US Championships: Time pressure

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/13/2021 – After drawing their direct encounter, Aleksandr Lenderman and Ray Robson remain in the shared lead of the US Championship. Meanwhile, Fabiano Caruana lost a second game in a row, this time against Sam Sevian. In the women’s event, Katerina Nemcova is now sharing the lead with Carissa Yip and Ashritha Eswaran. | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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Sevian defeats Caruana

Things are not going well for Fabiano Caruana in Saint Louis. Out of the six games he has played so far in the US Championship, he has lost twice, won once and escaped with half points from inferior positions in the rest. After losing to Daniel Naroditsky in round 5, the elite grandmaster was defeated by Sam Sevian on Tuesday. Since he is the clear rating favourite, his 2½/6 score has cost him 15.6 rating points so far, prompting him to fall to the third spot in the live ratings list, below Ding Liren.

Caruana is currently 1½ points behind co-leaders Aleksandr Lenderman and Ray Robson, who drew their direct encounter in round 6. Lenderman, playing black, out-prepared his opponent, who was on the back foot while markedly down on the clock — Robson is well-known for being a time-pressure addict, though. In the end, Robson found precise moves until getting a crucial half point.

Time pressure was also a factor in the game between Sevian and Caruana. Much like in the battle of co-leaders, a rarely seen line appeared on the board, with the rating favourite trying to get winning chances from the get go with the black pieces. Already deep in trouble, and with both players low on time, Caruana missed a couple of chances to put up more of a fight in a double-edged position.

Ray Robson

Ray Robson | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Caruana had riskily pushed his kingside pawns early on. Sevian responded actively, going for the correct 17.f4. After spending over 15 minutes, Caruana mistakenly pushed his d-pawn in the following position.

 

Sevian was expecting 17...Ra5, while the engines consider 17...Bd7 to be a strong move at this point. But Caruana went for 17...d5 and found himself down a pawn after 18.fxg5 Nxg3 19.Qxg3 Qxg5 20.h4 Qg7 21.Qxc7

 

Both kings look weak, but Black’s monarch is the more vulnerable one — and Black is a pawn down. Caruana played 21...d4, trying to open up some lines to get counterplay, to which Sevian responded with the logical 22.c4.

White was clearly better, but converting any position is tough when you are facing a top grandmaster. Caruana pushed his f-pawn down the board, already four pawns down after giving up more material on the queenside.

 

In a tense position, with both players low on time, there followed 30...f3 31.e6 fxg2 32.Bd3. The black pawn on g2 ended up serving as shelter for White’s king, and although Sevian played a couple of inaccurate moves shortly after, he managed to get what will surely be a memorable win against one of the strongest players in the world.

Sam Sevian, Fabiano Caruana

A tough game — Sam Sevian facing Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Standings after round 6

 

All games

 

The women’s championship saw two players scoring full points to catch up with former sole leader Katerina Nemcova. Carissa Yip bounced back from her round-5 loss by beating Anna Sharevich with the black pieces, while Ashritha Eswaran got the better of Megan Lee with white.

Lee was already markedly worse, but her 25th move led to a quick tactical shot that put an end to the game instantly.

 

25...b6 attacks the queen, but White can ignore that threat and go for 26.Nxc6. Black resigned before 26...bxc5 27.Nxe7+ appeared on the board.

The other winner of the day was Anna Zatonskih, who collected her first victory of the event by beating Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova. 

Ashritha Eswaran

Ashritha Eswaran | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 6

 

All games

 

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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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