Varuzhan Akobian and Anna Zatonskih were threatening to run away with the US Championships, but both saw winning streaks ended on a dramatic Saturday in Saint Louis. With one round remaining for the women and two for the men Alex Lenderman and Irina Krush now share the lead, with Gata Kamsky among the players poised to pounce just half a point behind. Follow the games live with video commentary here at chess24: Men — Women
My time is slowly slipping away, the youngsters are developing and I think this is probably one of the last Championships when I’ll still have a chance to fight for the title.
My approach was to try and completely forget about what happened through the first half of the tournament. Approach it like it’s a new tournament. (Onischuk) never loses - but he does sometimes… it could happen, and I figured today he’s going to try and battle against me because I lost two games in a row. He was going to try and pressure me, so I knew I would get more chances than maybe I would normally get; and I was pretty optimistic that if I had a good mindset, then I would have my chances.
In the end it was a triumph for youth, with Onischuk committing an uncharacteristic blunder. GM Ben Finegold annotates the game:
9. ♕c2⁉ Quite unusual, but it gets Black out of his preparation! Normal is 9. Nd2
21. ♖ac1? A terrible oversight.
21... b5! The tables have turned with a single move!
38. h3 was best, but I guess Onischuk had had enough.
At least in Round 8, however, it seemed Lenderman’s heroic feat might count for little, as leader Varuzhan Akobian went on to win a fourth game in a row, this time against Sergey Erenburg, to stretch his advantage to a full point with only three rounds to go. All over bar the shouting? Not exactly...
In Round 9 the pressure also got to Akobian, who lost his first game of the event to 22-year-old Sam Shankland, after a Caro-Kann went badly wrong. 20…Be7 was already the sixth (!) time Akobian had moved his dark-squared bishop, and the fifth time in the last six moves.
His position is hanging by a thread and he went on to get steamrollered by his young opponent.
Akobian pointed out that 7.c3 is not the most challenging theoretically, and it doesn’t have the highest reputation - but I think it’s actually dangerous and I had some new ideas. It’s very sharp and for Black to equalize he has to really know his stuff and play into the sharp stuff, which can be very intimidating if you don’t know it. He played this strange-looking move 10…Bc5, and very quickly I was quite comfortable with my position.
Lenderman, meanwhile, is back in the form he showed at the start of the tournament. He kept applying pressure against Daniel Naroditsky until his opponent cracked, with 47…Ba1? the last straw:
That allowed Lenderman to play the move he’s been wanting to play, 48.Ra4! (heading for a7), with tempo, and the threats could no longer be parried.
So with two rounds remaining Akobian and Lenderman are locked in the lead on 6/9, though Joshua Friedel (3 wins in his last 4) and Gata Kamsky (2 wins and 7 draws) are lurking only half a point back. All eyes will be on Akobian-Kamsky in Sunday’s Round 10!
Men's results, rankings and pairings
On Saturday, however, the standings were transformed in the showdown between Krush and Zatonskih. They have a history of intense rivalry, which includes one of the most famous Armageddon games ever played:
This time, however, it was Krush who lived up to her name, grinding out a slow but priceless win. GM Ben Finegold annotates:
16. f3 fxe4 17. fxe4 ♗d6 18. ♗e3 ♖hc8 19. ♘d2 e5 20. ♖d1 ♔e6 21. ♖dc1 ♔d7 22. ♘b3 ♖c7 23. ♘a5 ♖ac8 24. ♔g2 c5 25. ♘b3 ♘a4 26. ♘d2 ♘b6 27. ♘c4 ♘xc4 28. ♖xc4 Black is almost okay here, but there are only two possible results, and Irina keeps pressing against the isolated pawns.
38... ♖b4 39. ♖xa7 h5 40. ♖xg7 ♖b2 41. a4 ♖a2 42. ♖h7 ♖a3+ 43. ♔e2 ♖a2+ 44. ♔f3 ♖a3 45. ♔f2 ♖a2+ 46. ♔f1 ♖a1+ 47. ♔g2 ♖a2+ 48. ♔h3 ♖xa4 49. ♖h6+ ♔d7 50. ♖xh5 ♖xe4 This is about 50-50 whether White will win or draw. Both sides had little time as well!
55. ♖h8 ♖a4+ 56. ♔f5 ♖a2 57. h4 ♖f2+ 58. ♔g4 e4 59. ♖d8 ♔e6 60. ♖e8+ ♔d5 61. h5 ♖f3 62. ♗h4 ♖f7 63. h6 ♗e5 64. ♗g5 ♔d4 65. ♗e3+ ♔xe3 66. ♖xe5 ♔d3 67. ♔h5 e3 68. g4 e2 69. g5 ♖a7 70. ♖e8 ♖a8 71. ♖xe2 ♔xe2 72. h7 ♔f3 73. g6! Not Black can force the notorious queen versus rook endgame with
Needless to say it’s all to play for in the final round on Monday (the women enjoy an extra rest day on Sunday).
Women's results, rankings and pairings
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