U.S. Championships: Sevian and Paikidze start with wins

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/6/2023 – Sam Sevian and Nazi Paikidze are the sole leaders in the open and women’s sections of the U.S. Championships, respectively. Sevian beat Ray Robson with black, while Paikidze got the better of Ashritha Eswaran with white in the first round of the national championships. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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A case of mutual blindness

Five out of six games finished drawn in the first round of the U.S. Championship. Sam Sevian, who comes from outscoring the likes of Hikaru Nakamura and Garry Kasparov in the Chess 9LX event, became the early leader after beating Ray Robson with the black pieces.

Sevian’s victory came after 73 moves, with Robson making the decisive mistake on move 43, in an inferior endgame with queens, rooks and bishops on the board.

47.Rb1 gave way to 47...Rc3, attacking the h3-pawn (47.Qd3 was the way to prevent this idea). Sevian grabbed the pawn on the next move, and went on to force simplifications until reaching an easily winning bishop endgame with two extra pawns.

In the second round, Sevian will play white against Hans Niemann.

Sam Sevian

Sam Sevian | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Much earlier in the day, a case of mutual blindness saw Sam Shankland failing to make the most of a tactical mistake by Andrew Tang.

Even grandmasters err as early as on move 5! Tang’s 5.c3 allows 5...Qxb2, when after 6.Nb5, threatening Nb5-c7, Black has 6...Ne4, himself threatening mate on f2 while also attacking the weakened c3-pawn.

White would need to play 7.Be2 or 7.Bg3, and after 7...Nxc3 Black would be clearly in the driver’s seat.

None of this appeared on the board, though, as Shankland, like his colleague, overlooked this idea, and continued with 5...g6. A 69-move draw was eventually signed.

Andrew Tang

Andrew Tang — happy with a draw after the early mistake? | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Meanwhile, the four 2700+ rated participants in the field faced each other (and drew) in the first round. Leinier Dominguez held a draw with black against Wesley So in a quiet, 26-move encounter, while Levon Aronian and defending champion Fabiano Caruana reached a completely equal rook endgame before agreeing to split the point.

In another high-calibre matchup, Dominguez will play white against Caruana in round 2.

Round 1 results

Standings after round 1

All games

Women’s: Paikidze beats Eswaran

While some of the games in the open section finished in quick draws, none of the encounters in the women’s section lasted fewer than 51 moves. Nonetheless, similarly to the open, only one of the six games finished decisively. Nazi Paikidze, who won the national title in 2016 and 2018, beat Ashritha Eswaran to grab the lead.

In an imbalanced position with three minor pieces per side and queens still on the board, Eswaran decided to capture the wrong central pawn.

The position is dynamically balanced, but to keep it that way Black needs to play 31...Bxe4 here, and after 32.Nxe4 Nxd4 White still has an advantage thanks to her active potential with the bishop pair.

Instead, Black went for 31...Nxd4, counting on 32.exd5 Nf3+, and White cannot capture on f3 due to 33...Qxf2+. However, after 33.Kg2 Nxd2, Paikidze has 34.Bd3, herself threatening mate on the back rank.

The best defence for Black here is 34...Ne4, but after the forcing 35.Qc8+ Kh7 36.Bxe4+ f5 37.Bxf5+ White still has the upper hand in all ensuing endgames.

Eswaran’s immediate 34...f5, on the other hand, is a worse alternative. Paikidze did not find the quickest path to victory, but had not trouble converting her advantage into a 59-move win.

In round 2, the early leader will face experienced IM Anna Zatonskih with the white pieces. Zatonskih won the national title four times, in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Irina Krush, Carissa Yip

Carissa Yip held Irina Krush to a draw with black | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 1 results

Standings after round 1

All games


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.