California Cool: Wang and Shankland Lead US Champs

Going into Championship weekend at the US Chess Championships in Saint Louis (April 17-30) two players hailing from California are in the clear lead. And they are both surprise contenders. 15-year-old Annie Wang is leading the US Women’s Championship by a full point over her nearest rival, Nazi Paikidze.

Annie has an outstanding 7.5/9, good for a performance rating over 2600.

In the final two rounds, Annie faces four-time champion Anna Zatonskih and defending champ Sabina Foisor. If she wins this event, she will be the second youngest ever to do so, after GM Irina Krush, who won the US Women’s in 1998, at the age of 14. Wang defeated Krush in their head to head battle in round eight. After struggling to find a good plan in the first time control, Annie pounced on Irina’s error of 42….Rxc4, and found all the right attacking moves, particularly the sequence of 48.Qf8, 49. Rb1, 50. Kh2 and 51. Be7!

In the US Championship, Sam Shankland took a half point lead over GM Fabiano Caruana with a key victory over Yaro Zherebukh

The round could have been even better for Shankland, because Fabiano was in very serious trouble against Hikaru Nakamura. After the game, Fabi pointed out the winning line, 46….Qxe4!

During the live show (which you can replay on YouTube) Joan DuBois of US Chess called to ask who the oldest player to play a US Championship was. Though Yaz and I were stumped over the air, Mike Klein and Ed Gonsalves helped us out on twitter.

Action resumes on Saturday at 2 ET, with key round ten pairings including Annie Wang vs. Anna Zatonskih, Onischuk vs. Shankland, and Zherebukh vs. Caruana.

IM Eric Rosen took over our @USChess twitter feed during round 9 of the event. Look for his next takeover on round 11, Sunday and relive some of his best tweets today below.

Watch live commentary of the final two rounds and possible playoffs with GMs Maurice Ashley, Yasser Seirawan and WGM Jennifer Shahade starting at 2 PM EDT from April 28-30. 

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