Wars of Attrition

There was plenty of intrigue on and off the boards in the fourth round of the 2019 U.S. Championships. Plenty. The games were long. The moves were sharp. The drama… well, that takes some explaining.

Four players are tied for first in the Open section at 2.5/4 at the end of the day’s play: Xiong, So, Nakamura, and Dominguez.  Jennifer Yu is alone in first place in the Women’s section with 4/4 and is the only player with a chance to win the $64,000 Fischer Prize.


The marquee matchup of the round was the meeting between GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Lenier Dominguez, who was part of Team Caruana during preparations for last year’s World Championship match. Caruana improved on an sideline idea in the Catalan, and he was soon ahead on the board and the clock. 37. …Ra3 was a serious mistake by Dominguez, but after Caruana returned the favor with 47.Kh2, everything was up for grabs.

At 85 moves the Caruana-Dominguez game was hardly the longest of the day. Three games went longer, one of which was in the Open section. And that game is a tale in itself.

The matchup between GM Sam Sevian and GM Timur Gareyev took a bit of a turn when Gareyev failed to turn up for the opening bell.

Rumors (soon confirmed) began to spread at the Club that the free-spirited Gareyev had entered the Mid-America Open being played in Clayton, MO, and would try to play in both events at the same time. It should go without saying that such a “simul” would be without precedent in the history of the U.S. Championship.

Gareyev won his morning game in Clayton and, having scheduled a bye for the afternoon, hustled to the Central West End to make his Championship game. Event regulations dictate that a player is forfeited if they are late by more than 30 minutes, and Gareyev arrived with five minutes to spare.

Gareyev’s game with Sevian effectively began at about 1:25pm CST. He was scheduled to play the third round of the Mid-America Open, which started at 5pm CST. How would this affect Gareyev’s strategy? How was he going to pull it all off?

There’s a proverb about counting chickens before they’re hatched, and it proved true in this case. All of the speculation on the part of fans and commentators came to naught when the Sevian-Gareyev game went 117 moves.

While successfully defending the weaker side of a rook and bishop vs. rook ending, Gareyev forfeited his Mid-America Open game due to non-appearance. That he even got to the ending against Sevian was something of a miracle, and it required what Yasser Seirawan called “the cheapo of the year.”

After the game Gareyev was asked by both STLCC’s Cristian Chirila and  Chess Life’s Al Lawrence about the attempted “simul” and his plans for Sunday.

Gareyev told Chirila and Lawrence, after a bit of prodding, that he would not be continuing in the Mid-America Open, and as this story goes to press, he is not paired for the fourth round of Clayton tournament.

In other Open section news, GM Ray Robson scored the only victory of the round against GM Jeffery Xiong when Xiong’s “semi-bluffs” failed to bear fruit. GM Chirila has excellent notes to the game available in his round report at uschesschamps.com.

So-Shankland and Lenderman-Akobian were both drawn without much intrigue.


WIM Jennifer Yu remains perfect after four rounds, defeating WIM Emily Nguyen in a tactical melee to stay in first place with 4/4. Nguyen’s 10. …d5? opened the center too early and allowed Yu to inflict serious weaknesses on her king’s defenses.

IM Anna Zatonskih is in clear second with 3.5/4 after the fourth round, overcoming WIM Carissa Yip’s determined defence with an intricate technical win. IM Kostya Kavutskiy breaks it all down in his exclusive notes for CLO.

WGM Sabina Foisor won a titanic battle against GM Irina Krush, slogging through a tricky queen and pawn ending to win in 146 grueling moves. (Note to self: study more endgames.)

Other results: WIM Maggie Feng and WIM Annie Wang drew in 88 moves, Akshita Gorti fell to Ashritha Eswaran’s Benoni, and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan continued her upswing in form with a nice win over WGM Anna Sharevich.




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. 


  1. Two things must be said:

    1) Any principled weekend Swiss organizer with knowledge that a registrant was participating in the US Championship across town would have declined to enter said registrant to guard against the fiasco that happened.

    2) It is not conceivable that CCA lacked knowledge that GM Gareev was participating in the US Championship across town.

    • Usually, the US Championships were held in April and the Mid America Open has always been in March, so in the past, there was no conflict. Before the Mid America Open was held in Clayton, MO, it was held for a couple of years in Chesterfield which would be a further drive from the Central West End.

      Perhaps, GM Gareyev wanted to add a new challenge to his repertoire, and this one did not work out. One also has to keep in mind that the Mid America Open was scheduled way ahead of time before the dates of the US Championship were known, and perhaps, the CCA did not want to refuse his entry into the Mid America Open. The problem was that hotel contracts are signed way ahead of time, and there probably was no way to change the dates of the Mid America Open once the dates of the US Championships were known.

    • more like apologies to jason wang who was left waiting for timur at the mid american open. timur never showed up, and jason, who traveled from ohio, played no one for that round.

  2. The Mid-America Open TD, Dave Hater, was in touch with USCF/US Championship officials before our tournament to inform them of Gareyev’s plans and decide what to do. Both Hater and the US Championship people attempted to talk him out of playing in the Mid-America, without success. Finally, Hater was advised that Gareyev had the right to play in the Mid-America, so his entry was accepted.

    Continental Chess does not allow the playing of two games at once, but Gareyev did not do that.

    Bill Goichberg

      • The late and legendary Robert A. Feldstein, Esquire (1956-2011) of Brooklyn, NY was probably one of the first players ever to play two games at once in a USCF-rated tournament. Bob did that as early as the early 1970s in tournaments held in Leominster, Mass.

  3. In my opinion Gareyev’s …Ra4 should be given !! because it perhaps the only move that could have caused Sevian to blunder.

  4. In the mid-1970s, there was a class player who used to play two Harrisburg, PA, CCA events simultaneously, much to the amusement of us teenagers.

    It is truly unacceptable for a professional to do what GM Gareev did. But perhaps GM Gareev has earned special status as the world’s strongest amateur 😉

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