National Chess Day Bears Gifts for Yip, Caruana in 2021 U.S. Championships

IM Carissa Yip
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Three-time U.S. Girls Champion IM Carissa Yip joined the front of the 2021 U.S. Women's Championship after a blunder by defending champion GM Irina Krush in Saturday's fourth round. // photo Bryan Adams, Saint Louis Chess Club


In 1976, former U.S. President Gerald Ford asked that the royal game be celebrated on the second Saturday every October – a National Chess Day – which over the weekend coincided with the US Chess national championships in St. Louis, and two marquee matchups in its fourth round: A tilt between America’s top-two players, and another between the nation’s top-two females. 

Two of them found it appropriate to hand out gifts for the 2021 holiday. 


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Defending U.S. Champion GM Wesley So, apparently in an extra-giving mood -- also celebrating his 28th birthday on Saturday -- let the tournament’s top-seed and World No. 2 GM Fabiano Caruana off the hook in the fourth round over the weekend, choosing instead to play it safe after Caruana’s anti-positional 18. … e5? and letting the game collapse into a draw by perpetual check.  

And 8-time U.S. Women’s Champion GM Irina Krush was even more generous on 2021’s National Chess Day, simply handing over her gift to the tournament’s second seed and rapidly rising IM Carissa Yip in the fourth round. Krush’s rollout was already clunky as Black in a Caro-Kann, but her 21. … Nb4? was a howler, leaving open an easy fork that was found immediately by the three-time U.S. Girls Champion. 


Yip-Krush after 21. Nb4?
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IM Carissa Yip - GM Irina Krush after 21. Nb4?


The stunner pushes Yip into a tie with leader WGM Katerina Nemcova at 3.0/4 in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Championship, while the peaceful So-Caruana result leaves them both in a five-player tie for second place in the American national chess championship. GM Ray Robson stepped in front of the pack with a win over struggling GM Jeffery Xiong in Saturday’s fourth round, though the leader still has pairings with four second-place players in front of him -- including Caruana, So and the other 2700-rated GM Leinier Dominguez.



Sunday was a rest day in the nation’s chess capital, with Round 5 beginning Monday at 1:00 p.m. central in the Saint Louis Chess Club and broadcast live alongside GM commentary by Maurice Ashley, Cristian Chirila and four-time US Chess Champion Yasser Seirawan on YouTube and the official event website



In Saturday's post-game interview, So admitted to falling prey to a bit of superstition, choosing to play it safe rather than risking the chances of losing on one’s birthday. In a Classical Nimzo, the defending U.S. Champion had scored the bishop pair at the cost of two sets of doubled pawns, though Caruana had stifled much of their ability with 11. … b5! and two quality outposts for the black knights. But Black seems to only unleash the pair with 18. ... e5?, which only produces a heavy-yet-defendable kingside attack; in postmortem, Caruana admitted embarrassment in playing this losing move, ignoring his initial 18. ... f5 and holding Black's advantage. But low on time after just 20 moves, So chose 20. exd6 instead of the winning-but-lengthy 20. ... Rd1, providing the White King an escape and a playable endgame with precise play. Caruana forced a draw by perpetual check after 26 moves.

[pgn][Event "2021 US Chess Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.10.09"] [Round "4"] [White "So, W."] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E32"] [WhiteElo "2778"] [BlackElo "2800"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "52"] [EventDate "2021.10.05"] {[%evp 12,52,41,35,38,12,10,0,0,0,-4,0,0,-9,0,0,0,-34,-20,-25,-30,-23,-30,-45, -22,-37,178,177,369,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 d6 {6...d5 is the modern continuation.} 7. Nf3 Re8 {E32: Nimzo-Indian: Classical (4 Qc2): 4...0-0.} 8. b4 a5 9. Bb2 axb4 10. axb4 Rxa1+ 11. Bxa1 b5 $146 ({Predecessor:} 11... c6 12. e3 Na6 13. Qa3 Qb6 14. Bc3 e5 15. b5 exd4 16. Bxd4 Nc5 17. Be2 Nfe4 {1/2-1/2 (58) Stephan,J (2546) -Ninov,N (2600) ICCF email 2009}) 12. cxb5 Nbd7 13. e3 Nb6 14. Bd3 Bb7 $1 15. O-O Bxf3 16. gxf3 Nfd5 17. Qb3 Qh4 18. Kg2 e5 $2 (18... f5 $15 {keeps the upper hand.}) 19. dxe5 $18 Re6 $2 (19... Qg5+ {might work better.} 20. Kh1 dxe5 ) 20. exd6 $2 (20. Rd1 $18) 20... Qg5+ $1 $11 {The position is equal.} ({ Don't go for} 20... Rh6 $2 21. Be5 $18) 21. Kh1 Qh5 $36 {[%mdl 2048] [#] ( -> . ..Rh6). Black is pushing.} 22. Qb2 {[%csl Ga1][%cal Rb2g7]} Qxf3+ 23. Kg1 { [%csl Ga1][%cal Rb2g7]} Qg4+ 24. Kh1 Qf3+ 25. Kg1 {[%csl Ga1][%cal Rb2g7] [#]} Qg4+ 26. Kh1 Qf3+  1/2-1/2 [/pgn]


2021 U.S. Chess Championships: Wesley So Interview | Round 4


Both WGMs Sabina Foisor and Tatev Abrahamyan have had rough starts in St. Louis, but the former 2017 U.S. Women’s Champion got the ball rolling in a nice Queen’s Gambit Accepted on Saturday. Foisor shows off some impressive tactical work in the middlegame, in CLO’s Round 4 Game of the Day, annotated here by two-time Tennessee State Champion NM Alex King. 



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WGM Sabina Foisor defeated WGM Tatev Abrahamyan in the fourth round of the 2021 U.S. Women's Chess Championship. // photo Lennart Ootes, Saint Louis Chess Club


The 2021 US Chess Championships are being played October 5-19 in the Saint Louis Chess Club, with rounds beginning daily at 1:00 p.m. central. Each round will be broadcast live alongside GM commentary by Maurice Ashley, Cristian Chirila and four-time US Chess Champion GM Yasser Seirawan, viewable on the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel or the official event website.     

Check CLO daily for round recaps and master analysis of the 2021 US Chess Championships. 


Quick Links:

2021 U.S. Championships Main Page

2021 U.S. Championships Live Games

2021 U.S. Championships Live Commentary

2021 U.S. Championship Pairings and Results

2021 U.S. Women's Championship Pairings and Results