US Championship: Shankland in the lead

by André Schulz
4/24/2018 – Sam Shankland, after a big win Monday over Varuzhan Akobian, is in the sole lead with five rounds to go. Fabiano Caruana caught up with Wesley So after posting his third win of the tournament and the pair are in second place heading into the lone rest day. So drew his game with Zviad Izoria. Annie Wang is on | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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"I think we both completely deserved to lose"

It's halftime at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis! In the open championship the man to beat right now is none of the Elo favourites, but Sam Shankland. The 26-year-old defeated Varuzhan Akobian in yesterday's sixth round, with the black pieces.

Shankland chose to play in a classical version of the Nimzo-Indian defence with an early d5, followed by dxc4, and combined with the manoeuvre b6 and Ba6, which Garry Kasparov first essayed 20 years ago in a rapid match against Vladimir Kramnik. In recent years, the line has been used sporadically, although notably, Anand played it at the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Riyadh...against Akobian! This game must have caught Sam Shankland's eye as he prepared for Monday's game.


In contrast to predecessors, Shankland did not exchange queens here with 10...Qc6 the ladies, but prefered kingside prophylaxis: 10...h6, and Black received a very comfortable game.


Shankland and Ashley

Shankland talking to Maurice Ashley on the live webcast | CCSCSL on YouTube

Sam Shankland, who's fighting a cold, was happy with his result but very critical about his chess. "If I play the rest of the tournament as today I don't think I will stay at the top for very long. I mean I think this game was absolutely disgraceful".

Trying to stay objective about his play and focused on the upcoming games, Shankland was nevertheless being unnecessarily hard on himself. As Maurice pointed out besides not seeing ...Rxf7 it was a pretty good game, which is obviously true.

Fabiano is back in the hunt and showed great form with a nice victory in his beloved Petroff Defence against Ray Robson. Caruana showed superb understanding and preparation in the early stages of the game. Throughout the opening he could be seen strolling around the playing hall, checking out the other boards and enjoying a smoothie while seemingly very comfortable and relaxed.


Caruana going for a walk in round four | Photo: Austin Fuller


Robson has lost three of his last four games. Caruana has white against Akobian next.


Robson also lost with white to Caruana in the 2017 US Championship | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Nakamura missed a good opportunity to catch up, not showing his best by, in his words, "missing some tactics somehow" in his game with Jeffery Xiong.

In the Vienna game, White was doing well. In diagrammed position, Nakamura gave up the advantage with 19.Rxb4


After, for instance, 19.Nb3 Bxb7 20.Bxb7 Nc6 21.Nxa5 Nxa5 White would stand better. 

"Somehow I just missed this skipped my mind somehow — I should see that move", Nakamura admitted after the game.

Wesley So could not beat Zviad Izoria's unusual opening (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 a6 !?). The games Zherebukh vs Lendermann and Onischuk vs Liang also ended in draws.

Today is a rest day, in the upcoming round on Wednesday, Sam Shankland will have the white pieces and facing the defending US Champion Wesley So. That should be an exciting game as So looks to add to his 2-0 lifetime record against the tournament leader.

Standings after six rounds


All games of round six


Women's Championship

Setting the pace on the women's side is 15-year-old Annie Wang. Yesterday she defeated Dorsa Derakshani, celebrating her fourth full point win in the tournament. Nazi Paikidze kept up with Wang for a while but in round six she dropped half a point to Maggie Feng. In third place is Irina Krush, who won with black against Anna Zatonskih, her former long-time rival in the fight for the title. Tatev Abrahamyan won against Akshita Gorti, Anna Sharevich prevailed over Sabina Foisor and Jennifer Yu scored a full point against Rusudan Goletiani. 

Annie Wang

Annie Wang is in the clear lead | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after six rounds


Games of round six


Commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley | CCSCSL on YouTube

Arne Bracker contributed to this report

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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