A Tale of Two Sections

Round 1 of the U.S. Championship and Women’s Championship kicked off with both a bang and a whimper. The women were out for blood, and every game in the Women’s event featured a decisive result. Things were more tepid in the Open section, with a mix of careful draws, hard-fought half-points, and one game that has GM Timur Gareyev’s fingerprints all over it. Read on for IM Kostya Kavutskiy’s exclusive annotations!


IM Eric Rosen is doing an on-site #twittertakeover of our @USChess twitter account, and his emoji game was strong in describing the Open games.

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GM Sam Sevian decided to test GM Fabiano Caruana’s knowledge of the Sveshnikov Sicilian. One can safely assume that Caruana and his team have studied the opening thoroughly during the Carlsen match, and now both Caruana and his second GM Kazimdzhanov are playing it with Black. Sevian never generated any real pressure and the game was drawn.

Fabiano Caruana (photo Ootes)

[pgn] [Event "63rd ch-USA 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.20"] [White "Sevian, Samuel"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B33"] [WhiteElo "2642"] [BlackElo "2828"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c4 b4 12. Nc2 a5 13. g3 O-O 14. Bg2 g6 15. O-O Bg7 16. Qd3 Be6 17. a3 bxa3 18. Qxa3 Qb8 19. Rfd1 Ra7 20. b3 Rb7 21. Rab1 Nd4 22. Nxd4 exd4 23. Bf1 h5 24. Bd3 h4 25. Qxa5 Rxb3 26. Qd2 Bxd5 27. exd5 Bf6 28. Qc2 Rxb1 29. Rxb1 Qa7 30. Qd2 Kg7 31. Qf4 Qa3 32. Qe4 Rh8 33. Rb7 Qc1+ 34. Bf1 hxg3 35. hxg3 Rh5 36. Rb1 Qc3 37. Rd1 Be5 38. Bd3 Qb2 39. Qe2 Qb8 40. Rb1 Qc8 41. Qf3 Bf6 42. Re1 Re5 43. Rxe5 Bxe5 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
While Caruana has to be the odds-on favorite to win the Championship, he’s not short of serious challengers. Two of the leading threats, GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Wesley So, opened their accounts in round one with a careful draw. So neutralized Nakamura’s Catalan – an opening So plays with White – with ease and peace was declared quickly after the 30 move minimum.
Nakamura-So (photo Ootes)

[pgn] [Event "63rd ch-USA 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.20"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E06"] [WhiteElo "2746"] [BlackElo "2762"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Ne5 Nc6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qa4 e5 12. dxe5 Qxe5 13. Re1 Be6 14. Nc3 Ne4 15. Qc2 Nxc3 16. Qxc3 Qxc3 17. bxc3 Rab8 18. f3 Rfd8 19. Bf4 Rb2 20. Rad1 Rxd1 21. Rxd1 h5 22. Rd8+ Kh7 23. Rd2 Rxd2 24. Bxd2 Kg6 25. Kf2 Bh3 26. Bf4 c6 27. a4 Kf5 28. a5 a6 29. Ke3 Bf1 30. Kf2 Bh3 31. Ke3 Bf1 32. Kf2 Bh3 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
Returning Champion GM Sam Shankland has had an excellent year, making his presence known in elite international tournaments and publishing his first book. After early trades he drew against GM Ray Robson. GM Leiner Dominguez is playing his first classical event in over two years (due to issues related to his move to the U.S.), and a draw against GM Var Akobian will help to shake off the ring rust. And GM Awonder Liang showed his fighting spirit in holding a tricky position against GM Alexander Lenderman. The sole decisive game in the Open came in the contest between GM Timur Gareyev and GM Jeffery Xiong.

The mercurial Gareyev is one of the most creative players around, and his opening play here is no exception. Xiong managed to take control after Gareyev’s suspect decision on move 15 and won in 38 moves. IM Kostya Kavutskiy provides exclusive notes on the game for CLO.

[pgn] [Event "63rd ch-USA 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2019.03.20"] [White "Gareyev, Timur"] [Black "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A09"] [WhiteElo "2557"] [BlackElo "2663"] [Annotator "Kostya"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 d4 3. b4 Bg4 {Logical. This variation mirrors (with colors reversed) a known 'Anti-Benko' line that runs as follows: 1.d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. d5 b5, where the established main line is 4.Bg5 for White.} 4. Ne5 Bf5 5. e3 { Following the Modern Benoni script, that states the advanced d-pawn must be challenged.} Nf6 6. g4 $5 {An aggressive but risky move, to say the least. Timur plays like a Vladimir Kramnik on the verge of retiring!} Be4 {Perhaps not the best, but a sensible response--inducing another weakness before retreating to g6.} (6... dxe3 $1 {could have ruined White's party, but it would have been quite difficult to work out all the details.} 7. gxf5 (7. fxe3 Be4 $17 {is much better for Black, where White does not have f2-f3, and has a severely weakened kingside.}) 7... exf2+ 8. Ke2 Qd4 9. Qa4+ {where Black would have to find} Nc6 $1 10. Nxc6 Qe4+ 11. Kxf2 Qxh1 $17 {to secure an advantage.}) 7. f3 Bg6 8. Bb2 dxe3 9. dxe3 Nbd7 10. Nxg6 hxg6 11. Nc3 ({The immediate} 11. g5 $1 {was more accurate, where after} Nh5 12. Rg1 e6 13. c5 $14 {White can still deploy the knight to d2, and push f4 with a nice space advantage.}) 11... e6 12. c5 c6 {Had White waited on developing the knight, he could then play Nd2-c4-d6, taking advantage of the outpost.} 13. g5 Nd5 $6 {An interesting moment. This is the seemingly 'solid' choice, but it lands Black in a worse position. In order to keep the balance, Jeffery would have had to decide on 13. ..Nh7, which more or less commits Black to sacrificing a piece. This shows one of the advantages of playing in a hyper-aggressive style, as Timur did today--it forces your opponents to have to make bold choices in order to beat you.} (13... Nh5 $2 {was rightly avoided due to} 14. Ne4 $1 $18 {where White's grip is too strong.}) ({But} 13... Nh7 $1 {was the only way for Black to properly fight back, with the bold intention of} 14. f4 Nxg5 $1 15. fxg5 Qxg5 $36 {with more than enough compensation for the piece, according to Stockfish. It seems difficult to get White's king out of the center and Black is preprared to fully mobilize with 0-0-0 next.}) 14. Nxd5 exd5 15. f4 $6 { This looks positionally better, but in fact it allows Black's queen to use the e4-square, which ends up creating serious counterplay for the second player.} ( 15. h4 $1 {would have given White a positional edge, as it prevents Black from activating his pieces as in the game.} Qe7 {now doesn't create as much counterplay as after} 16. Kf2 $18 {White's can continue Be2 and enjoy an excellent control over the board. Even if Black plays Ne5, it doesn't go anywhere from there.}) 15... Qe7 $1 {Hitting e3 but also eyeing the e4-square.} 16. Qd2 ({Unfortunately for White,} 16. Kf2 {runs into} Qe4 $1 17. Bg2 Qxb4 $19 {where c5 is also falling.}) 16... Rh4 $1 {A fantastic move. Black threatens Rxf4 and prevents White from ever playing h4.} 17. Qf2 (17. Kf2 f6 $1 $17 { and White's kingside starts to fall apart.}) ({At this point it seems like} 17. O-O-O {was White's best option, with a tenable position after} a5 18. a3 $13) 17... Qe4 $1 {One of the most important themes in chess: the counter-attack.} 18. a3 $1 {The only way to keep the balance, at least for now.} ({In case of} 18. Qxh4 {much stronger than grabbing the rook is} Qxb4+ $1 19. Kf2 Qxb2+ 20. Be2 O-O-O $19 {and once the c5-pawn falls Black's pieces will put huge pressure on White's position.}) 18... Qxh1 19. Qxh4 a5 $1 {Jeffery correctly plays with urgency. Given the chance to consolidate with Qf2, White would stand better.} 20. Qf2 $6 {But here White is not in time.} ({The position was already getting difficult for White, especially with time-trouble encroaching, but} 20. O-O-O {would likely have kept the game manageable for Timur:} axb4 21. axb4 Qe4 22. Qe1 $13 {and with Bd3 coming White is not really worse.}) 20... axb4 21. axb4 Rxa1+ 22. Bxa1 Qe4 23. Bc3 b6 $1 {Another powerful shot. Ever since White's slip with 15. f4, Black has managed to create counterplay all over the board.} 24. Kd2 (24. cxb6 Qb1+ 25. Kd2 Bxb4 $19 {and Black will pick up the b-pawn shortly, with a technically winning position.}) 24... bxc5 25. b5 {Trying to keep lines closed but it's not enough.} cxb5 26. Bxb5 c4 27. Qe2 Qb1 28. Bxd7+ Kxd7 29. Qg4+ Qf5 $5 {A technical decision, as Black has correctly evaluated the resulting bishop endgame to be winning.} 30. h3 Kc6 {Starting an instructive king march.} 31. Ke2 Kb5 (31... Qd3+ 32. Kf3 Qxc3 33. Qc8+ { was winning for Black too, but would give White a lot of potential queen checks.}) 32. Bd4 Qxg4+ 33. hxg4 Kb4 {It's now over, if nothing else, Bc5 will eventually force a winning king + pawn endgame.} 34. e4 dxe4 35. Kd2 Bc5 36. Bxg7 Kb3 37. f5 e3+ 38. Ke2 c3 0-1 [/pgn]
Women's Field, Rd 1 (photo Ootes)

The situation was rather different in the Women’s section, and here again Rosen was on point. Six games, six decisive results!

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It looked like an upset was brewing in the game between GM Irina Krush and WIM Emily Nguyen, but the experienced Grandmaster grabbed her chance on move 34 and took the full point.

Irina Krush

[pgn] [Event "59th ch-USA w 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.20"] [White "Krush, Irina"] [Black "Nguyen, Emily"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D12"] [WhiteElo "2451"] [BlackElo "2143"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bd3 Bxd3 7. Qxd3 e6 8. O-O Bb4 9. a3 Bxc3 10. bxc3 b5 11. cxd5 (11. cxb5 axb5 12. a4 Ne4 13. Ba3 Rxa4 14. Bb4 Ra6 15. Ne5 f6 16. Rxa6 Nxa6 17. Nxc6 Qb6 18. Na5 {1/2-1/2 (42) Ding,L (2816)-Vitiugov,N (2709) Shenzhen 2018}) 11... exd5 12. Nd2 O-O 13. f3 Nbd7 14. e4 dxe4 15. fxe4 c5 16. Qf3 cxd4 17. cxd4 Nc5 18. Bb2 Na4 19. Qb3 Ra7 20. Kh1 Rd7 21. d5 Nxb2 22. Qxb2 Re8 23. Rf4 Nh5 24. Rf5 Nf6 25. Qd4 Qe7 26. Re1 Qxa3 27. h3 Rc8 28. Re3 Qc5 29. Qd3 Qc2 30. Qd4 Qc5 31. Qd3 Ne8 $6 ({Black should perhaps counter White's central pressure by beginning to run her queenside pawns.} 31... a5 32. Rg3 Ne8 {and if} 33. d6 (33. Kh2 a4 34. d6 Qc2 35. Rxb5 Rxd6) 33... Qc1+ 34. Rf1 Qc2) 32. Rff3 Nd6 $6 33. e5 Nc4 {Now White can organize counterplay against the Black king.} 34. Qf5 Nxe3 $2 (34... Nxd2 35. Qxd7 Qc1+ (35... Nxf3 36. Rxf3 Qc1+ 37. Kh2 Qc7 $11) 36. Kh2 Nxf3+ 37. Rxf3 Qc7 $11) (34... Rcd8 35. Nxc4 Qxc4 36. e6 Qc1+ 37. Kh2 Qc7+) 35. Qxd7 Rf8 (35... Nxd5 $2 36. Qxf7+ Kh8 37. Ne4 {and there's no way to defend the knight.}) 36. e6 $1 Qc1+ (36... fxe6 $2 37. Qxe6+ Kh8 38. Rxf8+ Qxf8 39. Qxe3 $18) 37. Kh2 Qxd2 38. exf7+ Kh8 39. Rxe3 Qf2 40. Qe8 Qf4+ 41. Kg1 1-0 [/pgn]
IM Anna Zatonskih, who must be ranked as one of the pre-tournament favorites along with Krush, also got out to a fast start when she defated WIM Akshita Gorti.
Anna Zatonskih (photo Ootes)

[pgn] [Event "59th ch-USA w 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.20"] [White "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Black "Gorti, Akshita"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E17"] [WhiteElo "2430"] [BlackElo "2272"] [PlyCount "111"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Re1 Na6 8. a3 c5 9. d5 exd5 10. Nh4 Nc7 11. Nc3 Ne4 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. cxd5 Bxh4 14. Bxe4 Be7 15. Qc2 h6 16. Bg2 d6 17. e4 Re8 18. Be3 Qd7 19. f4 Bf6 20. Bf2 Rad8 21. Rad1 Ba6 22. h3 h5 23. Kh2 g6 24. Be3 Bg7 25. Bd2 Bc8 26. Bc3 Bxc3 27. Qxc3 Qe7 28. e5 h4 29. Rd2 dxe5 30. fxe5 Qg5 31. Rd3 Bf5 32. gxh4 Qxh4 33. Rde3 Qd4 34. Qc1 Qf4+ 35. Kh1 Qf2 36. Rf1 Qc2 37. Qxc2 Bxc2 38. Kh2 Bf5 39. Kg3 Kg7 40. Rc1 a5 41. a4 Bd7 42. b3 Bc8 43. h4 Bb7 44. Rd1 Rd7 45. Bf3 Rdd8 46. Re2 Ba6 47. Ree1 Bb7 48. Kf4 Rh8 49. Rh1 Bc8 50. h5 Bf5 51. hxg6 Rxh1 52. Rxh1 Bxg6 53. Be4 Re8 54. Bxg6 fxg6 55. Ke4 g5 56. d6 1-0 [/pgn]
Last year’s breakout star FM Annie Wang defeated WIM Ashritha Eswaran when Eswaran fell victim to a nice exchange sac.
[pgn] [Event "59th ch-USA w 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.20"] [White "Eswaran, Ashritha"] [Black "Wang, Annie"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B20"] [WhiteElo "2234"] [BlackElo "2304"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r2k1/5p1p/1pq1p1p1/p1b5/P1nN1P2/2P3P1/1P2Q2P/R2N2K1 w - - 0 38"] [PlyCount "10"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 38. Ne3 $2 Rxd4 39. cxd4 Bxd4 40. Rc1 Qe4 41. Qxc4 Bxe3+ 42. Kf1 Qf3+ 0-1 [/pgn]
Fully half of the players in the Women’s field are teenagers, and the promise of this youth movement was evident in round one.
Youth Movement (photo Ootes)

FM Maggie Feng defeated WGM Tatev Abrahamyan in a theoretical French battle. FM Jennifer Yu took down WGM Anna Sharevich, and FM Carissa Yip was the beneficiary of a blunder on move 40 by WGM Sabina Foisor. Yip and Foisor were teammates on the U.S. Women’s team in the recent World Team Championships, along with top board Abrahamyan. STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 1 OPEN STANDINGS


Find full pairings for the tournament and follow along on uschesschamps.com with commentary from GMs Maurice Ashley, Yasser Seirawan and WGM Jennifer Shahade starting at 12:50 CT/1:50 ET.