Yu is Women’s Champion; Open Up for Grabs

17 year old Jennifer Yu is the 2019 U.S. Women’s Champion, defeating former champion Anna Zatonskih to take the crown with a round to spare. She wins $25,000 for her efforts. Yu has impressed throughout the Championship, but never so much as in her game with Zatonskih. She soaked up the pressure of the situation and took her chance when, in a worse position, Zatonskih allowed Yu a tactic that ended the game. The Open Championship remains unsettled as the final round approaches. Three players – Caruana, Dominguez, and Nakamura – are at 7/10, and the fourth placed player, Wesley So, is a full point behind the leaders. Do playoffs on Monday loom? YU GOTTA BELIEVE

Jennifer Yu (photo Fuller)

Jennifer Yu entered the 2019 Women’s Championship as the fourth seed based on US Chess ratings, and eighth based on her FIDE rating. Her result in the National High School Championships, contested earlier this month in Schaumburg, Illinois, were decent if uninspiring. But Yu has shown growth and character over the years, making her a bit of a dark horse favorite in Saint Louis. The 2019 Women’s Championship is her fifth bite at the apple, with improved results each step of the way. In 2018 she finished with 6.5/11, tied for fourth/fifth place with Anna Zatonskih. She also played on the Women’s team in the 2018 Batumi Olympiad, earning a bronze medal for her individual performance. The 2019 Championship will be remembered as Yu’s coming out party. And what a performance it was! She played solid, attacking chess (vs. Eswaran and Feng) , took her chances in difficult positions (vs. Abrahamyan, Foisor, and Krush), and showed excellent positional intution (vs. Gorti and Nguyen). Her calculative nous was a constant, and we see it on full display in the game that clinched the title, presented here with exclusive notes from IM Kostya Kavutskiy.

[pgn] [Event "U.S. Women's Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2019.03.30"] [White "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Black "Yu, Jennifer"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D17"] [WhiteElo "2430"] [BlackElo "2273"] [Annotator "Kostya"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 {Repeating the line that Annie Wang played against Jennifer in an earlier round. Jennifer doesn't deviate, so the players follow that game for some time:} Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7 8. g3 e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4 Nfd7 11. Bg2 f6 12. O-O Rd8 13. Qc1 Be6 14. Ne4 (14. Nxe5 {took place in Jennifer's earlier game against Annie Wang:} Nxe5 15. Qe3 { and now Black could probably equalize with} Qb6 $1) 14... Bb4 {This seems like an empty square for the bishop, but there is simply no better place for it at the moment.} 15. Rd1 O-O 16. Rd4 $146 {A new move, threatening Nxe5 and Rxb4.} (16. a5 {is the main move, not allowing Black to establish a5 themselves.} a6 17. Rd4 Nc5 18. Nxc5 Bxc5 19. Nxe5 fxe5 20. Qxc5 exf4 21. Rxf4 Rxf4 22. gxf4 Rd2 $44 {and Black was more or less all right in ½-½ (31) Shankland,S (2633) -Alonso,S (2505) Praia da Pipa 2014.}) 16... a5 $1 {Logical, since White didn't play a5, Black takes the opportunity to secure the bishop on b4.} 17. h4 ({Stockfish gives} 17. Qc2 {with idea Rad1, after which White would seem to have some pressure.}) 17... Nc5 $5 {A sharp move, but everything seems to work out for Black.} ({Black could also just improve the position with a move like} 17... Kh8 {as White has no useful way to improve the position for the time being.}) 18. Rxd8 (18. Nxe5 {was the only way for White to fight for a concrete edge. Black must find} Nb3 $1 {and now White has a very narrow path to a small advantage:} (18... fxe5 $2 19. Rxb4 $1 axb4 20. Nxc5 $18 {is just winning for White.}) 19. Nxc6 $1 Qxc6 20. Qxc6 bxc6 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. Rb1 $14) 18... Qxd8 {Correctly getting out of the pin.} 19. Nxc5 $6 {Likely missing Black's 20th move.} (19. Nxe5 fxe5 20. Nxc5 Bxc5 21. Be3 $11 {Things would be close to equal.}) 19... Bxc5 20. Nxe5 $2 {Continuing with the plan.} ({At this point best was} 20. Bxe5 fxe5 21. e3 $11 {where White can restrict the dark-squared bishop just enough.}) 20... Bxf2+ $1 {A nice in-between move, luring White's king to the f-file.} 21. Kh2 (21. Kxf2 fxe5 22. Qe3 Qf6 $1 $17 { and after capturing on f4 Black will end up with an extra pawn.}) 21... fxe5 22. Bxe5 Bd4 {White has not lost any material, but the kingside is now severely compromised and with the position opening up, White's rook on a1 ends up out of play.} 23. Bf4 (23. Bxd4 Qxd4 $15 {leaves Black with more active pieces and better structure. This would be a difficult defense for White.}) 23... Qb6 24. Qc2 Bb3 (24... Qxb2 $2 25. Qxb2 Bxb2 26. Rb1 Bc3 27. Rxb7 $14) 25. Qc1 $2 {Too passive.} ({After} 25. Qd3 {White is worse but things are not that bad yet.} Rd8 {can be met with} 26. Bc7 $1 Qxc7 27. Qxb3+ $15) 25... Qb4 26. Bd2 Qd6 27. Bf4 ({Editor's note: There's a beautful variation hidden after } 27. Bxa5 $2 {when Black can sacrifice her queen for a stunning attack:} Qxg3+ $3 (27... Rf2 $1 {was Yu's in-game idea, and it's also crushing}) 28. Kxg3 Be5+ 29. Kg4 Be6+ 30. Kh5 g6+ 31. Kg5 (31. Kh6 Rf5 {cutting off the king's escape and threatening ...Rh5#} 32. Bf3 Bg7#) 31... Rf5+ 32. Kg4 (32. Kh6 Bg7#) 32... h5+ 33. Kh3 Rf2#) 27... Qb4 28. Bd2 Qe7 $1 {Correctly avoiding the repetition -- a draw would not clinch anything for Jennifer, and the position is very close to winning.} 29. Bc3 Be3 30. Qe1 {A final error.} (30. Bd2 {was needed, where Black could choose between exchanging bishops and playing Rf2 or keeping the dark squared bishop with Bb6, in both cases with a serious edge.} Bxd2 ( 30... Bb6) 31. Qxd2 Rf2 32. Rf1 Rxe2 33. Qxa5 $17 {and thanks to the check on a8 White is surviving for the moment, but is still seriously worse.}) 30... Bf2 31. Qd2 Bxg3+ $1 {A powerful stamp on an incredible tournament. This leads to forced mate.} 32. Kxg3 Qc7+ 33. Kg4 Be6+ ({and White resigned in view of} 33... Be6+ 34. Kg5 h6+ 35. Kh5 Qf7#) 0-1 [/pgn]
THE RACE FOR SECOND PLACE With Yu’s victory, attention now turns to second place. Zatonskih remains at 7.5/10 after her loss, a half-point ahead of Abrahamyan (who defeated Foisor) and a full-point ahead of Wang (who won against Yip.) Today’s Round 11 pairings: Zatonskih has Black against the struggling Foisor, while Abrahamyan also has the Black pieces against Gorti. Wang plays White against Sharevich. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP With the draw between Nakamura and Dominguez, coupled with Caruana’s win over Lenderman, the Open Championship comes down to a three-person race.

Nakamura and Dominguez drew by repetition on the 29th move. Nakamura’s control of the center was never enough to seriously trouble Dominguez, and the result was a finely balanced draw.

[pgn] [Event "ch-USA 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.30"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Dominguez Perez, L.."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D41"] [WhiteElo "2746"] [BlackElo "2739"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2019.03.18"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2 O-O 11. Rc1 b6 12. Bd3 Bb7 13. Qe3 Nc6 14. O-O Rc8 15. Bb1 Qe7 16. Rfd1 Na5 {"Trying to solve my problems in a very concrete way." (Dominguez)} (16... Rfd8 {followed by ...h6 is another path (Dominguez).} ) 17. h4 {"Very critical." (Dominguez)} Rxc1 18. Rxc1 Rc8 19. Rxc8+ Bxc8 20. Qf4 {"Very logical." (Dominguez)} (20. h5 h6 21. e5 Bb7 22. Qd3 Qc7 23. Qh7+ Kf8 {and Black threatens ...Qc1+ (Dominguez)}) 20... h6 21. Bd3 (21. g4 { is perhaps better, according to Nakamura in the post-game interview, but he felt that the chances for an advantage are slight and fleeting.}) 21... Qd8 { "Precise... preparing ...Nc6 and it seems like Black equalizes completely." (Dominguez)} 22. h5 Nc6 23. Qc1 Bb7 24. Qc3 Qd6 25. a3 Ne7 26. Ne5 Nc6 27. Nf3 Ne7 28. Ne5 Nc6 29. Nf3 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Caruana entered his game with Alex Lenderman with the belief that it was a virtual “must-win situation.” He produced the win on demand, taking Lenderman’s Petroff Defense down in 47 moves.

[pgn] [Event "ch-USA 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2019.03.30"] [White "Caruana, F.."] [Black "Lenderman, A.."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2828"] [BlackElo "2637"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2019.03.18"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {A bit of a surprise, but Caruana "wasn't displeased to see it," given that he knows the theory a bit!} 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nf6 $5 (5... Nxc3 {is vastly more popular.}) 6. d4 Be7 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O Nc6 9. d5 Nb4 10. Be2 c6 11. dxc6 bxc6 12. a3 Nbd5 13. Nxd5 Nxd5 14. Nd4 Bd7 15. Bf3 Rc8 16. Bxd5 (16. Nxc6 Bxc6 17. Bxd5 Bxd5 18. Qxd5 Rxc2 {felt too drawish for Caruana.}) 16... cxd5 {The doubled d-pawns should be objectively ok for Lenderman, but White "is on the better side of equality." (Caruana)} 17. Be3 Bf6 18. Qd2 Qc7 19. h3 Rfe8 20. Rfe1 h6 21. c3 Qb7 {Caruana thought this was "a bit strange."} (21... a5 {"is a natural choice to try and get ...a4 to fix the pawns." (Caruana)} 22. a4 (22. Nf3) (22. Nc2) 22... Qc4) 22. Nf3 $14 Re6 ( 22... Be5 23. Bd4 Qc7 {admits the mistake of the misplaced queen, and offers a pawn sac with} 24. Bxe5 (24. Re3) 24... dxe5 25. Qxd5) 23. Bd4 Be7 24. b4 a6 25. a4 Re8 26. Kh2 Re4 (26... Rxe1 27. Qxe1 $14 (27. Nxe1 $1)) 27. Reb1 { "I think it's just over. I play b4-b5 and there's nothing he can do about it." (Caruana)} Bd8 28. b5 a5 29. Rb2 Qa8 (29... Bf5 {wti ...Be4 and counterplay}) 30. Qd3 Qb7 31. Nd2 Rf4 32. Nb3 Bf5 33. Qg3 g5 34. b6 Qa6 35. Nd2 (35. Be3 Rfe4 36. Qxd6 (36. Nd4 $5) 36... Rxe3 37. Nc5 {looks strong (and Stockfish agrees), but Caruana described the position as "uncontrollable." The complications can't be fully forseen, and Caruana saw some concrete problems. One main line runs} (37. fxe3 Qxb6 {"and it's not so easy to win this ending." (Caruana)}) 37... Be7 (37... Qc4 $5) 38. Qxe7 $1 R3xe7 39. Nxa6) 35... Bd7 36. Rab1 Qb7 37. Nb3 Qa6 38. Nc1 Qb7 39. Nd3 Rxd4 40. cxd4 Re6 41. Nf4 Re4 42. Ne2 Bxa4 43. Nc3 Rxd4 44. Qxd6 Be7 45. Qe5 Re4 46. Nxe4 dxe4 47. Rc1 1-0 [/pgn]
While Wesley So can dream of forcing his way into a playoff on Monday, it would take losses by all three leaders to bring those dreams to reality. More likely is that one or more of Caruana, Dominguez, and Nakamura will be on the winner’s podium when all is said and done. Looking into the crystal ball, Dominguez appears to have the most favorable pairing, taking White against Timur Gareyev. Dominguez was quick to downplay this advantage, but Gareyev, the U.S. Open qualifier and lowest rated player in the field, has been a target throughout the event, and both Nakamura and Caruana noted that they’ll have to keep this pairing in mind as they prepare for their games. Caruana has Black against fellow Olympian Sam Shankland, while Nakamura also takes Black against Jeffery Xiong. It should make for an exciting final round. TANI AND FRIENDS NY State K-3 champ and media darling Tani Adewumi visited the Saint Louis Chess Club and U.S Championships yesterday. He made the ceremonial opening move in the Nakmaura-Dominguez game, chatted with Maurice Ashley, and tried his hand at Puzzle Rush on the touchscreens. Tani also made time for blitz with players like Nakamura and Yu. Here are some photos of his visit.

STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 10 OPEN WOMEN'S 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.