It's not too surprising that the U.S. Championship is a race between the big three - Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So - with Ray Robson (mentioned by Nakamura at the start of the tournament as a potential fourth musketeer) also in the hunt. After 10 rounds, Caruana leads with 7.5 points, half a point in front of So and Nakamura, with Robson another half a point behind. In case of a tie for first, there will be a playoff the next day (Tuesday) to determine the winner. Here are the relevant last round pairings:
- Akshat Chandra (1.5) - Fabiano Caruana (7.5)
- Aleks Lenderman (4) - Wesley So (7)
- Ray Robson (6.5) - Hikaru Nakamura (7)
Caruana is certainly a favorite to win the title, both because he's starting out with the lead and also because he's playing the tournament's lowest-rated player and tailender. Still, one can't be too sure: he does have the black pieces, and Chandra did manage to draw with Nakamura earlier in the tournament - with Black.
In the women's championship, the terrible twosome of Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih have both been eliminated from the race for first after losing in the penultimate round. (Zatonskih also lost in the antepenultimate round as well, thanks to an outright blunder.) Both losses were to kids: Zatonskih lost to 14-year-old Jennifer Yu, while Krush lost to 12-year-old(!) Carissa Yip, who finished the game in style. (Have a look.)
The tournament leader is Tatev Abrahamyan, who has been getting closer to winning this event every year. She has 8/10, half a point ahead of Paikidze. Both women will have Black in the last round, but Abrahamyan will be playing one of the lower seeds (Ashrithan Eswaran) while Paikidze will face Krush. Abrahamyan's situation looks even better than Caruana's, but - again - there are no guarantees.
Finally, returning to the main event, the top three - which is at the moment the big three - qualify for a four-player blitz event running Thursday and Friday. The fourth player? Garry Kasparov.