US Champ. Rd9: Abrahamyan takes lead in Women's

by ChessBase
4/24/2016 – The closer we approach the finish line, the higher the stakes are and nerves are claiming their first victims. Such was the case in the crucial encounter between Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan, saw the blunder of the tournament considering the impact on the standings. Nevertheless, it was a great round with many entertaining games. Round nine with GM commentary.

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Report by GM Christian Chirila

Photos by Lennart Ootes

2016 U.S. Championship

Xiong vs. So ½ - ½

This game was one of the first ones to finish, and rightfully so. Jeffery knew that trying to outprepare and outplay an elite GM is a difficult task and he decided to go for a drawing line against the wild Wesley So. Wesley knew the theory as well as the ensuing endgame and effortlessly drew his game against the talented junior. He is now trailing half a point behind Caruana and will need to produce a miracle in order to catch him.

Lenderman vs. Caruana 0-1

IM Lawrence Trent, Caruana's manager, watches the post-mortem

Fabiano explained after his game that he was not willing to take unnecessary risks. In comparison, Lenderman was ready for a fight and stated in the press conference that due to his tournament situation, he was willing to do anything in his power to get a positive result against the mighty Fabiano. Let’s see how his battlecry was expressed on the board!

[Event "2016 U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, Mo"] [Date "2016.04.23"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Lenderman, Aleksandr"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D31"] [WhiteElo "2618"] [BlackElo "2795"] [Annotator "Christian Chirila"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:36:27"] [BlackClock "0:41:07"] {As we will look back at the tournament, this round will definitely be a crucial one when assessing the key moments of the tournament. Both leaders were playing black and knew that a win would almost mean winning the title.} 1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6 6. e3 Bf5 7. g4 Be6 8. h4 Nd7 9. g5 (9. Bg3 Nb6 10. f3 Bd6 11. Bxd6 Qxd6 12. Qc2 h5 13. g5 Ne7 {1/2-1/2 (50) Nakamura,H (2764) -Caruana,F (2844) Baku 2014}) 9... h6 10. g6 f5 {In the press conference after his game, Nakamura said that after he saw this move he knew Caruana would win. This statement shows how confident these 2800 are that they can beat any 2600+ in an unbalanced position. Computer gives white as slightly better...} 11. Bg3 Ngf6 12. Nh3 Nb6 13. Nf4 Bd7 14. f3 O-O 15. Kf2 Rc8 {Black's king is much safer than his counterpart and Fabiano is preparing to open the center in order to take advantage of that} 16. Bd3 (16. a4 a5 { Now after c5 the b5 square will be weaker, this might be an improvement for white over the game} 17. h5 (17. b3 c5 18. Nb5 c4) 17... c5 18. Nb5 Kh8 19. Rc1 ) 16... c5 17. Kg2 (17. Nce2 {Had to be played} Bd6 18. dxc5 Bxc5 19. Nd4 (19. b3 Ne4+ 20. fxe4 fxe4) 19... Nc4 20. Bxc4 dxc4 21. Rc1 b5) 17... cxd4 18. exd4 Bd6 {As Caruana accurately pointed out in the confessional booth, White's king is chronically ill.} 19. Qb3 $2 (19. Qd2 Nc4 20. Bxc4 dxc4 21. Rae1 Qa5) 19... Kh8 $1 (19... Ne4 $5 {Was interesting also} 20. fxe4 Bxf4 21. e5 (21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. Qxd5+ Kh8 23. Rae1 (23. Bxf4 fxe4) 23... Bxg3 24. Kxg3 Qc7+) 21... Bxg3 22. Kxg3 Rc6) 20. Bb5 {After achieving an almost decisive advantage, Caruana turns his engine mode on and gives absolutely no chance to his opponent. As Lawrence Trent would put it, he became "unplayable".} (20. Qc2) 20... Bxf4 21. Bxf4 Nh5 22. Be5 Bxb5 23. Qxb5 Nc4 24. Rae1 Nxe5 25. Rxe5 (25. dxe5 d4 26. Rd1 a6 27. Qb4 Qe8 28. Qxd4 Qxg6+ 29. Kf2 Qg3+) 25... Qf6 26. Kf2 Qxg6 27. Rg1 (27. Ne2 Rc2 28. Rg1 Qf6) 27... Qf6 28. Rh1 Nf4 29. Ke3 Ng6 30. Rxd5 Nxh4 31. Rd7 (31. Rg1 f4+ 32. Kf2 Nf5 33. Rh1 Nxd4) 31... Qg5+ 32. Kd3 Nxf3 33. Rd1 Qg2 34. Rxb7 Rfe8 (34... f4 35. Re7 Rfd8 36. Re4 a6 37. Qb4 Rxd4+ 38. Rxd4 Ne5#) 35. Rc7 ( 35. Qxf5 Qd2+ 36. Rxd2 Ne1#) 35... Rb8 (35... Qg3 36. Rxc8 Ne1+ 37. Kc4 Rxc8+ 38. Kb3 Rb8) 36. Qc6 Red8 37. Kc4 Rxd4+ 38. Kc5 Rxd1 39. Nxd1 Qg1+ 40. Kc4 Qd4# {A dominant performance by Caruana that propels him to first place} 0-1

Onischuk vs. Nakamura ½ - ½

This was second to last game to finish in the men’s section—a high intensity battle which could prove decisive at the end of the event. Onischuk played a dubious opening and soon found himself in the position of defending a difficult endgame with a weak isolated pawn.

Nakamura threw everything he had at his opponent but failed to miss a tricky resource (49.Be1!) that allowed White to equalize instantly. He is now trailing but a full point and has recognized that his title chances are quite slim after today.

Robson vs. Shankland ½ - ½

This is a matchup that could prove extremely influential in the bid for the 2016 Olympic team that will travel to Baku later this year. Both Robson and Shankland are among the favorites to join the big three in their attempt to fight for the gold. We were all waiting for an exciting battle with each player stressing on their qualities and trying to take advantage of their opponents mistakes; unfortunately it was nothing of that sort, with a dull game and a dull result being concluded early on.

Shabalov vs. Akobian 0-1

Both these players were going to salvage part of their tournament by scoring an important win after a never ending wave of negative results. Shabalov was coming off back-to-back loses while Akobian was in search for his first win in the 2016 U.S. Championship. It was only one of them that would obtain what they wanted and today that was Akobian. After a fairly balanced opening and middlegame, the players entered an endgame that was slightly superior for Black, nothing more than that. Unfortunately for Shabalov, he was the first one to blink as he blundered with 28. Rb8 which allowed for a quick finish after 28…Rxf2. An important victory for Akobian, and a terrible loss for Shaba.

Kamsky vs. Chandra 1-0

Kamsky has been at the top of the American chess for almost two decades now and he surely came with a very motivated mindset in this game. On the other hand, the young Chandra still had the chance of completing his final GM norm, but only if he would have won all his remaining three games—a difficult task in a routine open tournament and an almost impossible job in the U.S. Championship. Kamsky decided to take an unambitious route and try to outplay his opponent from move one. And boy was he right! Chandra comfortably equalized from the opening but failed keep the pace and the veteran finally managed to impose his will on the American Junior Champion.

After struggling through much of the event, Gata finally chalked up his first win

Standings after nine rounds

2016 U.S. Women’s Championship

Zatonskih vs. Abrahamyan 0-1

After a topsy-turvy game, Tatev Abrahamyan beat top-seed Anna Zatonskih

All the fans following this event knew this was going to be a very important match in regard to the history of this championship. The two women were ready to provide us with the best chess entertainment, which unfortunately ended much too quickly.

Let’s see how the two ladies fared in this high pressure encounter.

[Event "2016 U.S. Women's Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, Mo"] [Date "2016.04.23"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Black "Abrahamyan, Tatev"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A40"] [WhiteElo "2470"] [BlackElo "2342"] [Annotator "Christian Chirila"] [PlyCount "48"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:24:12"] [BlackClock "0:20:41"] {This was the most important match in round nine of the 2016 Women's U.S Championship, but what a surprise result it was!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. Nf3 (4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 {leads to the Fianchetto Benoni}) 4... cxd4 5. Nxd4 d5 6. Bg2 e5 7. Nb3 d4 (7... Bb4+ 8. Bd2 dxc4 9. Bxb4 Qxd1+ 10. Kxd1 cxb3 11. axb3 Nc6 12. Bxc6+ bxc6 13. Nd2 {white has a better endgame}) 8. O-O Nc6 9. f4 exf4 (9... e4 {this is the main line, but Tatev might have been surprised and chose the less accurate continuation} 10. f5 g6 (10... a5 11. e3 a4 (11... d3 12. Nc3 {Black's pawns are strong but vulnerable}) 12. Nxd4 Bc5 13. Nxc6 Qxd1 14. Rxd1 bxc6 15. Rf1) 11. Bg5 Be7 12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. Bxe4 O-O) 10. Bxf4 Be6 11. Na3 Rc8 12. Rc1 (12. c5 d3 13. exd3 Nd4 14. Kh1 Nxb3 15. axb3 Bxc5 16. b4 Be7) 12... Be7 13. Nb5 Nh5 (13... O-O 14. N5xd4 Nxd4 15. Nxd4 Rxc4 16. Nxe6 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 Rxc1 18. Qxc1 Qxe6 19. Bxb7) 14. N5xd4 Nxd4 15. Qxd4 $4 {arguably the blunder of the tournament, given the standing situation of each of the players involved.} (15. Nxd4 {is forced and would have given white a serious advantage} Nxf4 16. Rxf4 O-O (16... Qb6 17. e3 O-O 18. Qe2 {is probably best try to keep some extra pieces on the board}) 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Rxf8+ Bxf8 19. Qxd8 Rxd8 20. c5 {White is simply a pawn up, and there is not much she can do about it in previous moves}) 15... Bc5 16. Qxc5 Rxc5 17. Nxc5 (17. Rfd1 Qc8 18. Bxb7 Qxb7 19. Nxc5 Qc6) 17... Qd4+ 18. Kh1 Qxc5 19. Bd2 O-O 20. b4 Qe7 21. Bf3 Nf6 22. a3 Rc8 23. c5 Bd5 24. Bf4 Qxe2 0-1

GM Maurice Ashley interviews Tatev after the game

Rex Sinquefield congratulates her for her result and new status as sole leader with two rounds to go

Foisor vs. Paikidze ½ - ½

This game was definitely a short-lived story. As we approach the final rounds of the championship, it is quite often that we see very calculated decisions taken by the players in crucial situations. This game was one that belonged to the cautious category, as Sabina tried to confused her opponent with a rare line of the QID.

Nazi was happy with a draw and went for the forced 12…Nd5 which lead immediately to a perpetual.

Krush vs. Yu ½ - ½

Young Jennifer Yu will be disappointed she missed a golden opportunity for her greatest scalp to date

This game was a high-intensity encounter that should have ended differently. The young Jennifer was in full control throughout the game and could have finished her opponent in more than one instance. Unfortunately for her, time trouble was a danger that she could not avoid and was ultimately the leading factor in the outcome of the game. After missing the easy 62...Re1+ that would have led to a massive advantage for Black, Jennifer had to convince herself that her chance slipped and had to accept the draw. Once again, Irina saves a completely losing position and maintains a striking distance to the leader.

Nemcova vs. Bykovtsev ½ - ½

Katerina has been having an oscillating event and today was one of the games that could have went terribly wrong if her opponent would have taken the given chances. White played a decent game but failed to correctly assess the middlegame and took the wrong decisions at the important junctures. There were plenty of winning moves for Black throughout the game but Agata was not able to find them and the game soon petered into an endgame.

Black was still having the upperhand but the lack of technicality was felt and Katerina managed to save a difficult position.

Gorti vs. Eswaran ½ - ½

The tension between two of the leading juniors in the country could have been felt all throughout the game. Unfortunately for the chess fans watching, that can’t be said about the moves played in this game also. The players were overly cautious and quickly stirred the game into a completely drawish opposite color bishop endgame.

Melekhina vs. Yip ½ - ½

Alisa has been having one of the worst tournaments of her life, and as she was coming into this game she knew the priority was to stop the bleeding and avoid another painful loss. The game was an extremely complex battle with the advantage switching sides quite often throughout the game. Alisa was first to have a clear middlegame advantage, but it was Yip that could have ended the game almost immediately if she would have played 46…Bxh3! Instead, she chose to win an exchange and Alisa was able to salvage a broken position. Finally the losing streak is over and Alisa can now focus on remediating her tournament situation in the last two matches.

Standings after nine rounds


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