U.S. Championships: Caruana wins two in a row, grabs the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/9/2023 – Wins in rounds 3 and 4 allowed Fabiano Caruana to go into the first rest day as the sole leader at the U.S. Championship in Saint Louis. Three players are sharing second place with 2½/4 points: Sam Shankland, Hans Niemann and Abhimnayu Mishra. In the women’s championship, Carissa Yip and Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova are sharing the lead with 3/4 points each. | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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Fabiano Caruana is both the defending champion and the rating favourite at the U.S. Championship in Saint Louis. The experienced grandmaster is now also the sole leader after the first four rounds of competition. After drawing fellow elite-GMs Levon Aronian and Leinier Dominguez, Caruana obtained consecutive wins over Jeffery Xiong and Dariusz Swiercz to reach the top of the standings.

The victories over Xiong and Swiercz came in games lasting 76 and 80 moves respectively, with Caruana showing patience and his well-known fighting spirit to outmanoeuvre his opponents from close-to-equal positions.

Playing white against Swiercz, Caruana traded queens and entered a favourable endgame, with his bishop well-positioned to attack the opposite pawns fixed on dark squares. Swiercz could have altogether avoided this simplification on move 51:

51...Kh7 allowed 52.Qh8+ Kg6 53.Qxh5+ Kxh5 and the aforementioned endgame was reached. Instead, 51...Nf8 would have kept the queens on the board, and Black would have been able to constantly threaten to give perpetual check, as the white king is not all that safe in this structure. (It should be noted that Swiercz had less than 2 minutes when he placed his king on h7 instead of blocking with the knight).

Converting the favourable ending was not trivial at all, but Caruana showed good technique and ended up grabbing the full point.

Levon Aronian, Ray Robson

Levon Aronian and Ray Robson analysing their game (and, apparently, enjoying it) — it was a 38-move draw | Photo: Crystal Fuller

One more game had a decisive result in round 4. Abhimanyu Mishra, who entered the round as the sole leader after beating Andrew Tang and Ray Robson, was defeated by Hans Niemann. The two youngsters are now sharing second place a half point behind Caruana.

GM Karsten Müller analysed the endgame with rooks and bishops of the same colour. Abhimanyu’s mistake was not to activate the king at the right time.

Hans Niemann

Hans Niemann | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 4 results

Standings after round 4

All games

Women’s: Yip and Tokhirjonova share the lead

In a duel of co-leaders Carissa Yip played white against Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova in round 4 of the U.S. Women’s Championship. Yip got a chance to win the game in the ending, but failed to find the correct continuation.

44...c4 was a mistake by Tokhirjonova, as now White could play 45.f6 Kc6 46.g4, and Black will have trouble dealing with the kingside pawns. However, Yip replied by 45.Kd1 almost instantly, and the balance was restored — the co-leaders agreed to a draw shortly after.

None of the players who entered the round in the chasing pack obtained full points, leaving Yip and Tokhirjonova in the lead of the standings. Four players stand a half point back, though: Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih, Nazi Paikidze and Tatev Abrahamyan.

Carissa Yip

Carissa Yip and Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Alice Lee

Alice Lee, who came from suffering two losses in a row, beat Thalia Cervantes with the black pieces | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Tatev Abrahamyan

Tatev Abrahamyan bounced back from her round-3 loss by defeating an out-of-form Ashritha Eswaran | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Atousa Pourkashiyan

Atousa Pourkashiyan has a fifty-percent score after beating defending champion Jennifer Yu on Sunday | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 4 results

Standings after round 4

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.