NIC #4: Shankland's sprint

by New In Chess
7/4/2018 – In the latest magazine issue #4 from New In Chess, you can find an in-depth story on the U.S. Championship by GM Alejandro Ramirez: "The tallest king In St. Louis". Sam Shankland's win kicked off a remarkable streak — in a matter of two months, he jumped from 2671 to 2727. He gained 59 Elo points in a span of just 60 days and raced to the rank of world number 27, jumping from being a strong grandmaster to a super elite player. NIC shares this excerpt from their feature story. Photo: Lennart Ootes

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The final sprint

The three last rounds were focused on only three people. Caruana, Shankland, and So as the outsider looking in. It was easy to predict that Shankland and Caruana would fight tooth and nail for every full point every game, but the outcome of the last rounds was amazing. ‘I’ve never been tied for the lead with three rounds to go, scored 2½/3 and not even shared first’, said an incredulous Caruana.

Things started off in a strange game between Shankland and St. Louis University’s Yaroslav Zherebukh. After winning a piece due to a mistake by his opponent, Shankland contained the counterplay and obtained a decisive advantage, which he let slip little by little until Zherebukh had a certain draw. Not finding it, he kept misplaying the endgame, and eventually lost it. Caruana was unable to break through Nakamura’s defences, and was lucky that Nakamura rejected the following combination:


After suffering for a while, Caruana misstepped and was forced into this position. Here Nakamura played 46...♖d8 and the game ended in a draw after 53 moves.

In a bullet game Nakamura finds 46...♕xe4, plays it and collects the full point. Nakamura finds the move and for some odd reason does not play it.

After 46...♕xe4 47.♕xe4 ♗xe4 48.♖xe4 ♘xb2 the passed pawn is impossible to stop. There are too many checks with the knight and White’s pieces are constantly getting forked. The only try is: 49.♔e2 ♘xc4! 50.♗c3 b2 51.♗xb2 ♘xb2. We reach this position basically by force. Caruana asked Nakamura after the game if he had not seen 46...♕xe4, to which he replied that he had, but that he thought that this endgame was unclear. That is baffling.

With two rounds to go, Shankland had established a half-point lead, but he had to face Onischuk with Black in the penultimate round. Besides Nakamura, Onischuk was certainly the most negative surprise of the event. Going from second place last year to a dismal 3/11 is hard to explain. Probably the truth is that everyone, even someone as strong and consistent as Onischuk, can have a bad tournament once in a while. Shankland was on fire, and despite missing a simple win in the middle of the game, he convincingly outplayed his opponent with no chances at all. 

Well, why am I telling you anything, here are the annotations by the winner!

Alexander Onischuk 0-1 Sam Shankland (annotated by Shankland)

Shankland pacing

Sam Shankland briefly glances at the game Robson-So as he places the playing room in full concentration during his game against Onischuk | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Meanwhile, also with black, Caruana evaporated Zherebukh, keeping the tension alive. Round 10 had a very curious statistic. Three players scored their only full point of the tournament: Xiong (over Lenderman), Liang (over Izoria) and Nakamura (over Akobian). If someone had predicted this before the event, with Nakamura being one of the players and Xiong coming from a 2800+ performance in his previous tournament, I would have been incredulous.

The last round was set, one more hurdle for Shankland: boy-wonder Awonder Liang, with White. As it was not unreasonable to expect that Caruana, also with White, would outplay Onischuk and take the full point (as indeed happened), Shankland needed a win.

Sam Shankland 1-0 Awonder Liang (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

Note: In New In Chess the same is annotated by Shankland himself

Shankland vs Liang

They both know Black is completely lost. Awonder Liang will soon resign. Sam Shankland patiently awaits the greatest moment in his career so far. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Finally US Champion! I had dreamt of this moment for as long as I could remember, and I was glad to play a strong final game to clinch the title, a 2700+ rating, $50,000, and the satisfaction of playing the best tournament of my career so far.


About New In Chess Magazine

New In Chess is read by club players in 116 countries.

  • 8 issues a year
  • 800 pages a year of the very best in chess
  • game annotations by the best players on the planet 
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The magazine has regular contributions from all the world’s best players: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Vishy Anand, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Sergey Karjakin, Veselin Topalov, Alexander Grischuk, Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan. Editor-in-chief is Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam.

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In issue 2018#4

NIC cover

The fourth issue of the year contains 108 pages of the best in chess, including:

Sam Shankland: The tallest king In St. Louis
Caruana, So or Nakamura, who would be the new US Champion? Well, none of them, as Sam Shankland claimed the title, pocketed $ 50,000 and finally crossed the 2700 ELO mark.

Magnus Carlsen: Hat-trick in Shamkir
‘Mediocre’ play proved good enough for Magnus Carlsen to win the Vugar Gashimov Memorial for the third time (with a 2884 performance).

Fabiano Caruana continued
Only four days after the Candidates in Berlin, Fabiano Caruana sat down to play ... Magnus Carlsen! The American won the Grenke Classic. Vincent Keymer (13) sensationally claimed the Grenke Open.

Nigel Short
Columnist Nigel Short explains why he is running for FIDE President.

Judit Polgar
Time-trouble is no good, Judit Polgar warns, but can produce fascinating chess.

And much more...

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New In Chess (NIC) was founded in 1984 and appears eight times a year. It is read by club players in 116 countries. A yearly subscription for eight issues costs €79.99.


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