Image by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
But the World’s No. 2 ranked player survived a scare on Tuesday. In the women’s division, Paikidze, the defending Champion, also leads.
Wesley So, the No. 2 player in the world, leads the 2017 United States Championship, but only after he had a huge scare against Varuzhan Akobian in Round 6 on Tuesday.
One of So’s main rivals, Fabiano Caruana, ranked No. 3, and the defending champion, also closed the gap after Caruana won his first game of the event, beating Gata Kamsky, a five-time United States Champion and former challenger for the World Championship.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Wesley So being observed by Hikaru Nakamura, left, and So's opponent, Varuzhan Akobian, during Round 6.
So has 4 points, followed by Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Daniel Naroditsky, Akobian, and Yaroslav Zherebukh, who are tied at 3.5 points apiece.
In the Women’s Championship, which is being held concurrently, Nazi Paikidze, the defending champion, took over the lead after beating Irina Krush in Round 6.
Paikidze has 4.5 points, followed by Sabina-Francesca Foisor, who has 4.
The two championships are being held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. It is the ninth consecutive year that the club has hosted both events. The open tournament, a round-robin with 12 players, has a prize fund of $194,000. The women’s tournament, which is also a 12-player round-robin, has a prize fund of $100,000.
Caruana is obviously one of the favorites to win the championship, but he had been held in check in the first five rounds, while Kamsky was coming off a victory over Jeffrey Xiong, one of the country’s top rising stars. The game had the potential to be a real struggle, but instead it ended quickly.
Kamsky, a former prodigy, is now 42 and he has been showing signs recently of fatigue with chess. It was apparent in Round 6 as he may have mixed up his preparation as he quickly blundered away a pawn:
Caruana, Fabiano vs. Kamsky, Gata
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.3 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: B33 |1-0
16. Nb4Be6??17. Nxa6!It is next to impossible to blunder a pawn against a player rated 2800 and survive. The rest of the game was quite straightforward after this point, as Caruana wrapped up the victory. 17... O-O18. Nb4f519. O-Ofxe420. Bxe4Rac821. Rad1White has a huge advantage.
A much bigger surprise was So’s game against Akobian. So is on an unbeaten streak of 62 games and has won several of the world’s top tournaments in recent months. During that time, he has been particularly dangerous with White. But he was never in control against Akobian. A couple of rounds earlier, playing against Alexander Onischuk, he had avoided drawing lines and managed to swindle Onischuk and win. He tried that strategy against Akobian, and it really got him into trouble:
So, Wesley vs. Akobian, Varuzhan
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.1 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: D31 |*
Nf812. Nf3?!Bg4!13. Rg1Nf614. Rg3!?So undoubtedly saw but rejected the following line:
( 14. Qc2Bxf315. Bxg6+Nxg616. Qxg6+Kd717. Qf5+Ke8But there weren't any other good options available instead of this. )
14... g5!15. hxg5hxg516. Bxg5Rh1+17. Bf1Qc818. Qb3N8h719. Bxf6gxf620. O-O-OWhite has almost finished development and consolidated, after which he would be winning. But Black has one last trick: 20... Bd6!Trapping the rook! 21. Rxg4Qxg422. Qxb7Rc823. Qa6
( 23. Bd3!Was perhaps objectively the strongest move, but it wasn't appealing for White as, in the best case, he aim would be to give perpetual check. It is understandable that So did not want to do that. He probably felt that he could still manage more than just a draw. 23... Rxd1+24. Nxd1Rc725. Qb8+!Ke726. Bxh7Qxf327. Qg8And White should be able to force a perpetual check. )
23... Rc724. Be2Rxd1+25. Kxd1Qf5Now the position rapidly begins to go downhill for So. 26. Nd2Ng527. f4Nh328. Bf3Bb429. Nxd5cxd530. Qb5+Kf731. Qxb4
Akobian was just a move away from establishing an overwhelming edge, when he inexplicably gave up a pawn:
So, Wesley vs. Akobian, Varuzhan
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.1 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: D31 |1/2-1/2
31. Qxb4Qd3??Why did Black give up the pawn on d5? There was no reason to do that.
( 31... Qc2+!32. Ke1Qc1+33. Ke2Ng1+34. Kf2Nxf3And Black has an overwhelming edge. )
( 31... Ng1Was less forcing than Qc2, but it would get the job done as well. )
32. Bxd5+Kg733. Qb3Nf2+34. Ke1Rc1+35. Kxf2Qxd2+36. Kf3With the White bishop still on the board, it would be much harder for Black to win, so Akobian steers the game to a perpetual check: 36... Re137. Bc4Qh238. Qb7+Kh639. Qe7Qh1+40. Kf2Qh4+41. Kf3Qh1+42. Kf2Qh4+43. Kf3Qh3+44. Kf2Qh4+45. Kf3Qh3+
Another surprising result was Alexander Shabalov, who had only half a point, holding Nakamura, ranked No. 6 in the world, to a draw.
Shabalov, a four-time United States Champion, is known for his restless and imaginative attacking style. But he is now 49 and well past his prime and regularly struggles to play precisely, which has been apparent throughout the championship. But in Round 6, he played much more solidly. In the following rather calm position, he conducted a brilliant positional reorganization of his pieces, but missed a nice way to keep a positional bind:
Shabalov, Alexander vs. Nakamura, Hikaru
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.2 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: B30 |1/2-1/2
( 30... Qe631. b5!Would be the culmination of Shabalov's plan that started with Rd2. White's domination is picturesque! )
31. bxc5?!Shabalov could have tried a pawn sacrifice:
( 31. b5!axb532. Rxb5It is hard to say if White is objectively better, but I prefer White's position. It is nice to be able to dominate all the center squares with pieces! )
31... Nxc532. Na5Na433. Nxc6Nxb234. Qxb2bxc6
( 34... Qxc6Would perhaps have been a more ambitious move, but leaving the White knight on d5 does seem dangerous. )
35. Nb6Black might be better, but since he has a weak a-pawn, it is doubtful that he has any real winning chances in the endgame. Nakamura had been defending for a long time, so it is understandable that he did not find a way to put pressure on White. 35... Qe636. h3Bg537. c4h538. c5Rd839. Rxd8Bxd840. Qa1Bg541. Qxa6Qb342. Qa1
Aside from Caruana’s victory, there was one other decisive result in the open section: Sam Shankland (a frequent writer on World Chess), came back strong from a tough loss in Round 5 to Akobian beat Ray Robson, a teammate on the 2016 United States Olympiad team.
Shankland had a nice, little positional edge, but Robson’s demise was considerably hastened when he gaave away a pawn for no particular reason:
Shankland, Samuel L vs. Robson, Ray
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.6 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: D45 |1-0
22. h3a523. f4a4
( 23... Rd824. Rxd8+Qxd825. Qxc5Is not an easy position for Black. )
24. Be2Rd825. Bd1!
( 25. Rxd8+Qxd826. Qxc5Qd2 )
25... a3?It is hard to understand what Robson was thinking at this point.
( 25... Rxd226. Qxd2Bc6!Does look a bit awkward for Black, but that is only temporary and White has no way to exploit the situation. )
26. bxa3Qa5!27. Rxd8+Qxd828. Bc2The passed White a-pawns give him a distinct edge. 28... h529. g4!Shankland initiates action on both flanks! Black doesn't put up much resistance as Shankland gradually overwhelms him. 29... hxg430. hxg4Qc731. g5Nd732. Kf2f633. gxf6Nxf634. a4Qa535. Ke2Ba636. Qh3Qb637. a5Qd638. Bd3Bb739. Ng6Nh740. Ne5Nf841. Qh8+Not necessary, but Shankland obviously couldn't resist playing this move. 41... Kxh842. Nf7+Kg843. Nxd6Ba644. Be4Nd745. Bc6Nb846. Bb5Kf847. Ne4
Naroditsky, who, like me, also attends Stanford University, surprised Xiongin the opening and obtained a commanding position. But Xiong was a bit fortunate when Naroditsky overlooked an excellent opportunity to attack the Black king:
Naroditsky, Daniel vs. Xiong, Jeffery
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.5 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: D20 |1/2-1/2
25. Rc5Qa4Better than a seemingly safe move like
( 25... Qc726. b4a6If 26... Nd7, then 27. b5, wins two pieces for a rook. 27. d5!Now the weakness on b6 is critical. 27... exd528. Nxd5Qxe529. Nb6Black will suffer for the rest of the game. )
26. Qd2!Planning to go after the Black queen with Ra5, or perhaps play Nh5 and attack on the kingside. 26... Ng627. Ra5?Having the Black queen on a4 has considerably weakened the Black kingside, and Naroditsky fails to take advantage. After:
( 27. Nh5!Black would be forced to play 27... Kf8Otherwise Bh6 would be a deadly threat. But this position already looks ominous for Black: 28. h4!?Among other moves, with the idea of playing Ng7 followed by h5, etc. The position would be quite unpleasant for Black. )
27... Qb328. Nd3Rd5!29. Ra3Qb5
( 29... Qb630. Nb4!Rd731. d5And the Black queen would continue to be in danger. 31... Qd832. Nxc6bxc633. d6Nxe534. Bc5 )
30. Nc5Qb631. Rb3Qd8Xiong has maneuvered the queen back to safety. The game settled down quickly after several exchanges. 32. Nxb7Bxb733. Rxb7Nxe534. Rcc7Rd735. Rxd7Nxd736. d5Qc837. Rxa7Rxa738. Bxa7
There was a lot of action in the women’s event in Round 6 as all the games were decisive. The most important result, which might decide the winner of the tournament, was between Krush and Paikidze. In a drawish endgame, Krush just blundered a pawn:
Krush, Irina vs. Paikidze, Nazi
ch-USA w 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.1 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: E15 |0-1
Nf637. Nge4?Nxa2!38. Ra1Nxc3+39. Nxc3Rd7Black is up a
pawn. It should still be a hard game to win, but Krush was clearly
very upset with her blunder, and didn't put up much resistance.
Another possibly crucial match for the tournament standing was Foisor’s win against Tatev Abrahamyan. Abrahamyan, who was playing Black, appeared to be doing fine, until Foisor switched to playing on the queenside. The game ended surprisingly quickly soon afterward:
Foisor, Sabina-Francesca vs. Abrahamyan, Tatev
ch-USA w 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.3 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: A17 |1-0
Nf830. Rb2!White shifts to the queenside, but Abrahamyan doesn't sense the change in strategy. 30... Kf7?The king is unneccesarily exposed on this square and White was already shifting away from attacking e6. 31. Reb1!Rxb232. Qxb2g533. Bd2Qxa4Black's position was already unpleasant, but now it quickly falls apart. 34. Qb7!Qxd4
( 34... Re835. Qxc7+Re736. Qd8Looks unpleasant. )
35. Qxc7+Kg636. Rb7Mate is unavoidable for Black. 36... f537. Qf7+Kh638. Be3
The most impressive win was by Maggie Feng who calmly sacrificed a piece and then took several more moves to collect another pawn (Rh3…Rh6…Rxg6!!), all with the idea of advancing her kingside pawns. She executed this strategy with the queens and many other pieces still on the board. Most remarkable, it appears that the sacrifice was entirely justified and that there was little that her opponent, Jennifer Yu, could do about it!
Feng, Maggie vs. Yu, Jennifer R
ch-USA w 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 6.4 |04 Apr 2017 |ECO: A07 |1-0
Nb833. Nxf7!A brave decision! 33... Rxf734. Be6Rf835. Bxb3Nc6The position is complicated. It isn't clear what White should do next. But Feng had an idea: 36. Rb1Kb837. Rh3!!The plan to attack g6 seems absurd, but Black's pieces are too disorganized to fight against White's slow plan. 37... Nb438. Bxb4Qxb439. Rh6Na540. Be6Rc741. Rxg6!Rh742. Rg8Rxg843. Bxg8The two kingside pawns give White an overwhelming advantage. The rest of the game was quite easy for her. 43... Rh844. Bd5Bf845. Rc1Nb746. Qc2Nc547. g6Rh648. Bf7Rh449. Kg2Bh650. Kg3Bxc151. Qxc1Nxd352. g7Nxc153. g8=Q+Ka754. Kxh4Qe1+55. Kg5Qxe456. Bd5Qf4+57. Kg6Qg4+58. Kf7Qd7+59. Kf8Qf560. Qf7+Kb661. Qb7+Ka562. Qc7+Kxa463. f7d364. Qc4+Ka565. Qc5+Ka466. Qxc1Qg4
It is likely that the open section will still be decided by how the top trio — So, Caruana and Nakamura — do against the rest of the field in their remaining games. Caruana may be in the best position as he has already faced his toughest opposition.
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. 80 in the world, he is a junior at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.
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