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    Entries in 2019 U.S. Championship (11)

    Sunday
    Mar312019

    2019 U.S. Championship: Nakamura Wins His 5th Title

    It's always great fun when a tournament comes down to the wire (unless one is a participant in the event and wants to win it with room to spare), and that's what happened at the 2019 U.S. Championship. Three players led going into the last round, and there was even a tiny chance that it could have been a four-way tie for first at the end of the round. Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez, and Fabiano Caruana all began the day with 7/10, with Wesley So a point behind them.

    So's chances were slim at best, and it turned out that he lost ground, losing to 15-year-old Awonder Liang, whose rating will now cross the 2600 threshold. Congratulations to the youngster!

    Caruana had Black against Sam Shankland, and he got nothing. He chose a very solid opening choice, and while it was good enough for an easy draw there was no opportunity for more.

    The race between Nakamura and Dominguez, however, did come down to the wire. On paper Dominguez had the better chances, with White against pre-round tailender Timur Gareyev, while Nakamura had Black against Jeffery Xiong. Unlike Caruana, Nakamura took some chances, playing the Dutch to create an imbalanced position. Yes, he was worse coming out of the opening, but it wasn't so bad that Xiong could coast to victory of even to a safe draw if he was so inclined. Dominguez, meanwhile, obtained a clear advantage against Gareyev, and the Championship debutant seemed on his way to the title.

    It was not to be. Nakamura maintained the tension and outmaneuvered Xiong, whose 23rd move got him into some hot water and whose 32nd move cost him the game. It was also move 32 that spoiled Dominguez's chances. Instead of 32.Qe4 he played 32.Rd2, which was met by the terrific 32...Ncd4, ultimately sacrificing a piece for a passer on b2 that tied White down. Dominguez gave it his best shot, but there was no win to be had.

    Nakamura thus won his fifth championship and continued his climb back up the rating list. Congratulations!

    Congratulations are also in order for Jennifer Yu, who won yet again to finish with a fantastic score of 10/11, a TPR of 2678, and a gain of 96 rating points. Not bad for a week and a half's work for the 17-year-old!

    The games (with my comments) are here, and these are the final standings (of the Open event):

    • 1. Nakamura 8 (of 11)
    • 2-3. Dominguez Perez, Caruana 7.5
    • 4-5. So, Sevian 6
    • 6. Shankland 5.5
    • 7-8. Liang, Xiong 5
    • 9-11. Lenderman, Akobian, Gareyev 4
    • 12. Robson 3.5

    Saturday
    Mar302019

    U.S. Championship, Rounds 7-10; U.S. Women's Championship Update

    Sorry, but I was away at a conference for several days. The event has really heated up the past few rounds, and the big cluster has turned into a three-man race going into the last round. When we left off after round 6, Hikaru Nakamura led with 4 points, half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana, Leinier Dominguez, Wesley So, and Sam Sevian.

    That quintet had a great round 7, with Nakamura, Caruana, Dominguez, and Sevian all winning; only So was held to a draw (which was a decent result with Black against Jeffery Xiong). Nakamura's win was convincing with Black against Varuzhan Akobian, and so was Sevian's win - also with Black - against Ray Robson. Dominguez came up with a nice bit of preparation that Alex Lenderman was unable to solve, and also won with comfort. Only Caruana had to really struggle. He was winning early on against Timur Gareyev, but let his opponent slip. The best he could do was reach rook and bishop vs. rook, and fortunately for him Gareyev eventually blundered in that ending and lost. Thus Nakamura led with 5/7, half a point ahead of Caruana, Dominguez, and Sevian; So had 4.

    Round 8 was quieter, but the one decisive game was important. Dominguez defeated Sevian with Black, showing terrific technique in a rook ending. Nakamura got nothing with White against Shankland and drew in 30 moves, and Caruana likewise got nothing against So and drew in 35 moves. Nakamura and Dominguez shared the lead with 5.5/8, Caruana had 5, So and Sevian 4.5.

    Round 9 was an extremely violent round, with five of the six games finishing with winners and losers. Nakamura defeated Robson with Black in a Chinese Dragon, and Dominguez won with White against Awonder Liang's Petroff. Caruana rolled the dice with the Dutch against Akobian and won when White misplaced all his pieces in the middlegame; this kept him within half a point of the leaders. And So stayed within a point of the leaders when he won against Lenderman on the white side of an Exchange Queen's Gambit. He was winning early, let it slip, but managed to win the game anew. Sevian couldn't keep pace, though he tried very hard. He was better with Black against Xiong, but despite squeezing for over 100 moves couldn't make anything of a drawn pawn-up rook ending. Finally, Shankland defeated Gareyev in a long and well-played ending.

    After all that excitement, today's round - round 10, the penultimate round - was somewhat calmer. Only two games were decisive, and one was Gareyev's crushing win over Robson between two players at the bottom of the tournament table. The one that mattered for the top of the standings was Caruana's win over Lenderman. Lenderman bravely tried the Petroff against the world's greatest specialist in that opening, and it didn't work out at all. Caruana obtained a risk-free positional advantage, with Black saddled with several weak pawns, and the world's #2 won smoothly to catch the leaders, Nakamura and Dominguez. Conveniently, they played each other, with Dominguez achieving an easy draw by repetition in just 29 moves on the black side of his beloved Semi-Tarrasch. Sevian pushed from start to finish against So but couldn't quite put him away. Sevian is thus mathematically eliminated from the race for first, while So is still alive, but only if all three of the leaders lose in the last round.

    All the games from rounds 7-10 are here, many with my comments. And here are the pairings for tomorrow's final round:

    • Xiong (5) - Nakamura (7)
    • Dominguez (7) - Gareyev (3.5)
    • Shankland (5) - Caruana (7)
    • So (6) - Liang (4)
    • Lenderman (3.5) - Sevian (5.5)
    • Robson (3.5) - Akobian (3)

    I haven't covered the concurrent women's event, but it's time to rectify that, as there's already a winner with a round to go. Moreover, the identity of the winner is a significant surprise. Irina Krush has had a horrible tournament, and has only 4/10, tied for 7th-9th places. Anna Zatonskih, like Krush many times the U.S. women's champion, is doing much better, with 7.5/10. But that's only good enough for second after her loss with White in round 10 to Jennifer Yu, and it's Yu who leads. Nay, she's not just the leader. She has won the tournament with an undefeated 9/10. She was ranked in the lower half of the tournament by rating at the start, but her performance has been fantastic. She has gained a whopping 86 points and has achieved a 2662 TPR. A great job by the youngster (she's 16 or 17)!

    Tournament site here.

    Monday
    Mar252019

    U.S. Championship, Round 6: Nakamura Leads, Caruana Finally Wins a Game

    I was hoping to reverse jinx Fabiano Caruana in a recent post, and it looks like I succeeded: he defeated Jeffery Xiong convincingly to end his crazy 27 game winless streak in classical chess. It was just in time, too; another non-win and Caruana would have slipped behind Ding Liren into third place on the live rating list. Instead, he knocked Xiong out of the five-way tie for first in the U.S. Championship and entered the time himself...or would have, except that another pre-round leader, Hikaru Nakamura, won his game.

    Nakamura's opponent was Gareyev, and for a change it wasn't Gareyev's propensity for opening adventures that got him in trouble. He was doing fine with Black against Nakamura, but after the opening Nakamura bulldozed him, winning easily. It wasn't so many years ago that Gareyev was a serious, up-and-coming player (he was rated 2682 in February 2013), but in recent years he has been more engaged with blindfold chess and living an adventurous life in general. It's probably exactly the life he wants to live, it's just that it hasn't worked wonders for his skill in classical chess, and it has shown in this tournament. He is in last place, and his score could easily have been at least a point lower than it is.

    The day's other winner was Awonder Liang, who made better use of his extra exchange than Varuzhan Akobian did of his central pawn mass. The game was a sharp Winawer (but I repeat myself), and for a long time Black had nothing to complain about. Some players, going back to Bobby Fischer, hold Black's position in the Winawer in some contempt, but for decade after decade it has proved exceptionally difficult for White to prove a meaningful advantage against it. (That said, it's challenging for Black to prove that he's okay, too. It's tough for everyone.)

    The remaining four games were drawn, with the most noteworthy case being Leinier Dominguez's inability once again to convert a serious advantage, this time against Wesley So. Dominguez still seems to be suffering from his long absence from tournament play, an absence occasioned by his transfer of federation from Cuba to the U.S.

    Having passed the halfway point, the players finally get a rest day on Tuesday, and resume action on Wednesday. Here are today's games, with my comments, and here are the pairings for round 7 (of 11):

    • Gareyev (2) - Caruana (3.5)
    • Akobian (2) - Nakamura (4)
    • Shankland (2.5) - Liang (2.5)
    • Robson (3) - Sevian (3.5)
    • Dominguez (3.5) - Lenderman (3)
    • Xiong (3) - So (3.5)

    Sunday
    Mar242019

    U.S. Championship, Round 5: Five Lead

    Before getting to the tournament proper, a question: how long has it been, in games, since Fabiano Caruana won a classical game of chess? I may well be wrong, so please correct me, but by my count it has been 27 games. After defeating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round 8 of last year's Olympiad, he drew his last three games of that event, then drew all 12 games with Magnus Carlsen, then drew the classical games against Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian (two each) at the London Chess Classic to close out 2018. At the beginning of March of this year he played three games in the Bundesliga, losing to Peter Leko and drawing the next two. And now he's five for five in draws at the U.S. Championship. One loss, 26 draws, no wins. Incredible.

    Happily for Caruana, the pace at this year's U.S. Championship has been very slow, and while he is tied for sixth he's only half a point behind a quintet of leaders. The four leaders entering the round all drew their games, and Sam Sevian defeated Varuzhan Akobian to join the tie. There was only one other decisive game when Awonder Liang's unjustified ambition in a very drawn ending resulted in a loss to Timur Gareyev, who has now escaped the cellar by leapfrogging his victim.

    About the day's games: Caruana had Black against pre-round co-leader Nakamura, and chose the Sveshnikov Sicilian for the second time of the event. No doubt his team did a great deal of work trying to break it in his match with Carlsen, and he's putting it to work on the other side of the board. Nakamura enjoyed a slight edge most of the way, but when he couldn't find anything to do with it they called it quits after 31 moves.

    Leinier Dominguez and Jeffery Xiong entered the round as co-leaders, and ended it that way as well. Dominguez did enjoy a serious advantage in the middlegame, however, so he will be disappointed and Xiong relieved by the game's inevitable finish as a draw.

    Ray Robson's game with co-leader Wesley So was a little strange, as Robson followed a high-profile 2017 game for 22 moves, So made an obvious improvement on the earlier game, and it was an immediate draw by repetition. So is a great player, but it's surprising that Robson would so willingly give up a draw with the white pieces.

    Sevian played very aggressively against Akobian with Black in a Nimzo-Indian, and it paid off. Akobian may have underestimated the danger when he played 24.e3, and except for one hiccup on the way Sevian's powerful attacking play overwhelmed Akobian, who was in his customary time pressure.

    Sam Shankland and Alex Lenderman played an uneventful draw, and in the battle of two players struggling at the bottom of the table Timur Gareyev won when Awonder Liang made a dead drawn ending interesting for no apparent reason.

    The games, with my notes, are here; these are the pairings for round 6:

    • Caruana (2.5) - Xiong (3)
    • So (3) - Dominguez (3)
    • Lenderman (2.5) - Robson (2.5)
    • Sevian (3) - Shankland (2)
    • Liang (1.5) - Akobian (2)
    • Nakamura (3) - Gareyev (2)

    Sunday
    Mar242019

    U.S. Championship, Round 4: Four Co-Leaders After Xiong Loses

    It was a draw-heavy day at the U.S. Championship, with just one decisive game. That game, unfortunately for Jeffery Xiong, who had been the sole leader, saw him lose with White to Ray Robson. Xiong's preparation was rather strange, and a move after his novelty - which wasn't very good - left him clearly worse. Soon he was lost, but a nice bluff let him escape. Unfortunately for the leader, he managed to get in trouble a second time, and Robson didn't give him any more chances.

    There were no other decisive games on the day, but two games should have finished with a winner. Fabiano Caruana was winning for a very long time against Leinier Dominguez Perez, but allowed his opponent to escape with a perpetual. And Sam Sevian was completely winning against Timur Gareyev, but missed a simple but neat tactic in what would otherwise have been a simple technical task.

    All the games, with varying degrees of comments for the aforementioned games, are here. Here are the round 5 pairings:

    • Nakamura (2.5) - Caruana (2)
    • Gareyev (1) - Liang (1.5)
    • Akobian (2) - Sevian (2)
    • Shankland (1.5) - Lenderman (2)
    • Robson (2) - So (2.5)
    • Dominguez Perez (2.5) - Xiong (2.5)

    Sunday
    Mar242019

    A Look Back at Gareyev-Lenderman From Round 3 of the U.S. Championship: A Missed Brilliancy

    Dan Parmet (one of the movers and shakers from the old U.S. Chess League) wrote in to point out that Timur Gareyev missed a wonderful opportunity in his round 3 game with Alex Lenderman from the U.S. Championship, and was kind enough to send in his analysis as well. I've very slightly edited it, and also included a bit of analysis from another reader, who found the same idea but varied later in the line. I edited the work a tiny bit, but it's fundamentally Dan's analysis.

    Have a look - it's spectacular.

    Saturday
    Mar232019

    U.S. Championship, Rounds 2 & 3: Xiong Still Leads

    It's still early, of course - eight rounds remain - but it's so far, so good for 18-year-old Jeffery Xiong, who is having a spectacular March. First, he won the Spring Chess Classic in St. Louis with 6/9, ahead of superstars like Vassily Ivanchuk and Le Quang Liem, and now he leads the U.S. Championship with 2.5/3. He has gained 23 rating points this month, and is within 14 points of becoming the 6th U.S. player over 2700. His win in round 1 was already covered in the relevant post, and after a slightly hiccupy draw with Varuzhan Akobian in round 2 he won a crazy game against Sam Shankland in round 3 to regain the clear lead.

    Three players are half a point behind: Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, and Leinier Dominguez Perez. So ground out an endgame win against Timur Gareyev in round 2, Nakamura won a heavy piece ending against Sam Sevian in round 3, and Dominguez won a rook ending with an extra pawn against Ray Robson, also in round 3. That almost exhausts the wins so far, but there was also an endgame win by Sevian in round two against Awonder Liang.

    The games from rounds 2 and 3 can be replayed here; I've offered some notes to Xiong's games. Finally, here are the round 4 pairings:

    • Caruana (1.5) - Dominguez (2)
    • Xiong (2.5) - Robson (1)
    • So (2) - Shankland (1)
    • Lenderman (1.5) - Akobian (1.5)
    • Sevian (1.5) - Gareyev (.5)
    • Liang (1) - Nakamura (2)

    Wednesday
    Mar202019

    U.S. Championship, Round 1: Xiong Wins, All Other Games Drawn

    The 2019 U.S. Championship started with four solid draws, a see-saw marathon draw between Awonder Liang and Alex Lenderman, and a win by Jeffery Xiong over Timur Gareyev.

    Gareyev with White played very committal chess, and while it was objectively sound there was the danger that his far flung pawns would prove overextended. That's what happened after 20.Qf2 and especially 23.Bc3; Black's 23...b6 blew up White's brittle construction, and Xiong went on to win quickly and easily.

    The longest game of the round by far was the draw between Liang and Lenderman. Lenderman was better much of the way and winning at times, though there was also a stretch where he was losing. Ultimately it came down to a double rook ending where Black had two extra pawns but a very poor structure. I think he was winning with best play, but it wasn't easy and by the time White escaped to a single-rook ending it was an easy draw. The game went 120 moves; hopefully they won't be adversely affected in round 2, which has the following pairings:

    Round 2 Pairings:

    • Xiong (1) - Akobian (.5)
    • Caruana (.5) - Robson (.5)
    • Lenderman (.5) - Nakamura (.5)
    • So (.5) - Gareyev (0)
    • Dominguez (.5) - Shankland (.5)
    • Sevian (.5) - Liang (.5)

    The round 1 games, with my comments to Gareyev-Xiong and Liang-Lenderman, are here.

    Tuesday
    Mar192019

    U.S. Championship, Round 1 Pairings

    With a hat-tip to Dan Parmet, they are:

    • Sevian - Caruana
    • Nakamura - So
    • Shankland - Robson
    • Akobian - Dominguez
    • Gareyev - Xiong
    • Liang - Lenderman

    The action starts tomorrow. The action starts at 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis, 2 p.m. ET. Be there or be a four-sided enclosed plane figure whose sides and internal angles are all equal.

    Monday
    Mar182019

    U.S. Championship Starts Today (But Really Wednesday)

    Play starts on Wednesday, but the opening ceremony is today. Presumably the pairings will be set then, but here's your chance to make some early predictions: who will win? Here's the lineup, featuring all five of the U.S.'s 2700+ players:

    1. Fabiano Caruana 2828
    2. Wesley So 2762
    3. Hikaru Nakamura 2746
    4. Leinier Dominguez 2739
    5. Sam Shankland 2731
    6. Ray Robson 2667
    7. Jeffery Xiong 2663
    8. Sam Sevian 2642
    9. Alex Lenderman 2637
    10. Varuzhan Akobian 2625
    11. Awonder Liang 2590
    12. Timur Gareyev 2557