US Champ. Rd8: Crowded leaderboards

by ChessBase
4/23/2016 – With tension and fatigue extracting their toll, the leaderboards have become jumbled. There are two leaders in the US Championship and a three way tie in US Women’s Championship. Nakamura is making a strong comeback and he is now only half a point behind the leaders, while Zatonskih joins leaders Paikidze and Abrahamyan in the Women's. Round eight with GM analysis.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Report by GM Christian Chirila

Saint Louis Chess Club (photo by Austin Fuller)

2016 U.S. Championship

Caruana vs. Robson ½- ½

Robson showed his preparation was up to 2800 standards (photo by Austin Fuller)

Fabiano was coming into round eight as the clear favorite, and his final rounds schedule suggests him as the main favorite to strip Naka off his title. One last big test that he had to pass was the Robson exam.

Unfortunately for him, Ray came off guns blazing and used an incredible preparation to equalize and ultimately force Fabiano to go for a sacrifice that led to a perpetual. Let’s give this game a closer look and get a clear idea of how you can outprepare a 2800!

[Event "2016 U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, Mo"] [Date "2016.04.22"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Robson, Ray"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2795"] [BlackElo "2663"] [Annotator "GM Christian Chirila"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "1:23:48"] [BlackClock "1:30:56"] {A thrilling encounter between once of the leaders and the runner-up, with Caruana clearly being the favorite going into this game. Up until this point the second ranked player in the world won all of this games as white and was surely looking forward to keep that victorious streak going. Let's see how the game fared!} 1. e4 e6 {The French makes another appearance in the elite games, we can arguably say this is the opening of the tournament!} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Qb6 9. Qd2 Qxb2 {this move leads to the longest and most forced line of this variation. A line in which black is supposed to be fine, but the theoretical knowledge required to play it is not trivial} 10. Rb1 Qa3 11. Bb5 (11. Ncb5 Qxa2 12. Rd1 (12. Rb3 Kd8)) 11... Nxd4 12. Bxd4 a6 13. Bxd7+ Bxd7 14. Rb3 Qe7 15. Rxb7 Qd8 {a line played by Shimanov, a colleague of Robson at Webster! Coincidence?} (15... Qh4+ { is the main line} 16. Bf2 Qd8 17. Bb6 Qc8 18. Rc7 Qd8 19. Qd4 Ba3 (19... Rc8 20. Rc6) 20. Nb1 Be7 21. c4 Rc8 22. Rb7 Bb4+ 23. Kf2 Qxb6 24. Rxb6 Bc5 25. Qxc5 Rxc5 26. cxd5 {white enjoys a risk free endgame. Players have stopped playing this line for black due to the difficult defensive task ahead}) 16. O-O Rb8 ( 16... Qc8 17. Rfb1 Bc6 18. R7b3 Be7 19. f5 $1 exf5 20. Ne2 Bb5 21. Nf4 Bg5 22. Rg3 {1-0 (28) Brkic,A (2562)-Martinovic,S (2537) Porec 2014}) 17. Rxb8 Qxb8 18. f5 (18. Qe3) (18. Rb1 Qc8 (18... Qc7 19. Qe3) 19. Qe3) 18... Qc8 {Robson was blitzing out his moves and was surely still in his preparation. Outpreparing any opponent is difficult, outpreparing the number 2 in the world is a different animal} 19. f6 (19. Qe3) (19. Rb1) 19... gxf6 20. exf6 (20. Rxf6 h5 21. Rf3 Qc4 22. h3 Be7 23. a3 Rg8 (23... Bxa3 $6 24. Ne4 dxe4 25. Rxa3 Rg8 26. Rb3 {1/2-1/2 (49) Grischuk,A (2792)-Agdestein,S (2628) Stavanger 2014}) 24. Ne2 h4 25. Rc3 Qa4 26. Rb3) 20... Qc4 21. Qf4 Rg8 {black was still in his preparation, Caruana had already spent almost an hour up to this moment} 22. Nxd5 $5 {an experienced decision based on the time situation and the familiarity with the position that his opponent was showing, an interesting try to keep more pieces on the board would have been. Now white is going for a perpetual as he realizes black's preparation has been a crucial factor and a potential time trouble could be fatal} (22. Nd1 Qxc2 (22... Bh6 23. Qb8+ Qc8 24. Qb6 Qc6 25. Qb8+ Qc8 26. Qa7) 23. Ne3 Qc6 24. Qb8+ Bc8 (24... Qc8 $2 25. Rb1 Ba3 26. h3 Kd8 27. Ng4) 25. Qb1) (22. Rb1 $6 Bc8 $1 {black's idea is to go Kd7-Bd6 and claim an advantage due to his bishop pair and potential attack on the white king}) 22... exd5 23. Re1+ (23. Qe5+ Kd8 24. Qb8+ Bc8 25. Bb6+ Kd7 26. Qa7+ Kd6 (26... Kc6) 27. Qxf7 Rxg2+ 28. Kxg2 Qg4+) 23... Kd8 24. Qb8+ Bc8 25. Qa7 (25. Bb6+ Kd7 26. Qa7+ Kc6 (26... Kd6 27. Qxf7 Rxg2+) 27. Qc7+ (27. Qxf7 Rxg2+ 28. Kxg2 Qg4+ 29. Kh1) 27... Kb5 28. a4+ Kb4 29. Qxf7 Rxg2+ 30. Kxg2 Qg4+) 25... Be6 (25... Bd6 26. Re7 $1 {only move} (26. g3 $2 Bb7 $1 27. Re3 Qb4 ) 26... Rxg2+ 27. Kxg2 Bh3+ 28. Kf3 Qf1+ 29. Bf2 Qd1+ 30. Ke3 Qc1+ 31. Kf3 Qf4+ 32. Ke2 Bg4+ 33. Kf1 Bh3+ 34. Ke2) 26. Bb6+ Kc8 27. Qa8+ Kd7 28. Qb7+ Kd6 29. Ba7 (29. g3 $5 d4) (29. Qb8+ Kc6 30. Qc7+) 29... Rxg2+ 30. Kxg2 Qg4+ 31. Kh1 Qf3+ 32. Kg1 Qg4+ 33. Kh1 Qf3+ {An impressive preparation by Robson helps him annihilate one of the most dangerous players in the world. The fight at the top is definitely heating up as we enter the last 3 rounds of the 2016 U.S. Championship!} 1/2-1/2

So vs. Onischuk ½- ½

Wesley chose to test Onischuk in the same line Caruana defeated him just a couple of round ago. Onischuk boldly accepted the challenge and repeated the same move, he probably had some serious improvement over his previous loss, and So decided to deviate first by playing 8.d4. Onischuk knew the variation and did not stumble in his way to an inferior, but holdable endgame. Wesley never really had a chance for a serious advantage and misses his chance to surpass Caruana in the standings and become the sole leader of the tournament.

Shankland vs. Xiong ½- ½

A slightly out-of-form Shankland decided to not tempt fate (photo by Austin Fuller)

This was a fairly uneventful game between the revenge seeking Shankland and one of the biggest sensation of the tournament, the young Jeffery Xiong (who has yet to taste defeat). As much as Shankland wanted to win, he also knew that his form is not at its peak and will not be a wise decision to go all-in against an ice cold Xiong that would penalize any inaccuracy. In an attempt to keep things down low and hopefully take out Xiong out of his preparation, Shankland opted for the Trompovsky, an opening that has not been seen in the U.S. Championship very often. Xiong played one of Kramnik’s main weapons, a strategically sound option that allows White to get a better structure in exchange for the bishop pair.

I myself played this line a few times as Black and never had any problems to prove the dynamic prospect of my bishops. The exchange spinning wheel made a natural appearance and the pieces started falling off the board at the speed of light. By move 30 there were only one pair of light pieces left on the board, the players agreed to a draw soon after the time control.

Akobian vs. Kamsky ½ - ½

Akobian and Kamsky both have had subpar events but this was one game to prove that it was everything a fluke, and their class had to be respected under any circumstances. Akobian chose a rare line in the KID by playing 6.g4!? Black had quite an interesting idea of combating White’s peculiar set-up with a combined attack in the center and on the queenside. Var managed to contain Black’s initiative and obtained a strategically better position, unfortunately for his he left himself little time and had to complete the last 20 moves in less than two minutes. Var should have taken the sacrifice with 17.Bg4! after which extreme complications arise, but they all seem to end up favorably for him. Instead he chose a more dull approach that did not paid off. Kamsky showed his resilient nature and the game ended after the 50th move.

Chandra vs. Lenderman 0-1

Lenderman showed why he is one of the most theoretically feared guy in the field. He wisely chose a Sicilian offbeat line that transitioned into a Pirc type of structure with the one improvement for Black that the White square bishop gets out and the “c” pawns are off the board, which gives his the important c6 square for the knight. Black easily equalized and was even better, but suddenly he chose the wrong plan and in three moves he was already almost losing.  

Aleksander Lenderman scored his first win in round eight (photo by Austin Fuller)

Luckily for Lenderman, Chandra is not in best shape and could not find the win starting after 33.Qe5! followed by Bxc5 sacrificing the piece and completely destroying Black’s king shelter. Instead, the National Junior champ allowed his opponent to get back into the game and event obtain a superior knights endgame. Lenderman had a dangerous passed pawn on the “b” file, and in Chandra’s second time trouble he managed to promote the pawn and get his first win of the tournament.

Nakamura vs. Shabalov 1-0

The Kingside Diner (photo by Austin Fuller)

Nakamura obtained an important advantage out of the opening but failed to spot a few resources and allowed Black to get back into the game. In the ensuing materially unbalanced position, Nakamura managed to outsmart his opponent and place enough pressure that he would ultimately crack. Let’s give this game a closer look and see where both these players could have improved their performance.

[Event "2016 U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, Mo"] [Date "2016.04.22"] [Round "8.3"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Shabalov, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B42"] [WhiteElo "2787"] [BlackElo "2528"] [Annotator "GM Christian Chirila"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "1:05:45"] [BlackClock "0:26:35"] {Nakamura has a clear goal in mind, he needs to defend his title at all costs despite his slow start. Two rounds ago he was 1.5p behind the leaders and only a devoted fan would have placed him in the title contention. Now he is only half a point behind and his chances are resurfacing. Never count out the defending champion!} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O Qc7 7. Qe2 d6 8. c4 g6 9. Nc3 Bg7 10. h3 {this is a very rare line (only 12 games in the database) but one in which White scores over 70%. A stat that Nakamura was surely aware} O-O 11. Rd1 (11. Nf3 Nc6 12. Bf4 Nd7 13. Rac1 Nde5 14. Rfd1) 11... Nfd7 12. Nf3 Nc6 13. Be3 Nde5 14. Rac1 Qe7 (14... Rb8 15. Bb1 Nxf3+ (15... Rd8 16. Nxe5 Nxe5 17. b3) 16. Qxf3 Ne5 17. Qe2 Nxc4 18. Bf4) 15. Bb1 Bd7 (15... f5 {immediately would have been interesting} 16. exf5 gxf5 17. Nh2 Bd7 18. f4 Nf7 19. Nf3 Kh8 20. Bf2) 16. Nh2 f5 17. f4 Nf7 {Nakamura got what he wanted out of the opening. A complex middlegame in which white's better structure and piece placement should play an important role} 18. Qd2 Be8 19. Nf3 Rd8 20. exf5 gxf5 21. Bf2 (21. g4 $5 Nh6 22. Bb6 (22. Qg2 Bg6 23. g5 Nf7) 22... fxg4 23. Ng5 Bg6 24. Bxg6 hxg6 25. Bxd8 Rxd8 26. hxg4 Nxg4 27. Qe2) 21... Rc8 22. Re1 Qf6 23. Qe2 Ncd8 24. Bh4 Qh6 25. Be7 Bd7 (25... Qxf4 26. Bxf8 Bxf8 (26... Kxf8 27. Nd5 $1 {would have been decisive} Qg3 28. Bxf5) 27. Nd5 Qh6 28. Bxf5 Bc6 29. Nb6) 26. Bxf8 Bxf8 27. Qf2 $6 {A misjudgement which upset Nakamura quite seriously. He confessed after the round that he should have given up the c pawn and not the f pawn} (27. Qd2 $1 Rxc4 28. Ne2 Rxc1 29. Rxc1 {black does not get the same counterplay}) 27... Qxf4 28. b3 Bg7 {now black's pieces are starting to feel quite comfortable} 29. Ne2 Qh6 30. Rcd1 Nc6 31. Qb6 Nfe5 $2 (31... Ncd8 {defending the pawn was necessary, it is never easy to move back with a piece you just moved} 32. Kh1 Bc6 {with a very complicated position. This position is vey much one in which whoever makes the first committal move will get into trouble}) 32. Nh2 (32. Ned4 $1 Nxf3+ 33. Nxf3 Bc3 34. Qxb7 Rd8 35. Re2) 32... Bf8 33. Qxb7 Be7 (33... Qe3+ $1 34. Kh1 Qc5 35. Qxa6 (35. Nf4 Rb8 36. Qxa6 Nd4) 35... Nb8 $1 36. Qb7 Bc6 37. Qxc8 Bxg2+) 34. Kh1 Kh8 35. Ng1 Rg8 36. Nhf3 Be8 37. c5 Ng4 38. Rd2 dxc5 39. Bxf5 Qxd2 $4 { a terrible blunder on the last move before the time control} (39... exf5 40. Rxe7 Nxe7 41. Qxe7 Nf6 $1 {its important to reroute the N towards e4} 42. Rd8 ( 42. Qxc5 Ne4 43. Qe5+ Qg7 44. Qxg7+ Rxg7 45. Rd4 Ng3+ 46. Kh2 Nf1+) 42... Ne4) 40. Nxd2 Nf2+ 41. Kh2 Bd6+ 42. g3 Bxg3+ 43. Kg2 Ne7 44. Bxe6 1-0


Standings after eight rounds

2016 U.S. Women’s Championship

Abrahamyan vs. Krush ½ - ½

It was a titanic battle, with chances for both players, but in the end drew (photo by Lennart Ootes)

This battle was definitely the crucial one going into round 8 of the U.S. Women’s Championship as two of the three leaders were fighting against each other to maintain the edge over their competition. The game started quite badly for Tatev who quickly got into a worse position against the defending champ. Irina started her slow grind and looked as if she will be emerging victorious from this “championship” round.

The structural advantage and piece domination should have been decisive for Krush but ultimately she erred badly by playing a series of moves that diminished her advantage to the point where she actually felt endangered by Tatev’s initiative. If White would have played 40.Bf8! it is not clear whether Black would have been able to survive in the ensuing endgame. Draw and Tatev must be relieved to escape Krush’s torturous program.

Paikidze vs. Nemcova ½ - ½

Nazi Paikidze has been having a dream event, but has now been caught up by both Abrahamyan
and Zatonskih. (photo by Lennart Ootes)

Paikidze was looking to take the sole lead going into the final 3, Nemcova on the other hand was surely not complacent with a draw and would have liked to get the full point in order to start eyeing the top spots.

Nazi chose to follow the main lines this time around and picked the Catalan as her weapon of choice, but Nemcova appeared to be the better prepared player. Despite the opening failure, Nazi slowly started to outplay her opponent but failed to capitalize on her technique when she missed 26.Nxc6! Even after the game continuation, Nazi was still better and should have tortured her opponent for a longer time. Instead she chose a dubious plan and failed to spot Black’s cute 49…Rxc6! A move that sealed the draw and kept the standings up top unchanged.

Eswaran vs. Zatonskih 0-1

After a slow start Anna Zatonskih has caught up with the leaders (photo by Lennart Ootes)

A French on the board. Zatonskih came very well prepared to this game and managed to fully equalize as soon as move 10. She had enough dynamics in the position to balanced her isolated pawn on the “d” file and soon her opponent decided to give a pawn in order to activate her forces. Unfortunately for White, this was not a very witty sacrifice and Zatonskih quickly increased her advantage through a series of well timed tactics. Anna accurately converted her gains and Eswaran will once again have to go back to the drawing board and try to salvage her mediocre event.

Zatonskih on the other hand maintains her high tempo and joint the leading pack with three more round to go.

Yip vs. Foisor 0-1

Sabina is slowly getting in her groove! After a slow start and a few disappointing
performances she now seems like a new player. (photo by Lennart Ootes)

Carissa is coming off a couple of loses and seems to have slowed down after her furious start. If the Berlin is nowhere to be see these days, the French is making an appearance every round, generally in more than one game. The players followed one of the main lines of the 3.Nd2 French but Sabina seemed to have outprepared her younger opponent and equalized skillfully out of the opening. Sabina tried to complicate matter but her younger opponent managed to maintain the balance and even threaten to get an advantageous position. Unfortunately for her, it was Sabina who found a nice pawn sacrifice with 25…e3! which unleashed the dynamics of her pieces and placed Carissa under tremendous pressure. The youngster was not able to hold and blundered badly with 32.Rad1 which allowed Sabina to pin the knight decisively and win a full piece. Soon after, it was game over!

Bykovtsev vs. Gorti 0-1

Akshita Gorti has been the most uncomrpmising player of the event, with three wins, five losses,
and no draws after eight rounds. (photo by Austin Fuller)

The two juniors decided to play one of the sharpest line of the, you guessed it, French defense (self-proclaimed most popular opening of the U.S. Championships). It was Akshita who presumably forgot her preparation and played the dubious 17…Qf6 but in such a complex position is difficult to harshly condemn a natural looking move just because the engines don’t like it.

Agata’s 19.h4 was a difficult move to understand, as is closing the queen’s path back home, and so were her following moves. Akshita quickly finished her development and started a vicious pawn storm in the center, while keeping the opponent’s queen entrapped on the h file. Agata could not find an active plan and had to resign when her opponent’s second queen made an appearance on the board.

Yu vs. Melekhina 1-0

When you lose a game in an open tournament you usually go back to the drawing board and play an accessible opponent that will allow you to come back and restore your confidence. That is not the case in the U.S. Championships when every round you are playing the best players in the country. This has been the case for Alisa’s decline and has been quite heartbreaking to witness. Jennifer chose to start the game with 1.c4 and the players soon entered a topical line of the English opening in which White maneuvers their pieces in order to take advantage of the weakened d5 square. Alisa must have been inspired by Nemcova’s previous game in which she started an early attack with h4-h5, but this time around Jennifer knew what to expect and prepared her game plan thoroughly. Alisa took some bad decisions, in particular recapturing on e5 with the f pawn, which allowed her opponent to obtain a large advantage. Despite that, Jennifer did not handle the complications well and blundered with 23.Nd7?? This could have been a turning point for Alisa’s tournament but she failed to play the winning move 23…Rxf1! Instead she played a losing move and had to resign only a few moves later. Another disappointing result for Alisa who has played very decent games so far but failed to give her best during the critical moments.

Standings after eight rounds


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.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register