US Ch: Caruana wins, but Nakamura leads

by Macauley Peterson
3/26/2019 – With a win over Timur Gareyev, Hikaru Nakamura (pictured) took sole lead in the US championship heading into the tournament's only rest day. But Fabiano Caruana is a mere half point behind after he scored his first full point in a classical game since October. Jennifer Yu leads the women's championship but yesterday she got a little help from Caissa the chess goddess. Despite her impressive 5½/6 score, she's also only a half point ahead, as Anna Zatonskih also won. | Photo: Justin Kellar

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The end of the no-win streak

Hikaru Nakamura notched his second win of this year's U.S. Championship, giving him the clear lead for the first time since he won the title in 2015.

After the sixth round, Fabiano Caruana appears on the list of winners for the first time as well, ending a classical winless streak going back to before his World Championship match in London. Perhaps the bit of ribbing from the World Champion provided that little extra boost of motivation the 26-year-old Caruana needed.

Caruana took on Xiong in an anti-Berlin line of the Ruy Lopez following the lead of Viswanathan Anand in his game against Ivan Cheparinov from the German League earlier this month (and Anand-Nakamura from the 2017 Saint Louis Blitz).

Caruana vs Xiong

Caruana's prior classical win was in October at the Chess Olympiad | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Xiong was forced to give up the exchange to alleviate the pressure against his kingside in the middlegame and the players reached this critical position.


You can play on the diagram above!

Xiong was evidently of the opinion that the c5-knight was taboo, because otherwise the d-pawn would force White to give up his rook, but in fact 41...e8? 42.♗xc5 d2 (not 43.a1? ♝c2) 43.a8+ d7 49.b6! prevents the pawn from queening due to the check on d8. Xiong tried 44...c6 and resigned after 45.a5 (45...d1♛ 46.♖c8+ ♚d7 47.♖d8+).

Caruana: "It's been a long time...over all I played quite well today."

The encounter between Hikaru Nakamura and Timur Gareyev promised some entertainment as both players are known for originality and a fondness for tactical skirmishes. In terms of the former, Nakamura took the lead as early as the third move: 1.f3 c5 2. g3 g6 3.c3. After 3...d5 4.g2 f6 5.d4 bd7 6.e5 b6 the players reached a position reminiscent of a fianchetto Grünfeld with reversed colours. 


In the Mega Database this position is already unprecedented, but looks better for White. During the middle game, Nakamura gradually built up a superior position.


White is clearly better. But the end came surprisingly fast as Black's queenside disintegrates: 28.xf6 exf6 29.xb6 e6 30. xa5 c5 31.xd5 de8 32.e3 g7 33.c7 1-0


Timur Gareyev finds himself in last place | Photo: Justin Kellar

Liang vs Akobian gets a nod for producing one of the most unusual positions we've seen lately.


"So close, yet so Var" (H/T IM Eric Rosen)

Awonder sealed his first win of the tournament, shrugging off the pawns with 42.xe2+ f8 47.xd2 e4+ 48.e2 and the a-pawn marches on. 1-0

The nominal top game of the sixth round was the only duel between two 2700s, Wesley So vs Leinier Dominguez. In another anti-Berlin, Dominguez took So down a line that the Filipino-American had twice played from the Black side already in 2019, locked the centre and castled to the queenside trying to keep his position solid. But So found a way to break through:


21.d4 and after 21...exd4 22.cxd4 cxd4 23.xd4 a6 24.b1 b4 So followed up with 25.c5 xd4 (the pawn can't be taken) 26.c6 + xc6 27.xa6, but Black escaped with his king to the kingside and exchanged down into an equal endgame.

So vs Dominguez

So-Dominguez | Foto: Lennart Ootes

Other games ended drawn as well. The fight between Aleksandr Lenderman and Ray Robson yielded a balanced queen ending...twice! 


After 39.b7 c1 40.b8 xb2 41.xb2 d1 two queens were gone and quickly replace but the evaluation of the position remained unchanged.

Results of Round 6


Standings after Round 6


All games


Commentary webcast

Four in a row for Tatev

All but one of the games in the Women's Championship ended decisively, a trend which has produced a very large spread between first and last place — already four points. Carissa Yip and Anna Sharevich drew in 76 moves.

Tatev Abrahamyan could celebrate a victory over seven-time U.S. Women's Champion GM Irina Krush. In a Sicilian Dragon, a frequently played position appeared on the board. 


Here, Black did not go for one of the standard moves 11...♜c8 or 11...♞e5, but tried the rarer 11...a5 and got a surprisingly good position after 12.0-0-0 xb3 13.cxb3 a5, when Abrahamyan thought for over 40 minutes on 14.h6. Both sides were attacking on opposite wings, but the game stayed level until move 39.


Here 38...b5 is the most precise. After (e.g.) 39.♕f2 Black plays 39...♜xd5 40.exd5 ♛c3+ and gives perpetual check. Instead, Krush dilly-dallied: 38...b5 39.f2 c5? (again taking on d5 was essential) and had to give up soon after 40.f7+.

Abrahamyan vs Krush

Abrahamyan vs Krush | Photo: Lennart Ootes

No fun for Feng

Leader Jennifer Yu won her fifth game, defeating Maggie Feng who slipped into a mating attack quite quickly as the time control approached, blowing a winning position. 


White played the careless 37.xc6? after which her position is beyond repair. With 37.gxh4 ♛xh4 38.♘e3, White would have retained chances. But in time pressure, suddenly Feng's king was stripped of its defences: 37...hxg3 38.fxg3 f4 39.c7 xg3 40.g1 d1# mate on the board! Here it is in real time: 

Maurice Ashley, Yasser Seirawan and Jennifer Shade with the 'play-by-play'

Results of Round 6


Standings after Round 6


All games


IM Lawrence Trent reviews U.S. Championship highlights:

Lawrence is live most Tuesdays at 18:00 CEST / 5 pm BST time / 12 Noon EDT

Andre Schulz contributed reporting


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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