US Championships: Favourites escape

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/7/2021 – The US Championships, again taking place over the board, kicked off on Wednesday. The open section saw Ray Robson (pictured) and John Burke grabbing the early lead, while among the women Irina Krush, Katerina Nemcova, Ashritha Eswaran and Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova scored full points on the first day of action. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Robson and Burke score

A year after the pandemic forced the organizers of the US Championships to put together online tournaments, the strong national event returns to over-the-board chess in Saint Louis. Three days before the Russian Championships kick off in Ufa, chess fans will get to see the two strongest national tournaments in the world almost simultaneously.

Out of the top 10 players in the country, only Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky are missing from the lineup, with Lazaro Bruzon (currently number 11 in the national ranking) making his debut after finalizing his transfer from the Cuban federation.

Fabiano Caruana, Lazaro Bruzon

Fabiano Caruana got in trouble early against Lazaron Bruzon | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 1 saw the three highest-rated players needing to work hard to save half points. Fabiano Caruana got in trouble early in his game against Bruzón; Wesley So was worse but kept things under control against Jeffery Xiong; while Leinier Dominguez only managed to draw with black against Aleksandr Lenderman after 62 moves.

The winners of the day were Ray Robson and 2020 US Junior Champion John Burke. While Robson did not have much trouble making the most of Daniel Naroditsky’s subpar play, Burke survived a lost position before getting the full point against Dariusz Swiercz.

Swiercz missed his chance on move 24.


Here White needed to start with 24.axb5, when Black is in trouble no matter which way he captures back. The tactical idea that gives White the advantage is transferring the queen to a3, creating threats against the king while attacking the knight on e7.

Swiercz instead played 24.exf6, and after 24...Rxf6 25.axb5 cxb5 26.Qa3, Black can play 26...Qd6 keeping everything under control. Move order matters.

Burke would go on to win the game after his opponent misplayed again in an endgame with rook, bishop and knight against rook and two bishops.

Dariusz Swiercz, John Burke

Dariusz Swiercz and John Burke | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 1


All games


In the women’s section, Irina Krush (8-time winner) and Anna Zatonskih (4-time winner) are once again the top seeds, and are set to face a contingent of young rising stars eager to leave a mark. 18-year-old Carissa Yip is the third seed and the only player other than Krush and Zatonskih rated 2400 or above, while 2-time champion Nazi Paikidze arrives as the fourth seed — Paikidze won the event for the last time in 2018 and did not participate in the following two events.

Four players kicked off the event with a win. The biggest surprise was given by Katerina Nemcova, who beat Zatonskih with the white pieces in 31 moves. In a sharp position, the latter faltered decisively on move 28.


The best move for Black here is 28...Qb4, preparing to respond to 29.Nxf7 with 29...Qxd4+, and the connected central pawns give enough counterplay for the exchange. Instead, Zatonskih played 28...R7f6, which fails to 29.Nd3


Retreating knight moves are always difficult to foresee — 29...R6f5 30.Rxf5 Rf1+ 31.Rexf1 and Black resigned.

Katerina Nemcova

Katerina Nemcova | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Standings after round 1


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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