US Ch: Dominguez catches Nakamura

by Alex Yermolinsky
3/29/2019 – Leinier Dominguez, playing in his first U.S. Championship, is now co-leader with Hikaru Nakamura. He took a small endgame plus and converted it to a full point against Sam Sevian in round eight. Nakamura and Dominguez are scheduled to play in Saturday's tenth round. Fabiano Caruana remains a half point back. In the Women's tournament Jennifer Yu extends to her lead to a full point after winning her third game in a row. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

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Caruana in pursuit

One look at the standings after seven rounds of play in the 2019 U.S. Championship was enough to confirm the status quo. The former 'Big Three' of Caruana, Nakamura and So are now joined by another perennial 2700+ rated player, Leinier Dominguez, and together they represent a monolithic force not to be challenged by mere mortals. Searching as hard as I could, I haven't been able to find one single game in St. Louis where a lower-rated player ever made a serious attempt at an upset. All they did was to defend from move 1. Some were able to save a draw, some not, but one thing was clear: Sam Shankland's 2018 heroics were not to be repeated.

Nakamura vs Shankland

Shankland has a disappointing 3½ from eight rounds | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Such were the words I wrote before the start of today's Round 8. I really hoped something would happen to force to delete that passage and come up with a more uplifting opening statement, but nothing of the sort took place.

Results of Round 8


Alright, I can understand that many spectators only follow the rating favourites, and view the rest of the field as also-rans. Let's look at the crosstable again and see how the top guys fared against one another.

Standings after Round 8


Guess what, so far it's all draws between them, albeit it could have changed in the following game.


I'm sure neither one of the two will be content with anything less than another Championship title. Fabiano and Wesley will try hard in the remaining games, but as it's said by sportscasters, they no longer control their destiny, so they must hope for Hikaru and Leinier to stumble.


Caruana looms large on 5 points | Photo: Lennart ootes

Hikaru Nakamura has so far played the best chess of all contenders, but today he couldn't extend his lead. Sam Shankland choose a sturdy line of the Slav, championed by Kramnik, which leads to a Queens Gambit Accepted structure with the isolated Queen Pawn. White's extra move a2-a4, does nothing to improve White's attacking chances because of the hole on b4, and the central breakthrough does seem like a logical choice. The problem was Sam's deep preparation which Hikaru wasn't able to put to the test.

Nakamura explained what he was up against after the game:

"There's a certain World Champion who has won a lot of games like this..." (referring to Carlsen)

The only win in round eight belonged to Leinier Dominguez, who was therefore able to catch Nakamura. Don't forget that these two are yet to face each other. [They will play in round ten -Ed.]


I must admit before the start of this tournament I had my doubts about Dominguez's form. Leinier has practically not played any chess in the past two years due to his move to the USA. Leaving the country of one's birth is never easy, and I wish Leinier and his family good health, professional success and happiness in their new homeland.

This loss must have been a bitter pill for Sam Sevian, who played the most interesting chess among the non-favourites. Sevian's three wins attest to that, but a couple of losses against the leaders cost him a chance to make a bigger statement.

Sam Sevian

Sevian with his game face on | Photo: Justin Kellar

All games


Commentary webcast

Changing of the guard?

Unlike the Men's event the 2019 U.S. Women's Championship may see a major changing of the guard. The 17-year-old Jennifer Yu is leading the field by a full point. Jennifer combines solid play with great tactical alertness, as seen from her latest victory.


Yu and co

Yu continues to impress | Photo: Justin Kellar

Giving chase is Anna Zatonskih, who will have White against Yu in round ten. Perhaps we're in for an exciting finish in both events!

Results of Round 8


Standings after Round 8


All games



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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