Image by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Yaroslav Zherebukh, after a huge win over Fabiano Caruana, the defending champion, is tied for the lead with Wesley So after Round 7.
The United States Championship has a surprising new co-leader: Yaroslav Zherebukh. Zherebukh joined Wesley So at the top of the leaderboard after a shocking win over Fabiano Caruana, the defending champion and the No. 3 ranked player in the world, in Round 7.
So kept pace with a draw against Ray Robson.
In other results, the struggling tournament veterans had an excellent day. Alexander Shabalov, a four-time champion, showed sparks of his youth to win a sparkling miniature against Jeffery Xiong, and Gata Kamsky, a five-time champion, won a nice game against Daniel Naroditsky.
So and Zherebukh have 4.5 points each, followed by Hikaru Nakamura and Varuzhan Akobian, who have 4 points apiece.
In the Women’s Championship, there were no major shakeups as Nazi Paikidze, the defending champion, drew Anna Sharevich. Paikidze continues to lead, now with 5 points, followed by Sabina-Francesca Foisor and Maggie Feng, who each have 4.5 points.
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.
Zherebukh is a Ukrainian-born student at Saint Louis University. His win over Caruana was a calm, calculated execution. Caruana played a little too provocatively in the Breyer System of the Ruy Lopez. He must have surprised by how quickly his position fell apart:
Zherebukh, Yaroslav vs. Caruana, Fabiano
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 7.2 |05 Apr 2017 |ECO: C95 |1-0
Qe7This is a typical position in the Breyer Variation. Positions like this are usually marked with long periods of maneuvering and careful strategic planning. It does not look like Black is playing ambitiously, but there is a lot of potential energy in his position, particularly in the hands of a strong player like Caruana. 26. f4!This is always a double edged decision for White. White's pieces have better access to the kingside, but, after exf4, the e5 square will be completely in Black's control. Black can position a knight or bishop there and I'm guessing that is why Caruana provoked f4. The problem is that Black's pieces aren't well positioned to take advantage of the change in the structure and his king on h7 is vulnerable on the b1-h7 diagonal. It will take several moves for Black to reorganize his pieces, which gives White enough time to begin an attack. The Black bishop on b7 is particularly poorly positioned. 26... exf427. Bxf4Kg8
( 27... Nd728. Nxh5!gxh529. Bxd6!And White's advantage would be decisive. 29... Qxd630. e5+ )
28. Rf3!The threats to f7 pile up swiftly. 28... Bg7
( 28... Nd7Black would have liked to play this move, but the problem would be: 29. Nf5!Or Nh5. This was clearly what Caruana overlooked -- White has more threats than just the pressure on f7. 29... gxf530. Rg3+Kh731. Qd1!Nf632. e5!dxe533. Bxf5# )
29. Raf1Nd730. Bh6!Forcing the exchange of dark-squared bishops. The Black bishop was a very important defensive piece, so the exchange makes his position harder to defend. 30... Bxh631. Qxh6Qf832. Qd2!?Zherebukh realizes that he does not have to be in a hurry. 32... Ne5
33. Rf6!Perfect control over the dark squares. 33... Rad834. Qg5Qg735. Bd1Bc836. Qh4There were other things White could have done, but Black's position is just very difficult to defend. 36... Kf837. Qf4Qg8A sad move for Black to have to make, but Black he had nothing better to do. 38. Kh1More preparation. 38... Re739. Bxh5Finally the long awaited sacrifice! Black doesn't have a way to fight back. The rest was relatively easy. 39... bxa440. Bd1Qg741. Bxa4Qh742. Qg5a543. Kg1Qh844. R1f4Qg745. Rh4Nd346. Rh6Ne547. Rf4Bd748. Qh4Kg849. Qxe7Re850. Qg5Bxa451. Rf6
It was incredible to see a player rated 2800 reduced to making moves like Qg8 and Qg7.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Fabiano Caruana, seen here during Round 6, could not escape a loss in Round 7.
The fastest, and prettiest, game of the day was between Xiong and Shabalov. Shabalov’s extremely aggressive style hasn’t been serving him so well against the strong lineup in this championship, but kudos to him for not trying to change his style. In Round 7, that paid dividends as everything worked out for him:
Xiong, Jeffery vs. Shabalov, Alexander
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 7.6 |05 Apr 2017 |ECO: B10 |0-1
Ne4Black has played the opening a bit oddly, but the idea behind his last move is pretty well known. Xiong replies in the most principled way: He tries to win the Black pawn on e4: 7. Nxe4dxe48. Ng5c5!A very nice and intuitive idea: Target the White center! 9. Bc4O-O10. c3cxd411. cxd4Nc612. Be3The center is secure and e4 is about to fall, but Black still has: 12... Qa5+!13. Kf1
( 13. Qd2Or Bd2, which was perhaps the best decision. But then Black should already be able to force a draw and Xiong was feeling ambitious. )
13... h614. Nxe4Rd8White has won the pawn, but his king is awkwardly placed and Black is threatening to equalize material by playing Nxd4. Xiong tries to preserve his material advantage. 15. f4b516. Bb3Nxd4!Xiong may have calculated this far and White does have some resources - but I think he underestimated how weak White's king position is. It is hard to calculate all the possibilities, so perhaps Xiong needed to sense that his king is not very safe and play accordingly. 17. Bxd4Qb418. Qf3Rxd4!19. a3Qa520. Nf6+Bxf621. exf6This position is hard to evaluate. White's king is weak, but he also has a lot of threats against the Black king.
( 21. Qxa8Rxf4+!22. Ke2b4!!23. Qxc8+Kh724. exf6Qe5+And the White king will be checkmated. 25. Kd1Qxb226. Rc1Qd4+27. Ke2Rf2+28. Ke1Qd2# )
Against Robson, So played a very-well-thought-out pawn sacrifice in a typical Reti middle game. It may not have objectively been the best move, but it was enough to get Robson confused:
Robson, Ray vs. So, Wesley
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 7.1 |05 Apr 2017 |ECO: A07 |1/2-1/2
1. Nf3d52. g3Nf63. Bg2e64. O-OBe75. b3O-O6. Bb2c57. c4Nc68. e3d49. exd4cxd410. Re1Re811. d3Bc512. Ba3Nd713. Nfd2Nb414. Ne4a515. f4Be716. Bb2Nc617. a3b6!?It seems like a harmless developing move, but it is actually the start of a very complicated sequence. So is offering a pawn sacrifice. If White doesn't accept it, then Black have a comfortable game as he will have neutralized the White bishop on g2 with his own bishop on b7. 18. Nd6Bxd619. Bxc6Ra720. Bxd4e5!21. fxe5
( 21. Bf2!exf422. Rxe8+Qxe823. Nc3fxg324. hxg3 )
21... Nxe5A really cool idea - and something So obviously calculated when he played 17...b6. 22. Bxe5
( 22. Bxe8Bg4!Is the key move that was rather hard to foresee. 23. Qc1Nf3+24. Kh1Nxd4 )
22... Rxe5White is still up a pawn, but his lack of development is beginning to create problems for him. 23. Rxe5Bxe524. Ra2There are many possibilities at this point, which actually makes Black's choice very hard. I think So does a pretty good job of navigating the maze. It is interesting to note how his moves appear to be natural and intuitive, as opposed to the computer's suggestions. 24... Re725. Kg2Qd626. Bf3Qe6!27. Re2Qh3+28. Kg1h529. Qe1!Qf530. Nd2Qxd331. Kh1Qf532. Bd5Qf633. Nf3Bg434. Kg2g635. Re3Bd636. Rxe7Bxf3+A more natural reply would be:
( 36... Bxe7And Black preserves both his bishops. So would probably have played this in different circumstances, but he was in time pressure and may have been worried about White playing Ne5, though it doesn't achieve much. 37. Ne5Be6 )
37. Bxf3Bxe738. a4Black's king is still a bit safer and he may still have a chance for the initiative. 38... Kg739. Bd5!Even though the White king is more exposed, his bishop is as strong as Black's. 39... Bc5
( 39... h4Would have kept more pressure on White, but a draw would still have been the most likely result. )
40. h4!Qb2+41. Kh3The White king is perfectly safe. Robson is essentially past the worst of it. 41... Bd442. Qf1f643. Qe1Be544. Qe3Qb145. Kg2Qc2+46. Kh3Qf5+47. Kg2Qg448. Qf2Qd149. Qe3Qb150. Bf3Qc2+51. Kh3Qf5+52. Kg2Qc2+53. Kh3Qf5+54. Kg2Qc2+
Unfortunately for So, he let Robson off the hook in time pressure.
In Kamsky vs Naroditsky, Kamsky, a former challenger for the World Championship, showed he still had excellent intuition in positions arising from the Spanish opening. Black seemed to be doing just fine, and then his position suddenly collapsed:
Kamsky, Gata vs. Naroditsky, Daniel
ch-USA 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 7.5 |05 Apr 2017 |ECO: C91 |1-0
18. Qe2There are many plans for both players in a position like this. Naroditsky plays a normal looking move to release of tension on the queenside, but he unexpectedly ends up under pressure. 18... Nb619. axb5axb520. Bg5!Qd7Black's idea is to deal with Bd3 (if, for example, 20...Rxa1) by playing Bc6. His idea makes sense, but he underestimated the danger from Nf5.
( 20... h621. Rxa8Rxa822. Nf5!This is very annoying for Black, particularly because: 22... Bd823. Bxh6!gxh624. Qd2!Is a strong plan for White. Black isn't lost yet - far from it - but White hasa powerful initiative. 24... Bc825. Nxd6 )
( 20... Rxa1!21. Rxa1h6Would have simplified the position, but White would still have an edge after: 22. Bxf6Bxf623. Bd3!The weakness on b5 is surprisingly hard to defend. 23... Nc4Though Black has b5 defended, for now, the knight on is awkwardly placed. White now has different ways to increase more pressure. The simplest is 24. b3Nb625. Rc1Forcing Black to play Ba6, which is an ugly move. )
21. Rad1Bd822. Nf5Nc8White has several good ways to continue, but I like Kamsky's choice. He doesn't go for the kill immediately, but instead improves his position strategically, taking advance of Black's poor dark-squared bishop and that his knight on c8 is stuck behind his own pieces. White's next few moves are quite classy. 23. Bxf6!Bxf624. Bb3At the right moment, White can exchange Black's last active piece by playing Bd5. 24... Ra625. Qd3Rd826. Nh2Ne727. Ng4Nxf528. exf5Qc629. Ne3Qc530. Bd5Bc831. Be4b432. Nd5bxc333. b4Fancy stuff. 33... Qa734. b5Ra335. b6Qa436. Rc1Ba6The pawn on c3 will fall soon. More importantly, the pawn on b6 will be impossible to handle. The rest was easy for White. 37. Qg3Kf838. Rxc3Ra139. Rxa1Qxa1+40. Kh2Qb241. Rc7Qd442. Nxf6gxf643. Qh4Qxb644. Qh6+Kg845. Rc3
The day was much quieter in the women’s section, but it might not have been if Sharevich had taken one of the many opportunities she had against Paikidze to plant her knight on c3:
Paikidze, Nazi vs. Sharevich, Anna
ch-USA w 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 7.1 |05 Apr 2017 |ECO: A09 |1/2-1/2
34. Ra5The advantage had fluctuated throughout the game. Black had played simple, logical moves, while White had really struggled. But Sharevich now missed several chances to put more pressure on White. 34... Ndc7
( 34... Ndc3Would have been more logical. 35. Bc6Is the move that that Black was perhaps worried about, but after Qb8, Black's position would have been better. Black also had a pretty sequence that would have been almost immediately decisive, beginning with: 35... Qc7!36. Bxb5Bh3!White's pieces are just so badly placed that Black can play this way. The threat of e4 is crushing. )
( 35... Nc336. Bxc3dxc337. Qxc3Bxd3Black could also play other moves, but this was the simplest, after which Black's pieces are much better positioned than White's. ... )
36. Qc2Kh737. Nc4Ndb538. Nf1Black still has a sizable edge. White's only hope would have been to put a piece e4, but even that would not have been enough.
As the old saying goes, the draw offer made by Paikidze was perhaps her best move in the game!
The only decisive results were in the matches between the teenagers. Maggie Feng played another nice game to win with Black against Emily Nguyen. And Apurva Virkud used some nice topsy-turvy tactics to beat Carissa Yip:
Virkud, Apurva vs. Yip, Carissa
ch-USA w 2017 |Saint Louis USA |Round 7.6 |05 Apr 2017 |ECO: E81 |1-0
Before the championship began, it was a general consensus that only one of the big three — Nakamura, So or Caruana — could reasonably hope to win the event. But Zherebukh has forcefully inserted himself into the mix as a contender. Everyone still has tough matches ahead and it is increasingly clear that none of the players can be taken lightly. So would still seem to be in the best position, but a lot could happen in the last four games.
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