Can You Save Like So?

Photo Lennart Ootes
Wesley So, our new US Champion and current World #2 ranked player, dazzled with his queen sacrifice against Jeffery Xiong, one of the most brilliant games in US Championship history, as pointed out by IM Greg Shahade in his recent article. But his 67 game undefeated streak and Championship success also owes much to his saves, turning tough positions into split points or even victories. See if you can save like So in the following positions. I Gata Kamsky has been pressing Wesley with Black in the penultimate round of the US Chess Championship. In queen endings, the defender has to carefully calculate one series of checks after another, and can often tire and err. Would you move your king right or left in this position?
White to Move Show Solution
51.Ke1? loses instantly to 51...Qc3+ when the only move that doesn't allow a winning queen trade is Kf1, but that fails to Kf3 and White has no checks to save himself, as the black queen covers the second rank. Meanwhile,  51. Kg1! saves because Qg3+ can be met by Kf1 (Kg2 is also possible) since ...Kf3 Qb2 is the only move, but a good one, stopping mate and aiming for checks of her own on g2.
In the game, Kamsky played 51...Qd1+ and the game was drawn a couple moves later.
[pgn]

[Event "USA-ch"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2017.04.08"]
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Kamsky, Gata"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D10"]
[WhiteElo "2822"]
[BlackElo "2659"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/1Q2p3/3p4/P2Pk3/4q3/8/5K2 b - - 0 50"]
[PlyCount "6"]
[EventDate "2017.03.29"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[EventCategory "18"]
[SourceDate "2017.04.12"]

50... Qf3+ 51. Kg1 Qd1+ 52. Kg2 Qc2+ 53. Kg3 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
II No curse of the 40th or 41st move for Wesley! In his round three battle against Fabiano Caruana, can you find the clear path to draw?
White to Move Show Solution
The game was drawn after: 40.h6 Kg6 41. g5! placing the pawns on dark squares where they will be immune, since...Kxf5 loses to h7.
[pgn]

[Event "USA-ch"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2017.03.31"]
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "2822"]
[BlackElo "2817"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/1pp2p2/2p5/2P2NkP/6P1/1b4K1/8/8 w - - 0 40"]
[PlyCount "20"]
[EventDate "2017.03.29"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[EventCategory "18"]
[SourceDate "2017.04.12"]

40. h6 Kg6 41. g5 Bc2 42. Nd4 Bb1 43. Kf4 f6 44. gxf6 Kxf6 45. Nb3 b6 46. Nd4
bxc5 47. Nxc6 Kg6 48. Ke5 Kxh6 49. Kd5 c4 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
Alexander Onischuk
In the playoffs, Wesley won the first game with a combative victory against Onischuk, staying ahead on the clock and finding great resources,like the tricky 20. Bg4 (22...Rxg4 would failed to 23.Nxg4 Bh5 24.fxe6 Bxg4 25.Ba3!) Wesley, later retreated the same bishop for the crushing finesse 25.Bd1! (...Bxf5 allows Ne3! with a winning double attack.)
[pgn]

[Event "USA-ch playoff"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2017.04.10"]
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Onischuk, Alexander"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A18"]
[WhiteElo "2822"]
[BlackElo "2667"]
[PlyCount "61"]
[EventDate "2017.04.10"]
[EventType "match (rapid)"]
[EventRounds "2"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[SourceDate "2017.04.12"]

1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e4 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. e5 Ne4 6. Nf3 Bf5 7. Be2 Be7 8.
O-O O-O 9. Qb3 Nc6 10. Nxd5 Bc5 11. Ne3 Bg6 12. Qxb7 Nd4 13. Nxd4 Bxd4 14. d3
Nc5 15. Qb5 Rb8 16. Qc4 Ne6 17. f4 Bxb2 18. Rb1 Qd4 19. Rxb2 Rxb2 20. Bg4 Rb4
21. Qxd4 Rxd4 22. f5 Nf4 23. Nc2 Ra4 24. Bxf4 h5 25. Bd1 Bh7 26. Ne3 Rxa2 27.
e6 fxe6 28. Bb3 Re2 29. fxe6 Re8 30. e7+ Kh8 31. Bg5 1-0

[/pgn]
In the second round of the playoff, Wesley was in serious trouble and needed only a draw to avoid Armageddon and win his first US Championship title. How did he keep things as difficult as possible for Onischuk in this position?
Black to Move  Show Solution
...g5, followed by ...Kg7 and Onischuk was unable to break through:
[pgn]

[Event "USA-ch playoff"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2017.04.10"]
[White "Onischuk, Alexander"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A07"]
[WhiteElo "2667"]
[BlackElo "2822"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "7k/6p1/5p2/3Bn3/2Pq2PP/8/4QP2/6K1 b - - 0 47"]
[PlyCount "35"]
[EventDate "2017.04.10"]
[EventType "match (rapid)"]
[EventRounds "2"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[SourceDate "2017.04.12"]

47... g5 48. h5 Kg7 49. Kg2 Kh6 50. Kg3 Qf4+ 51. Kh3 Qd4 52. Kg3 Qf4+ 53. Kg2
Qd4 54. Be6 Nd3 55. Kg1 Nf4 56. Qc2 Qa1+ 57. Kh2 Qe5 58. Bg8 Nxh5+ 59. Kg2 Nf4+
60. Kf3 Ng6 61. Qe4 Nh4+ 62. Ke3 Ng2+ 63. Kf3 Ne1+ 64. Ke3 Nc2+ 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
The dark square fortress was impenetrable, and Wesley was crowned US Chess Champion. Review the feat and his post victory interview (starting at 2:30:23) on the YouTube replay. Look for more on Wesley So and Sabina Foisor's thrilling victories in an upcoming issue of Chess Life Magazine.

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