A Banquet of Brilliancies in Round 3

With eight games ending decisively, the third round of the U.S. Championships was a banquet of brilliancies and blunders. What felt like a sleepy Open section roared to life, with the slugfest between returning champion GM Sam Shankland and GM Jeffery Xiong being the day’s highlight. In the Women’s section, WGM Jennifer Yu defeated GM Irina Krush to remain perfect at 3-0 and climb to the top of the table. Open Section Without question, the game of the day was Shankland-Xiong. Both players played admirable chess, but in the end Xiong outcalculated Shankland to take the full point. IM Kostya Kavutskiy provides exclusive notes to this masterpiece for CLO readers.


[Event "U.S. Championship"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2019.03.22"]
[White "Shankland, Samuel"]
[Black "Xiong, Jeffery"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C45"]
[WhiteElo "2731"]
[BlackElo "2663"]
[Annotator "Kostya"]
[PlyCount "82"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qf6 {This is a rare but known sideline
against the Scotch. Based on the speed of Sam's play, he was certainly
familiar with the line.} 5. Nb3 Qg6 6. f3 {The modern trend.} (6. Nc3 Bb4 {
puts White into an unpleasant pin.}) 6... Nf6 7. Bf4 Bb4+ 8. Kf2 $1 $146 {
A potent novelty. Before White has only played c2-c3, but that blocks the
knight on b1 from developing to its most active square. White's king clearly
looks odd on f2 here, but we've long learned by now: chess is a concrete game.
*If* Black is unable to create a serious attack, White will play Bd3 and e5
with huge counterplay in the center.} O-O {Hit with a novelty, Jeffery chooses
the most flexible move in the position, keeping all of his options open.} 9. a3
$2 {It's quite likely that Sam mixed up his prep here, as this move is a
serious mistake. Black gets a crucial tempo to redeploy the dark-squared
bishop.} ({Correct was the immediate} 9. Bd3 {where in the principal line} Nh5
10. Bxc7 d6 {White has} 11. a3 $1 $16 {and Black's bishop gets caught on b4.})
9... Be7 10. Bd3 Nh5 11. Bxc7 {Obviously this pawn grab is risky, but
otherwise White won't have anything to show for his misplaced king.} (11. Be3
d6 12. Rf1 $1 {was probably better objectively, though here White would be
worse with no upside after} f5 13. exf5 Bxf5 $17) 11... d6 $1 {Shutting the
bishop out and preparing Bh4+.} 12. e5 {The critical defense, White has no
choice but to try to rescue the bishop.} Bh4+ 13. Kf1 Qh6 14. exd6 {White is
now two pawns up, but is seriously lacking in development. It's now up to
Black to activate his pieces.} Re8 15. Nc3 Ne5 {Black could have won the queen
on this move, but correctly decides to play for more, much more.} (15... Re1+
$2 16. Qxe1 Bxe1 17. Rxe1 {would actually bring White much closer to
stabilizing the position.}) 16. Nc5 Nxf3 $3 {The first of two moves that
brought down the house in this game.} 17. N3e4 (17. Qxf3 Re3 $1 {is the main
point, leading to mate after} 18. Qd5 Qf4+ $19) (17. gxf3 Bh3+ 18. Kg1 Qe3#)
17... Bg4 $2 {A slip, though quite a natural move to any pair of human eyes.} (
{Stockfish likes the position after} 17... f5 $1 18. Qxf3 fxe4 19. Bxe4 Nf6 $19
) ({But Jeffery's post-game suggestion of the simple} 17... Ne5 $19 {seems
like a more human approach, keeping the d-pawn under control and planning to
meet} 18. Qd2 {with} Qg6 $1 $19 {where Black can take on d3 at any moment,
with a continuing attack.}) 18. d7 $1 {Sam's resilient defense has paid off,
as the position has started to become incredibly unclear. All of a sudden,
White's d-pawn is about to promote. Here Jeffery went into the tank and came
up with the only move.} Re5 $3 {The second bomb of the game. Hurricane on
board!} ({Black could grab the queen here as well with} 18... Nxh2+ 19. Rxh2
Bxd1 {but White would simply collect too much material after} 20. dxe8=Q+ Rxe8
21. Rxh4 $18 {(or Rxd1)}) (18... Red8 {would allow White to take on f3:} 19.
gxf3 Bh3+ 20. Ke2 $18 {and without Nf4+ in the position, Black is simply lost.}
) 19. Bxe5 {White is able to take an exchange, but loses the all-important
dark-squared bishop. The resulting position ends up in Black's favour.} ({
Here the knight on f3 is still poisoned, in case of} 19. gxf3 Bh3+ 20. Ke2 Nf4+
$1 {we can see the importance of the rook on e5--it shields the knight to be
able to come to f4!} 21. Kd2 Nd5+ 22. Ke2 Qe3#) 19... Nxe5 20. Qd2 Qc6 $1 {
Another precise move, threatening to pick off the d7-pawn.} 21. h3 $6 {Natural,
but White will end up suffering on the dark squares.} ({Stockfish finds} 21. a4
$1 {threatening Bb5 in case of any capture on d7, and with best play we get,
of course, a perpetual:} Nxd3 22. Qxd3 b6 23. Nf2 bxc5 24. Nxg4 Nf4 25. Qd2
Qa6+ 26. Kg1 Ne2+ 27. Kf1 $11 {and Black has a choice between Nf4, Nc1, and
Ng3, but nothing more than a draw. It *should* go without saying: finding such
a precise computer defense is a position like this for White is an incredibly
difficult task for any player, even the elite!}) 21... Bxd7 22. Nxd7 Nxd7 23.
Qc3 Qh6 {White has been able to simplify a bit but his problems are far from
over--the rook on h1 simply can't get into the game.} 24. g4 f5 {Opening lines.
} ({Black had an immediate win with} 24... Qf4+ 25. Kg2 Ndf6 $1 {where White
loses all control over the position.} 26. Nxf6+ (26. Raf1 Nxe4 $19) 26... gxf6
$19 {and Black's attack is overwhelming.}) 25. gxf5 Re8 26. Qc4+ $2 {This
turns out to be the losing mistake, as White's queen ends up misplaced on c4.}
({The only move to keep the balance was} 26. Rh2 {where Qe3 is not possible in
view of Bc4+, so Black should try} Kh8 $1 $13 {when the position remains
incredibly unclear, though it's probably easier to play Black with the
powerful piece activity. That said, White can still fight back with Qd2,
challenging Black on the dark squares.}) 26... Kh8 27. Rg1 Qe3 $1 {This is
simply devastating for White. Despite being in heavy time trouble, Jeffery was
able to keep his cool and eventually finish off his attack. He repeats a few
times in the next series of moves, but it was only to get closer to move 40.
The thought of a draw likely never crossed his mind.} 28. Rg2 Nf4 29. Rh2 Nxh3
(29... Nf6 $1 {was a nice way to turn the screws as} 30. Nxf6 Qe1+ $1 {ends
the game.}) 30. Kg2 Nf4+ 31. Kh1 Qf3+ 32. Kg1 Qg4+ 33. Kh1 Qf3+ 34. Kg1 Bd8 $1
{The last key find -- Black transfers the bishop to b6 with decisive effect.}
35. Rf1 Bb6+ 36. Nf2 {Black's pieces have finally reached their ideal squares
and the engines can already calculate until mate.} Qg3+ 37. Kh1 Qf3+ 38. Kg1
Nh3+ {Not seeing anything better with the time ticking down, Jeffery opts to
cash in and regain all of his invested material.} 39. Rxh3 Qxh3 40. Qf4 Nf6 {
But the position is still totally hopeles for White, as the king is too
exposed. The game ended quickly after} 41. Bb5 Re4 $1 (41... Re4 42. Qb8+ Ng8
$19 {and White is getting mated with Rg4 or Rh4 next.}) 0-1

GM Hikaru Nakamura got his first win of the tournament with his victory over GM Sam Sevian.
Nakamura-Sevian (photo Ootes)

[Event "U.S. Championship"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.03.22"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Sevian, Samuel"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A28"]
[WhiteElo "2746"]
[BlackElo "2642"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "2019.03.20"]

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e4 Bb4 5. d3 d6 6. a3 Bc5 7. b4 Bb6 8. Na4
Bg4 9. Be2 Nd7 10. Nxb6 axb6 11. Bb2 O-O 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 Nd4 14. O-O Nxf3+
15. Qxf3 Qg5 16. Rae1 Nb8 17. d4 Nc6 18. dxe5 dxe5 19. Rd1 Rfd8 20. Rd5 Rxd5
21. cxd5 Nd4 22. Bxd4 exd4 23. Qd3 c5 24. dxc6 bxc6 25. Qxd4 c5 26. Qd6 cxb4
27. axb4 Qb5 28. Rc1 h6 29. Qc6 Qa6 30. b5 Qa5 31. Rd1 Rb8 32. Kh2 Qa2 33. Qc7
Qa8 34. Rd7 Rf8 35. Qxb6 Qxe4 36. Qd6 Qe6 37. Qxe6 fxe6 38. b6 Kh7 39. b7 Kg6
40. Rc7 Rb8 41. Kg3 Kf5 42. Rxg7 Rd8 43. f3 e5 44. Rc7 Rb8 45. Kf2 e4 46. fxe4+
Kxe4 47. Kg3 Kf5 48. Kh4 Kg6 49. Rc6+ 1-0


GM Leinier Dominguez showed his excellent endgame technique to down GM Ray Robson.

[Event "U.S. Championship"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.03.22"]
[White "Robson, Ray"]
[Black "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C65"]
[WhiteElo "2667"]
[BlackElo "2739"]
[PlyCount "102"]
[EventDate "2019.03.20"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 Be6 7. O-O Bd6 8.
Nb3 Qe7 9. Na5 O-O-O 10. Bd2 Bg4 11. Rb1 Nd7 12. Nc4 Qf6 13. b4 Nf8 14. h3 Bxf3
15. Qxf3 Qxf3 16. gxf3 Ne6 17. Be3 Rhf8 18. c3 f5 19. Rfd1 Rf6 20. d4 exd4 21.
cxd4 fxe4 22. Nxd6+ cxd6 23. fxe4 d5 24. e5 Rf5 25. b5 c5 26. dxc5 d4 27. Bd2
Nxc5 28. b6 axb6 29. Rxb6 Rxe5 30. Rc1 Rdd5 31. Rb5 Kd7 32. Ba5 d3 33. Kf1 d2
34. Bxd2 Rxd2 35. Rcxc5 Rxc5 36. Rxc5 Rxa2 37. Rh5 h6 38. Rf5 Kc6 39. Rf7 b5
40. Rxg7 b4 41. Rg3 Kb5 42. Kg2 Ra3 43. Rg8 Ra6 44. Kf3 b3 45. Rg1 Kb4 46. Ke4
b2 47. Rb1 Kc3 48. f4 Ra1 49. Rxb2 Kxb2 50. f5 Rf1 51. Ke5 Rh1 0-1

In other results, GM Akobian drew GM So in a theoretical Grunfeld battle, GM Liang held the line and the draw against GM Caruana, and GM Lenderman slipped in a long ending against GM Gareyev. This allowed Gareyev to get on the board with his first half-point. Women’s Section WGM Jennifer Yu is alone at the top of the Women’s standings, having defeated GM Irina Krush in a back-and-forth battle. Krush stood better but a few small errors snowballed and suddenly her king found itself in dire straits.
Krush-Yu (photo Kellar)

[Event "U.S. Women's Championship"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.03.22"]
[White "Krush, Irina"]
[Black "Yu, Jennifer"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B13"]
[WhiteElo "2451"]
[BlackElo "2273"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "80"]
[EventDate "2019.03.20"]

1. c4 c6 2. e4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 Be6 7. a3 Qd7 8. Be2
Rd8 9. Bxf6 exf6 10. c5 g6 11. Nf3 h5 12. b4 Bh6 13. b5 Ne7 14. h4 Kf8 {
A neat reposition of the king.} 15. a4 Kg7 16. a5 Nc8 17. b6 a6 18. Na2 Ne7 19.
Nb4 Qc8 20. Ra3 Rde8 21. Rc3 Bd7 22. O-O Bc6 23. Ne1 Nf5 24. Nxc6 Qxc6 {
Krush has a sizeable advantage here.} 25. Nc2 $5 {It's not clear that she
needs to give up the h-pawn, but objectively, there's nothing wrong with the
move.} Nxh4 26. Nb4 Qe6 27. Bd3 Bf4 {Black's pieces are beginning to look
ominous as they turn their attention to the White king, but there's nothing
concrete as of yet. Now things start to go wrong for White.} 28. c6 $6 {
Too sharp.} (28. Bc2 $16 {is a nice multipurpose move, preparing a few ideas -
Bb3 to pressure d5, Nd3 to nudge the bishop on f4, and if} Bb8 29. Re3) 28...
Bd6 29. Rc5 $6 {Ambitious but flawed. Krush will have good practical chances
after the exchange sac - those pawns look dangerous! - but as we will see,
this is perhaps a bridge too far.} Bxc5 (29... f5 $1 30. Nc2 (30. Qd2 Qf6 {
with lots of targets}) 30... Qe7 {and Black can still win the exchange while
also preparing the queen transfer to the kingside.}) 30. dxc5 bxc6 31. Nxa6 {
A tricky position to evaluate, especially when it has to be seen a few moves
ahead in analysis.} Qe5 $1 32. Nc7 $6 (32. b7 {might be the last chance:} Qb2
33. Qa4 $1 (33. b8=Q Rxb8 34. Nxb8 Rxb8 {gets the exchange back but now
Black's other rook comes into play}) 33... Qxb7 34. Qxh4 {and the game goes on.
}) 32... Re7 33. Qa4 (33. a6 {fails to} Qg5 34. g3 Re3 $1) 33... Qg5 {Yu's
attack is irresistable.} 34. g3 Nf3+ 35. Kg2 Ne1+ 36. Rxe1 Rxe1 37. Qf4 Qg4 38.
f3 Qd7 39. a6 Qe7 40. Qd2 Ra1 0-1

After a tough time in the World Teams and a disappointing start in Saint Louis, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan came out with guns blazing in round three and tactically overwhelmed her opponent, WIM Carissa Yip. This is a game worth replaying!


[Event "U.S. Women's Championship"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.03.22"]
[White "Yip, Carissa"]
[Black "Abrahamyan, Tatev"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C00"]
[WhiteElo "2279"]
[BlackElo "2377"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "72"]
[EventDate "2019.03.20"]

1. e4 e6 2. f4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c3 Nh6 6. Na3 Nf5 7. Nc2 d4 (7... h5
8. Bd3 g6 9. O-O Be7 10. Bxf5 gxf5 11. d4 {1-0 (30) Nakamura,H (2775)-Seirawan,
Y (2643) Saint Louis 2012}) 8. Bd3 Be7 9. Qe2 h5 10. Be4 Bd7 11. Qd3 Qb6 12. b3
Rd8 13. Bb2 {[#]} c4 $1 14. Qxc4 Nxe5 $1 15. Nxe5 Bb5 16. Bxf5 (16. Nxd4 Bxc4
17. Nxc4 Qc7 $19) 16... Bxc4 17. Nxc4 Qc6 18. Bh3 b5 19. Ne5 (19. Nxd4 Rxd4 20.
cxd4 Bh4+ 21. Kd1 (21. g3 $2 Qxh1+) 21... bxc4) 19... Qe4+ 20. Kd1 dxc3 21.
Bxc3 b4 22. Bb2 Qxf4 23. Nc4 Bf6 24. Kc1 Bc3 $1 {Exploiting the pin.} 25. Kb1
Bxd2 26. Bxg7 Bc3 27. Bxc3 bxc3 28. a3 Qf2 29. Rc1 O-O 30. Ra2 Qc5 31. Ka1 Rb8
32. Nb4 a5 33. Na6 Qg5 34. Rxc3 Qf6 35. Kb2 Rbc8 36. g4 Rfd8 {What a display
of tactical brilliance by Abrahamyan.} 0-1

WGM Anna Sharevich had a significant, if not decisive, advantage against WIM Akshita Gorti, but one wrong move turned the tables completely. Gorti did not miss her chance and she snatched the full point.

[Event "U.S. Women's Championship"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.03.22"]
[Round "3.5"]
[White "Sharevich, Anna"]
[Black "Gorti, Akshita"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E09"]
[WhiteElo "2282"]
[BlackElo "2272"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/2Pk3p/5p2/5Np1/4K1P1/1r4BP/8 w - - 0 64"]
[PlyCount "2"]
[EventDate "2019.03.20"]

{White may not be winning, but it's a position she can try and grind in.
But Sharevich now makes a mistake that, as the commentators noted, she'd see
immediately if she were in "Puzzle Rush" mode.} 64. h3 $4 (64. h4 {avoids the
shot, if White wants to ameliorate the weakness on h2. The problem is that
after} gxh3 65. Bxh3 Kxc6 66. Bxf5 {the position is very drawish.}) (64. Ne2 {
followed by Kd3 blocks up the second rank and frees the bishop to move. Still,
Black may have a practical fortress.}) 64... Rxg2 $1 (64... Rxg2 65. Nxg2 (65.
hxg4 Rxg3+) 65... gxh3 {and promotion is unstoppable.}) 0-1

IM Anna Zatonskih won a tricky technical battle against WIM Maggie Feng when her rook and pawns overcame Feng’s bishop and pawns. WIM Ashritha Eswaran defeated WGM Sabina Foisor, and WIM Emily Nguyen and WIM Annie Wang drew. STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 3 Open Women’s Find full pairings for the tournament and follow along on uschesschamps.com with commentary from GMs Maurice Ashley, Yasser Seirawan and WGM Jennifer Shahade starting at 12:50 CT/1:50 ET.