U.S. Championships: Niemann wins, claims he will not back down

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/6/2022 – Hans Niemann and Sam Sevian kicked off the U.S. Championship with wins, as they defeated Christopher Yoo and Elshan Moradiabadi in the first round of the 14-player event. True to his style, Niemann was laconic in the post-game interview, noting that “chess spoke for itself” and that the game was so beautiful he did not even need to describe it. In the women’s event, four players scored full points, including Alice Lee, who is playing her first national championship. | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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Sevian and Niemann early co-leaders

Defending champion Wesley So and former World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana head the field in the 2022 edition of the U.S. Championship. A bit behind rating-wise stands Levon Aronian, who is playing his first national tournament in U.S. soil. The tournament can only be compared with the Russian Superfinal in terms of pure chess strength among national championships, and this year features a 14-player lineup which has Hikaru Nakamura as the big absentee.

A number of young players are also in the mix, including Hans Niemann, the 19-year-old who has recently made headlines following Magnus Carlsen’s sudden withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup. He and Sam Sevian, aged 21, won their games in the first round to take an early lead at the Saint Louis Chess Club.

Sevian defeated Elshan Moradiabadi after the latter faltered in the following position with rooks and bishops of opposite colours.

 

It is all about the initiative in this kind of positions. Black’s best alternative here was 47...Ra1+ 48.Kg2 Rg1+ 49.Kf3 Bxg5, although even here White has a small plus in the sharp position. Instead, Moradiabadi’s 47...Rf2 gave White a couple of key tempi to gain a strong initiative. Sevian took his chance and went on to score his first full point of the event. 

Sam Sevian, Elshan Moradiabadi

Sam Sevian and Elshan Moradiabadi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Earlier than the aforementioned game, Niemann defeated Christopher Yoo with the black pieces in brilliant, positional fashion. 

 

Yoo, aged 15, had placed his rook on e5 five moves earlier. Niemann did not capture it immediately but kept the tension and continued to improve his pieces. At this point, however, he correctly decided it was time to grab the material with 33...Bxe5

Niemann also had the initiative on the kingside, and it did not take long before Yoo erred decisively. The conversion by Black was exemplary.

Hans Niemann, Irina Krush

Hans Niemann, Irina Krush and Christopher Yoo in the line to get scanned by Chris Bird — the games are also being broadcasted with a 15-minute delay | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Following such a great start, Niemann, who was the focal point of a chess.com’s investigation which was released on Tuesday, gave an on-brand interview, in which he said:

I think that this game is a message to everyone and, you know, this entire thing started with me saying that chess speaks for itself, and I think this game spoke for itself and showed the chess player that I am, and also showed that I’m not going to back down, and I’m going to play my best chess here regardless of the pressure that I’m under.

When Cristian Chirila tried to analyse the game against Yoo, Niemann abruptly left the studio after noting that “it’s such a beautiful game I don’t even need to describe it”.


The full interview


All results - Round 1

 

Standings after round 1

 

All games

 

 

Four winners in the women’s section

Meanwhile, four out of seven games finished decisively in the women’s section, with Jennifer Yu, Megan Lee and Alice Lee all beating higher-rated players in the first round. The one participant who was the favourite rating-wise and scored a full point was Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, who got the better of Sophie Morris-Susuki with white.

Alice Lee, born in 2009, is making her debut in the U.S. Women’s Championship, and kicked off the event with a win over Ashritha Eswaran. The latter failed to play a nice tactical blow in the early middlegame.

 

14.Bxh7+ Nxh7 15.Nxb5 is winning here for White, sacrificing two pieces to open lines against the king, especially the dark-squared long diagonal! Both players missed this great-looking variation, though, as Eswaran continued with 14.g6.

Lee showed great calculation skills from this point on, escaping with her king to the centre of the board and finding nice tactical shots to convert her advantage into a 37-move win.

Alice Lee

Alice Lee | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All results - Round 1

 

Standings after round 1

 

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.