U.S. Championships: Yoo upsets So

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/7/2022 – The two players who kicked off the U.S. Championship with losses bounced back immediately by winning their round-2 games in Saint Louis. Elshan Moradiabadi defeated Awonder Liang, while Christopher Yoo got the biggest win of his young career as he took down Wesley So with the black pieces. Meanwhile, in the women’s event, three players still have a perfect score — Jennifer Yu, Alice Lee and Megan Lee. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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“I felt disrespected”

Following his win over 15-year-old Christopher Yoo in the first round, Hans Niemann refused to discuss the game stating that “it’s such a beautiful game I don’t even need to describe it”. Yoo, who qualified to the tournament by winning the U.S. Junior Championship in July, bounced back with a remarkable win over Wesley So, and later on confessed to Cristian Chirila that he had felt disrespected by Niemann’s remarks. In fact, he realized that he channelled the anger he had felt from that incident to play aggressively against So.

Yoo bravely chose to play the Petroff Defence against a specialist in the line — a month ago, So beat Fabiano Caruana from the white side of a Petroff at the Sinquefield Cup. Yoo lined up his army on the kingside, and saw his opponent missing a chance to get the upper hand in a highly complex position.

 

Grabbing the hanging knight with 26.fxe4 quickly loses to 26...Qxh2+ 27.Kf1 f3, but capturing the piece with 26.Nxe4 is in fact the best solution for White in this position — 26...Qxh2+ 27.Kf1 dxe4 28.Bxe4 and Black’s attack has run out of steam.

None of this appeared on the board, though, as So continued with the straightforward 26.h3, when the engines already favour Black.

The youngster continued to play for the initiative, sacrificing his knight on h3 later on. And, with little time on the clock, he decided not to repeat the position and go for the win.

 

A triple repetition was at hand with 37...Rg3 38.Qh2 Rh3, but Yoo went for it with 37...Re8, just when commentator Yasser Seirawan thought he would just grab the draw against the defending champion.

The bet paid off for the 15-year-old in the end, as he obtained the biggest win of his career so far and thus returned to a fifty-percent score in the standings.

Christopher Yoo

The game is over — Christopher Yoo beat defending champion Wesley So, who finished the 2021 edition of the tournament undefeated | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Much like Yoo, Elshan Moradiabadi bounced back from a first-round loss, and he did it by beating Awonder Liang with the white pieces. The Iranian-American grandmaster got the upper hand early on, as Liang misplayed a strategic Spanish in the middlegame. 

Moradiabadi made things a bit harder for himself in the conversion phase, though, 

 

Two straightforward moves lead to a simple win — 39.b6 or 39.Nxc5, when the passers on the queenside decide. As Moradiabadi admitted later on, his 39.Qc3+ Kh7 40.Nf3+ grabs the exchange, but forces White to be more precise in the ensuing endgame, as Black could potentially give up his bishop for both passers and build a fortress.

Luckily for Moradiabadi, the position was still winning. He needed more time to secure it, but nonetheless got the all-important win in 62 moves.

Eugene Torre

World Chess Hall of Fame inductee Eugene Torre visited the playing hall | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All results - Round 2

 

Standings after round 2

 

All games

 

 

Three leaders in the women’s championship

While there are no perfect scores in the open tournament after only two rounds, three players managed to kick off the women’s championship with back-to-back wins. Two of the leaders, Megan Lee and Alice Lee, have, in fact, defeated two higher-rated players, while 2019 champion Jennifer Yu beat Anna Zatonskih and Ruiyang Yan as she looks to repeat her remarkable success from three years ago.

On Thursday, Megan Lee got the better of Nazi Paikidze with the black pieces. The latter played a sharp Scotch Opening, a system she does not usually employ — she managed to surprise her opponent, but also struggled to find the correct plan early in the middlegame. Lee got the upper hand on move 18.

 

17.Bh3 was replied by 17...f5, using the fact that capturing en passant is not possible due to the mate on e2. Here Paikidize’s best alternative was 18.0-0-0 and the battle continues, while 18.Bg2, returning with the bishop, allowed 18...Nxe5 19.Bxe5 Bf6, again making the most of the pin along the e-file.

 

After 20.f4 (stronger was 20.0-0) d6, Black already had a clear advantage, which Lee converted into a win in only eight moves.

In round 3, Paikidze will get the black pieces against Ashritha Eswaran, while Lee will play white against rating favourite Irina Krush.

Megan Lee

Megan Lee | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All results - Round 2

 

Standings after round 2

 

All games

 

 

Links


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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