as Xiong found all the necessary resources and managed to get the desired draw.

Robson vs Shankland

Robson's preparation clearly backfired in this one, as he allowed Shankland to get a better structure early on. White failed to complicate matters in a timely fashion, and slowly but surely Shankland made swift use of his better pieces to infiltrate Robson's position and force resignation.

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Shankland scored his second consecutive victory, while Robson lost his second in a row.

Nakamura vs Liang

Nakamura once again took unnecessary risks out of the opening, playing a double edge kingside attack. Liang patiently defended his king, while at the same time building his own dynamic play on the queenside. In the end, it was Nakamura who had to find equality which, given Liang's riskless play, was not a very difficult task.

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Nakamura remains winless, while Liang has held his own again the big three and will look to get some important victories in the upcoming rounds.

Wang vs Yu

The longest game of the tournament so far, as Wang needed 106 moves to finish her peer, Yu. Wang obtained a solid advantage out of the opening and transitioned into a better endgame with ease. The conversion was far from trivial, as Yu was always looking to compensate her loss of material with her active pieces. Wang accurately defended her king and transitioned into a winning rook endgame at the right moment.

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Wang is now tied with Paikidze at the top, as she presents her own bid for a national title run.

Feng vs Krush

Krush has been playing shakey chess, but her experience always plays a huge role into the final outcome of the game. Once again, despite getting a worse position out of the opening, she slowly outplayed her younger opponent in a slow strategical game, focusing on Feng's overly expanded center.

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In the end, Feng did not manage to outlast Krush's pressure as she blundered a mating net into an already difficult position.

Foisor vs Gorti

The reigning champion needed this win. Foisor was already experiencing huge difficulties in the tournament, as her winless performance up to this moment was leaving her trailing heavy behind the leaders. And she understood that, as she took necessary risks to destabilize the position and paint the premises for a decisive attack against Gorti's king.

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Foisor's pressure was too much to handle for the Junior champion, as she allowed an aesthetics final checkmate. Foisor get's back to 50%, still trailing by one point and a half behind the leaders.

Abrahamyan vs Goletiani

A match without much history. Goletiani completely misplayed the opening, allowing the aggressive Abrahamyan to get her type of position, in which she rarely fails to hunt your king down. The scenario was written early, as Abrahamyan utterly destroyed her opponent's position and finished the job at move 30. A much needed victory for Abrahamyan, who is now back to 50%.

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2018 U.S. Championships: Round 3


The third round of the 2018 U.S. Champions once again was a delight to watch, as the players came well prepared and put up a great show for the fans. Their competitive spirit should be praised, as this round was peppered with great victories in both sections. Let's get right into the recap!

Liang vs So

The young prodigy from Pittsburgh has been making waves all year long with his incredible victories against extremely strong opposition. In his games, he has showed many times that he is never phased by the status of his opponents, and he will always look to bring the heat to the board. In this game, he was playing one of the best chess players in the world, yet the young Liang was the one dictating the game from the beginning to the end.

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White got an almost decisive advantage after a few careless middlegame moves by So, but failed to lock in the full point when he missed the powerful 31.f3! which would have denied the black knight access back into the game, essentially allowing white to claim an almost decisive advantage. After the miss, the game soon petered into a draw.

Lenderman vs Akobian

A very tense battle, but one in which none of the players actually managed to fully tip the scale in their favor. Akobian spent a lot of time in the early middlegame and by the 25th move he was already in severe time trouble. Nonetheless, he made all the right moves and managed to stabilize the game. Lenderman could not find a way to complicate matters and the game soon entered a peaceful path. With this draw, Akobian maintains his co-leader status but is now joined at the top of the table by none other than Fabiano Caruana.

Zherebukh vs Robson

A very instructive game by Zherebukh, who slowly but surely outpaced Robson in a symmetrical structure. Zherebukh managed to use his slightly superior Bishop after finding the right way to destabilize the pawn structure in his favor by planting his "c" pawn all the way to c5. The endgame is worth studying, as this structure is a typical one that will surely be found in some of your games one day! Zherebukh's technique was immaculate and he takes the full point home. Both players are now on 50% after 3 rounds.

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Izoria vs Shankland

Shankland has been having a solid event so far, without much problems in any of his games. And this was not different, as he equalized without much problems out of the opening. Despite the balanced position, Izoria started burning a lot of time on seemingly easy decisions. This allowed Shankland to put pressure on the U.S. Championship newcomer, and complicate matters at the right moment. The pressure of having to find accurate moves in time trouble was too much for Izoria, who simply crumbled right before making time control.

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Shankland scores his first victory of the tournament and is now sitting at a comfortable +1, Izoria needs to change something in order to get back into the competition.

 
Derakhshani vs Paikidze

Paikidze has been playing stellar chess, and today was no different. The game started off extremely tame as the players quickly hurried into an equal endgame. But that's when the maneuvering game began, and it was the former champion that came on top. Derakhshani seemed to not be at ease finding good squares for her pieces, and despite managing to double Paikidze's pawns, she had no answer to her opponent's swift piece play.

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Paikidze accurately built the pressure, and it was only just a matter of time before Derakshani crumbled. With this victory, Paikidze moves on +2 and is now co-leader with the fierce Wang. Derakhshani failed to recover after yesterday's tragic loss against Krush, and is now forced to score heavily if she wants to get back into title contention.

Goletiani vs Wang

Wang has been making waves this tournament, and she had not disappointed once again. Today's game was an accurate depiction of what this talented junior brings to the table: grit, determination, and tenacity. Goletiani started off well and even managed to build a long lasting strategic advantage due to her passed "d" pawn and active bishop pair. It was her lack of patience, when she lounged into the attack without firstly securing his pawns on the queenside, that spelled disaster for her.

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Wang calmly collected her opponent's pawns and then accurately defended her king against her opponent's menacing attack. Once white's bullets were done, Wang made use of her extra material to win the game. Wang is now tied with Paikidze at the top.

Abrahamyan vs Feng

This was one of those games in which your dynamic play only allows for a very short window of opportunity. If missed, the player that has put all the eggs in the dynamic basket usually has to deal with the consequences. Abrahamyan aggressively attacked her opponent's king, but failed to find the beautiful 17.Nd6! which would have allowed her to continue her attack.

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After the move in the game, Feng had enough time to regroup her pieces, and her extra material was used to perfection throughout the rest of the game.

Yu vs Foisor

The reigning champion, Foisor, did not have a lot of trouble finding equality out of the opening. But the endgame proved to be a complete disaster for her as she did not manage to contain Yu's minimal advantage. After a series of inaccurate moves, Yu managed to increase her advantage and transition into a theoretically draw situation.

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Unfortunately for Foisor, it was her defensive technique that failed her when she played the unfortunate 53...h4?? This pawn push immediately lost the game, as Yu was able to easily pick the overly advanced pawn and secure a second passed pawn. Yu scores her first victory, while Foisor struggles to maintain pace in her bid at a title defense.


2018 U.S. Championships: Round 2

The second round of the 2018 U.S. Championships was as promising as the first. With plenty of exciting matches on the horizon, the chess fans gathered to see the players at work; they weren’t disappointed, as we once again got a combative round in the books.

So vs Onischuk

This game perfectly portrayed the difference we often see between an incredibly strong grandmaster, Onischuk, and an elite player like So. White chose to open with 1.e4 and the players soon entered a common line of the Ruy Lopez.

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Unfortunately for Onischuk, his plan with Nd7-Nb6 backfired quickly when So perfectly aligned his pieces on the kingside, and accurately found the moment to break in the center and create the necessary havoc. Once the position was destabilized, white’s pieces were simply superior. So used his immaculate technique and pocketed the full point with ease.

Akobian vs Liang

An extremely important battle was the one between the experienced Akobian, and the up and coming prodigy, Awonder Liang. Akobian used his experience to stir the game into strategic territory, where he hoped it would be easier to outplay Liang. White quickly got his opponent under severe pressure, and could have ended the game much earlier if he would have found the killing blow 26.Nxd5!

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Unfortunately for him, he did not see it and had to wait for another tremendous blunder in time trouble to finish the game. With this victory, Akobian joins So at the top of the table.  

Caruana vs Lenderman

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Fabiano knew that keeping up with the leaders was utterly important, as he simply just dismantled Lenderman after an unforgiving attack.

Nakamura vs Zherebukh

Since joining the U.S. Championship roster last year, Zherebukh has proved time and time again that he deserves to be among the best. His last year’s victory against Caruana cemented his spot and showed that he is not afraid of anybody.

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Playing the black pieces against Nakamura might be intimidating, but Zherebukh kept complete control from the get go and did not allow any chances for White. The game quickly ended in a draw, and Nakamura will need to start winning very soon if he wants to keep pace with the leaders.

Shankland vs Xiong

A game without much history. Shankland found a way to a minimal advantage out of the opening, but was quickly neutralized by Xiong, who knew the necessary maneuvers to not get into any sort of trouble.

Robson vs Izoria

What started off as a tame Anti Berlin, soon regressed into a wild affair when Robson decided, in his usual combative style, to sacrifice a pawn with 22.f4! Izoria accepted the sacrifice but quickly found himself in trouble as he was unable to regroup his wandering knight back into his own base. Robson made swift use of his piece superiority and led a decisive attack against his opponent’s king. Robson is back in the mix, while Izoria will need to regroup in the upcoming rounds.


Paikidze vs Gorti

A very complex battle ensued in this game. The opening was balanced, but it looked as if Paikidze might be slightly better due to her space advantage and her upcoming minority attack.

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Unfortunately for her, she timed her break badly and quickly ended up in trouble when Gorti’s knight ventured into her camp. Gorti found the right sacrifice and looked on the verge of winning the game, but her technique failed her, and she had to settle to a draw in a rook’s endgame.

Wang vs Abrahamyan

Given the rating difference, it seemed as if Abrahamyan should be the favorite in this game. Wang didn’t take unnecessary risks with the white pieces, and handily exchanged most of the pieces. Complete equality was achieved without much complaint from either player, and the two ladies soon agreed to a draw.

Krush vs Derakhshani

This game was a heartbreak for the Championship newcomer, Derakhshani. Just like in round one, she played a great game up to a certain point, but once again failed to close the show and allowed her opponent back into the game. Krush’s experience played a pivotal role in the outcome of the game, as her nerves during the time trouble moments allowed her to complete change the position’s assessment, from losing to winning in a matter of 3 reckless moves.

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Derakhshani’s loss is surely disappointing, but her morale is certainly not shattered, as she promised to come back stronger in tomorrow’s game against Paikidze. Krush is back on track, and ready to make another run for the national title!

Foisor vs Goletiani

The reigning champion played an impeccable strategic game all the way into the late middlegame, when she already amassed a decisive advantage. Unfortunately for her, Goletiani’s counter strike on the queenside shocked the champion as she completely lost the thread of the game in time trouble. The game took a wild turn when Foisor decided to sacrifice a piece and go all in into the attack. The champion underestimated her opponent’s defensive resources and after the time trouble she was completely losing if only Goletiani would have found 43…Ne6! Instead, Goletiani decided to call it a night and force the draw with a perpetual. A lucky escape for the champ!

Zatonskih vs Yu

An incredible preparation lead to a crushing advantage for Zatonskih. Grandmaster Boros Denes has the extensive analysis for this game!

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Feng vs Sharevich

After yesterday’s loss, Maggie Feng came to this game ready to bounce back at all costs. And she did so without much effort, as she completely neutralized her opponent’s pieces and took the full point home after a convincing performance.

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The result of the game was never in doubt, as she showed her class and did not let her opponent slip at any moment.


2018 U.S. Championships: Round 1

The first day of the 2018 U.S. & U.S. Women’s Chess Championships kicked off with a plethora of exciting matchups that were surely going to bring the fire to the board, the commentary booth, and to all the fans across the world that chose to tune in. And it did not disappoint!

Liang vs Caruana

In the open section the big clash of the round was the battle between the young prodigy, Awonder Liang, and the man of the hour, Fabiano Caruana. The world championship challenger chose to surprise his opponent as early as move one, when he chose not to employ his pet line, the Petroff. Instead, we got an unbalanced Sicilian as an early treat; nevertheless, Awonder chose the tame 3.Bb5 and forcefully stirred the game into more calm waters.

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His decision proved to be very practical, as he managed to neutralize Caruana’s attempts to destabilize the position. The game was drawn without many complications arising along the way.

Nakamura vs Robson

The always fierce Nakamura chose a wild line of the Scotch gambit to try and rattle the precise Robson. Unfortunately for him, it all backfired after Robson accurately neutralized his attempt and even obtained a better position out of the opening. Nakamura sensed the looming danger and decided to simplify the position as quickly as possible before things could have turned dark for him. The game ended in a draw soon after the 30th move without many fireworks exploding on the board.

Zherebukh vs So

Wesley simply just proved his overwhelming class in this one. Zherebukh got a normal position after the opening, but in the ensuing maneuvering middlegame, So outplayed his opponent with ease. With each move, So’s pieces were improving, while his opponents were losing their position and poise. Zherebukh’s 26th move, Kh1, was a complete blunder as he allowed the tactical blow 26…Nc2! Which secured a utterly winning endgame for black and Wesley had no problems converting. Strong start for the defending champion!

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Onischuk vs Akobian

A completely wild game, let’s look into this one a bit closer!

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Xiong vs Izoria

Jeffery has had a pretty difficult 2017, but his first tournament of the year was quite a successful affair (winning the GM Invitational in Saint Louis). Coming off with a great attitude, and facing the newcomer Izoria, he was surely the favorite going into today’s round. His offbeat approach allowed him to slowly outpace his opponent, and by the 30th move he was already a clean pawn up. Unfortunately for him, his technique failed him in the endgame and allowed the Californian to save half a point after a tenacious defensive effort. Izoria will surely be happy with his inaugural game in the U.S. Championship, Jeffery will surely look to bounce back from his disappointment and pick back the pace in the upcoming rounds.

Lenderman vs Shankland

This game was the typical round 1 encounter, where players generally try to limit their risk exposure in order not to start on a negative note. The game was the first one to finish in an uneventful draw.

US Women’s Championship

Goletiani vs Zatonskih

Quite an interesting game ensued between these two fighting ladies. Goletiani skillfully stirred the game into an unbalanced reversed color Benoni, and obtained a nice advantage early on. Zatonskih fought back and slowly but surely managed to outplay her lower rated opponent.

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The 4 time U.S. Women’s Champion, Zatonskih, failed to find the killing blow (25…Bf6!!) which would have secured a decisive advantage after the ensuing complications. After that miss, Goletiani was able to get back into the game and successfully managed to save half a point.

Gorti vs Krush

A scintillating battle between the U.S. Girls' Junior champion, Akshita Gorti, and her much more experienced opponent, 7 time U.S. Women’s Champion Irina Krush. The young Gorti played a balanced game up until the 34th move when she blundered with Nd2, allowing for a beautiful tactic that should have ended the game for Krush. Fortunately for Gorti, Krush’s technique completely failed her as she allowed the young champion back into the game. In the end, it was Gorti’s tenacious defense that saved her from the claws of her experienced opponent. A great save for Gorti, and a disappointing miss for Krush.

Yu vs Paikidze

One of the best games of the round, as Paikidze simply obliterated he young opponent off the chess board with a merciless attack. 

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Abrahamyan vs Foisor

This was a wild affair between two of the favorites of the event. The reigning champion surprised Abrahamyan early on by choosing the Caro-Kann, an opening that has not been part of her usual repertoire in recent years. Abrahamyan chose an aggressive line, and Foisor’s inexperience showed early on, as she allowed white to get a powerful center coupled with a menacing space advantage.

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Foisor cleverly offered her opponent a poisoned pawn, which when accepted, opened a new wave of opportunities due to her active placed pieces and the control over the light squares. Despite her extra material, Abrahamyan did not manage to find a way to neutralize her opponent’s compensation, and in the end she had to allow Foisor’s perpetual check. A complex draw that allows both contenders to remain fairly satisfied after the first-round melee.

Wang vs Feng

Quite an interesting battle between the two young contenders. Wang sacrificed a pawn for compensation early on, and slowly managed to construct a powerful initiative around her superior piece play. Feng was doing fine all the way until the endgame, but unfortunately for her, the rook endgame was simply too complex for her, as she allowed her opponents rooks to penetrate the 7th rank and create menacing threats against her king. The difference in piece activity proved to be decisive, as Wang scored an important win which propulses her to the top of the crosstable.

Derakhshani vs Sharevich

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Derakhshani started her U.S. Championship quest with a powerfully prepared opening, allowing her to get an advantage as soon as move seven, after her opponent’s sacrificed surely backfired. Once again though, as it has happened in many games during this round, the player with extra material failed to prove their technique and allowed their opponents back into their game.

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After Sharevich managed to get her pawn back, the draw was easy to achieve.

A combative way to start the US Championships for both sections, the upcoming rounds are going to be very interesting to watch!

 
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