US Championships: Robson takes the sole lead, Yip beats Krush

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/10/2021 – Ray Robson (pictured) inflicted Jeffery Xiong’s third straight loss to take the sole lead in the US Championship. Five players stand a half point behind, including Leinier Dominguez, who defeated Sam Shankland on Saturday. In the women’s section, Carissa Yip joined Katerina Nemcova in the lead after beating 8-time champion Irina Krush. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Dominguez beats Shankland

Ray Robson became the first sole leader at the 2021 US Championship after inflicting Jeffery Xiong’s third consecutive loss at the Saint Louis Chess Club. The 26-year-old grandmaster from Guam has been a constant feature in the national championship, more than once showing that he can beat even the best in the world when in good form. In fact, in 2015 he finished in sole second place, a half point behind Hikaru Nakamura on 7½/11 points — Robson beat Wesley So (already rated 2788) in that edition.

No fewer than five players stand a half point back, though, including So, Fabiano Caruana and Leinier Dominguez. So and Caruana drew their round-4 game after the former missed a huge chance to get a clearly superior position and went for a perpetual check, later claiming that he did not want to lose on his birthday — the Filipino-born star turned 28 on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Dominguez joined the chasing pack after defeating Sam Shankland with the black pieces. Shankland, who won the US Championship in 2018, faltered in a difficult knight endgame to go into the first rest day with a -1 score.

US Chess Championship 2021

The Saint Louis Chess Club | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All eyes were put on the fight between top seeds Caruana and So at the start of the round. Although the game finished drawn after 26 moves, it was by no means a friendly ‘grandmaster draw’. Caruana, who got off to a wobbly start in the tournament, erred on move 18.


After spending almost 15 minutes, Caruana played the imprecise 18...e5 instead of the move that was being heavily analysed by the commentators — 18...f5. The world number 2 later confessed that he thought a lot about pushing the f-pawn, but decided on the sharp text move, which “has multiple problems and shows how off the mark I was”.

So responded with the correct 19.dxe5, but after 19...Re6 failed to find the strong 20.Rd1


There is no perpetual check (nor anything resembling a dangerous attack) for Black, since the king can escape via f1, while after 20...dxe5 21.Be4 White has a commanding position, with his rook ready to infiltrate along the d-file in many lines.

None of this was seen over the board, though, as So played 20.exd6 and a perpetual check followed. Caruana was expecting 20.Rg1, which is also tricky and inferior for Black, but he had not seen the all-but-winning transfer of the rook to the d-file.

Wesley So

Wesley So was paired up against the top seed on his 28th birthday | Photo: Lennart Ootes

About an hour later, Robson got his second win of the tournament, making the most of Xiong’s run of bad form. Xiong played a strange-looking line with black and faltered on move 12.


Black’s position already looks clumsy, but 12...Bxe5 was not the way to go here (12...Bc7 was better), as he opened up the position while behind in development and with his king in the centre. Robson quickly took advantage of the mistake by simplifying the position. Xiong made yet another strange decision eight moves later.


Robson was expecting for his opponent to place his knight on f6, when he will have to work hard to convert his advantage, while after Xiong’s 20...Kd8 White has 21.d6 and Black’s position looks rather claustrophobic to say the least. 

White continued to up the pressure until resignation came on move 28.

Ray Robson, Jeffery Xiong

Ray Robson versus Jeffery Xiong | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 4


All games


A 12-year-old Carissa Yip made her debut at the US Women’s Championship in 2016. Five years later, she is already the third highest-rated woman player in the country, and is sharing the lead in the standings table after beating 8-time champion Irina Krush. 

Admittedly, the youngster got lucky in her encounter against the multiple national champ, as Krush blundered horribly as early as on move 21.


21...Nb4 fails to the forcing 22.Rxc8+ Rxc8 23.Rd4 forking knight and bishop — Black does not even have 23...Nc2 as 24.Rxe4 defends the e3-bishop. Krush resigned.

Yip is now sharing the lead with Katerina Nemcova, currently a half point ahead of a rather surprising two-player chasing pack, consisting of Ashritha Eswaran and bottom seed Thalia Cervantes! 

Carissa Yip

Carissa Yip | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 4


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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