US Champ R9: Forfeit?!

by Alejandro Ramirez
4/11/2015 – A shocking development in the US Chess Championship. Wesley So, one of the top players in the world, was forfeited in his game against Akobian by the tournament's Chief Arbiter, Tony Rich. The reason? Note taking! He had been warned several times not to do so but ignored the warnings. In the Women's, Krush finally caught up to Nemcova. As to the controversy, what do you think?

The 2015 U.S. Championship is an elite national championship event, featuring 12 of the strongest chess players in America. Over the course of eleven rounds, these competitors will battle for $175,000 in prize money, qualification into the World Championship cycle, and the coveted title of 2015 U.S. Champion.

U.S. Chess Championship - Round Nine

Table White Rating Black Rating
1 GM Kamsky, Gata 2683 GM Troff, Kayden W 2532
2 GM So, Wesley 2788 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2622
3 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 2633 GM Holt, Conrad 2530
4 GM Shankland, Samuel L 2661 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2665
5 GM Sevian, Samuel 2531 GM Robson, Ray 2656
6 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2798 GM Gareev, Timur 2604

So, Wesley 0-1 Akobian, Varuzhan
An absolutely shocking development in the tournament. Wesley So, one of the pre-tournament favorites, has definitely had a rough going in his first U.S. Championship. However nothing prepared him or the audience for what happened.

Wesley So is a player that sometimes gives himself encouraging words or reminders by writing them down on his scoresheet. He had done this twice during this U.S. Championship and in both occasions the chief arbiter, Tony Rich, had warned him that this was against the FIDE rules of chess.

In today's round So wrote something on another piece of paper, not his scoresheet, but that arose suspicion from Akobian as this is again against FIDE rules. The arbiter decided to forfeit So, and the full point was given to Akobian. You can see our shocked reactions in the commentary room in the following video, starting at around minute 37. The arbiter, Tony Rich, explains his stance at minute 46:

The shortest decisive game in the history of this tournament

At being informed by Chief Arbiter Tony Rich, Wesley So pockets the source of controversy

Wesley So has appealed the decision of Tony Rich

Do you think the forfeiture was warranted? Send us your feedback!


Wesley So has posted the following on his Facebook fan page

It is reported that Tony Rich consulted Franc Guadalupe, Zonal President and one of the most experienced arbiters in the country, before reaching the decision of forfeiting So. With the decision appealed it will be up to the committee to determine if the ruling stands or if there will be some sort of solution reached for the game before the tournament is over. The appeals committee of this tournament is comprised of IM Rusudan Goletiani, GM Varuzhan Akobian and GM Benjamin Finegold. Since Varuzhan cannot be expected to make an unbiased decision, the decision will fall on the other two members. In case of a tie a third neutral party will be called in.

We will keep you updated with the decision of the committee as well as the reactions from grandmasters and players around the World.

Kamsky, Gata ½-½ Troff, Kayden

[Event "U.S. Championship 2015"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2015.04.10"] [Round "9"] [White "Kamsky, Gata"] [Black "Troff, Kayden W"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A48"] [WhiteElo "2683"] [BlackElo "2532"] [Annotator "Josh Friedel"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4 Bg7 4. c3 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Be2 c5 8. O-O b6 9. Bh2 Bb7 10. a4 a6 11. Qb3 {Kamsky has a lot of experience here, and he's played this exact move before. He delays the development of the b1 knight in case he wants to play c4-Nc3.} Qc7 12. Rd1 Rac8 13. Na3 Qc6 {A new move by Troff. This immobilizes the f3 knight and unpins the d pawn..} 14. Nc4 Qd5 15. Ra3 {This move looks really weird, but it is necessary to keep the queen defended.} (15. Ncd2 Qxb3 16. Nxb3 {and White really can't hope for much.}) 15... Qc6 {The queen no longer makes sense on d5, but the rook doesn't exactly inspire confidence on a3.} 16. Ncd2 Qc7 {Kayden backtracks with the queen, which looks strange considering he played Qc6-d5 before, but it probably isn't so bad.} (16... Ne4 {is a possible alternative, as in general simplification helps Black due to his lack of space.}) 17. c4 {Probably not a bad move, but I don't think it was necessary to rush with it.} (17. Bf1 {I like this small improving move, seeing what Black is up to next move. For example, if} Qb8 18. c4 {becomes a lot nicer.} cxd4 19. exd4 e5 {runs into} 20. c5 $1 bxc5 21. dxe5 {with serious problems for Black.}) 17... cxd4 18. exd4 e5 (18... a5 {is another approach, as the weak b5 square is hard to take advantage of.}) 19. a5 {Kamsky tries to loosen Troff's structure.} exd4 20. axb6 $6 (20. Qb4 $1 {was more accurate, applying pressure on d6.}) 20... Qc6 $2 (20... Qc5 {looks simple and strong, taking away the b4 square.}) 21. Qa4 $6 {Kamsky wants to prepare b4, but I think the more direct Qb4 was a little cleaner.} (21. Qb4 { Once again, simple and good.} Rfe8 22. Bf1 d5 {looks okay for Black, but White has} 23. c5 $1 Nxc5 24. Nxd4 {and I think White is slightly better due to the nice blockade and b6 pawn.}) 21... Qxb6 22. b4 Rfe8 23. Bf1 Nb8 $5 {An interesting idea, trying to reroute the knight to c6 in order to defend and attack.} 24. Qa5 Qxa5 25. Rxa5 Ne4 26. Nxe4 Bxe4 {Black's strong bishops help to compensate for his weak pawns.} 27. Bxd6 Red8 28. Bc5 $6 {This move is very awkward.} (28. c5 Nc6 29. Rxa6 Nxb4 30. Ra3 {looks about equal.}) 28... Bc2 $1 29. Rd2 d3 {Now Black wins an exchange.} 30. Ra3 Bb2 31. Ra2 Bc3 32. Rdxc2 dxc2 33. Rxc2 Bf6 {Black won an exchange, but if White can mobilize the queenside he'll hardly be worse.} 34. Be2 $6 {Preventing Rd1, but this move is slow.} ( 34. Be3 {was the move I prefered during the game, with the idea that on} Rd1 35. g3 Rb1 {White has} 36. Nd2 $1 (36. Bd2 Nc6 {is more dangerous.}) 36... Rxb4 37. Ne4 Be5 38. Ra2 {and Black will have a hard time converting his exchange.}) 34... Nc6 $2 {This throws away his chances.} (34... a5 $1 {and White's bishop is very poorly placed. Na6 is the threat, and for example if} 35. Bb6 (35. Ra2 Nd7 36. Rxa5 Nxc5 37. bxc5 Ra8 {and Black should be winning once c5 is won.}) 35... axb4 $1 36. Bxd8 b3 $1 37. Rd2 b2 {White has to take on b2.}) 35. Ra2 Bc3 36. Ra4 $1 {Kamsky defends accurately, and now I think it is very close to a draw.} Re8 37. Bf1 Re4 38. Bd3 Re6 39. Bf1 Nb8 40. Be3 Re4 41. Bd3 Rexc4 { Kayden sacs the exchange back, with a dead drawn position. Gata had some slight pressure, but it was defused well.} 1/2-1/2

Naroditsky, Daniel 1-0 Holt, Conrad
Holt's favourite way of handling 1.e4 is his pet Winawer variation in the French, which leads to crazy sharp positions. Today's game against Naroditsky followed two of Holt's games into a deep theoretical line. Black's exchange sacrifice was not sufficient this time to stop the initiative, and White won an exchange. Despite missing a brilliant tactical win in time trouble, Naroditsky's position was good enough to slowly torture Black in an endgame. Holt made it easy for his opponent by putting the king on the wrong side of the board, and Naroditsky took a very important moral victory.

Shankland, Daniel ½-½ Onischuk, Alexander
Following a long game between Aronian and Grischuk from 2012, Onischuk uncorked a novelty late into the game. It was more than sufficient to equalize and Shankland simplified into a draw before anything bad happened.

Shankland was unable to breach Onischuk's defenses

Sevian, Sam ½-½ Robson, Ray

[Event "U.S. Championship 2015"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2015.04.10"] [Round "9"] [White "Sevian, Samuel"] [Black "Robson, Ray"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B81"] [WhiteElo "2531"] [BlackElo "2656"] [Annotator "Josh Friedel"] [PlyCount "104"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. g4 {You don't see many Keres Attacks these days.} h6 7. h3 Nc6 8. f4 $6 {Very unusual and risky looking.} (8. Be3 {is the main move.}) 8... Qc7 $6 {Robson decides to let Sam off with a warning.} (8... d5 9. e5 Nd7 10. Be3 Bc5 {looks like an amazing french for Black.}) 9. Be3 a6 {Now it looks like a normal position for an h3 Najdorf.} 10. Bg2 Be7 11. Qf3 {Less natural than Qe2, but in some positions Qg3 is a nice option to have.} Nxd4 12. Bxd4 e5 13. Be3 exf4 14. Bxf4 Be6 {A typical transformation of the position. The pawn on d6 is a major weakness for Black, but there is compensation based on queenside play and the silly-looking bishop on g2.} 15. O-O-O Rc8 16. Qg3 O-O 17. Kb1 (17. Bxd6 Bxd6 18. Qxd6 Qa5 19. a3 {looks playable for White, but Black will have compensation after} Rxc3 $1 20. bxc3 Rc8 {with scary play against the king.}) 17... Rfd8 18. Rhe1 b5 19. Rd2 Bf8 $6 {Ray allows a strong idea for White.} (19... Bc4 $1 {was best, as pointed out by Hikaru at a glance. The idea is that now after Nd5 you can easily take with the knight and there is no bad bishop on e6.}) 20. Nd5 $1 Bxd5 21. exd5 {Black should be suffering a little here, and a lot more if White every gets things started on the kingside.} Re8 22. Rf1 $6 {I don't like giving up the file so easily.} (22. Qf2 {looks more pleasant for White.}) 22... Ne4 23. Bxe4 Rxe4 {Black has good counterplay now, as despite the sad-looking f8 bishop White's pieces are awkward.} 24. Rdf2 Rce8 25. Bd2 f6 $6 {The bishop on f8 weeps. This move might be okay, but it looks unnecessary.} (25... R8e7 { looks playable to me, followed by going after d5.}) 26. Qd3 $6 (26. h4 { Attack! I'm sure Sam was scared off by something, but this looks very promising.}) 26... Qc5 (26... Qc4 $1 27. Qxc4 Rxc4 {and the d5 pawn won't be so easy to hold onto.}) 27. Rf4 Re2 28. a3 R8e5 29. Rd4 {This looks awkward, but it isn't so easy for Black to crack.} Rg2 30. Bb4 Qc7 31. Re4 Rg3 $1 {It is key Black doesn't give up the e-rook, or else the weak light squares will be telling.} 32. Qxg3 Rxe4 33. Re1 Qc4 34. Rd1 Re5 (34... Re2 35. Qd3 Qxd3 36. Rxd3 Rf2 {followed by f5 should give Black sufficient counterplay.}) 35. Qf3 Be7 (35... Re2 $1) 36. b3 Qe4 37. Qxe4 Rxe4 {This ending is also about equal. The bishop on e7 is ugly, but it is hard to take advantage of it.} 38. Rd3 (38. Re1 {I'd trade the rooks, but after} Rxe1+ 39. Bxe1 g6 {and f5 a draw is still a likely result.}) 38... Kf7 39. Rc3 Rd4 40. Rc6 Rxd5 41. Rxa6 {Adventurous.} h5 42. a4 bxa4 43. bxa4 hxg4 44. hxg4 {This look double-edged, but Black's kingside should cancel out the a-pawn.} g5 45. Rc6 f5 46. gxf5 Rxf5 47. Rc4 { Sam correctly guards against the g-pawn advance. Both sides keep playing, but it is clear the position will be simplified soon enough.} Ke6 48. Re4+ Kd7 49. c4 Bf6 50. Kc2 Rf2+ 51. Bd2 Be5 52. Kd3 Bf4 {and the players decide to call it a day. A very solid game from both players, with Sam missing only one or two chances for an edge.} 1/2-1/2

Nakamura, Hikaru ½-½ Gareev, Timur
A dubious pawn sacrifice from Nakamura, who obtained some compensation for it but no real hope for an advantage. The position was not easy for Black to make progress in, but he was definitely not worse. Gareev decided to take a second pawn, allowing Nakamura a repetition. The draw seemed like a fair result, but Nakamura admitted it would simply have been unpleasant had Gareev decided to play on.

Gareev was a fraction late to the game, not an immediate forfeiture by U.S. Championship rules

Tomorrow there will be a huge match-up in the Open section as the two leaders, Nakamura and Robson, will face each other in the potentially deciding game of the tournament.

The former Uzbek player notices something wrong... in the back Tony Rich starts talking to Wesley So

Daniel King analyses the game Nakamura vs Gareev

Pairings for Round Ten

Table White Rating Black Rating
1 GM Troff, Kayden W 2532 GM Gareev, Timur 2604
2 GM Robson, Ray 2656 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2798
3 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2665 GM Sevian, Samuel 2531
4 GM Holt, Conrad 2530 GM Shankland, Samuel L 2661
5 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2622 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 2633
6 GM Kamsky, Gata 2683 GM So, Wesley 2788


Replay Round Nine Games

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U.S. Women's Championship - Round Nine

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 WGM Foisor, Sabina 4.0 2235 WCM Virkud, Apurva 3.0 2132
2 WIM Ni, Viktorija 4.5 2188 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 6.5 2279
3 IM Paikidze, Nazi 5.0 2333 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 2.0 2180
4 GM Krush, Irina 6.0 2477 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 4.5 2322
5 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 5.0 2311 FM Melekhina, Alisa 2.0 2235
6 WGM Sharevich, Anna 4.0 2267 WIM Wang, Annie 1.5 1901

Foisor, Sabina 1-0 Virkud, Apurva
Foisor simply squashed Virkud. Black had no counterplay at any point of the game and her king position was way too weak to think she had a playable position.

Ni, Viktorija ½-½ Nemcova, Katerina
A typical English position in which White went on the queenside and Black went on the kingside. Neither side was able to prove any real superiority and the draw seemed like a fair result.

Nemcova finishes with two strong pairings in the last rounds: Paikidze and Krush

[Event "U.S. Womens Championship 2015"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2015.04.10"] [Round "9"] [White "Ni, Viktorija"] [Black "Nemcova, Katerina"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A28"] [WhiteElo "2188"] [BlackElo "2279"] [Annotator "Josh Friedel"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. a3 {A tricky sideline, discouraging the natural Bb4.} g6 {Black finds another way to develop her bishop.} 5. d3 Bg7 6. Bg5 {Slightly unusual. If I had to guess, Viktoria wanted to discourage d5. I wouldn't trust my guesses, however.} (6. g3 {is more typical.}) 6... h6 7. Bxf6 Bxf6 8. g3 O-O 9. Bg2 Bg7 10. O-O d6 {We've reached a typical English position now.} 11. Rb1 a5 $6 {This move looks like the wrong approach. While it is common to play this to discourage b4, White is prepared to play it anyway, and so it effectively loses a tempo. Also, while the open a-file seems to be Black's, given White's extra space on that wing it is nearly impossible to keep in the long term.} 12. b4 {Amusingly, we've now directly transposed into a variation of the English.} axb4 13. axb4 Be6 14. Nd5 $6 {I'm not positive the knight wants to be there.} (14. b5 Ne7 15. Qc2 {followed by Nd2 looks like a logical course of action, taking a firm control of the light squares.}) 14... Qd7 $6 (14... Ne7 {takes better advantage of White's move order.} 15. Nxe7+ Qxe7 16. Nd2 c6 {and now after} 17. b5 d5 {Black is maybe even a little better. }) 15. Nd2 Ra2 $6 {Once again, not the right approach. Black can almost never hold this file.} (15... f5 {looks typical, getting some counterplay going on the kingside.}) 16. b5 Nd8 17. Nb3 $6 {The knight looks very strange here to me.} (17. Nc3 $1 {is what I like, since the knight no longer belongs on d5.} Ra3 18. Qc1 {and the rook gets shooed away.}) 17... c6 18. Nb4 {Another funny square, but I understand Viktoria wanting to hit the c6 square.} (18. Nc3) 18... Ra8 19. bxc6 bxc6 20. Qd2 (20. Qc2 {I prefer the queen here, controlling the queenside better and allowing for Nd2 if required}) 20... Bh3 $6 {It is almost paradoxical, but I don't think the bishop exchange favors Black here.} ( 20... h5 $5 {threatening h4 is an interesting try.}) (20... f5 {would be a standard move.}) 21. Rfd1 $2 {This move is hard to understand, and gives Black a much needed tempo.} (21. Bxh3 Qxh3 {The queen is out of play on h3, and now after} 22. c5 d5 23. Ra1 {White will be able to create play against the c6 pawn. I'm not certain Vika is better here, but I like her position more than I did before.}) 21... Bxg2 22. Kxg2 f5 $6 {Logical, but not the most useful move. } (22... Ne6 $1 {fixing her knight and discouraging c5 looks great for Black.}) 23. c5 {The correct approach. Note how with a bishop on g2 this move makes far less sense.} d5 24. d4 e4 25. f4 $1 {Without this move, White is actually much worse. It is key to prevent Black from playing Ne6-f4.} exf3+ {I was surprised by this move during the game, but after glancing at it more closely it makes sense. The d4 pawn is a much more attackable weakness now.} 26. exf3 f4 {I'm not sure putting the pawns on dark squares is the way to go.} (26... Ne6 {I like a little better.}) 27. g4 Ne6 28. Re1 Ra3 $6 {Another mistimed rook infiltration by Nemcova. This forces Vika to do what she wants to do anyway.} ( 28... Rfb8 29. Nc2 h5 {looks dangerous for White, as h3 allows Qe7-h4.}) 29. Nc2 Raa8 $6 (29... Ra4 {keeping an eye on d4 looks slightly better.}) 30. Qd3 Qf7 31. Re2 {The position looks balanced again.} h5 32. h3 $6 (32. gxh5 gxh5 33. Kh1 {followed by Rg1 looks very reasonable for White.}) 32... hxg4 33. hxg4 Rae8 34. Rbe1 Bf6 $6 (34... Qf6 {threatening Qh4 looks a lot more accurate.}) 35. Nb4 Nd8 {Now I slightly prefer White.} 36. Rxe8 $6 {I don't see any reason to liquidate.} (36. Na5 {piling on the pressure forces Black to play more accurately.} Bh4 $1 {is the key move, and now after} 37. Rxe8 Rxe8 38. Re2 { maybe White can play a bit, but realistically this should be drawn as well, for instance after} Re3 $1 39. Rxe3 fxe3 40. Qxe3 Qc7 {with Qg3 coming.}) 36... Rxe8 37. Rxe8+ Qxe8 38. Qd2 {Now it is a dead draw.} Ne6 39. Na5 Nxd4 40. Naxc6 {This looks exciting, but White's king is too exposed to do anything.} Nxc6 41. Qxd5+ Kg7 42. Nxc6 Qe2+ {A perp is forced now.} 43. Kg1 Qe1+ 44. Kg2 Qe2+ 45. Kg1 Qe1+ {A game with no blunders but quite a few small inaccuracies. Nemcova probably wishes she did a little more with her position.} 1/2-1/2

Paikidze, Nazi 1-0 Yu, Jennifer
Another incredibly one sided game. Yu decided to take a pawn on g3, which was a very risky decision. Her follow-up was nearly senseless as with every move Paikidze built a huge initiative while Black did nothing. It is not surprising that soon afterwards all of Yu's pieces were hanging and that was basically the end of the game.

Another easy game for Nazi Paikidze, who is now third

Krush, Irina 1-0 Abrahamyan, Tatev
An incredibly important result as now Krush is able to catch the leader, Nemcova, with two decisive games left in the tournament.

[Event "U.S. Womens Championship 2015"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2015.04.10"] [Round "9"] [White "Krush, Irina"] [Black "Abrahamyan, Tatev"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E32"] [WhiteElo "2477"] [BlackElo "2322"] [Annotator "Josh Friedel"] [PlyCount "79"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 {Irina usually plays the main line with a3, but Nf3 is a very common sideline.} c5 6. dxc5 Na6 7. g3 Nxc5 8. Bg2 b6 {Black finishes her development in the most natural way.} (8... Nce4 { is the main alternative.}) 9. O-O Bb7 10. Nb5 {This is considered White's only hope to play for advantage.} Be4 11. Qd1 a6 $5 {It looks strange to provoke the knight on d6, but the idea is very concrete.} 12. Nd6 Bc6 13. Bg5 $5 {A rare move, played just once by GM Fridman. The idea is to give up ideas of controling d6 in order to harass Black with the pin.} Nce4 {The most human move.} (13... h6 $2 {was played by Fridman's opponent, but this loses to} 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 15. a3 {and the bishop on b4 is embarassed.}) (13... Na4 {is what the computer likes, and now it wants} 14. Nxf7 $5 Rxf7 15. Ne5 Bxg2 16. Nxf7 Kxf7 17. Kxg2 b5 {wiith a strange position.}) 14. Nxe4 Bxe4 15. Ne5 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Ra7 {The only way to guard d7.} 17. Bxf6 gxf6 {Forced.} 18. Nd3 Be7 { White's advantage is nothing serious, but I slightly prefer her position due to Black's drafty king.} 19. e4 Rc7 20. Qb3 {I can't quite call this mistake, but this looks like a strange square for the queen.} (20. b3 b5 21. cxb5 axb5 22. Nf4 {looks normal to me, with the idea of Qf3-Nh5.}) 20... Qb8 21. a4 { Irina stops b5, but Tatev simply improves her pieces. Note how the queen on b3 looks strange.} Rfc8 22. Rac1 Rc6 $1 {Tatev slowly builds on the queenside. Now Qc7 is a move White has to contend with.} 23. Rfd1 Qc7 {Tatev plays simply. } (23... Qb7 {looks more clever, making White think about f5 moves, and trying to provoke f3 from White.}) 24. Nf4 Rxc4 (24... d6 {The computer likes this move, but after} 25. Nh5 Rxc4 26. Qe3 {I'd be very uncomfortable.}) 25. Rxd7 { Clearly best.} (25. Rxc4 Qxc4 26. Qxc4 Rxc4 27. Rxd7 Kf8 {and only Black can be better.}) 25... Qxd7 {Also the correct decision.} (25... Rxc1 $2 26. Rxc7 R1xc7 27. Qxb6 {looks awful for Black, as there are dangers on both the kingside and queenside.}) 26. Rxc4 Rxc4 27. Qxc4 {The position is roughly equal, but with Black's king still open White has the easier position to play.} b5 28. axb5 axb5 (28... Qxb5 $6 29. Qxb5 axb5 30. Kf3 {would be unwise for Black, due to White's better king and pawn structure.}) 29. Qd3 Qc6 {Both sides are playing accurate chess.} 30. f3 {This move opens the king a little, but otherwise f5 was a threat.} (30. Qf3 {looks reasonable, but after} Qc5 31. Nh5 Qe5 {Black should be safe.}) 30... b4 31. Kh3 Qc1 {Tatev goes after the b-pawn, allowing Irina to go after her king. This should be fine objectively, but she has to be precise.} (31... Qc5 32. Qd7 Kg7 {and keeping everything secure draws more simply.}) 32. Qd7 Bf8 33. Qd8 Qxb2 34. Nh5 {Both sides have played a high quality game thus far, but Tatev's next move throws away half a point.} b3 $2 (34... Qc1 $1 {Holds the draw, since after} 35. f4 (35. Nxf6+ Kg7 36. Nd7 {Black has} Qh6+ 37. Kg2 Qd2+ {with a perpetual.}) 35... Qc5 36. Nxf6+ Kg7 37. e5 {looks scary, but after} b3 38. Ne8+ Kg8 39. Qg5+ Kh8 40. Nf6 Bg7 { White can't make any threats.}) (34... h6 {also holds the draw by covering the g5 square.}) 35. Nxf6+ Kg7 36. Nd7 {Now Black has no way to defend against White's threats.} Qa3 (36... Bd6 37. Qg5+ Kh8 38. Nf6 {wins.}) 37. Qg5+ Kh8 38. Qe5+ $1 {The key move.} Kg8 (38... Bg7 39. Qb8+ Bf8 40. Nxf8 Kg7 41. Nd7 { easily wins, with Qe5 coming next and similar mating threats.}) 39. Nf6+ Kh8 40. Qh5 {A very well played game by both players until the blunder with 34... b3. Playing with an open king requires extreme caution until the end, and one slip was enough to cost Tatev her half point.} 1-0

Goletiani, Rusudan ½-½ Melekhina, Alisa
Goletiani was definitely outplayed by Melekhina. Black obtained a powerful passed pawn on c3 that gave her a strong initiative as White was never able to do anything active without letting that pawn queen. In the final position Melekhina bizarrely allowed a three fold repetition, though she had a winning blow.

A big missed opportunity for Alisa Melekhina

Sharevich, Anna ½-½ Wang, Annie
An up and down game. Wang had the better of the opening and it seemed as if she was handily outplaying Sharevich, but she was unable to finish off her opponent and may even have been lucky to draw at the end.

Pairings for Round Ten

Table White Rating Black Rating
1 WCM Virkud, Apurva 2132 WIM Wang, Annie 1901
2 FM Melekhina, Alisa 2235 WGM Sharevich, Anna 2267
3 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 2322 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 2311
4 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 2180 GM Krush, Irina 2477
5 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 2279 IM Paikidze, Nazi 2333
6 WGM Foisor, Sabina 2235 WIM Ni, Viktorija 2188


Replay Round Nine Games

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Commentary provided for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis by Josh Friedel:

Joshua Friedel

Josh was born in 1986 in New Hampshire, USA and is currently living in Wisconsin. He obtained his international master title in 2005 and his grandmaster in 2008. He has participated in six US Championships, including a tie for fourth in 2008. Major Open tournament victories include: the 2003 Eastern Open, 2005 Berkeley Masters, 2008 National Open, 2009 Edmonton International, 2009 North American Open, 2010 Saint Louis Open, 2010 American Open, 2013 Chicago Open.

Josh will be annotating the games for the Saint Louis Chess Club.

Photos by Lennart Ootes


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Topics USA, US Champ

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.
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vincero vincero 4/11/2015 02:22
is chess so vibrant that such small infractions are allowed to threaten , mock and generally invite dis-interest to the game?
Kimberly Ogden Kimberly Ogden 4/11/2015 02:40
Since this tournament is such a prestigious event. All games should have been automatically recorded by computer and that would also raise the level of play. Every tournament should be two warnings and then forfeiture.
pilotplant pilotplant 4/11/2015 02:44
8.1b The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.
This clearly does not apply since something was written on another sheet of paper.

11.3a During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard.
What constitutes a note? It would be easy to explicitly say that no writing (or drawing - he could doodle as written) is allowed. But this is not in the rule. The rule says notes and by the further continuation of the sentence would appear to refer to notes that could be used for analysis. This does not appear to be the case again.

tkokesh tkokesh 4/11/2015 02:58
Actually, the shortest US Championship game ever was Shirazi-Peters in 1984: 1. e4 c5 2. b4 cxb4 3. a3 d5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. axb4?? Qe5+ 0-1.
prail prail 4/11/2015 02:59
Forfeiting a top player is a disaster for the event. Perhaps So's message of inspiration to himself should have been confiscated and reviewed to see if they give the player some kind of advantage. The spirit of the rule goes to having outside help, which this clearly was not. It seemed only to be a nervous habit and should not be punished. Akobian should have not reported it, but maybe wanted a cheap win. He needed it.
Maturner Maturner 4/11/2015 02:59
Wrong decision unless Wesley was specifically told by the arbiter that he would be forfeited if he continued to write notes.
Karbuncle Karbuncle 4/11/2015 03:05
pilotplant, the rule is intended to forbid ANY kind of note-taking, whether it be on the scoresheet or another piece of paper. You can't split hairs about the definition, otherwise no set of rules could ever cover every circumstance. Add to that he had been warned twice before, and there's no reasonable expectation of being able to appeal this ruling.
Karbuncle Karbuncle 4/11/2015 03:06
And if you watch the video, So was warned he would be forfeited on the next offense.
Rinzou Wilkerson Rinzou Wilkerson 4/11/2015 03:08
I used to add exclaims and question marks to my moves on my scoresheet during games. Would that also be grounds for forfeiture?
KevinC KevinC 4/11/2015 03:14
@Kimberly Ogden, sorry, but that does not work right now. Part of the game, and the rules, is the person keeping score by himself. It is critical when claiming a draw because you need a complete scoresheet. For your suggestion to work, they would have to change the rules.

There are other problems with that, and that is that the sensory boards often make mistakes due to the players. If you place a piece down, and it is not in the center of the square, or even overlaps a square, the incorrect move is sometimes transmitted. Imagine this in time trouble, and how crazy that can get.

@pilotplant, the rule just says notes, so it does not matter if it could help with analysis, or not. Also, it was advice, albeit to himself, which is directly addressed by the rule you quoted. It is still irrelevant on that account since it was, by definition, a note, and also on account that the arbiter told him twice previously that it was not allowed. I do believe that So interpreted the warning as not to take notes on his scoresheet, but clearly, he was incorrect there.
KevinC KevinC 4/11/2015 03:16
What is up with Gareev's clothes? Did some movie monster throw up on him?
jazonsamillano jazonsamillano 4/11/2015 03:28
All the arbiter had to do was come over to the table and whisper to Wesley, "Hey Wesley, I've already warned you about this. This is final warning. If you write notes again, I'll forfeit you", and Wesley would've immediately stopped.

A horrible day for chess. When Wesley becomes World Champion, he will have the luxury of demanding that this Tony Rich arbiter guy is not allowed to participate in the event. Bad career move for this dude!
KevinC KevinC 4/11/2015 03:37
@Maturner, he was told to stop. That is enough. Every tournament chessplayer knows that the penalties can range all the way up to a forfeit. It is also the responsibility of every chessplayer to know the rules, especially if you are in the world's elite. It is his fault, and no one else's.

@jazonsamillano, so you think he needed three warnings? Two was plenty. Maybe the arbiter should have said "pretty please" during the second warning? Instead of "all the arbiter had to do", maybe all So had to do was listen, and follow simple instructions.
Bauerndiplom Bauerndiplom 4/11/2015 03:47
Sensible Arbiters plz , on the 2nd offense he should get a time punishment ...

Karbuncle Karbuncle 4/11/2015 03:59
Jazonsamillano, if you actually WATCH and LISTEN CAREFULLY to the video, So was warned twice AND told he would forfeit on the 3rd offense. That did not stop him. What do you want more than that??
DoctorMove DoctorMove 4/11/2015 04:14
This is a tragedy for the US Championship. The only comparable horrific events that come to mind is the 1978 US Championship when Edmar Mednis lost on time to Leonid Shamkovich when it was later found that the clock was running too fast. Also, in the 1942 US Championship, Reshevsky's flag fell against Denker (in front of many witnesses) in a clearly drawn position, but the arbiter, apparently picked up the clock from behind and mistakenly awarded the game to Reshevsky! Denker appealed, but to no avail and Reshevsky said to Denker something like, "It's not my decision." The arbiter, L. Walter Stephens, refused to change his ruling.

Well, back to the So-Akobian issue.

The rule, 11.3a , seems to me to be open to interpretation as to what constitutes a note.

But even if a note is construed as and is as Mr. Rich apparently did, the penalty seems too severe. What So wrote on the separate piece of paper is innocuous, something like, "Use 'at' ('at least')", and something else that I couldn't decipher; he wasn't cheating.

I'd imagine an arbiter could interpret the rules strictly, that's his prerogative. Perhaps, as GM Sam Shankland suggested, the arbiter could have fined Wesley So $500 or something like that. On the website
( ), there were many differing opinions posted as here. That seems to say that Mr. Rich's decision is controversial. It's true that So was warned, but the arbiter had options (Cf. FIDE Rule 12 9 below) as to the penalty.

FIDE Rule 11.6
Infraction of any part of Articles 11.1 – 11.5 shall lead to penalties in accordance with Article 12.9.
Rule 12.9
Options available to the arbiter concerning penalties:
increasing the remaining time of the opponent
reducing the remaining time of the offending player
increasing the points scored in the game by the opponent to the maximum available for that game
reducing the points scored in the game by the offending person
declaring the game to be lost by the offending player (the arbiter shall also decide the opponent’s score)
a fine announced in advance
expulsion from the competition.

I don't know if a fine was announced in advance.

Well, that, for now, represents my "two cents."
mudhen mudhen 4/11/2015 04:16
(1) Give power to a petty little man and this is the result.

(2) Real men do not whine to petty little men.
samvils samvils 4/11/2015 04:51
with wesley caliber i think they should not do that. based on the ratings wesley is clearly the favorite to win than his opponent, this decision is bad for us championship. chess is all about skill to win and not those people who are good in complaining,,,
birdgeo birdgeo 4/11/2015 04:52
Wesley was warned twice.
Why didn't he just ask if he could write on a separate piece of paper?
Geez, you'd think that if you were warned, and yet felt compelled to continue, that you'd ask for some clarification.
Kenneth Thomas Kenneth Thomas 4/11/2015 04:53
@tkokesh, you are quite right. Growing up, one of our top local players played the Wing Gambit, so when I saw Shirazi-Peters in Chess Life, it was burned permanently into my memory. Good catch!
JCates JCates 4/11/2015 05:20
I used to write notes to myself on the scoresheet as reminders. These things were usually like pre-round announcements. Arbiters in big opens often make announcements pre-round about things like 'Please remember not to use /x/ doors', or a reminder about a change in a round time, or the start of a side event, and so on, and I would record these in the margin because it was the closest paper at hand and it would be suspicious to bring EXTRA paper materials into the round with me.

Does this rule prohibit even this harmless behavior?
Karbuncle Karbuncle 4/11/2015 05:29
JCates, if you're writing those notes after your clock has started, I would say yes.
Kpawn Kpawn 4/11/2015 05:43
If I understand correctly that this 3rd time So was not writing on his scoresheet but on a different paper I believe there is some room for wondering if the forfeit was an excessive reaction. After-all, writing on a different paper could be interpreted as compliance with the previously stated wishes of the arbiter for So not to write on his scoresheet. I think to be precise, the rule being broken the 3rd time was a technically different one than he had been warned about the first two times and so, technically the arbiter may have overreacted by mistakenly classifying all three events as being the same rule.
GregTelepniovsky GregTelepniovsky 4/11/2015 05:58
Ridiculous ruling. Clearly So has done this elsewhere without issues. Arbiter should have clarified not to write on ANY paper. Second, spirit of the law is against analysis, clearly. What he wrote should have been considered, and I hope it will on appeal. 3rd, I wonder about Akobian's personality type: I would never point out such a thing to an arbiter, it's too petty. Concentrate on chess.
Finally, US championship needs So, not vice versa
saguni saguni 4/11/2015 06:01
Regardless of what I think, I saw Ivanchuck repeatedly tweeting "Justice is done! F**k Wesley and his notes," with similar f-bombs. I thought Chucky is a gentleman. Wesley must have rubbed him the wrong way and this seems like a coordinated attempt by some of the top players to get Wesley to stop taking "notes." Maybe they were jealous of his meteoric rise and looking for an excuse?
Yuri Yuri 4/11/2015 06:15
I am shocked, confused, and disappointed that Wesley, despite being warned twice by the arbiter, again flouted the rules, as though they did not apply to him. It is a sad, surreal day for chess, surely. But I applaud and thank Var for standing up for what was right, even when it was uncomfortable to do so. He did what he ought to have done.
Maturner Maturner 4/11/2015 06:25
Akobian certainly had a right to complain if he was disturbed by the note taking and if I was an arbiter I would have confronted So about it and told him about the rule and the fact that his opponent was being disturbed and also that he would be forfeited if his opponent did not withdraw the complaint. Seems too simple but unfortunately it appears that this is not the way it was handled because a forfeit should be the absolute last thing that an arbiter would want to have happen at a tournament.
NimzoCapa NimzoCapa 4/11/2015 06:41
I find it hard to believe that Ivanchuk would express his opinion in this fashion.
John Timmel John Timmel 4/11/2015 06:45
There's been some personal distractions for Wesley So at the US Championship.
I wonder how many top players have dropped out of higher education for their chess careers.
Captain Slag Captain Slag 4/11/2015 06:55
I think your question on whether or not a forfeit was warranted is somewhat of a loaded one. As it has been pointed out already by some the rules do mention the use of notes at the chess board under (USCF) tournament conditions (refer to Doctormove’s pots) so indeed if you follow those rules to their logical conclusion, the forfeit is warranted.
However I do not think it is simple as that (as it also as pointed out), for instant referring to rule 11.3a “During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard.”. People have quite sensibly asked what constitutes a note, my question on the other hand is what constitutes “uses of a note” as far as the context of the rule is concerned. I could be wrong but the context of the quoted rule is to prohibit any external information being disseminated by a player which could ultimately change the course of a game of chess. If my interpretation is correct, just how does writing motivation notes to yourself fall within such a rule? A player maybe as motivated as he or she can be but that does not stop one from losing chess games.
Perhaps the arbiter is right technically but then again that is usually the difference between cracking an egg with a spoon and smashing it with a sledge hammer….Simply bizarre.
bronkenstein bronkenstein 4/11/2015 07:27
Very strange behavior by So, and, based on detailed report about the incident, it seems that he was doing it many times earlier(!), including at least two previous times (followed by warnings from the arbiter) in this very tournament.

I expected him to appologize publicly, but instead he produced that strange Facebook message!? I have in mind the part "I did not know it is against the rules", this sounds disturbing knowing that he received multiple direct warnings only in tis tournament, and some more earlier.

PS What "controversy"?
eja616 eja616 4/11/2015 07:44
Hard to see how such petty incident (writing personal notes on a separate sheet) could lead to a game forfeiture. While it's important to enforce the rules, giving appropriate penalties for certain broken rules is just as important. Game forfeiture hardly seems appropriate in this case.
tom_70 tom_70 4/11/2015 08:02
I feel bad for Wesley So. He's got family members showing up to the tournament hall, making a scene and generally being a bunch of obnoxious , selfish a-holes. If they had any sort of respect or love for him, they would keep out the way and let him concentrate on the tournament. They are the ones costing him games, not his opponents.
MarkTrevorSmith MarkTrevorSmith 4/11/2015 08:11
Many people, over many years, have warned So that this behavior is illegal. His friend Shankland told him earlier in the tournament. Tony Rich told him twice and explicitly threatened forfeit. Of course we all sympathize with So, but he has proven himself either incapable of compliance or unwilling to comply.
frankieheng frankieheng 4/11/2015 09:19
Rules are rules. They are made to provide a consistent and level playing field for all players. If Wesley cannot follow the rules, then he deserves to be forfeited. Why should special privileges be accorded to a Wesley So? Nobody is indispensible. U.S. Championship does not need Wesley So. If So cannot comply, then he can return to the Philippines and eke out a living there.
Cyric Renner Cyric Renner 4/11/2015 09:24
Its hard to believe that with all the issues going on with SO right now that he doesn't withdrawal from this tournament, but seems determined to finish it. He so young, there will be plenty of other tournaments, he cannot win it anymore, so what is the point ? At this point he is just a big distraction, for himself and everyone else. He should withdrawal and take sometime off from chess and get his life sorted.

Whoever is managing him is giving him some really bad advice.
horius horius 4/11/2015 09:27
that's a nasty thing to do by AKOBIAN - there's other words to describe it, but..
Tom Zap Tom Zap 4/11/2015 09:43
So was twice warned about an activity that could be used by less scrupulous players than So for cheating Notes could be used as codes for calculations and game strategy and is banned for good reason.
Bob Tausworthe Bob Tausworthe 4/11/2015 09:55
I love that because So is a "celebrity" (as much as some one can be in US chess) he is the good guy and Akobian and the arbiter are the bad guys. If a player sees a rules infraction and doesn't report it they are an accessory. Akobian had an obligation to report it. The arbiter gave So multiple chances and then said if you do it again you will forfeit. The So did it again. Should the arbiter NOT forfeit him? That makes no sense.

Yes, this whole situation is a tragedy for US chess but not because the arbiter didn't do his job. It is not the same as the Rechevsky game where the arbiter was just a boob. Here he did everything by the book. It is a tragedy because it moves the focus from the games to this crud and will tarnish the victor's accomplishment because there were always be people that say "yes but he wouldn't have won if So hadn't got a bad deal".

Don't scapegoat the arbiter and Akopian. They weren't the one who didn't play by the rules.
iComeInPeace iComeInPeace 4/11/2015 10:37
blaaahhh blaaaaaaaaaaaaaah BLAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

unbelievable... nonsensical

play the game again, so against the spirit of combative chess...

was a silicon giant reading the notes and helping So?... no?! so????. uff