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.
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?
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.
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.
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.)
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?