U.S. Championships: Caruana scores a hat-trick, Niemann beats Aronian

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/11/2023 – An exciting round both at the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women’s Championship finished with 10 (out of 12) decisive results. In the open, Fabiano Caruana grabbed his third consecutive win to remain as the sole leader, while Carissa Yip and Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova also kept their spots at the top of the standings by collecting full points on Tuesday. The highlight of the day, though, was Ray Robson’s 29-move victory over Jeffery Xiong. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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As double-edged as it gets

Sharp chess was the norm in round 5 of the U.S. Championships. Fabiano Caruana scored a third win in a row to keep his leading spot in the standings; Hans Niemann beat Levon Aronian to climb to sole second place; Leinier Dominguez and Wesley So grabbed their first wins of the event; while Ray Robson obtained a memorable victory over Jeffery Xiong.

Out of a Petroff Defence, Robson played the most trying continuation on move 15.

15.f5 gives up a pawn to 15...Rxe5, but after 16.fxg6 hxg6 White gets a dominating bishop on the long diagonal with 17.Bd4. At that point, Black’s best reply was 17...Re6, which would have avoided the spectacular game continuation. Instead, Xiong played 17...Re8 — and Robson went for it!

After 18.Rxf7 Kxf7 19.Rf1+ Black is forced to escape with his king to the centre — 19...Ke7 was Xiong’s choice (that is why playing ...Re6 on move 17 would have prevented Robson from playing the rook sacrifice).

Engines still evaluate the position as equal after 20.Qxg6, and only give White a large advantage after 20...Be6. Robson now has a winning attack.

White is now ready to harass the king on the weakened dark squares. There followed 21.Qg7+ Kd6 22.Be5+ Kc5 23.Bd4+ Kd6 24.Be5+ Kc5 25.Bc7

There is no way out: the black king is running out of squares. Xiong found the best way to muddy the waters, but Robson did not falter in calculating the winning lines — particularly impressive was his 27.Ne4+, which is in fact the only move that keeps his advantage.

27...dxe4 fails to 28.Rf5+ Bxf5 29.Qc3+ Kd5 30.Qe5+ Kc4 (diagram below) 31.b3+ Kb4 32.Qa5#, and White would have given mate while two rooks down!

Xiong did not take the knight, but nonetheless was forced to resign two moves later. Robson recovered from a subpar start in style, as he now has 2 out of 5 points in the standings.

Ray Robson

Ray Robson | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Niemann also showcased great tactical ability in his round-5 victory. Playing black, Aronian realized that he needed to give up a piece to avoid a quick loss. The tricky Armenian-born grandmaster got a pawn in exchange, and tried to make the most of his activity on the kingside from that point on.

25...b6 allows 26.Qxc6 Qxc6 27.Bxc6, but after 27...Rxh4 28.Nf3 Rg4 29.Re1 Rh8, Black is threatening to wreak havoc around White’s king with his pair of rooks.

A tactically alert Niemann immediately found 30.Rxe3, the best move in the position.

White emerged with two minor pieces for a rook, and needed to work until move 63 to convert his advantage into a win. Beating a super-GM is never easy!

Hans Niemann, Levon Aronian

Hans Niemann has won three games so far in the tournament | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Game analysis by Robert Ris

Round 5 results

Standings after round 5

All games

Women’s: Co-leaders Yip and Tokhirjonova win again

The women’s championship also saw five out of six games ending decisively, and there was no lack of excitement either.

Carissa Yip and Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova entered the round sharing the lead, and both won to remain atop the standings; Irina Krush beat long-time rival Anna Zatonskih and now stands in sole second place; prodgy Alice Lee grabbed a second consecutive win and returned to a fifty-percent score; and defending champion Jennifer Yu collected her first win of the event, as she defeated 2-time national champion Nazi Paikidze.

Yip beat Tatev Abrahamyan with the black pieces. Abrahamyan faltered on move 21, and Yip had not trouble finding the refutation.

White spent almost 9 minutes calculating before going for the attack with 21.Qh6 — but Yip had seen further, as she quickly captured the unprotected knight with 21...Qxc3+. After 22.Kf1 Bg7 23.Rg1, the key defensive move is 23...Bg4

Abrahamyan needs to use an extra tempo in 24.Qg5, and her attack has already fizzled out. Soon after, it was clear that Black simply had a massive material advantage with no counterchances for White. Resignation came on move 28.

Carissa Yip

Carissa Yip | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Irina Krush

Besides the co-leaders, Irina Krush is the only other player with a plus-score after five rounds | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 5 results

Standings after round 5

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.