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    Entries in Sam Shankland (11)

    Friday
    Oct192018

    Starting Tomorrow: Isle of Man, Svidler-Shankland

    I hope you're all enjoying your day off after the European Club Cup, because tomorrow not (just) one but two high-level events get underway: the Isle of Man Open and a six-game match between Peter Svidler and Sam Shankland. (The latter is part of a chess festival in Hoogeveen, in the Netherlands.)

    The IoM is an open event, as stated, but at the top the field is strong enough to create a Candidates field: Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Sergey Karjakin, Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian, and Viswanathan Anand are the top eight.

    Good times, fellow chess fans!

    Friday
    Aug242018

    More St. Louis Action Coming Up: Chess960 Matches Starring Kasparov

    Here's the quick summary: five 20-game matches, with six rapid and 14 blitz games taking place from September 11-14 of this year. All the games are Chess960 (aka Fischerrandom), and the positions will be unknown to the players until the start of the round. Here are the pairings:

    • Garry Kasparov - Veselin Topalov
    • Hikaru Nakamura - Peter Svidler
    • Wesley So - Anish Giri
    • Sam Shankland - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    • Levon Aronian - Leinier Dominguez

    Sunday
    Jun102018

    Shankland Wins American Continental Championship

    Going into the last round Sam Shankland was tied for first, and helped a bit by a soft pairing, he finished in clear first. IM Tomas Sosa was enjoying a great event; unfortunately, Black in the last round against a player rated 264 points above him didn't help. Shankland won comfortably, while Diego Flores, the co-leader entering the round, failed to convert a winning advantage against another IM. Still, his draw turned out to suffice for clear second with 8.5/11, half a point behind Shankland.

    Two qualification spots remained for next year's World Cup, and as seven players tied for third-ninth place (with 8 points apiece) a playoff was necessary. A loooooong playoff: a round-robin played with a 15' + 10" time control. It came down to the final round of the playoff, with Jorge Cori winning and his Peruvian countryman Emilio Cordova finishing second.

    Congratulations to all four, especially Shankland, who picked up 10 rating points to reach a bunch of 27s: 2727 for his rating, #27 on the live list. (I expect he'll also be depositing a nice check, too.) Well done.

    Saturday
    Jun092018

    Shankland Co-Leads American Continental Championship With a Round to Go

    The 11-round American Continental Championship is taking place in Montevideo, Uruguay, and is in part a qualifier for the 2019 World Cup; four slots will be allotted from this competition as well as another four from next year's event. There will be 18 spots available by rating, so neither Wesley So nor Hikaru Nakamura is likely to have much of a worry about qualifying (Fabiano Caruana has no worry - at a minimum he will have qualified automatically for the next Candidates match, though it will be Magnus Carlsen who will have to take advantage of it instead), but 2018 U.S. Champion hasn't yet hit those heights. (Though he's getting close - up to 2725 now, from 2671 just a couple of months ago.)

    And he's doing great: he has an undefeated 8-2 score with a round to go, good enough to share the lead with Diego Flores (whom he beat in round 6), half a point ahead of eight other players. He's also due for White in the last round, so it should be easier for him to play for a win, if necessary. That said, he's very capable of winning with the Black pieces, having done so in rounds 2,4, 6, and 10. Here is his impressive win over fellow American Jeffery Xiong, which could have been even more impressive had he executed a brilliant idea on move 14.

    Sunday
    May202018

    Ju Wenjun Wins Women's World Championship; Shankland Wins Capa Memorial

    Ju Wenjun comfortably drew the 10th and final game to take the Women's World Championship title from her countrywoman Tan Zhongyi, and is guaranteed to wear the crown for all of...six months. Congrats to her all the same; she is a deserving title-holder (she's the second-ranked woman in the world, behind only Hou Yifan, who no longer participates in women's world championship events) who has also made a number of important contributions to opening theory. More on game 10, here.

    Congratulations are also in order for Sam Shankland, who went an undefeated +1 in the last three rounds of the Capablanca Memorial to finish with an impressive +5 score (7.5/10). His rating at the end of the month will be 2717, good for 30th in the world. Well done!

    Wednesday
    May162018

    Shankland Leading the Capablanca Memorial

    Building on his success in the U.S. Championship a few weeks ago, Sam Shankland is leading the Capablanca Memorial with an outstanding score of 5.5/7, a point ahead of Aleksey Dreev. He's up more than 14 points, to a 2715 rating and the #30 spot in the world. Will the climb continue in the next three rounds? If this keeps up, the U.S. will be in great shape to repeat at the Olympiad this September and October.

    Sunday
    Apr292018

    2018 U.S. Championship: Shankland the Champion

    Quite the surprise, but Sam Shankland definitely earned it! He scored +6, went undefeated, won four games with Black, won his last three games, gained 30 rating points, surpassed the 2700 barrier (becoming the 7th player from the U.S.A. to do so), and has reached #45 in the world. That's a great tournament! The only thing he didn't manage to do was beat one of the big three, though he came close to defeating both Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. (Can you imagine if he had gone +8 in this field? That would have been Fischer-like - but to be fair Bobby Fischer never faced a U.S. Championship field like this one.)

    And despite all this, he still finished only half a point ahead of Caruana. That was the gap separating the players before the round, and they both won to maintain their relative positions. Caruana defeated Alexander Onischuk pretty easily when Onischuk sacced one pawn without any obvious justification and then blundered a second one. By the time Onischuk resigned, however, Shankland had such an overwhelming advantage against Awonder Liang that there was no real drama. Indeed, within a minute or two, Liang resigned, leaving Shankland obviously and understandably elated.

    I've annotated Shankland's and Caruana's last three games, plus Nakamura's attractive win against Varuzhan Akobian from round 10; they're all here. And here are the final standings:

    • 1. Shankland 8.5/11 (TPR 2884)
    • 2. Caruana 8
    • 3. So 6.5
    • 4-6. Nakamura, Lenderman, Robson 5.5
    • 7-8. Izoria, Xiong 5
    • 9-11. Liang, Zherebukh, Akobian 4.5
    • 12. Onischuk 3

    Sunday
    Apr292018

    U.S. Championship, Rounds 9 & 10: Caruana Good, Shankland Better

    Fabiano Caruana is having an excellent U.S. Championship. Despite having played practically non-stop for a month and a half, he is continuing to play at a very high level. His score of 7/10 has increased his already lofty rating, and aside from a bit of insanity in round 4 against Zviad Izoria he has played well and shown great resilience. In round 9 he was in serious trouble against Hikaru Nakamura, but held on grimly and saved the game, and then in round 10 he won a very impressive game - with Black - against Yaroslav Zherebukh.

    And yet, in this Championship he's playing second banana to Sam Shankland, who has caught fire after draws in his first two rounds. He won in both rounds 9 and 10, first winning against Zherebukh and then against Alexander Onischuk. Both games were long grinds, and in both cases he had to bounce back after missing chances to win the games more easily. He thus leads by half a point going into the last round.

    As for the other contenders, they have all fallen back. Varuzhan Akobian co-led through much of the first half of the tournament, but had already dropped out of the running with losses in rounds 6-8. He stopped the bleeding with a draw in round 9 before losing again in round 10, to Nakamura - who only then got his first win of the  tournament! (Coincidentally, Jeffery Xiong and Awonder Liang also won their first games in that round as well.)

    Aleks Lenderman's wins in rounds 7 and 8 turned him into a dark horse, and when he came out of the opening with a winning advantage against Ray Robson he looked like a serious contender. Unfortunately for him, he let the advantage slip away, and after drawing that game he lost a drawn king and pawn ending to Xiong in round 10.

    Wesley So began the tournament with two wins, and through round 10...still just has those two wins. No losses, but that wasn't good enough for him to retain his title. He had some advantage with Black against Akobian in round 9, but couldn't convert it, and in round 10 - again with Black - he drew with Robson in a game where neither side ever had any advantage to speak of.

    If I annotate any games I'll include them in my final round report. Here are the pairings for the final round (ongoing as of this writing):

    • Shankland (7.5) - Liang (4.5)
    • Caruana (7) - Onischuk (3)
    • So (6) - Nakamura (5)
    • Xiong (5) - Robson (4.5)
    • Izoria (4.5) - Lenderman (5)
    • Akobian (4) - Zherebukh (4)

    Thursday
    Apr262018

    U.S. Championship, Round 8: Shankland Misses a Big Chance

    Sam Shankland remains tied with Fabiano Caruana for first place in the U.S. Championship, but he had a wonderful chance to take the sole lead with three rounds to go. With Black against Hikaru Nakamura's 1.b3 he obtained a winning advantage. Even an out of form Nakamura is an extremely tricky defender, and despite having several opportunities to maintain a winning or at least a clear advantage it slowly slipped away.

    In the meantime, Caruana achieved a comfortable draw with Wesley So in yet another Petroff, this one featuring Morozevich's old weapon 5.Bd3. It had its heyday a decade or more ago; this time around Caruana came out of the opening in good shape and drew with ease. Caruana remains tied for first, and So remains on the leaders' heels, half a point behind.

    The Petroff fared even better in the game between Awonder Liang and Aleks Lenderman, though it would be wrong to say that Lenderman won because he played the Petroff. Liang was slowly outplayed in the late middlegame, and then made some serious errors - blunders, really - in the lead-up to the time control. Down a piece for nothing after move 40, Liang resigned. Kudos to Lenderman for winning his second straight game and closing to within a point of the leaders.

    The day's other decisive game went a bit longer: 144 moves. Ray Robson ground down Varuzhan Akobian, who has now lost three games in a row. In this one he could have claimed a draw by three-time repetition at one point, but seemed unsure about the claim and made his move, whereupon Robson avoided the repetition and never allowed another three-time opportunity the rest of the way.

    Here are the two games involving the leaders (with some annotations to Nakamura-Shankland). And here are the pairings for round 9:

    • Caruana (5.5) - Nakamura (3.5)
    • Shankland (5.5) - Zherebukh (4)
    • Akobian (3.5) - So (5)
    • Lenderman (4.5) - Robson (3.5)
    • Izoria (4) - Onischuk (2.5)
    • Xiong (3.5) - Liang (3)

    Tuesday
    Apr242018

    U.S. Championship, Round 6: Shankland, Caruana Win; Shankland the Clear Leader

    Surprise, surprise! The leader as the tournament passes the halfway point isn't one of the big three - though Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So are just half a point out of first. Instead, it's Sam Shankland, who has won three games, including a win with Black in round 6 over Varuzhan Akobian. Akobian came into the round tied for first with So and Shankland, but didn't have a good game against Shankland. He was already worse out of the opening, and though he fought his way back to a ragged equality it was almost impossible to hold without time on the clock - time Akobian didn't have. By the time he made it to the time control he was in a lost rook and knight ending, and Shankland's fine technique made the conversion easy.

    So got nothing with White against Zviad Izoria, and the game was drawn in 30 moves (the minimum permitted, except in cases of a forced repetition). Speaking of which, Yaroslav Zherebukh vs. Aleks Lenderman was another 30-move draw. Hikaru Nakamura - Jeffery Xiong went just half a move longer before calling it a day, while Alexander Onischuk's game with Awonder Liang got to move 34 before they split the point.

    That leaves only Caruana's game against Ray Robson. Like Shankland, Caruana won with Black. Caruana stayed true to the Petroff, and proved once again that it can be used to fight for a win even against very high-class opposition. His 13th move was a novelty, sacrificing a pawn for the bishop pair and an open c-file, and he put these advantages to good use. Robson's king had all kinds of difficulties (White's 25.a4 didn't help a bit), and he didn't make it to the end of the first time control before giving up.

    I've annotated the two decisive games (have a look here); hopefully that will tide you over until Wednesday, because like Shamkir the U.S. Championship is taking Tuesday off. Here are the pairings for round 7:

    • Shankland (4.5) - So (4)
    • Caruana (4) - Akobian (3.5)
    • Izoria (2.5) - Nakamura (3)
    • Xiong (2.5) - Zherebukh (3)
    • Liang (2.5) - Robson (2)
    • Lenderman (2.5) - Onischuk (2)