John Burke Wins 2018 US Masters

John Michael Burke, Photo IM Eric Rosen
At the US Masters, held August 17-21 in Greensboro, North Carolina, eight players tied for 1st with a score of 6.5/9: John Burke, Jeffery Xiong, Evgeny Postny, Djurabek Khamrakulov, Yuri Gonzalez Vidal, Sergey Erenburg, Timur Gareyev and Hovhannes Gabuzyan. As the two top finishers on tiebreak, Burke and Xiong played an Armageddon game from which Burke emerged as Champion. Two GM norms were made in the event, by Djurabek Khamrakulov and Hans Niemann (Hans made his norm while facing all-GM opposition throughout the 9-round event!) On the evening of August 17, the 86 competitors (including 28 GMs and numerous other titled players) filed into the stately conference room at the Embassy Suites which would be our home for the next five days. With so many strong players in attendance, who would emerge as the player(s) best able to concentrate, or most adept at taking calculated risks at the right moments? Welcome pleasantries and rules reminders were extended by the organizer, Walter High, and the team of directors – IAs Thad Rogers, Corey Kormick, Rudy Abate and Grant Oen. As an indicator of the USA’s chess progress over the last few years, two teenagers – Jeffery Xiong and Sam Sevian, were seated by virtue of their ratings on boards 1 and 2. Surveying the field, another American teenager – Hans Niemann – had the fleeting thought that perhaps this tournament was “too strong” to be a likely generator of norms. It turned out that the disproving of that theory would begin that very night as Hans tripped up GM Niclas Huschenbeth in a rook and knight ending.
Hans here pictured in 2017, earned a GM and IM norm at the US Masters, Photo Vanessa Sun
By the next day, the rhythm of this tournament was set – a massive complimentary breakfast and rounds at 11:00 am and 6:00 pm. Somebody discovered a basketball court at a related hotel across the parking lot. Of course, most of the time between rounds would have to be spent on laptops researching the openings of the next opponent. Every attempt was made to post pairings two hours before the round. For those wedded to the silicon beasts, this was almost a digitized version of the paper chase (albeit with a different subject matter). Halfway through the event, I decided that no more preparation was necessary. Round 2 saw Niemann rack up another win against a GM; this time Akshat Chandra was the victim. Jeffery Xiong was unseated from his post on Board 1, as he was defeated by Magesh Panchanathan. And unusual tactics popped up in the battle between IM Guillermo Vazquez and GM Evgeny Postny.
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.18"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Vazquez, Guillermo"]
[Black "Postny, Evgeny"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E32"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "76"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 b6 7. Bg5 c5 8.
dxc5 bxc5 9. e3 d6 10. O-O-O Ne4 11. Qd3 {An artful sidestep. White will
immediately regain the piece and try to combine potential threats against h7
with real threats against d6.} (11. Bxd8 Nxc3 12. bxc3 (12. Rxd6 Ne4) 12...
Rxd8 {is great for Black.}) 11... Nxg5 12. h4 Ne4 13. Qxe4 Qc7 14. Nh3 (14.
Qxa8 Nc6 {and the active Black queen is better than White's two rooks.}) 14...
Nd7 15. Qd3 {White wins the battle in that he has maneuvered to capture the
d-pawn, but Black has strong compensation based on White's unstable queenside,
and already actually stands better.} (15. Qxa8 Bb7 16. Qxa7 Ra8 {is still good
for Black.}) 15... d5 16. cxd5 exd5 17. Qxd5 Rb8 18. Nf4 Nf6 19. Qc4 Rb6 20. f3
{White is one tempo short in setting up the defense. Nf4 was necessary to stop
... Be6, f2-f3 to stop ... Ne4, Rd1-d2 to cover b2, and Bf1-c4 (which he is
not able to get in) to stop ... Rb6-b3.} Bd7 21. Qc3 Rfb8 22. Bc4 Rxb2 23. Qxb2
Rxb2 24. Kxb2 Qe5+ 25. Ka2 Qc3 26. Rc1 Qxe3 {The queen is just too strong.} 27.
Nd3 Qd2+ 28. Ka1 Qxg2 29. Ne5 Be8 30. Rhe1 Kf8 31. Re2 Qh3 32. Rd1 g6 33. Rd8
Kg7 34. Ra8 Qxh4 35. Rxa7 Qd4+ 36. Ka2 Nd5 37. Kb3 Qd1+ 38. Kb2 Nb6 0-1[/pgn]
For some time now, IM Djurabek Khamrakulov has been absolutely wrecking it at the Marshall Chess Club in NYC. Usually, when a new guy comes to town, he does well for a while until the locals adjust, but Khamrakulov has maintained a great winning streak there. It is great to see Djurabek now branching out to more events in a drive to complete the requirements for the GM title (he holds a previous recent GM norm as well as an older GM norm), and nobody in New York is surprised to see his fantastic result here. In round 3 of the US Masters, Khamrakulov won against Hovhannes Gabuzyan. Gabuzyan, a student at UT Rio Grande Valley who had proved his mettle by winning the just-concluded Washington International. Then, Khamrakulov moved powerfully into sole possession of first place in round 4 with a win over Julio Sadorra. Meanwhile, IM Kevin Wang, who had stepped into the limelight with a 3rd round victory against GM Sergei Azarov, followed this up in round 4 with a win over Isan Ortiz Suarez. Wang would remain in norm contention until the very end. And Niemann held steady, having drawn with Ortiz Suarez in round 3 and then Alexander Shabalov in round 4.
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.19"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Khamrakulov, Djurabek"]
[Black "Sadorra, Julio"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C47"]
[Annotator "Rohde, Michael"]
[PlyCount "57"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Bd3 d5 8.
exd5 cxd5 9. O-O O-O 10. Bg5 Be6 11. Qf3 Be7 12. h3 h6 13. Bh4 Rb8 14. b3 c6
15. Rad1 (15. Ne2 {is not special here because ... Rb8-b4 is still effective.})
15... Re8 (15... Rb4 16. Bg3 Bd6 {would be a reasonable completion of Black's
defensive strategy to neutralize White's dark-squared bishop.}) 16. Ne2 Rb4 {
Now this does not work.} (16... Nd7 17. Bg3 Rb6 {covering c6, was possible,
and Black will follow up with ... Be7-f6.}) 17. c4 Qc8 {Hoping to provoke an
exchange on d5, but now White can focus on piece play.} 18. Nd4 dxc4 19. bxc4
Bxc4 20. Bxc4 (20. Nxc6 Bxd3 {seems ok for Black.}) 20... Rxc4 21. Nf5 Nd5 {
There was no fully satisfactory defense.} (21... Re4 22. Bxf6 Bxf6 23. Nd6) (
21... Rc5 22. Nxe7+ Rxe7 23. Bxf6) 22. Rxd5 Bxh4 23. Nd6 cxd5 (23... Qe6 24.
Rdd1) 24. Qxf7+ Kh8 25. Nxe8 Bf6 26. Qf8+ Kh7 27. Nxf6+ gxf6 28. Qf7+ Kh8 29.
Qxf6+ 1-0[/pgn]
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.19"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Shabalov, Alexander"]
[Black "Niemann, Hans"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B23"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "75"]1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nge2 Nf6 4. g3 d5 5. exd5 Nd4 6. Bg2 Bg4 7. h3 Bf3 8.
Bxf3 (8. O-O {is less efficient because White will soon have to take on f3
anyway.}) 8... Nxf3+ 9. Kf1 Nd4 (9... Nxd5 10. Nf4 {and White is winning.}) 10.
Nf4 g6 (10... g5 11. Nh5 Nxd5 12. Qe1 {threatens Nc3xd5} Ne6 13. Qe4 {and
White is doing very well.}) 11. d3 Bg7 12. h4 (12. Be3) 12... O-O (12... h5 {
seems fine for Black.}) 13. h5 b5 14. hxg6 fxg6 15. Be3 b4 {Niemann
confidently enters into a tactical melee against Shabalov.} 16. Bxd4 cxd4 17.
Ne6 Qd6 18. Ne4 Nxe4 (18... Qxd5 {is not good enough due to} 19. Nxf8 Nxe4 20.
dxe4 Qxe4 21. Rh4) 19. dxe4 Qxg3 20. Qe2 (20. Nxf8 Rxf8 21. Qe2 d3 {wins for
Black. Instead, White needs for the e6 knight to patrol d4 while it keeps an
eye on f8.}) 20... Rf6 21. Rd1 Qe5 22. Rd3 Rc8 23. Rdh3 Rxe6 {If Black can
stem the attack, there will be nice counterplay on the queenside later.} 24.
dxe6 h6 25. Qg4 Rc6 26. Rxh6 Qxe6 {Another neat tactical exchange which works
for both sides.} 27. Qxe6+ Rxe6 28. R6h4 Rc6 29. Rg1 Rxc2 (29... Kf7 30. Rf4+ {
is too obscure.}) 30. Rxg6 d3 31. Rhg4 Rc1+ 32. Kg2 d2 33. Rxg7+ Kf8 34. Rg8+
Kf7 35. Rd8 d1=Q 36. Rxd1 Rxd1 37. Rg3 Re1 38. a3 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.19"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Ortiz Suarez, Isan"]
[Black "Wang, Kevin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A05"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "130"]1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 b5 {This version of what is sometimes called the Polish
Defense is quite reasonable, as a kind of expanded Queen's Indian.} 3. Bg2 Bb7
4. Na3 {A development play, but to the extent it implies an exchange of
White's c-pawn for the Black b-pawn, it is not that strong strategically.} a6
5. c4 e5 6. cxb5 (6. d3 {is interesting here.}) 6... Bxa3 7. bxa3 axb5 {In
return for shipping off one of his bishops, Black has good mobilization and
central control.} 8. O-O d6 9. Qb3 Bc6 10. d3 O-O 11. Be3 Bd5 12. Qxb5 Rxa3 13.
Bg5 (13. d4 {is not thrilling, but it leads to a scrappier position.}) 13... c5
{Now Black's central grip is difficult to deal with.} 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 15. Nd2
Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Ra7 17. a4 (17. Nc4 {was much better as the pressure on d6
inhibits the development of the b8 knight. Then the position may be about
equal.}) 17... Na6 18. Nc4 (18. Qb6 Qe7 {avoiding Nd2-e4} 19. Rfb1 h6 {and
Black is consolidating with ... Rf8-b8 and ... Na6-b4 in the works.}) 18... Nb4
19. Nb6 Qe7 20. a5 Qb7+ 21. Kg1 Rb8 {Organizing for serious pressure on a5.}
22. Qc4 Nc6 23. Rab1 Nxa5 24. Qg4 Rd8 25. Rb2 Nc6 26. Rfb1 Nb4 27. Nc4 Qd7 28.
Qh4 h6 29. Ne3 Rda8 30. Nc2 Nxc2 31. Rxc2 Ra4 32. Qh5 Rb4 33. Rbc1 Raa4 34. Qf3
Qb7 35. Qxb7 Rxb7 36. h4 h5 37. Kg2 f5 38. Rc4 Rxc4 39. Rxc4 Rc7 40. e4 Rb7 41.
Kf3 g6 42. Ra4 Kf7 43. Ra8 Rb3 44. Ke2 Rb4 45. Ke3 fxe4 46. dxe4 Rb3+ 47. Kd2
c4 48. Rc8 Rd3+ 49. Ke2 Rd4 50. Rc7+ Ke8 51. f3 Kd8 52. Ra7 Kc8 53. Ra1 Kc7 54.
Rb1 Kc6 55. Rb8 Kc5 56. Rg8 c3 57. Rxg6 Rd2+ 58. Ke3 Rg2 59. Rg8 c2 60. Rc8+
Kb4 61. Kd3 Kb3 62. g4 Kb2 63. gxh5 c1=Q 64. Rxc1 Kxc1 65. Kc4 Rh2 0-1[/pgn]
Round 5, the evening round on August 19, marked the halfway point in the tournament, and it is around this point in a tournament where many players either intensify or relax their efforts. The skittles room on the second floor saw increased activity as it also served as a stockpile for drinks, chips and salsa (the food, not the music). Usually, after the round one could find US Open Champion Timur Gareyev holding forth there, while his befuddled ex-opponents would shake their heads in wonderment as to how Timur could get away with some of his openings. A critical game was the matchup between Gabuzyan and Sam Sevian. Niemann scored a major win, leaving no doubt that he was having a fantastic event. I played Joel Benjamin, and, after some interesting moments, we battled to a draw. But our game was nothing compared to the firestorm brewing on the board right next to us where Carissa Yip was facing Akshat Chandra.
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.19"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Gabuzyan, Hovhannes"]
[Black "Sevian, Sam"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A11"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "138"]1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 e6 4. O-O Nf6 5. c4 c6 6. cxd5 Bxf3 {In this
formation the exchange of the bishop for the knight leads to a safe middlegame
for Black. But there is always a nagging worry that the bishops can become
something in the endgame.} 7. Bxf3 cxd5 8. d4 Nc6 9. b3 Be7 10. Bb2 O-O 11. Nc3
Rc8 12. e3 Rc7 13. Rc1 Qb8 14. Qd3 Rfc8 15. Rfd1 a6 16. Be2 Qa7 17. Qb1 Na5 18.
Bd3 Nc6 19. Kg2 Nb8 20. Na4 {A plan evolves to trade all the majors on the
c-file.} Nbd7 21. Rxc7 Rxc7 22. Rc1 Qb8 23. Rc2 Qc8 24. Rxc7 Qxc7 25. Qc2 Qxc2
26. Bxc2 Kf8 27. f3 g6 28. Bc3 Ne8 29. Nb2 Nd6 30. a4 Ke8 31. g4 Nb8 32. e4 {
The presence of the bishops supports the big kingside space grab.} Nc6 33. e5
Nc8 34. Nd3 Nb6 35. f4 f5 36. exf6 Bxf6 37. Ne5 Nxe5 38. dxe5 {Definite
progress as the pawn formation becomes unbalanced.} Be7 39. Kg3 Nd7 40. h4 Kf7
41. h5 Bc5 42. b4 Bb6 43. a5 Bc7 44. Bd3 Nb8 45. Bd4 Nc6 46. Bc5 Kg7 47. Bc2 (
47. h6+ {Tactically possible but not yet strategically desirable as Black will
maneuver his knight to f7.}) 47... Bd8 48. Ba4 g5 {Finally Sevian loses
patience.} (48... Kf7 {was probably best.}) 49. h6+ Kf7 (49... Kxh6 50. f5 exf5
(50... Be7 {still looks very dicey for Black.}) (50... Kg7 51. Bxc6 bxc6 52.
fxe6 Bc7 53. Bd6 Bxd6 54. exd6 Kf8 55. Kf3 {is winning.}) 51. gxf5 Nxe5 52.
Bf8+ Kh5 53. Be8+) 50. Bc2 gxf4+ 51. Kxf4 Kg8 52. g5 Ne7 53. Bd6 {Now Black
has to watch both g6 and an invasion via a4.} Ng6+ 54. Kg4 Kf7 55. Bb1 Kg8 56.
Bd3 Kf7 57. Bc2 Kg8 58. Ba4 Nf8 59. Kh5 Kf7 60. Bxf8 Kxf8 61. g6 hxg6+ 62. Kxg6
Kg8 63. Bd7 Bc7 64. Bxe6+ Kf8 65. h7 Bxe5 66. Bxd5 Ke7 67. Bxb7 Bc3 68. Bxa6
Ke6 69. Bd3 Kd5 1-0[/pgn]
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.19"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Niemann, Hans"]
[Black "Stukopin, Andrey"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D46"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "57"]1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O
h6 {Black does not have to rush any central break, and it is useful to remove
h7 as a target. But this move requires careful consideration because if Black
later plays ... e6-e5, then Nf3-h4 can become stronger due to this.} 9. h3 (9.
a3 {is also interesting because it prepares a nice spot for the light-squared
bishop on a2 if Black exchanges on c4.}) 9... Re8 10. Rd1 dxc4 11. Bxc4 b5 12.
Be2 {As Black has already played ... h7-h6, there is no need for the bishop to
be on d3.} Qc7 13. e4 e5 14. Be3 Bb7 15. Rac1 a6 (15... Rac8 {would have been
ok.}) 16. Nd5 Nxd5 (16... Qd8 17. dxe5 {is also big trouble for Black.}) 17.
exd5 Rac8 (17... e4 18. dxc6 {and Black has not solved anything.} exf3 19. Bxf3
) 18. dxe5 Nxe5 (18... Bxe5 {was unpleasant several ways, but it had to be
tried.}) 19. Nxe5 Bxe5 20. Bg4 {Winning material. Black's attempts to wriggle
out of this are neatly parried.} Rcd8 21. dxc6 Rxd1+ 22. Qxd1 Bxc6 23. Qc2 ({
Not} 23. Bf3 Bxf3) 23... h5 {A first desperate defensive salvo.} 24. Bf5 (24.
Bxh5 Rc8 25. Bg4 Bh2+ 26. Kh1 Bxg2+ {was the idea.}) 24... Rd8 (24... g6 25.
Bxg6 {is winning.}) 25. Kf1 ({Not} 25. Qxc6 Rd1+) 25... Bd7 {An attempt at
extrication hitting the bishop on f5.} 26. Bh7+ Kh8 27. Qe2 {This ends it.}
Kxh7 28. Rxc7 Bxc7 29. Qc2+ 1-0[/pgn]
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.19"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Yip, Carissa"]
[Black "Chandra, Akshat"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B48"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "67"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3 a6 (6... Nf6 {
Delaying ... a7-a6 is possible for a few more moves even.}) 7. Qd2 Nf6 8. O-O-O
Bb4 {I am not so sure about this because the trade of the dark-squared bishop
is almost never good.} 9. f3 Ne5 (9... d5 10. a3 Ba5 11. Nb3) 10. Nb3 {White
wants the monster square d4 for her bishop.} b5 11. Kb1 {Threatening Nc3xb5.}
Be7 (11... Bxc3 12. Qxc3 (12. bxc3 Nc4) 12... Qxc3 13. bxc3 {is good for White
because of the dark squares.}) 12. Qf2 Rb8 13. g4 b4 14. Na4 d6 15. Ba7 Rb7 16.
Bd4 Nxf3 {This creates incredible chaos. It was probably partly inspired by
the fact that White was threatening annoying moves such as 17 Bxa6 or 17 Nb6.}
17. Qxf3 e5 18. g5 {Yip has no problem following the precepts of general
aggression as White in the Sicilian: always try to get in g4-g5 to knock the
knight out of the box; don't be afraid to deploy the c3 knight to a4 as
somebody or something will come to rescue it.} Bg4 {It was now or never for
getting this bishop to g4.} 19. Qg2 Bxd1 {Black has temporarily won the
Exchange.} 20. gxf6 Bxf6 21. Bxa6 {Now White has (temporarily) two pieces for
a rook.} exd4 22. Bxb7 Qxb7 23. Rxd1 Qc6 {In the last sequence, Black
recovered the two pieces for the rook, and now he is making up for the loss of
the bishop on d1 by trapping the knight on a4.} 24. Nxd4 (24. Na5 Qxa4 25. e5 {
is an erroneous line which both Joel and I were looking at, sideways, from the
next board. It does not work because of} dxe5 26. Qa8+ Bd8) 24... Qxa4 {
Incredibly, material equality has been restored, but now the monster knight
goes to work.} 25. Nf5 O-O 26. Rxd6 b3 {A clearance sacrifice but played
really for a defensive reason: to get the queen with tempo to a5 from where
she defends the key squares e5 and d8.} (26... Be5 27. Nh6+ Kh8 28. Nxf7+) 27.
axb3 Qa5 28. c3 Be5 29. Qg5 Ra8 (29... Kh8 {seems to make a real fight out of
it, although obviously White is much better.}) 30. Nh6+ Kf8 31. Rd7 {Now there
are mating threats on both e7 and f7.} Bf6 32. Rxf7+ Ke8 33. Qg4 Ra7 34. Qe6+ {
White's next move is 35 Rf8+ no matter what.} 1-0[/pgn]
In round 6, Jeffery Xiong, with a win over Sadorra, and John Burke, with a win over Dragun, both pulled within a half-point of the leaders. At the conclusion of round 6, “plus 4”, e.g., 5-1 after round 6, 5.5-1.5 after round 7, etc., became the definitive pole position as the tournament grinded towards the finish line. With 5-1 after round 6 were Postny, Khamrakulov and Erenburg; Erenburg had dealt Niemann his first defeat of the event.
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.20"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Burke, John"]
[Black "Dragun, Kamil"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C45"]
[PlyCount "91"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nb3 Bb6 6. Nc3 Nf6 7. Bg5 h6 8.
Bh4 O-O 9. Bd3 Re8 10. O-O d6 11. Kh1 Ne5 12. f4 Ng6 13. Bg3 c6 14. h3 a5 15.
a4 d5 16. e5 d4 17. exf6 dxc3 18. f5 Ne5 19. fxg7 cxb2 20. Rb1 Qf6 21. Qh5 Nxd3
22. cxd3 Be3 23. Bh4 Qc3 24. f6 Qxb3 25. Rfe1 Qxd3 26. Rxb2 Bd7 27. Rxb7 Qf5
28. Qxf5 Bxf5 29. Re7 Rxe7 30. fxe7 Re8 31. Rxe3 Kxg7 32. Rc3 Be4 33. Rc4 f5
34. Rc5 Kf7 35. Rxa5 Rg8 36. Kg1 Rxg2+ 37. Kf1 Rg8 38. Re5 Bg2+ 39. Kf2 Bxh3
40. a5 f4 41. a6 Ke8 42. a7 Rg2+ 43. Kf3 Ra2 44. Bf2 c5 45. Bxc5 Ra5 46. Re4
In rounds 7 and 8, the group on “plus 4” inched forward to stay tied for the lead, but more players were able to join them. Ominously, in round 8 both Burke and Xiong scored victories to join the leaders. And Gareyev had stopped with the experimental openings and was putting a nice streak together of 3 wins in a row with a critical round 8 victory against Bryan Smith.
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.21"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Xiong, Jeffery"]
[Black "Belous, Vladimir"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C42"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "127"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d3 {Xiong is content with a
small advantage, rather than engaging in a theoretical debate.} Nf6 6. d4 Be7
7. Bd3 Bg4 8. O-O O-O 9. Re1 c5 10. h3 Bh5 11. d5 Nbd7 12. g4 {This push is an
integral part of this system, as otherwise the pin is too much trouble.} Bg6
13. Nc3 {As Black's minor pieces are a little hemmed in, there is no way to
make an issue out of weaknesses created by g2-g4.} Ne8 14. Qe2 Bf6 15. Bxg6
hxg6 16. Ne4 Ne5 17. Nxe5 dxe5 (17... Bxe5 {is not good due to} 18. g5 {and
White's pawns start hunting down the Black bishop.}) 18. Be3 b6 19. d6 Nxd6 {
Black was counting on this queen sacrifice for a rook, knight, and pawn and a
basically solid position. On other moves, the d-pawn becomes way too strong.}
20. Rad1 Nxe4 21. Rxd8 Raxd8 22. Qa6 Nd2 23. Qe2 Ne4 24. Kg2 {The problem for
Black is that White does not have real weaknesses to counter-attack.} Ng5 25.
h4 Ne6 26. g5 Be7 27. c3 Rfe8 28. Qg4 Bd6 29. Rh1 Nf8 30. a4 Bc7 31. Rd1 Ne6 (
31... Rxd1 32. Qxd1 Rd8 33. Qf3 {and the invasion on the light squares
combined with a4-a5 is tough.}) 32. Rh1 Nf8 33. a5 bxa5 34. h5 (34. Bxc5 Bb6 {
and Black is happy to trade off the White bishop because then ... e5-e4-e3
becomes a factor.}) 34... Bd6 35. h6 Ne6 36. Qh4 Bf8 37. hxg7 Bxg7 38. Qh7+ Kf8
39. Ra1 Rd7 40. Rxa5 Rc8 41. Ra6 Nf4+ 42. Bxf4 exf4 43. Qh4 Kg8 44. Qxf4 {
Having finally won back a pawn, Xiong now starts probing the remaining
weaknesses expertly.} Rb7 45. Qc4 Kh7 46. Qh4+ Kg8 47. Qc4 Kh7 48. b4 Bf8 49.
f4 Rcc7 50. b5 Rd7 51. Kf3 Rb6 52. Qa4 Kg8 53. Qa2 Rd3+ 54. Kg4 Rd7 55. Kh4
Rdb7 56. Rxb6 Rxb6 57. f5 gxf5 58. Qxa7 Rxb5 59. g6 fxg6 60. Kg5 Rb2 61. Kf6
Kh8 62. Kf7 Bd6 63. Qa8+ Bb8 64. Qc6 1-0[/pgn]
In round 9, with other players drawing, the game Burke-Khamrakulov was capable of producing a clear winner to the event. But in an unbalanced ending, both players fought well and a massive tie for first was the result. Gareyev completed his late-tournament comeback with a victory over Dragun. And Yuri Gonzalez Vidal joined the winners’ circle with a victory over Alexander Shabalov.
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.21"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Burke, John"]
[Black "Khamrakulov, Djurabek"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B19"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "67"]1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5
Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. O-O-O Be7 (12... Qc7 13. Ne4 O-O-O
14. g3 Nc5 {is the old main line here.}) 13. Ne4 Nxe4 14. Qxe4 Nf6 15. Qd3 (15.
Qe2 Qd5 {is another possibility.}) 15... c5 16. Kb1 Qd5 17. Qb5+ Qd7 18. Qe2
cxd4 19. Bc3 O-O 20. Bxd4 Qc6 21. g4 Qe4 {It is tough to keep a determined
Caro player from getting this in.} 22. Qxe4 Nxe4 23. Rhe1 Ng5 24. Ne5 Bf6 (
24... Rfd8 25. f4 {gives White the edge.}) 25. Nd7 (25. f4 Bxe5 {and Black
follows up with ... Ng5-f3.}) 25... Bxd4 26. Nxf8 Bxf2 27. Re2 Bg3 28. Rd3 (28.
Nd7 {was also possible with chances for both sides.}) 28... Rxf8 29. Rxg3 f5
30. gxf5 {Else ... f5-f4 and the passed e-pawn could create problems as well.}
exf5 31. Kc1 f4 32. Rb3 f3 33. Rf2 b6 34. Ra3 {The draw agreed here makes
perfect sense. Although Black is in no trouble, he would incur significant
risk if he tried to make progress.} 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
[pgn][Event "US Masters"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.21"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Dragun, Kamil"]
[Black "Gareyev, Timur"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C78"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "74"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Bc5 6. c3 b5 7. Bc2 d6 8. d4
Bb6 9. a4 Bg4 (9... Bb7 {has a different flavor, emphasizing counterplay
against e4.}) 10. axb5 axb5 11. Rxa8 Qxa8 12. d5 Ne7 13. Na3 O-O {It is common
in the Classical Ruy Lopez to simply pitch the b-pawn to gain time for minor
piece activity.} 14. Nxb5 Qc8 15. h3 (15. Qd3 {immediately envisions careful
ideas such as Bc1-e3 or Bc2-d1.}) 15... Bh5 16. Na3 Ng6 17. Qd3 {White cannot
allow ... Ng6-h4.} c6 18. Nc4 Bc5 {Although d6 looks like a weak spot in
Black's camp, White's problem is that he does not have a good hold on e4. This
explains White's next move which otherwise would just look like wanderlust on
the part of the knight.} 19. Ng5 (19. b4 cxd5) (19. dxc6 d5) 19... cxd5 20.
exd5 h6 21. b4 hxg5 22. bxc5 {As White has dodged the potential fork ... e5-e4,
things appear to be under control, but there are still problems on the central
light squares.} Qxc5 23. Ba3 e4 24. Bxc5 exd3 25. Bxd6 dxc2 26. Bxf8 Be2 {This
resource is winning.} (26... Kxf8 27. Ne3 {and White would be fine.}) 27. Rc1
Bxc4 28. Ba3 Bb3 29. d6 Ne5 30. Re1 Nc4 31. Re8+ {This leads to some humorous
play, but it does not change anything.} Nxe8 32. d7 Ba4 {Cold. Black emerges
with 3 pieces for the queen, and the c-pawn lives.} 33. d8=Q Nxa3 34. Qxg5 Nb1
35. Qe3 Nf6 36. c4 Ne4 37. c5 Ned2 0-1[/pgn]
As the top two players on tiebreak, Jeffery Xiong and John Burke played an “Armageddon” playoff for the championship title and the perpetual US Masters trophy. The format was one G/15, delay 5 “Armageddon” game, with a bidding system. Xiong bid 14:59; Burke bid 10 minutes, and thus chose Black.  Burke drew the game and thus was declared the US Masters Champion. All players involved in the tie received the same prize money.
[pgn][Event "US Masters Armageddon"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.08.21"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Xiong, Jeffery"]
[Black "Burke, John"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E05"]
[PlyCount "139"]1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. a4
Bd7 9. Qxc4 Bc6 10. Bg5 Bd5 11. Qc2 Be4 12. Qc4 Bd5 13. Qd3 c5 14. dxc5 Nbd7
15. Nc3 Nxc5 16. Qe3 Nfe4 17. Bxe7 Qxe7 18. Nxd5 exd5 19. Rfd1 Rfd8 20. Nd4 Qf6
21. b4 Ne6 22. Rac1 Rac8 23. Nxe6 Qxe6 24. Bf3 h6 25. Kg2 Re8 26. h4 Rxc1 27.
Rxc1 Qd7 28. Qd4 Qd6 29. Rd1 Qe7 30. Rd3 Nf6 31. Re3 Qd7 32. Rxe8+ Qxe8 33.
Bxd5 Qd7 34. e4 Nxd5 35. Qxd5 Qxa4 36. Qxb7 Qc2 37. Qa8+ Kh7 38. Qd5 Kg8 39. g4
Qe2 40. Kg3 Qe1 41. Qa8+ Kh7 42. Qxa6 Qc3+ 43. Kg2 Qxb4 44. Qd3 Qe7 45. Kg3
Qc7+ 46. Kg2 Qe7 47. Kg3 Qc7+ 48. e5+ Kg8 49. Qd5 Qc3+ 50. Kg2 Qc8 51. Qe4 Qe6
52. Kg3 Qb3+ 53. Qf3 Qe6 54. Qc3 Qd5 55. Qc8+ Kh7 56. Qf5+ Kg8 57. Qc8+ Kh7 58.
Qc2+ Kg8 59. Qe2 Qb3+ 60. f3 Qe6 61. Qe4 Qb6 62. Qe1 Qd4 63. g5 hxg5 64. hxg5
Qd8 65. Qe3 Qe7 66. Qf4 Qc5 67. Kh3 Qg1 68. Qh2 Qxg5 69. Qg3 Qxg3+ 70. Kxg3