US Chess Championships R7: Sevian, So Join Leaders


In round seven of the 2021 U.S. Chess Championship, two players joined GM Alexandr Lenderman atop the standings: GM Sam Sevian scored another win, this time with Black versus GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista, while GM Wesley So beat GM John M.Burke, also with the black pieces. Now all three players have 4.5/7, while GMs Ray Robson and Leinier Dominguez Perez are half a point behind.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, IM Carissa Yip beat IM Anna Zatonskih, which made her the sole leader with 5/7. WGM Katerina Nemcova and GM Irina Krush currently share second place with 4.5/7.

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

In round seven, three decisive games were played. Burke went for the 4.d3 Anti-Berlin versus So, but the latter showed significantly superior preparation. On move nine, White was out of book and immediately made an error. The position was still fine but then Burke accepted a very dangerous pawn sacrifice, which resulted in So winning an exchange. White had one chance to bail out but didn’t find it and So converted his advantage flawlessly, which allowed him to join the leaders with 4.5/7.

Sevian, who delivered a sensation yesterday by beating Caruana, continued an amazing run by defeating Bruzon with the Black pieces. He chose a very ambitious setup in the Reversed Benoni and was under a bit of pressure, but White made a significant inaccuracy on move 13 which allowed Sevian to immediately seize the initiative.

He handled the game extremely confidently, and by move 21, Bruzon was down to less than ten minutes and made a decisive blunder as he got his rook trapped. That’s how just after 22 moves Sevian became one of the tournament leaders.

Sam Sevian reinforced yesterday’s success by beating the very solid Bruzon with Black in just 22 moves. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The top seed Caruana, who has been having a terrible tournament so far, scored a full point today, which must have made his fans at least somewhat relieved. In his game versus Robson, he went for the English which ended up with a reversed Rossolimo type of position. It was an interesting choice from the psychological perspective, and that is for two reasons: for one, Caruana has played these positions a lot from the White side in his World Championship Match versus Carlsen, and probably has a better feel for them than almost anyone in the world. Secondly, he must have noticed that Robson struggled in the Rossolimo with White yesterday, which might have made him think this type of position would be a good choice.

Caruana got a large advantage in the opening as White, but then let go of the advantage. He outplayed the opponent again, using the bishop pair, but on move 60, allowed Black to capture the bishop and build a fortress. However, Robson did not take advantage of the opportunity, and even though it was still possible to escape with very precise play, ended up losing after 90 moves and many hours of fighting. That, of course, means he is no longer sharing first place, while Caruana is back to 50% with 3.5/7.

After losing two games in a row, the top seed managed to come back as he beat Ray Robson in Round 7. Photo: Lennart Ootes/ Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the interview, Caruana said: “Most of my games in this tournament were bad, so I thought to maybe just play one normal game would be nice. I’m not sure if this was a good game, but at least it was a very big step-up from the previous rounds.”

… At least it was a very big step-up from the previous rounds.
— GM Fabiano Caruana

Another leader, Lenderman, had the White pieces against GM Jeffery Xiong. He got a fair amount of pressure in the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, but Black defended well and the players eventually agreed to a draw by a threefold repetition on move 38.

GM Daniel Naroditsky keeps unleashing ideas from his jar of opening surprises, as today he played the Schliemann Gambit in the Ruy Lopez, which begins with 3…f5. This is a very daring line, which was often used by GM Teimour Radjabov back in the day but eventually fell out of fashion. His opponent, Dominguez, did not get a real advantage in the opening but then outplayed Black in the middlegame. However, Naroditsky was defending a rook endgame down a pawn very well, which enabled him to rescue half a point.

Daniel Naroditsky has plenty of opening surprises. Today, he chose the daring Schliemann Gambit to draw Dominguez. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Finally, GM Sam Shankland chose the Berlin defense versus GM Dariusz Swiercz. The game was relatively even until move 37 when Shankland decided to not trade the rooks, which got him in trouble. He was nearly lost but defended stubbornly, and Swiercz failed to convert his advantage. By move 68, the players ran out of pieces and agreed to a draw.

 U.S. Championship All Games Round 7

Round 7 Standings

2021 US Chess Championships

The seventh round of the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship was very eventful and resulted in four decisive games as well as a new tournament leader!

Carissa Yip continued her pursuit of first place, as she beat IM Anna Zatonskih in a very impressive attacking game in the French Defense. Yip clearly likes this gambit variation, where White sacrifices a pawn quite a lot because she won in a very similar fashion in round two versus WGM Tatev Abrahamyan.

The other player who has been leading throughout the entire event, Nemcova, is now half a point behind, as she drew one more game: this time, with the Black pieces against Abrahamyan. White was pressing the whole game, so Black should be rather happy about saving a draw.

Tatev Abrahamyan hasn’t had the best tournament so far, but today she made the leader Nemcova fight for a draw. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Another leader, WIM Ashritha Eswaran, did not have the best day, as she lost with the Black pieces to Krush. The players went for a long theoretical discussion in the trendy 5.Bf4 variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined and both had over an hour and twenty minutes after 21 moves. The position was rather dangerous for Black, which allowed Krush to pursue a kingside attack. Eswaran had a chance to defend but didn’t manage to find a precise solution, after which her position quickly collapsed. This was a very important win for Krush, who is now sharing second place with a 4.5/7 score.

IM Nazi Paikidze, who had a +1 score after six rounds, clearly wanted to win today with Black versus WIM Megan Lee. She played the Hippopotamus Defense, which is an attempt to avoid theory and get a complex, even if somewhat inferior, position. That paid off, and soon Black seized the initiative. However, she then misplayed the position and White started taking over. Lee outplayed her opponent, was completely winning, and then… allowed a stalemate. But the tragicomedy wasn’t over: Paikidze did not spot the miraculous escape and soon had to resign. The second win in a row for Lee, and a tough day for Paikidze, who is now far away from the leaders.

Megan Lee scored her second win in a row—his time, in a very dramatic fashion against Nazi Paikidze. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the last decisive game of the round, WGM Anna Sharevich beat WGM Thalia Landeiro Cervantes with the Black pieces. By move 25, the players reached a rather quiet and balanced position, typical of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. In time trouble, Cervantes allowed a decisive kingside attack, which Sharevich converted into a win fairly easily. Now, both players are at a minus one score, with 3/7.

Finally, WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova drew a very murky game versus WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor. White got a large advantage early on but missed her winning chances. In the end, she was a pawn up in a bishop endgame, but Foisor managed to build a fortress and save half a point—a truly fantastic escape.

U.S. Women’s Championship All Games Round 7

Round 7 Standings

US Women's Chess Championship

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.

Earlier reports:


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