U.S. Championships: Caruana widens the gap

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/12/2022 – Fabiano Caruana defeated Elshan Moradiabadi to increase his lead at the U.S. Championship in Saint Louis. Caruana now stands a full point ahead of Sam Sevian, Awonder Liang and Ray Robson — the latter joined the chasing pack after beating Hans Niemann with the black pieces. Meanwhile, in the women’s tournament, Irina Krush scored her third consecutive victory to join Jennifer Yu in first place. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Black wins

Six out of the seven decisive games seen on Tuesday at the U.S. Championships favoured the player with the black pieces. In the open, the three winners of the day — Fabiano Caruana, Ray Robson and Dariusz Swiercz — all grabbed full points with black. With his win over Elshan Moradiabadi, Caruana extended his lead in the standings, as he is now a full point ahead of Robson, Sam Sevian and Awonder Liang.

Facing Moradiabadi, who is not an 1.e4 player, Caruana played adventurously, quickly pushing his h-pawn down the board out of a double-edged Sicilian.

 

On move 10, White had all but forced the exchange of light-squared bishops with 10...Bg4, which was a questionable decision according to Caruana.

Now Black had a free hand to both expand on the kingside and prevent his opponent from castling on the opposite flank of the board — 12.Qh3 (the only move that saves the bishop) h4 13.f3 Bg5, and White cannot safeguard his king on the queenside.

 

Caruana was in the driver’s seat but still needed to work hard to convert his positional trumps into more tangible gains. 

Chances were missed by both sides in the ensuing struggle, but Caruana nonetheless managed to increase his advantage. On move 24, with the queens already off the board, a knight infiltration forced White to give up an exchange.

 

24.Bxe3 is bad due to 24...Bxe3+ 25.Kh1 Nh5 and Black’s three pieces  — bishop, knight and rook — wreak havoc on the kingside. Thus, Moradiabadi decided to bring one of the knights back to the action with 24.N2c3, but after 24...Nxd1 he had the difficult task of defending a position material down against one of the best calculators in the world.

Caruana steadily made progress until forcing his opponent’s resignation on move 44.

Elshan Moradiabadi

Elshan Moradiabadi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Ray Robson, who played his first U.S. Championship as a 12-year-old back in 2007, is now sharing second place after beating Hans Niemann in round 6. Niemann, playing white, took his rival by surprise with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bf4, a somewhat fashionable move which Robson forgot to check before this game.

Unsurprisingly, Robson got into time trouble, but it was Niemann’s attacking approach which became the deciding factor as the game progressed.

 

26...Nc3 takes advantage of the fact that the e4-knight is pinned due to the mate on g2 with the queen. Niemann, notwithstanding, continued with his charge on the kingside, as he pushed his f-pawn for a third move in a row with 27.f6.

Talking to Cristian Chirila, Robson conjectured that what Niemann had missed was 27...Bxf6, which in fact is the only move that refutes White’s plan. After 28.Nxf6+ gxf6 29.Nf3 Nxd1 30.exf6 Kh8 31.Rxd1 Rg8 the fact that Niemann’s knight is still pinned prevents him from carrying on his attack effectively.

 

Four moves later, White resigned.

Hans Niemann, Ray Robson

Ray Robson beat Hans Niemann | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Robson was not the only player who grabbed his first win of the event in round 6, as Dariusz Swiercz inflicted Levon Aronian’s second consecutive loss — the elite GM had lost to Awonder Liang before the rest day

Much like Niemann, Aronian went for an attack on the kingside. In this case, though, White left his king in the centre. A mistake on move 24 highlighted the monarch’s vulnerability.

 

24.Rc4 allowed the good-looking 24...Qh1+ 25.Ke2 Qb1 26.Qa3 (defending the bishop) Nf4+, and White needs to find precise moves just to keep the game going.

 

A tactical sequence followed, and Black emerged an exchange up in an open position. Aronian continued fighting until move 73, as he tried to muddy the waters with his connected passers on the queenside, but Swiercz’s pair of rooks turned out to be stronger in the end. 

The Polish-born GM will face Niemann with white in Wednesday’s seventh round.

All results - Round 6

 

Standings after round 6

 

All games

 

 

Krush scores third win in a row

While Caruana is the sole leader in the open section with 4½ points, two players are sharing first place in the women’s event with the same score. Irina Krush scored a third consecutive win to catch Jennifer Yu atop the standings with seven rounds to go. The 8-time U.S. women’s champion was the only player in both sections to collect a win with the white pieces, as she defeated Thalia Cervantes on Tuesday.

Krush got a strategic plus in the early middlegame, but was critical of her f-pawn push on move 14.

 

14.f4 is a bit too ambitious in this position, as White could have gone for a more positional, advantageous approach with 14.Nf3.

Nevertheless, Krush was still in the driver’s seat after 14...Nxe5 15.fxe5, and continued to play for the initiative on the kingside aided by her advanced central pawn mass.

The aggressive approach paid off. The following position was reached on move 38.

 

After 39.e6 Rde8 40.Qh6 Black allowed her strong opponent to show mate on the board — 40...Re7 Qh8# and that’s all she wrote.

Irina Krush

Irina Krush defeated Thalia Cervantes | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Ashritha Eswaran, Ruiyang Yan, Sophie Morris-Susuki and Megan Lee also won in round 6. Megan Lee thus joined Alice Lee in the chasing pack on 4/6 points.

In a crucial game for the tournament standings, Megan Lee will face Jennifer Yu with the white pieces on Wednesday.

Jennifer Yu

Jennifer Yu (standing) drew Alice Lee | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All results - Round 6

 

Standings after round 6

 

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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