US Championships: Caruana shares the lead, Yip secures women’s title

by André Schulz
10/18/2021 – With one round to go at the 2021 US Championship, a number of players still have a chance to become champions. Fabiano Caruana joined the leading pack with a win over Aleksandr Lenderman — he now shares first place with Sam Sevian and Wesley So. In the women’s tournament, 18-year-old Carissa Yip grabbed the title with one round to spare! | Photos: Lennart Ootes

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Caruana is back!

A look at the standings table, one round before the end of the event, shows how close the players in the US Championship are in terms of performance. Three players are in the lead after ten rounds with 6 points each, followed by three others who follow with 5½. Almost every player in the top half of the table can theoretically still become national champion and take home the first prize of 50,000 dollars.

The favourite to take the title nominally is Fabiano Caruana, second in the world rankings. For Caruana, however, the tournament did not go optimally. In a weak phase in the middle of the tournament, he lost two games in a row, but fought his way back to the top.

In the tenth round on Sunday, Caruana faced co-leader Alex Lenderman as the runner-up and moved into shared first place with a win.

Caruana started the game very ambitiously with the black pieces, as he led it into complications with an exchange sacrifice. After a not entirely precise continuation by the world number two, Lenderman was able to free himself and got counterplay. However, Lendermann did not make use of his opportunities and once again found himself on the defensive. And Caruana did not let his opponent escape again.

Lenderman, A (2607) - Caruana, F (2800)
ch-USA 2021 Saint Louis USA (10), 17.10.2021
 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 d6 5.Nc3 0–0 6.Nf3 c6 7.0–0 Bf5 [Leading to the main variation of the Fianchetto System in the King’s Indian Defence is 7...Nbd7 8.e4 e5]

8.Ng5 [After the more frequently played 8.Nh4, Black has good results. 8...Be6 9.d5 cxd5 10.cxd5 Bd7]

8...e5 9.d5 a5 10.e4 Bc8 11.h3 cxd5 12.cxd5 Na6 13.Be3 Bd7 14.a4 Rc8 15.Nf3 Rxc3

 

Caruana likes to find new ideas in this opening. This exchange sacrifice is well known from other openings, but you do not see it so often in the King's Indian.

16.bxc3 Nxe4 17.Qc2 Nec5 18.Nd2 Qc7 19.Ra3 f5 Black has the initiative with the pawn advantage in the centre.

20.f4 Re8 21.fxe5 Bxe5 22.Bf2 b5 23.axb5 Bxb5 24.Rfa1 Nd3

 

25.Qb1?!

[After 25.Rxa5!? there is a lot of calculation needed to continue: 25...Nxf2 26.Rxb5 (Not 26.Kxf2? Nb4 27.Qb1 Qc5+ 28.Kf3 Qxc3+ followed by mate.) 26...Qa7 27.Nf1 (Not 27.Kh2? f4–+) 27...Ne4+ 28.Kh1 (28.Kh2? Nxg3 29.Nxg3 Qe3–+) and Black probably has nothing better than 28...Nf2+ with perpetual check and a draw.]

25...Nab4 26.Rxa5 [There is a nice finish after 26.cxb4? Nxf2 27.Kxf2 Bd4+ 28.Kf3 Be2+ 29.Kf4 Qe7 30.g4 g5+ 31.Kxf5 Qf6#]

26...Qxc3 Black has now clearly grabbed the initiative.

27.Be3 Bd4 [Stronger was 27...Bxg3!? which might be followed by 28.R1a3 Qe5 29.Nf1 f4 30.Bb6 f3 31.Bxf3 Qf4 32.Rxb5 Qxf3 and White still has some problems.]

28.Bxd4 Qxd4+ 29.Kh2 f4 30.g4 Re2 31.Ra8+ Be8 [After 31...Kg7? the tide turns: 32.R1a7+ Kh6 33.g5+ Kxg5 34.Nf3+]

32.Qg1 Qb2 33.Nf3 Kf8 34.R1a7 White has survived the worst and now also got counterplay with his rooks.

34...h6?! [34...Nxd5=]

 

35.Rb7 [The engine suggests 35.g5!? and if 35...h5 then 36.Rxe8+ Rxe8 37.Qb6+– with a potentially victorious attack.]

35...Ne5 36.Kh1 Nxf3 37.Bxf3 Re5 38.Rc8? [38.Qa1!? forces the exchange of queens and reliefs White’s position, since 38...Qf2 fails to 39.Rxe8+ Kxe8 40.Qa8#]

38...Qd2 Threatening Re1.

39.Rc1 After retreating the rook, White is again on the defensive. [39.Qg2!?]

39...Re3 [39...Nd3 40.Rf1 Re3!?]

40.Rf1 Nd3 41.Qg2 Qc3 42.Qh2 g5 White can now no longer free himself from his opponent’s grip.

43.Bg2 Ne5 44.Rbb1 Bf7 45.Rbc1 Qd4 46.Rcd1 Nd3 47.Rd2 Kg7 48.h4 Qc4 49.Rfd1 Ne5 50.hxg5 hxg5 51.Rd4 Qc3 52.Qg1 Nxg4 53.R1d2 Qc8 54.Qa1 Qh8+ 55.Kg1 Qh2+ 56.Kf1

 

56...Rf3+ A nice and memorable finish to a thrilling battle.

57.Bxf3 Ne3+ 58.Ke1 Qg1+ 59.Ke2 Qxa1 0–1

Game over

The penultimate round brought two more decisive games. Dariusz Swiercz defeated Lazaro Bruzon, and the Cuban thus fell to the last place in the table, while Sam Shankland won his game against Daniel Naroditzky. The top match between Sam Sevian and Wesley So, who formed the trio of co-leaders with Lenderman before the round, ended in a draw.

There are now three players in the lead before the final round: Caruana, Sevian and So. 

Wesley So with his foster mother Lotis Key

Standings after round 10

 

All games

 

Yip wins it all

Carissa Yip secured victory in the 2021 US Women’s Championship with one round to spare after beating IM Nazi Paikidze in the penultimate round. With her 8 points after 10 rounds and she has a point-and-a-half lead, which makes it impossible for anyone to catch her. Irina Krush and Begim Tokhirjonova are in shared second place on 6½ points.

Carissa Yip

Standings after round 10

 

All games

 

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