The Calm after the Storm

After a raucous day four, the fifth round of the 2019 U.S. Championships was more sedate, with fewer fireworks and without the marathon games of the previous round. Still, with four decisive results across the two sections, there was plenty of action to enjoy. Five players share the lead in the Open at +1 (3/5), as Sevian joined Dominguez, Nakamura, So, and Xiong at the top. More than one player has commented on the parity of the field, and it really does feel like it’s anyone’s ballgame. The Women’s Championship is tightening as well, with Yu still in clear first with +4 (4.5/5) after her first draw of the event. Zatonskih (4/5) and Abrahamyan (3.5/5) are closing in behind her.


Sam Sevian grabbed his share of first place with an impressive win over Varuzhan Akobian. IM Kostya Kavutskiy has annotated the game exclusively for CLO.

[pgn] [Event "U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2019.03.24"] [White "Akobian, Varuzhan"] [Black "Sevian, Samuel"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E32"] [WhiteElo "2625"] [BlackElo "2642"] [Annotator "Kostya"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 d6 {Black has many options here, 6...d5 nowadays considered the most solid main line. The text leads to a more flexible structure for Black.} 7. g3 {Bg5 and Nf3 are more popular but this seems quite sensible as well.} e5 8. Nf3 (8. dxe5 dxe5 9. Qxe5 $2 {is way too risky as White falls far behind in development.} Re8 $17 { Followed by Nc6 and Bg4, with a huge initiative.}) 8... Nc6 9. Bg2 Ne4 $5 { An interesting plan, preparing to grab space on the kingside.} 10. Qe3 f5 11. b3 Qf6 12. Bb2 $6 {It seems Var wanted to keep the central tension for as long as possible, but as he mentioned after the game, he should have captured on e5 earlier, leaving himself with a target for his pieces.} (12. dxe5 $1 Nxe5 13. Nxe5 Qxe5 14. Rb1 $14 {as given by Akobian would give White some long-term chances with the two bishops.}) 12... exd4 13. Nxd4 Bd7 {Here Black's position is quite solid, despite the apparent danger on the long diagonal. After Rae8 all of Black's pieces will be participating effectively.} 14. Rb1 Qg6 15. O-O ( 15. Nb5 $1 {would keep White in comfortable territory.} Rac8 16. O-O a6 $6 17. Nc3 $1 $14 {Exchanging off Black's strong knight on e4.}) 15... Rae8 {Now Black is fully mobilized and seems to stand better. White's pieces are reasonable placed but have nothing to do. Var started to spend a lot of time here, understandably, but is unable to come up with a productive plan.} 16. Qf4 (16. Nb5 {now runs into} f4 $1 17. gxf4 Ng5 18. Qg3 Rxf4 $1 $19 {where Black has made great headway on the kingside.}) 16... a6 ({Stockfish likes the immediate} 16... Nxd4 17. Bxd4 Ng5 {hitting the e2-pawn and threatening Ne6, but it's not so apparent that Black is much better here.}) 17. Rfe1 h6 { Not interested in forcing anything just yet, Sam quietly improves his position. } 18. Rbd1 Ne5 19. Nf3 Ng4 $1 {Correctly keeping more pieces on the board. Trading knights would give White more room for maneuvering.} 20. Rf1 Qf7 21. Nd4 Qh5 22. h3 Ngf6 23. Qf3 Qg6 24. e3 $6 (24. Qd3 $1 {would have kept White from falling worse, though Black would still have a lot of ideas on the kingside - Ng5, f4, etc.}) 24... Ng5 $1 {Seizing the moment, a fantastic pawn sacrifice. At this point Var was already running low on time, but he has no choice but to grab the pawn on b7.} 25. Qxb7 f4 26. exf4 Nxh3+ {The point--Black has only won one pawn back and has wrecked the queenside in the process, but White is forced to trade off the all-important light squared bishop, leaving Black with a lot of play against White's king.} 27. Bxh3 Bxh3 28. Rfe1 Ne4 {Likely the position Sam was aiming for with his pawn sacrifice, with serious threats of Rxf4 and Nxg3.} (28... Re4 $1 29. Rxe4 Nxe4 $17 { with threats of Rxf4 and Nxg3 would have caused some serious issues as well.}) 29. Qd5+ {After this check White's position is almost beyond repair.} (29. f5 $1 {was the only way to stay in the game.} Qg4 (29... Bxf5 30. Nxf5 {forces} Qxf5 {where} 31. Qd5+ $11 {allows White to bail out into an equal endgame.}) 30. Rd3 {and White is holding on, this last move defending against any Nxg3 sacrifices while also threatening Rde3. Black would need to find} Nf6 $1 $36 { to keep the initiative going.}) 29... Kh7 30. Ne2 ({Now} 30. f5 {loses to} Bxf5 31. Nxf5 Rxf5 $19) 30... Bf5 {One of several strong plans, threatening Nc5 and Be4, among other things. Another option was Rf7 followed by doubling on the e-file, with huge pressure.} 31. Kg2 {This makes things somewhat easy for Black, but the position was nearly impossible to play without much time.} (31. Nc3 {was more stubborn, but after} Nc5 32. Rxe8 Rxe8 33. b4 Nd3 34. Bc1 Qg4 $1 $19 {White's position has too many weaknesses.}) 31... Nc5 32. Nc3 Rxe1 33. Rxe1 Nd3 {Threatening the rook, bishop, and the fork on f4. It's all over.} 34. Re4 Bxe4+ {One of the cleaner wins of the tournament so far. After reaching a comfortable position from the opening, Sevian slowly improved his setup before finding the perfect moment to strike, sacrificing a pawn to leave White's kingside vulnerable on the light squares.} 0-1 [/pgn]
After an solid run in the World Teams, where he earned himself an individual medal, the 18 year old Sevian may be on the verge of a breakout performance. Will it happen in Saint Louis? Timur Gareyev defeated Awonder Liang to lift himself off the bottom of the table. Liang’s misstep on move forty gave Gareyev a tiny advantage, but the rook ending was drawish until a seemingly innocuous pawn push did Liang in.
Timur Gareyev (photo Ootes)

[pgn] [Event "U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.24"] [White "Gareyev, Timur"] [Black "Liang, Awonder"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A28"] [WhiteElo "2557"] [BlackElo "2590"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5rk1/2R3pp/8/4N3/7P/3P4/r3n1P1/4R2K b - - 0 40"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 40... Nf4 $6 (40... g6 41. Rb1 Ra4) 41. Rf1 $1 Ng6 (41... Nxg2 $2 42. Rg1 { and the knight is pinned to g7. White will win heavy material.}) 42. Rxf8+ Kxf8 43. Nxg6+ hxg6 44. Rc4 Rd2 45. Rf4+ Kg8 46. Rd4 Kh7 (46... Kf7) 47. Kh2 Kh6 ( 47... g5 $1 48. hxg5 Kg6 49. Rd5) 48. Rd5 g5 49. hxg5+ Kg6 (49... Kh5 $1) 50. Kg3 Kh5 51. Kh3 Kg6 52. Rd7 Re2 53. g3 Rd2 54. Kg4 Rd1 55. Rd6+ Kf7 56. Rd4 Kg6 57. Rd7 Ra1 58. Rd6+ Kf7 59. Rd4 Kg6 60. Re4 Ra5 61. Kf4 Rf5+ 62. Ke3 Rxg5 63. g4 Ra5 64. d4 Kf6 65. Kd3 g5 $2 {The decisive error.} (65... Ra3+ 66. Kc4 Ra5 $11) (65... Rb5 66. Kc4 Ra5 67. d5 Ra4+ 68. Kd3 Ra3+ 69. Kc2 (69. Kd4 Ra4+) 69... Ra5 $11) 66. Kc4 Ra1 67. d5 Rc1+ 68. Kb5 Rb1+ 69. Kc6 Rc1+ 70. Kd7 Kf7 71. Re5 Kg6 72. Ke6 1-0 [/pgn]
The heavily anticipated Nakamura-Caruana game turned out to be a bit of a lead balloon. Nakamura tested Caruana in the Sveshnikov, and while he perhaps asked a few questions of Black’s position, none were particularly difficult to answer.

[pgn] [Event "U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.24"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B33"] [WhiteElo "2746"] [BlackElo "2828"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "61"] [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. Qf3 {Caruana said in the interview that he was somewhat on his own here.} (13. g3 O-O 14. Bg2 g6 15. O-O Bg7 16. Qd3 Be6 17. a3 bxa3 18. Qxa3 Qb8 19. Rfd1 Ra7 {1/2-1/2 (43) Sevian, S (2642)-Caruana,F (2828) Saint Louis USA 2019}) 13... Be6 14. Rd1 Bxd5 15. cxd5 Na7 $5 {Caruana's idea was to restrict the Bf1, which would like to go to h3 and control c8. Because the knight can always hop to b5, White should keep the bishop on the f1-a6 diagonal. This allows Black to play ...Rc8.} 16. g3 Rc8 17. Ne3 O-O 18. h4 Rc5 19. Bd3 {"My position was solid enough." (Caruana)} Nc8 20. O-O Qc7 21. Qe2 Nb6 22. Bb5 (22. Kg2) 22... g6 23. a3 Bg7 (23... bxa3 24. bxa3 Bg7) 24. axb4 axb4 25. Bd3 {"The correct move." (Caruana)} (25. Bc6 f5 26. exf5 gxf5 27. Nc2 {is "double-edged," so Caruana thought it understandable that Nakamura didn't go for this line.}) 25... Nd7 26. Nc4 Rc8 27. Nd2 Ra5 28. Nb3 Raa8 29. Rc1 (29. Ba6 Qc2 {is the key idea in this position.}) 29... Qb6 30. Rxc8+ Rxc8 31. Ra1 (31. Ra1 Nc5 32. Qc2 Bf8 {wti ...Ne4. Caruana thought that Nakamura could have played on here, as White had the "slightly better side of equality."}) 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
Caruana’s string of drawn games now stands at 27 games in classical time controls. The streak prompted some friendly “twitter banter” from Magnus Carlsen after the 26th draw in round 4; as this goes to press, Caruana has not yet “returned fire.”
Tweet URL

In other results: Lenier Dominguez drew fellow co-leader Jeffery Xiong. Ray Robson and Wesley So followed 22 moves of theory before So’s innovation quickly led to a halved point. Sam Shankland and Alex Lenderman played a tame Queen’s Gambit line and the game soon fizzled out to a draw.


Jennifer Yu’s streak came to an end when she drew with Black against Annie Wang. Wang appeared to have a bit of something in the early middlegame, but after Yu castled, she had to suffer a bit but the result was never really in doubt.

[pgn] [Event "U.S. Women's Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.24"] [White "Wang, Annie"] [Black "Yu, Jennifer"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D17"] [WhiteElo "2304"] [BlackElo "2273"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7 8. g3 e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4 Nfd7 11. Bg2 f6 12. O-O Rd8 13. Qc1 Be6 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. Qe3 Qa5 {"A sideline of a sideline... it's a common idea in a lot of these kinds of positions. It stops a4-a5 and defends e5 against some Qc5 kinds of things." (Yu)} 16. Bxe5 fxe5 17. Qg5 {"I wasn't really sure what to do, and it looked kind of weird for me." (Yu) "I thought my position must be better, but I was having difficulties figuring out how to expand on that advantage. And then we just played and I was like, wow, I can't do anything here anymore. " (Wang)} Qc7 18. Ne4 (18. Rad1 {with the idea of exchanging on d8 and targeting the e5 pawn.}) 18... Bb4 19. Qh5+ Bf7 20. Qg4 Bb3 {[#] The commentators focused on this position a bit, discovering two possible improvements for Wang.} 21. Qf5 ({"The conservative"} 21. Nf6+ gxf6 22. Qxb4 { and White is better.}) (21. Ng5 {with the idea of Nxh7 and Qg6+; if play continued with Wang's intended} Rd4 {then} 22. Be4 {would be strong.}) 21... Bf7 22. Rad1 O-O {While she thought that Wang may have missed a tactic, Yu felt that after castling it was just a draw.} 23. Ng5 Bg6 24. Qg4 Qe7 25. h4 a5 26. Qc4+ Bf7 27. Qc2 g6 28. Bh3 Kg7 29. Nxf7 Qxf7 30. Rd3 Qf6 31. Rxd8 Rxd8 32. Rd1 Rxd1+ 33. Qxd1 Qd6 34. Qxd6 Bxd6 35. Bc8 b5 36. axb5 cxb5 37. Bd7 b4 38. Kg2 Kf6 39. Kf3 Ke7 40. Ba4 Bc5 41. e3 Ke6 42. Ke4 Be7 43. b3 Bd8 44. Bb5 h6 45. Bc4+ Kf6 46. Kd5 g5 47. h5 Bc7 48. Kc6 Bd8 49. g4 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
Tweet URL

Tatev Abrahamyan’s resurgence is in full force. Her fifth round win over Ashritha Eswaran featured a world-travelling knight and some incisive tactics.

[pgn] [Event "U.S. Women's Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.24"] [White "Eswaran, Ashritha"] [Black "Abrahamyan, Tatev"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C16"] [WhiteElo "2234"] [BlackElo "2377"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 b6 {Something of a sideline, although any idea of Petrosian's can't be that bad. Marin and Lakdawala have both promoted it in recent analysis.} 5. a3 Bxc3+ (5... Bf8 {is more usual.}) 6. bxc3 Qd7 7. Qg4 f5 8. Qg3 Ba6 9. Bxa6 Nxa6 10. Nh3 h6 11. Nf4 g5 12. Ne2 Ne7 13. h4 O-O-O $5 {An ambitious pawn sac, one that is probably correct.} 14. Qd3 (14. hxg5 hxg5 15. Rxh8 Rxh8 16. Qxg5 c5 $5 {with counterplay}) 14... Nb8 15. a4 Nec6 16. Ng3 f4 17. Nh5 Na5 18. Nf6 Qf7 19. Qh3 ({Better is} 19. h5 Nc4 (19... Nd7 $5 20. Qg6 Rdf8 21. Ba3 Nxf6 22. Bxf8 Rxf8 23. exf6 Qxf6 24. Qxf6 Rxf6 {and ... Nc4 to follow}) 20. Ba3 {wti Qg6 (Abrahamyan)} Nd7 $2 21. Qg6) 19... Nc4 { "Once I get my knight on c4, it's quite nice." (Abrahamyan)} 20. hxg5 hxg5 21. Qxh8 Rxh8 22. Rxh8+ Kb7 23. Rh6 (23. Kd1 $5 {(Abrahamyan) wti f3, Ng4, and Rh6 to try and get the e6 pawn.}) ({The commentators were looking at} 23. Bd2 Nd7 24. Rh7 Qg6 25. Rxd7 Qxc2 26. Rd1 Nb2 $1 {when Black is doing very well.}) 23... Nd7 24. Kf1 Nxf6 25. exf6 Nd6 26. a5 Nf5 {"I got everything I wanted, it was best case scenario for me. My knight was dominating." (Abrahamyan)} 27. Rh3 Qxf6 28. Rd3 Nd6 29. Bd2 Nc4 30. axb6 cxb6 31. f3 Nb2 {Abrahamyan quipped that she felt bad picking up the trapped rook - she didn't want to give up the knight which had performed so well!} 32. Be1 Nxd3 33. cxd3 Qf5 34. Rd1 a5 35. Rd2 a4 36. Ke2 e5 37. Ra2 b5 38. Bf2 e4 39. dxe4 dxe4 40. Rb2 e3 41. Be1 a3 0-1 [/pgn]
Carissa Yip quickly picked up the exchange in her matchup with Maggie Feng and cruised to victory. Like Eswaran, Yip has yet to make a draw in the event. Both players have only had decisive games!

[pgn] [Event "Women's Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.24"] [White "Yip, Carissa"] [Black "Feng, Maggie"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C03"] [WhiteElo "2279"] [BlackElo "2199"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] {Five decisive games in five tries for Carissa Yip!} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Be7 4. e5 c5 5. Qg4 Kf8 6. Ndf3 Nc6 7. Bd3 h5 8. Qf4 Nh6 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Be3 Be7 11. c3 Qc7 12. Ne2 Kg8 (12... Ng4 {would have improved, per Yip.}) 13. h3 h4 14. Rg1 {Yip thought she was better here.} Kf8 ({Yip said that perhaps} 14... g5 {was better, i.e.} 15. Nxg5 Qxe5 {when the king is weak but Black has counterplay.}) 15. g3 g5 16. Nxg5 Qxe5 (16... Nxe5 17. Nh7+ Rxh7 18. Bxh7 { is also winning for White.}) 17. Nh7+ $1 {Wins material.} Rxh7 18. Bxh7 Qxf4 19. Bxf4 Kg7 20. Bc2 f5 21. O-O-O Nf7 22. gxh4+ Kh7 23. Bg5 Nd6 24. Bxe7 Nxe7 25. Rg5 Nf7 26. Rg3 Bd7 27. Nf4 Rg8 28. c4 Rxg3 29. fxg3 Nd6 30. cxd5 e5 31. Re1 e4 32. g4 Kg7 33. Nh5+ Kg6 34. Ng3 Nxd5 35. gxf5+ Bxf5 36. Nxe4 Nb5 37. Ng3 Bxc2 38. Kxc2 Nd4+ 39. Kd3 Nf3 40. h5+ Kg5 41. Rc1 Kf4 42. Ne2+ Ke5 43. h6 Ng5 44. Rg1 Nh7 45. Rg7 Ndf6 46. Rxb7 1-0 [/pgn]
The remaining three games were drawn. Sharevich and Zatonskih drew an interesting g3 Semi-Slav. Sharevich may have had something if she’d played 19.d5 instead of her 19.e5, but after Zatonskih liquidated in the center with beginning 23…Ndc3, much of the life was taken from the position.
[pgn] [Event "U.S. Women's Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.24"] [White "Sharevich, Anna"] [Black "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E04"] [WhiteElo "2282"] [BlackElo "2430"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 a6 6. O-O b5 7. Ne5 Nd5 8. a4 Bb7 9. b3 c3 10. axb5 axb5 11. Rxa8 Bxa8 12. e4 Nf6 13. Nxc3 b4 14. Na4 Be7 15. Qd3 O-O 16. Bb2 Nc6 17. Nc4 Na7 18. Rd1 Qb8 19. e5 {Sharevich felt that the tide began to turn here, with her advantage slipping away.} (19. d5 {(Seirawan) keeps White on top.}) 19... Nd5 20. f4 g6 {"Stopping everything." (Sharevich)} 21. Nd2 Rd8 22. Ne4 Nb5 23. Rf1 Ndc3 {"Just opening everything in the center... I thought (the idea) was great." (Sharevich)} 24. Naxc3 bxc3 25. Bxc3 Bxe4 26. Bxe4 Qb6 27. Kh1 Nxc3 28. Qxc3 Rxd4 29. Bg2 h6 30. h4 Rb4 31. Rf3 Qc5 32. Qxc5 Bxc5 33. Bf1 Rd4 34. Rd3 Re4 35. Kg2 g5 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. Kf3 Re1 38. Rd8+ Kg7 39. Bc4 Bb6 40. Rd7 Kf8 41. Kg4 gxf4 42. gxf4 Rg1+ 43. Kf3 Re1 44. Kg4 Rg1+ 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
Irina Krush and Akshita Gorti drew in 40 moves, while Nguyen and Foisor went four moves further, but with the same result.



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