U.S. Championships: Caruana beats Niemann to take the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/9/2022 – The two top seeds in the U.S. Championship won in Saturday’s round 4. Wesley So bounced back from a loss by beating Sam Shankland, while Fabiano Caruana became the first sole leader of the event after taking down Hans Niemann. Aleksandr Lenderman also scored a full point, as he defeated Christopher Yoo. In the women’s event, Jennifer Yu and Tatev Abrahamyan grabbed wins to join Alice Lee in the lead. | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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Looking for a second U.S. title

Since he transferred back to the United States in 2015, Fabiano Caruana has played the U.S. Championship five times (this is his sixth participation). A 4-time Italian champion, the 30-year-old has managed to win the U.S. title once in his career, as he finished a full point ahead of Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura after obtaining an undefeated 8½/11 score in 2016.

Last year, Caruana tied for first place with So and Sam Sevian, but it was So who prevailed in the playoffs to take his third national title. Now that the event has added two players to the lineup, Caruana became the first player to take the sole lead. In round 4, he defeated former co-leader Hans Niemann with the black pieces to grab his second win in a row. 

Much like in his victory over Dariusz Swiercz, Caruana needed to work hard on Saturday. Talking to Cristian Chirila after the game, the former World Championship challenger noted that, on move 32, he missed a chance to alter the structure and enter a more favourable endgame than the one seen in the game.

 

Instead of 32...Kg7, which allowed 33.e4, closing the centre, Black could have himself gone for 32...e4, all but forcing 33.fxe4 Nxe4 34.Qf4, when Black would have to choose between trading queens or playing 34...Qe7.

After missing this idea, Caruana needed to work hard (until move 80) to convert his advantage, as Niemann fiercely defended a pawn down in a rook endgame. The youngster’s decisive mistake was played on move 58.

 

Niemann relieved the tension with 58.f4, when keeping the status quo via 58.Rg2 was his best defensive chance. Curiously, though, after the correct 58...Rb3+ 59.Kh2, Caruana gave another check with 59...Rb2+ and Niemann returned with his king to the third rank with 60.Kh3 — instead of going back to h3, placing the king on g1 was the way to go. (Rook endgames are tough! Hopefully, Karsten Müller will explain to us in detail why 60.Kg1 is better for White.)

After repeating the position with 60...Rb3+ 61.Kh2, Caruana did find the correct way to continue making progress, though: 61...gxf4 62.Rxf4+ Ke5. The second seed then went on to demonstrate that his passed c-pawn is the deciding factor in the position. 

The Italian-American GM thus grabbed the lead before his game against defending champion and birthday boy Wesley So, who turns 29 years old on Sunday.

Hans Niemann

Hans Niemann defended resourcefully against one of the tournament’s favourites | Photo: Lennart Ootes

So also won in round 4, as he bounced back from his loss against Christopher Yoo by beating Sam Shankland with the white pieces. The Filipino-born star, in his post-game interview, elaborated on the fact that knowing his opponent well was a key factor in this game — i.e. facing a 15-year-old (Yoo) is, in a way, more difficult, since such young players are still developing their style and do not have anything to lose.

Much like So, Aleksandr Lenderman bounced back from his round-3 loss. Lenderman defeated Yoo, who has yet to draw a game in the championship.

Aleksandr Lenderman

Aleksandr Lenderman beat Christopher Yoo | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All results - Round 4

 

Standings after round 4

 

All games

 

 

Yu and Abrahamyan join the lead

Megan Lee and Alice Lee entered round 3 of the U.S. Women’s Championship tied for first place with 2½ points. While Megan lost to Anna Zatonskih, Alice played no fewer than 88 moves in her drawn game against Ruiyang Yan. 

These results allowed 2019 champion Jennifer Yu and Tatev Abrahamyan (one of the players with most participations in history) to join Alice Lee in the lead after scoring full points in the fourth round. Yu, like Yoo in the open, has not drawn a single game so far in the event, while Abrahamyan kicked off with draws against two multiple U.S. champions — Irina Krush and Ana Zatonskih — and then won two in a row to climb to shared first place.

Yu got to play a nice final attack on the kingside against Sophie Morris-Susuki.

 

After 31.Be4 we can feel it coming! There followed 31...Qe2 32.Nxg6+ fxg6 33.Rxh7+ Kg8 34.Rxg7+ (twice giving up the rook) Kxg7 35.Qxg6+ Kh8 36.Qh7#. Game over.

On a day with four decisive results in the women’s championship, Krush and Zatonskih collected their first wins of the event.

Jennifer Yu

Jennifer Yu | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Tatev Abrahamyan

Tatev Abrahamyan | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All results - Round 4

 

Standings after round 4

 

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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