Fabiano Caruana claims third U.S. title with a round to spare

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/17/2023 – Fabiano Caruana successfully defended his title at the 2023 U.S. Championship in Saint Louis. The 31-year-old beat Abhimanyu Mishra to secure tournament victory with a round to spare, and thus claimed his third U.S. title — Caruana won the championship in 2016, 2022 and 2023. Meanwhile, in the women’s event, Carissa Yip beat Anna Zatonskih to leapfrog Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova atop the standings. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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On the up and up

Fabiano Caruana is the last player to come close to surpassing Magnus Carlsen in the world ranking. In November 2018, after drawing all 12 classical games in the London World Championship match, the Italian-American had a 2832 rating to Carlsen’s 2835.

After this peak in performance, when Carlsen’s absolute reign as the strongest player in the world was realistically challenged for the last time, Caruana continued to be the world number two for a while, before his results began to deteriorate a bit. In September 2022, after a disappointing performance at the Chennai Olympiad, for example, he hit the lowest point rating-wise since 2013, with 2758 Elo points to his name.

Since then, however, the elite grandmaster has bounced back in style, winning the 2022 edition of the U.S. Championship and the Superbet Chess Classic in Romania, and qualifying to the Candidates via the incredibly demanding World Cup in Baku.

Now, back in Saint Louis, he scored 5 wins and 5 draws to defend his national title successfully with a round to spare. Caruana is the second-highest rated player in the world with a 2795.2 live rating, as he stands 15 points ahead of Hikaru Nakamura and world champion Ding Liren — and, of course, just 5 points short of returning to the extremely exclusive 2800 club.

Talking to Cristian Chirila after beating Abhimanyu Mishra to win the title, Caruana noted that he has been working hard both in-between tournaments and during tournaments, as he reflected:

I think I have myself to blame for my failures in the past few years, especially in the Candidates. [...] It was a rough period for some time, but things seem to be a bit better now. I seem to be playing better, or at least, maybe, the quality isn’t always there, but I’m definitely taking some chances in tournaments, and usually fighting for first place.

Starting next week, Caruana will be the top seed at the FIDE Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man, an even more demanding 11-rounder which will see him battle against the likes of Nakamura, Alireza Firouzja and Anish Giri, all still fighting to get a spot in next year’s Candidates.

Fabiano Caruana, Abhimanyu Mishra

Fabiano Caruana beat Abhimanyu Mishra with white | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 10 also saw Levon Aronian and Andrew Tang grabbing their first wins in the tournament. Aronian, one of four 2700+ rated players in the field, had lost to Hans Niemann in round 5, and has now returned to a fifty-percent score. His fellow elite-GMs Wesley So and Leinier Dominguez are sharing second place on 6/10 points, as the only players other than Caruana to remain undefeated in Saint Louis.

GM Karsten Müller analysed Caruana’s victory over 14-year-old Abhimanyu. The latter is nonetheless over-performing in the tournament, having obtained victories over the likes of Sam Shankland and Ray Robson.

Gama analysis by Robert Ris

Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 10 results

Standings after round 10

All games

Yip leapfrogs Tokhirjonova

Right after Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova had taken the sole lead in round 9, a loss against Irina Krush — combined with Carissa Yip’s victory over Anna Zatonskih — left her trailing Yip by a half point going into Tuesday’s final round.

Tokhijonova had struggled from the get go against Krush, but subpar play by the 8-time national champion allowed the tournament frontrunner to get drawing chances. Moreover, as Krush was struggling to find a way to go for the win, a triple repetition could have ended the game on move 49.

The position after 49...Na3 had appeared on the board for a third time, which meant Tokhirjonova could have claimed a draw right there and then. She did not do it, though, and Krush found 50.f5 to keep the battle going.

Black’s 50...Nb5 was already a mistake (50...Rcb8 was the way to go), and Krush recovered the advantage she had given up earlier in the game. Once the position was simplified, White found herself two pawns up in a winning rook ending. Tokhirjonova resigned on move 71.

Irina Krush, Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova

Arbiter Chris Bird looks on as Irina Krush converts her advantage against Gulrukhbegim Tokhrijonova | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Meanwhile, Yip did not have much trouble making the most of Zatonskih’s haphazard, speculative play. A 34-move win left her as the sole leader for the first time in the tournament (Yip and Tokhirjonova obtained the exact same results in rounds 1 to 9!).

Yip, who won the national title in 2021, will face Ruiyang Yan with the white pieces on Tuesday. Tokhirjonova will also play white, against defending champion Jennifer Yu.

Carissa Yip

Carissa Yip | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 10 results

Standings after round 10

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.