In the open section, Fabiano Caruana took the sole lead with a win over Aleksandr Lenderman in Round 9, while Tatev Abrahamyan became the leader of the women’s championship after she beat Anna Zatonskih.
The top three ranked players in the open section — Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So — all had Black in Round 9. As I mentioned in the report on Round 8, it is generally harder to choose the type of fight the game takes when playing Black. So if the player with White chooses to play solidly, it is much harder to win.
Fortunately for Caruana, he couldn’t complain about the play of his opponent, Aleksandr Lenderman. Perhaps buoyed by his first win of the tournament in Round 8, Lenderman played a wildly aggressive game against Caruana in Round 9. Caruana responded by playing very controlled and had few problems scoring a point.
So, who was tied with Caruana after Round 8, didn’t have such a nice opponent. Jeffery Xiong, who is 15 years old, continued his unbeaten run by playing solidly against So.
Nakamura’s opponent, Alexander Onischuk also played carefully against Nakamura. Nakamura, who was a half point behind the leaders after Round 8, and who was desperate for a win to try to catch up, pushed the position to its limits, but just fell short of breaking through Onischuk’s defenses.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Anna Zatonskih, left, and Tatev Abrahamyan during Round 9.
In the Women’s section, all eyes were on the game between the leaders: Zatonskih, the resurgent former champion, and Abrahamyan. Abrahamyan, who was Black, played interestingly in the opening to pose some unusual problems for White, but the game ended suddenly after Zantonskih blundered her queen:
( 15. Nxd4would have maintained an interesting position. Black
should have decent compensation after 15... Nxf416. Rxf4O-Obecause Black has her bishop pair and Whites pawns are slightly weaker. After Nxe6, the game would head toward an opposite-colored bishop endgame that would be drawish despite Black
being down a pawn. )
Nazi Paikidze, the other co-leader after Round 8 in the women’s championship, had Black against Sabina Foisor and played carefully to make a draw. Irina Krush, the top seed and defending champion, fell a point behind Abrahamyan, after Krush failed to pose any problems to Jennifer Yu, a 14-year-old master.
In the opening, Caruana enticed Lenderman to advance his g-pawn all the way to g6:
Lenderman, Aleksandr vs. Caruana, Fabiano
U.S. Championship 2016 |chess24.com |Round 9.2 |23 Apr 2016 |*
1. c4e62. Nc3d53. d4Be74. cxd5exd55. Bf4c66. e3Bf5Black plays a fairly provocative line. Recently, people playing Black with this opening have not done very well, but Caruana wanted to win, so he decides to provoke Lenderman into being aggressive: 7. g4The most principled
continuation. This must have come as a relief to Caruana, because White could certainy have played a dull, but super solid setup with moves like Bd3, etc. Now, White is committed to playing something exciting, which provides chances for Caruana as well. 7... Be68. h4Nd79. g5h6Continuing his
theme of provoking White. 10. g6f5!?An interesting decision. The
computers don't like this move, but I don't see any reason why. Temporarily at least, Black blocks White's play on the king side, as well as in the center. Now, it is
White's turn to prove he can create an initiative, but that is not easy.
In the game, Lenderman, doesn't even try to create much, which gives Black
more than enough time to regroup:
At first glance, the pawn on g6 looked very dangerous for Black. But it isn’t immediately obvious what to do next. White probably needed some more concrete plans, like immediately trying to attack the f5 pawn by playing Bd3 and Qc2, etc. Instead, Lenderman continued a little too solidly — not the best mix after advancing your pawn all the way to g6. He got his pieces placed nicely, but this gave Black more than enough time to finish development and launch his own play with c5. After that, White’s position collapsed quickly as the pawn on g6 only became a weakness:
11. Bg3The plan to play Nf4 is somewhat slow. 11... Ngf612. Nh3Nb613. Nf4Bd714. f3O-O15. Kf2Black has regouped completely, while White's new setup
doesn't inspire confidence. He is playing a little too positionally, which is not the
right thing to do after pushing your pawn to g6! 15... Rc816. Bd3c5!Now
Black's counterplay starts. 17. Kg2cxd418. exd4Bd619. Qb3Kh820. Bb5Bxf4!21. Bxf4Nh5The g6 pawn is a huge weakness. 22. Be5Bxb523. Qxb5Nc424. Rae1Nxe525. Rxe5Qf6and now it is all over. Lenderman played on for a
while, but it didn't change much: 26. Kf2Qxg627. Rg1Qf628. Rh1Nf429. Ke3Ng630. Rxd5Nxh431. Rd7Qg5+32. Kd3Nxf333. Rd1Qg234. Rxb7Rfe835. Rc7Rb836. Qc6Red837. Kc4Rxd4+38. Kc5Rxd139. Nxd1Qg1+40. Kc4Qd4#
The game between Onischuk and Nakamura started slowly. They reached an endgame that is generally regarded as being close to a draw. However, Black’s slightly better pawn structure does give him some chances. Nakamura milked the position as much as possible by showing some great technique:
Onischuk, Alexander vs. Nakamura, Hikaru
U.S. Championship 2016 |chess24.com |Round 9.3 |23 Apr 2016 |*
31. Ne3Nf4+!?After the exchange of knights, it would probably be much harder
for Black to create any new chances. So Nakamura keeps things more fluid: 32. Ke4f5+!The key idea is to push the White king away from e4 so that Black can play d5 later on. 33. Kf3g534. Nc4?!I think this allows Black to play Kc6 and Kd5. In addition, Nxd6 is not really what White wants to do as then the
Black knight will be clearly better than the White bishop. 34... Ng6!?Creating
threats like Nh4. Also, note that Black is ready to bring his King to d5
quickly: 35. g4
( 35. g3Kc6 )
35... Kc6Things are becoming more
challenging for White. He could continue defending solidly, but that would mean he would be passive for a long time. Instead, Onischuk decides to play actively. 36. d5+!?exd537. Nxd6fxg4+38. Kxg4Kxd639. Kf5White's idea. The King
activity seems to be enough to offset the pawn sacrifice....
Nh4+!Nakamura played Ne7 instead. This move is really surprising, even if Nakamura was in time pressure, because after Nh4, he could have repeated moves. 40. Kg4because Nf3 has to be stopped. Now Ng6 was
possible to safely reach the 40-move time control. But Black also has another brilliant way to play: 40... Ke6!41. f4The only way to make use of the knight on h4. 41... h5+!Forcefully getting his knight to f3. 42. Kxh5
( 42. Kxg5Nf3+ )
42... Nf3!and the bishop
has no good way to manage the advance of the d-pawn: 43. Bb4a544. Bc3Kf545. fxg5Nxg5followed by Nf3 and d4, etc.
Still, I have to admit, the line was really hard to calculate, and Nakamura, perhaps intuitively, decided to avoid it. After 39. … Ne7, Black still had an extra pawn, but White’s king was far too active:
Nothing exciting happened in the game between Xiong and So. Xiong has been having a great tournament, and So understandably didn’t want to play something particularly risky. So things quickly simplified to a drawn endgame. Similarly, in Ray Robson vs. Sam Shankland, Robson didn’t seem particularly ambitious, even though he was also a half point behind the leaders after Round 8, and things quickly simplified into a drawn position.
There were two more decisive games in the open section. In one, Gata Kamsky, a five-time U.S. Champion and former World Championship candidate, gave a long endgame lesson to 16-year-old Akshat Chandra. In the other game, Alexander Shabalov, a four-time U.S. Champion, made an unfortunate blunder to give Varuzhan Akobian his first win.
In his prime, Shabalov used to be among the best attacking chess players in the world. But now, at 48, age is clearly catching up with him. Despite playing some interesting chess, this was the third game he lost by making a sudden blunder:
Shabalov, Alexander vs. Akobian, Varuzhan
U.S. Championship 2016 |chess24.com |Round 9.5 |23 Apr 2016 |0-1
28. Rb8??Rf1 would still be about equal 28... Rxf229. Bf1Shabalov clearly
thought that Bd6 was an irresistible threat, but... 29... Rxf4!30. gxf4Rxc7wins for Black. 31. Ra8a432. Rb1Rc8
With just two rounds remaining, it looks like things might be clearing up in both the sections. Abrahamyan has come close to winning the United States Championship many times in the past, and this might finally be her time. Not only does she have a half point lead over Paikidze, but Paikidze also has a very challenging last round match against Krush.
It seems that the open section is coming down to a race between Caruana and So because it seems that it will be very tough for Nakamura to catch up, particularly as he has more challenging opponents in the last two rounds.
Things look pretty good for Caruana as he plays White against Kamsky in Round 10. While Kamsky is very experienceed and has beaten the very best players in the world, he is past his prime and shouldn’t represent a big threat to Caruana. After that, Caruana finishes up against the somewhat out-of-form Chandra, while his rivals have tougher pairings. Whether So will still be able to challenge Caruana for the title going down to the wire will probably be determined in Round 10, as So plays Robson.
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 90 in the world, he is currently a sophomore at Stanford University.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players