Lenderman Still Perfect after Seven Rounds

GM Aleks Lenderman has done it again! The New York GM is on a perfect 7/7 with two rounds to go in the 2021 US Open, coming off an impressive victory over the only other unblemished player, GM Hans Niemann.

We all know that, in chess, one mistake can change the course of the game, but this encounter provided a tragically clear example of just how true that can be under such grueling conditions. Would Lenderman have committed to 24. Rxd5!? had he not been playing daily for a full week? Would Niemann have blitzed out 27. Kh8?? if not for the fact that he had crammed six game-in-sixty games into 36 hours in the four-day schedule?

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Niemann thinks while Lenderman lurks
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Niemann thinks while Lenderman lurks (photo Iredia Ekhato)

[pgn][Event "2021 U.S. Open"] [Site "Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA"] [Date "2021.08.07"] [Round "7"] [White "Lenderman, Aleksandr"] [Black "Niemann, Hans"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A45"] [WhiteElo "2607"] [BlackElo "2606"] [Annotator "Lang"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:21:29"] [BlackClock "0:36:29"] {[%evp 0,57,39,24,14,-8,6,18,53,5,2,1,2,3,-9,-23,-13,-27,40,45,43,41,62,31,51, 30,33,13,17,-17,-24,-24,-2,4,4,4,-4,-25,-25,0,-6,-6,-14,-14,12,19,3,28,36,-45, -45,-45,0,0,0,0,304,311,309,317]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 d5 3. e3 c5 4. Bxf6 gxf6 5. dxc5 e6 6. Nf3 Bxc5 7. Be2 Qb6 8. c4 dxc4 9. Nbd2 c3 10. bxc3 Be7 11. Nd4 a6 12. Rb1 Qc7 13. Qa4+ Nd7 14. N4f3 f5 15. e4 Qxc3 $6 {Unnecessarily opening up lines for white} (15... fxe4 16. Qxe4 Nf6 17. Qe5 Qxe5 18. Nxe5 Nd5 $15) 16. exf5 exf5 17. O-O O-O 18. Rfc1 Nc5 19. Qf4 Qg7 20. Nc4 Be6 21. Ne3 Qf6 22. Nd4 Rfd8 23. Ndxf5 Bf8 24. Rxc5 $5 {Lenderman took 20 minutes on this sacrifice} ( 24. h4 {would keep the tension without the ensuing complications}) 24... Bxc5 25. Ng4 Qg6 {Now Lenderman took an additional several minutes, suggesting something was not calculated fully.} 26. Rxb7 Bf8 27. Nfh6+ Kh8 $4 {Played in three minutes, with 36 minutes remaining on the clock.} (27... Bxh6 28. Nxh6+ Kf8 29. Qe5 Bd7 30. Bg4 Qxh6 {Neither side has better than a perpetual.} 31. Qh8+ Ke7 32. Qe5+) 28. Nxf7+ Bxf7 29. Ne5 {1-0 Black resigns.} 1-0 [/pgn]

GM John Michael Burke is still only half a point behind Lenderman, having put on a clinic on the white side of the Classical French against Illinois IM Sam Schmakel. After White’s 16th move, Black’s position was completely frozen despite no obvious blunders.

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GM John Burke (photo Iredia Ekhato)
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GM John Burke (photo Iredia Ekhato)

[pgn][Event "2021 U.S. Open"] [Site "Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA"] [Date "2021.08.07"] [Round "7"] [White "Burke, John Michael"] [Black "Schmakel, Sam"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2554"] [BlackElo "2409"] [Annotator "Lang"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:18:03"] [BlackClock "0:06:38"] {[%evp 0,65,18,18,49,32,32,26,67,28,29,32,43,5,11,-12,3,10,-3,4,61,53,52,32,35, 42,40,5,50,45,64,45,42,64,74,116,138,77,77,65,94,49,72,-63,79,40,47,77,50,68, 68,46,25,25,19,9,187,84,84,84,58,51,51,22,27,-75,237,223]} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 gxf6 7. Qd2 f5 8. Nc3 a6 9. g3 b5 10. Bg2 c6 11. Nf3 Nd7 12. O-O-O Bb7 13. Qf4 h5 14. Kb1 Qb6 15. Ng5 Rg8 16. h4 Rg7 17. Bf3 Nf6 18. Qe5 Qd8 19. Rhe1 Qd6 20. Qe2 Ng4 21. d5 $5 cxd5 22. Nxd5 exd5 23. Bxd5 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 Qc7 25. Rxf5 O-O-O 26. Nxf7 Rd7 27. a4 Bf6 $4 (27... Kb8 28. Ne5 Rd5 29. Rxh5 Ka7 30. Qe4 Rxe5 31. Rxe5 Nxe5 32. Qxe5 Bd6 $13) 28. Qe8+ Kb7 29. Rc5 Qxc5 30. Qxd7+ Qc7 31. Qd5+ Ka7 32. Re8 bxa4 33. Nd6 {1-0 Black resigns.} 1-0 [/pgn]

From this reporter’s perspective, the most rewarding feature of this tournament is the ability to learn from games played between strong players who are still several hundred points apart from each other. Schmakel’s previous round six victory over Ryo Chen saw Schmakel in the driver’s seat, sucking any counterplay out of a position where the losing side did not take any risks or do anything blatantly wrong.

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IM Sam Schmakel
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IM Sam Schmakel (photo Iredia Ekhato)

[pgn][Event "2021 U.S. Open (6-day)"] [Site "Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA"] [Date "2021.08.07"] [Round "6"] [White "Schmakel, Sam"] [Black "Chen, Ryo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B63"] [WhiteElo "2409"] [BlackElo "2358"] [Annotator "Lang"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:21:15"] [BlackClock "0:25:18"] {[%evp 0,57,25,24,57,53,82,65,65,42,42,21,49,36,56,54,65,74,47,47,45,45,44,13, 12,37,37,2,2,-16,-5,-27,-23,-10,-13,-10,-11,-17,-19,-46,-48,-44,-28,-27,-6,-15, -6,2,0,-1,29,37,78,77,76,77,135,142,193,231]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 Qb6 8. O-O-O Qxd4 9. Qxd4 Nxd4 10. Rxd4 a6 11. Na4 e5 12. Bxf6 exd4 13. Bxd4 Be6 14. Nb6 Rd8 15. Bd3 Be7 16. f4 Bf6 $6 ( 16... O-O {Black should keep the 'bad' dark-squared bishop on the board, as it can re-route to d8 and snap off white's most annoying piece later.}) 17. Bxf6 gxf6 18. f5 Bd7 19. Re1 Bc6 20. b4 Rg8 21. Re2 Kf8 22. c4 {Freezing black's position. And they say the Najdorf is an aggressive choice for black!} Rg4 23. b5 Bd7 24. a4 a5 25. Kd2 h5 26. Ke3 h4 27. Rd2 Rg8 28. Bc2 Be8 29. c5 {1-0 Black resigns.} 1-0 [/pgn]

A pack of ten players trail the leaders with 6/7. GM Lazaro Batista employed the Short Variation of the advanced Caro Kann against IM Thomas Bartell, taking up space all over the board and squeezing Black’s pieces into submission.

[pgn][Event "2021 U.S. Open"] [Site "Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA"] [Date "2021.08.07"] [Round "7"] [White "Bruzon Batista, Lazaro"] [Black "Bartell, Thomas"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2645"] [BlackElo "2354"] [Annotator "Lang"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:30:57"] [BlackClock "0:38:38"] {[%evp 0,57,23,10,67,69,62,61,46,30,30,31,30,32,11,6,51,52,29,28,30,14,13,-3, -3,10,7,12,26,38,38,44,52,53,36,40,68,62,102,114,115,115,125,132,193,161,164, 190,181,178,200,195,203,189,184,191,192,192,193,194]} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nd2 e6 5. Nb3 Nd7 6. Nf3 Ne7 7. Be2 Bg6 8. O-O Nf5 9. a4 Be7 10. a5 O-O 11. g4 Nh4 12. Nxh4 Bxh4 13. f4 f5 14. g5 h6 15. gxh6 gxh6 16. Kh1 Kh7 17. Be3 b5 $6 {In a very difficult position to play, black underestimated the pressure white could bring on the kingside.} (17... Rg8 18. Rg1 Qe7 19. Qf1 Bf7 20. Qh3 Rxg1+ 21. Bxg1 Rg8 {would prevent white from quickly switching forces to the kingside}) 18. Nd2 Be7 19. Rg1 Rg8 20. Qf1 Qe8 21. Qh3 Qf7 22. Rg3 Rg7 23. Nf3 Rh8 24. Rag1 {The gang's all here!} Kg8 25. Nh4 Bxh4 26. Qxh4 Rhh7 27. Bd2 Qe8 28. Bb4 Kh8 29. R1g2 {1-0 Black resigns.} 1-0 [/pgn]

GM Benjamin Gledura joined the logjam for third by grinding out the longest game of the top boards in a wildly complicated endgame against FM Aaron Jacobson

[pgn][Event "2021 U.S. Open"] [Site "Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA"] [Date "2021.08.07"] [Round "7"] [White "Jacobson, Aaron"] [Black "Gledura, Benjamin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2276"] [BlackElo "2628"] [Annotator "Lang"] [PlyCount "126"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:15:16"] [BlackClock "0:13:11"] {[%evp 0,126,28,14,19,-16,45,32,67,35,44,50,51,51,51,46,51,39,13,28,48,56,52, 65,57,68,88,72,55,35,29,24,61,22,25,17,20,3,0,-49,-15,-34,0,11,4,-9,42,16,25, 27,52,-141,-159,-227,-211,-203,-35,-22,-22,-37,-14,-22,6,-46,-63,-112,-77,-79, -64,-129,-73,-80,-60,-57,-65,-65,-6,-25,-6,-64,-64,-102,-67,-71,-77,-78,-65, -58,-58,-87,-116,-93,-108,-112,-115,-143,-92,-166,-112,-166,-136,-169,-121, -121,-140,-112,-124,-140,-102,-94,-116,-127,-122,-240,-118,-121,-117,-117,-117, -117,-117,-242,-217,-407,-149,-167,-86,-512,-797]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Rb1 O-O 9. Be2 Nd7 10. O-O Nf6 11. Bd3 Qc7 12. Re1 e6 13. h3 b6 14. a4 Bb7 15. a5 Nd7 $6 (15... bxa5 16. g3 Rad8 17. Bf4 Qc8 18. Rb5 cxd4 19. cxd4 a6 20. Rxa5 Qa8 21. Qe2 Rc8 22. Bg5) 16. axb6 $6 (16. a6 Bc6 17. e5 $16) 16... axb6 17. e5 Bd5 18. Ng5 Ra2 19. h4 Rfa8 20. h5 Ra1 $2 (20... h6 21. hxg6) 21. hxg6 $2 (21. c4 Bb7 22. hxg6 hxg6 23. Bxg6) 21... hxg6 22. Qg4 $2 (22. c4 Bxc4 23. Qf3 $1 Nf8 24. Rxa1 Rxa1 25. Bxc4 cxd4 26. Bf1 Bxe5 27. Bd2 Bh2+ 28. Kh1 Rxe1) 22... Nf8 23. Bd2 Rxb1 24. Rxb1 Ra3 25. Ne4 cxd4 26. Nf6+ Bxf6 27. exf6 Qe5 28. cxd4 Qxf6 29. Bg5 Qg7 30. Bf1 Nd7 31. Bb5 Nf6 32. Qf4 Ne4 33. Be7 Ra8 34. Bd3 f5 35. Bg5 Nxg5 36. Qxg5 Qxd4 37. Qxg6+ Kf8 38. Qh6+ Ke7 39. Qg5+ Kd6 40. Rd1 $2 (40. Bf1 {Keeping pieces on the b-pawn was essential to holding the balance}) 40... Qg4 41. Qxg4 fxg4 42. Be2 g3 43. fxg3 Ra2 44. Kf2 b5 45. Ke3 Ra3+ 46. Kf2 b4 47. g4 b3 48. g5 Ke5 $2 (48... b2 49. Rb1 Rb3 50. g6 Ke7 $19) 49. g6 Kf6 50. Bd3 Ra2+ 51. Ke3 Rxg2 52. Kd4 Rg4+ 53. Kc3 Ke5 54. Re1+ Kd6 55. Ra1 Rg3 56. Ra6+ Kc5 $6 57. Ra5+ Kb6 58. Ra6+ Kc5 59. Ra5+ Kd6 60. Ra6+ Ke5 {this time Gledura finds the right direction.} 61. Ra5 Kf6 $4 (61... b2 $1 62. Kxb2 Rxd3 63. g7 Rg3 64. Ra7 Kf6 65. Ra4 Rxg7 $19) 62. Kd4 $4 (62. Kd2 Bc6) 62... Bc6 $19 63. Ra6 $2 Rxd3+ { 0-1 White resigns.} 0-1 [/pgn]

One surprise among this group is Florida’s Nicholas Rosenthal, who blitzed out a compelling victory against GM Alexander Fishbein despite commentator IM Kostya Kavutskiy’s desperate pleas for ‘Nicky’ to slow down. He had a point: Rosenthal’s superficially compelling 24. Ne6, blitzed out in three minutes from an advantageous position, could have led to a mess of complications had the GM not ‘trusted’ White’s confidence and responded passively.

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Nicky Rosenthal (photo Iredia Ekhato)
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Nicky Rosenthal (photo Iredia Ekhato)

[pgn][Event "2021 U.S. Open"] [Site "Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA"] [Date "2021.08.07"] [Round "7"] [White "Rosenthal, Nicholas"] [Black "Fishbein, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B52"] [WhiteElo "2137"] [BlackElo "2437"] [Annotator "Lang"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [WhiteClock "1:47:12"] [BlackClock "0:38:40"] {[%evp 0,97,14,11,42,56,79,45,55,40,40,37,42,34,28,7,8,8,7,9,-4,-8,12,2,12,18, 12,6,28,0,12,11,47,12,8,18,21,-23,29,29,37,0,41,39,50,29,50,61,40,0,120,150, 281,246,270,274,264,264,272,263,261,255,278,216,211,212,208,250,219,214,305, 240,285,210,215,219,219,225,237,216,289,320,337,374,395,395,527,365,477,324, 542,500,560,461,603,619,713,784,784,860]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Nxd7 5. O-O Ngf6 6. Re1 e6 7. c4 Be7 8. d4 cxd4 9. Nxd4 O-O 10. b3 a6 11. Nc3 Qa5 12. Bb2 Rfc8 13. Qd2 Rab8 14. a4 Nc5 15. Qc2 Qb6 16. Re3 h6 17. h3 Bf8 18. Nb1 d5 $5 (18... e5 19. a5 Qd8 20. Ne2 Ne6 {In light of the complications on the open board, perhaps the closed direction would have offered black better chances.}) 19. exd5 exd5 20. a5 Qd8 21. Nd2 Nce4 22. Nxe4 Nxe4 23. Rd1 Bc5 $2 (23... Qxa5 24. Nf5 g6 25. Nh4 Rc6 $16 {offered more chances for black}) 24. Ne6 $4 (24. b4 $3 {space is the place} Bxd4 (24... Bxb4 25. Nf5 Qxa5 26. Bxg7 Rxc4 27. Qe2 $18) 25. Rxd4 Ng5 26. c5 $16) 24... fxe6 $4 (24... Nxf2 $3 { This incredible shot preserved rough equality} 25. Rxd5 Qxd5 26. cxd5 Bxe3 27. Qe2 Nd1+ 28. Kh2 Nxb2 29. Nxg7 Kxg7 30. Qxe3 Rd8 31. Qd4+ Kg8 32. Qg4+ $13 (32. Qxb2 Rxd5 $10)) 25. Rxe4 Bf8 26. Rxe6 Qd7 27. Re5 Qf7 28. Rf5 Qe6 29. Rfxd5 Re8 30. Qc3 Qg6 31. Qd3 Qxd3 32. R1xd3 Re1+ 33. Kh2 Rbe8 34. Rd7 R8e6 35. Rd8 R1e2 36. Ba3 Re8 37. Rxe8 Rxe8 38. Bxf8 Rxf8 39. Rd7 Rxf2 40. Rxb7 Kf8 41. b4 Ra2 42. c5 Rc2 43. Kg3 Rc4 44. Kf3 g5 45. Ke3 Ke8 46. Kd3 Rf4 47. b5 Kd8 48. bxa6 Kc8 49. c6 {1-0 Black resigns.} 1-0 [/pgn]

In addition to Gledura, Batista, and Rosenthal, GMs Timur Gareyev, Alexander Shabalov, Awonder Liang, and Hans Niemann also feature among the group at 6/7, joined by IM Viktor Matviishen and FMs Alexey Sorokin and Seth Homa.

Finally, the untitled North Carolinian Vishnu Vanapalli continued his campaign for most underrated player, holding a draw in a pawn-down rook endgame against the experienced GM Mackenzie Molner.

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Vishnu Vanapalli (photo Iredia Ekhato)
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Vishnu Vanapalli (photo Iredia Ekhato)

[pgn][Event "2021 U.S. Open"] [Site "Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA"] [Date "2021.08.07"] [Round "7"] [White "Molner, Mackenzie S"] [Black "Vanapalli, Vishnu"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C53"] [WhiteElo "2438"] [BlackElo "1958"] [Annotator "Lang"] [PlyCount "111"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:27:35"] [BlackClock "0:23:11"] {[%evp 0,111,14,11,25,25,8,17,17,-14,7,-2,15,21,12,-3,-4,-8,9,5,30,29,39,9,14, 25,28,20,22,18,18,19,34,0,13,18,36,-42,46,37,58,56,55,54,48,63,60,41,43,40,40, 38,38,36,32,39,55,31,45,36,27,35,51,26,21,34,28,24,102,96,102,95,99,55,107,90, 104,95,83,84,85,83,83,83,83,68,85,41,103,87,98,47,102,93,107,103,103,103,103, 103,103,103,103,99,103,56,59,59,76,78,83,76,76,76]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. O-O O-O 7. a4 a5 8. Nbd2 Ba7 9. h3 Ne7 10. Re1 Ng6 11. Nf1 c6 12. Ng3 Re8 13. Bb3 h6 14. d4 Be6 15. Be3 Qc7 16. Qc2 Bxb3 17. Qxb3 d5 18. Nxe5 Nxe4 19. Nxe4 Nxe5 20. dxe5 Bxe3 21. Rxe3 dxe4 22. Rxe4 Rxe5 23. Rxe5 Qxe5 24. Qxb7 Rb8 25. Qxc6 Rxb2 26. Qc8+ Kh7 27. Qc4 Qf6 28. Qc5 Rc2 29. Rd1 Ra2 30. Qd4 Qc6 31. Qd3+ g6 32. Qd7 Qxd7 33. Rxd7 Rxa4 34. Rxf7+ Kg8 35. Rc7 h5 36. g3 Ra2 37. Kg2 Rc2 38. Ra7 Rxc3 39. Rxa5 Kg7 40. Re5 Kf6 41. Re3 Rc2 42. h4 Ra2 43. Kf3 Ra4 44. Re4 Ra2 45. Ke3 Rb2 46. f3 Rb3+ 47. Kf4 Rb5 48. Ra4 Rc5 49. Ra6+ Kg7 50. Re6 Rc4+ 51. Re4 Rc3 52. g4 hxg4 53. fxg4 Rc5 54. Re5 Rc7 55. Kg5 Ra7 56. Rd5 {1/2-1/2 The game is a draw.} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

The eighth round is played tonight at 7pm Eastern, with live coverage by IM Kostya Kavutskiy and WGM Katerina Nemcova on the US Chess Twitch stream.


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