US Chess Championships R5: Naroditsky Defeats Caruana, Lenderman Shares First


In round five of the 2021 U.S. Chess Championship, GM Alexander Lenderman defeated GM Sam Sevian while the top seed GM Fabiano Caruana unexpectedly lost to GM Daniel Naroditsky. As a result, Lenderman and GM Ray Robson are leading the tournament with 3.5/5 and are followed by GMs Wesley So and Leinier Dominguez.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, four decisive games were played in the fifth round. WGM Katerina Nemcova is again the sole leader with 3.5/5. Five players are following her closely with 3/5: IM Nazi Paikidze, WIM Ashritha Eswaran, IM Carissa Yip, GM Irina Krush, and WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova. 

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The games of the U.S. Chess Championship can be found here: Open | Women.
2021 US Chess Championships

Caruana has had a rather difficult tournament so far: he won only one game and drew three, but had a lost position at some point in all three of his draws. Yet he managed to save them all. As the top seed himself pointed out in an interview, he felt he extracted the maximum amount of points possible out of these circumstances.

Tonight he had the White pieces against Naroditsky, who had lost three games in the first four rounds. Obviously, this was a very important game for Caruana to win.

However, things went in an absolutely unexpected way. He had a slight advantage in the Ruy Lopez, then Black managed to equalize, and then he was pressing again. During this process, the top seed burned all of his time: after 25 moves, he had 32 minutes, while by move 29 only seven minutes remained on Caruana’s clock.

He must have miscalculated due to time trouble, got in a very difficult endgame, and could not save it as Naroditsky showed some very impressive technique.

Here is what Naroditsky said about the day, “Obviously it’s an amazing euphoric feeling… the last days were really rough, but you know, my resolution this tournament was to keep grinding, to play every game with passion, with heart and it paid off this time.” 

… My resolution this tournament was to keep grinding, to play every game with passion, with heart and it paid off this time
— GM Daniel Naroditsky

This is not only a huge win for Black but also a significant relief for the other leaders, as the top seed is now in the middle of the tournament standings with a 50% score.

In another huge game of the round, Lenderman quickly got a very pleasant position against Sevian after Black made an inaccuracy on move 11. With a series of precise moves, he won a pawn and it looked like the endgame would be an easy win for White. However, Sevian managed to resist for 140(!) moves, and at some points was very close to saving the game. But eventually, White found a way to make a decisive amount of progress and scored the full point.

Alexander Lenderman has scored two wins in a row to share first place with Ray Robson with 3.5/5. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the last decisive game of the round, GM Jeffery Xiong, who had 0.5/4 before this round, managed to turn things around and defeat GM Sam Shankland. He played the opening in a rather unambitious way as White, but was impeccable in the middlegame and scored a well-deserved full point.

Jeffery Xiong started with 0.5/4, but turned things around and scored his first win of the tournament in round five. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The leader after four rounds, Ray Robson, defended a slightly inferior position against GM Dariusz Swiercz throughout the entire game and did it very well to get half a point with the Black pieces.

Finally, the other two draws were relatively uneventful: GM John M.Burke showed very deep knowledge of the Marshall Counterattack to draw with Black versus Dominguez, while GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista played a very solid line against So’s Petroff and the players quickly split the point.

 U.S. Championship All Games Round 5

Round 5 Standings

2021 US Chess Championships round 5 standings

There were four decisive games in the fifth round of the  U.S. Women’s Chess Championship.

Tokhirjonova played a gorgeous positional game versus one of the leaders, Carissa Yip. She got a large strategic advantage with the White pieces and converted it flawlessly to catch up with Yip and share second place with 3/5. 

Paikidze, who drew her first four games, scored the first win by beating WGM Thalia Landeiro Cervantes with the Black pieces in the Dutch defense. It was a murky game, both players had a large advantage at times, but eventually, Paikidze came out on top.

After drawing all games in the first four rounds, Nazi Paikidze scored her first win, against WGM Thalia Cervantes. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Krush scored a nice technical win with White against IM Anna Zatonskih in the branch of the Semi-Tarrasch that is often used at a top-level to draw from a slightly inferior endgame. In the last decisive game of the round, WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor, who won her first game in the previous round, continued the streak by outplaying WIM Megan Lee in the Ruy Lopez.

Another leader, Nemcova, was pressing with White versus WGM Anna Sharevich throughout the entire game, but could not improve her position decisively and shared the point with Sharevich.

Katerina Nemcova could not overcome her opponent’s resistance, but a draw was enough to again take the sole lead with 3.5/5. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Finally, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, who had all her previous games end decisively, got her first draw against Eswaran. She was significantly better most of the time, but Black defended well and saved half a point. 

U.S. Women’s Championship All Games Round 5

Round 5 Standings

2021 US Women's Chess Championship round 5 standings

The 2021 U.S. Chess Championships take place October 5-19, 2021 in St. Louis to determine the next chess champions of the United States. The 2021 U.S. Women’s Championship is being held concurrently. Both events have the same format: 12 players, 11-round tournament with a $194,000 prize fund for the U.S. Championship and $100,000 for the U.S. Women’s Championship.

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