Reports Apr 2, 2017 | 3:53 PMby Colin McGourty

US Championship 4: Wesley’s gamble pays off

Wesley So is now the sole leader of the US Championship after winning the only decisive game in Round 4. He rejected a draw against Alexander Onischuk and was richly rewarded, while Hikaru Nakamura won the opening battle but not the war against Gata Kamsky, and Fabiano Caruana risked losing a better position to Jeffery Xiong. In the women’s section five players now lead after Irina Krush stumbled into a lost position against 15-year-old Jennifer Yu, who has now beaten the two tournament favourites in the first four rounds.

Wesley So had reason to smile as he talked to Maurice Ashley after taking the sole lead | photo: Austin Fuller 

It was Wesley So’s day in St. Louis:

You can replay the day’s live commentary below:

60 games unbeaten

Wesley So took charge in St. Louis by scoring another impressive victory against one of the “veteran” competitors. 41-year-old Alexander Onischuk did little wrong in the opening and in fact both players agreed that objectively it would have been right for White to take a draw by repetition on move 26. Wesley So commented, “today I took a huge risk but fortunately it paid off”. The game turned three moves later:


Here after 29…Qxb2?! 30.Nxb2 Rb3?! 31.Nc4 Wesley had solved his problems and his coordinated forces proved too much for Onischuk. Instead Black could have maintained the tension with 29…Rc8!, a move So jokingly called “the move of the year” in his post-match commentary. Black would be a full piece down after 30.Bxd3 Qxd3, but White is tied down and the a4-knight is completely out of the game.

Wesley played down how he finished off the game, saying, “I’d like to thank the lord for the win. It wasn’t a pretty win, but…” At times it was pretty, though:


Here 40.g6! gave the knight an outpost, and after hxg6 41.Ng5 Wesley had an overwhelming advantage.

So’s rivals fall short

Nakamura did everything he could to beat Kamsky, but it wasn't quite enough | photo: Austin Fuller

The London System was once considered innocuous and Gata Kamsky’s decision to play it an eccentricity. Lately, however, the rest of the world has come round to Gata's way of thinking, and in Round 4 Gata got to play a system he’s been playing for 30 years against one of the world’s top players. He’d prepared a novelty in a fashionable line, but it didn’t have the desired effect:

I thought I’m going to surprise Hikaru, and then he was blitzing all these moves!

15.Qd2 was as far as Gata’s preparation had gone...


...but here Nakamura immediately returned the sacrificed pawn with 15…d4! and Kamsky knew he was in a fight for survival. He pulled it off with accurate play, despite Nakamura also rejecting a repetition. Hikaru was somewhat disappointed that he’d had to use a line he’d prepared a week earlier:

I kind of was thinking it might be an idea to use against Wesley in the Grand Chess Tour, in a rapid event.

It would have been harder to defuse at rapid time controls.

This time in St. Louis it's been a drawing streak for Fabiano Caruana... | photo: Lennart Ootes

Fabiano Caruana, meanwhile, outwitted 16-year-old Jeffery Xiong in an Anti-Berlin, with the youngster commenting:

Usually when you play these guys when your analysis ends theirs just starts. 

Caruana built up a big positional advantage that looked set to become decisive when Jeffery blundered a pawn advance:


Caruana took the chance to play 30.b5+!, when the pawn can’t be taken due to the simple 30…Kxb5 31.Rd5+. After 30…Kd7 31.b6 Bb8 Black was balancing on the brink of defeat. Caruana expected his opponent’s position to collapse at some point, but it never did:

Maurice Ashley: Is this kid the real deal?

Fabiano Caruana: Yeah, I think so. He’s really resourceful. He’ll be a top player for sure.

In fact a few moves later Xiong had solved his problems and felt his active pieces gave him a winning position. It was Caruana’s turn to defend, but he proved up to the task. 

Both players have started the tournament with four draws and are a full point behind the leader, but they can also be satisfied with that outcome. Jeffery Xiong has survived playing Nakamura and Caruana with Black, while in Nakamura, So, Xiong and Shankland you can argue that reigning champion Fabiano has already played his top four rivals. Now he needs to rack up some points against the remaining seven players!

Shabalov gets off the mark

After three losses in a row Alexander Shabalov finally got a draw in St. Louis, but not in the manner you’d expect. Rather than playing solidly he went for a wild attack against Varuzhan Akobian, explaining afterwards that his attempts to defend slightly worse positions had ended painfully against So and Zherebukh. Objectively he should have ended with a fourth loss in a row, but Akobian rejected the chance to take a sacrificed piece until it was too late:


The g5-knight has been en prise for five moves, but finally it got to go out in style with 26.Nxf7! Qe6 27.Nc5! Bxc5 28.Bxd5 Qxd5 29.Nxh6+ and the white queen gave perpetual check on g6 and h6.

Some product placement outside the venue | photo: Lennart Ootes

Elsewhere Shankland-Zherebukh was a short but sharp 16-move draw by repetition, while Naroditsky-Robson saw Daniel play the 6.Nb3 line that Mateusz Bartel popularised last year. Robson did his thing - thinking for 40 minutes on move 14 - and lived to regret it when he missed a winning move with his time about to run out:


29…Ne3! was the clincher, while the players instead agreed to a draw after 29…Qxf2 30.Rxf2 bxc3.

The standings therefore feature a clear leader – Wesley So, who is unbeaten in 60 games and 13.5 points behind Magnus Carlsen on the live rating list.


15-year-old beats the champ

Irina Krush’s stay as sole leader was cut short immediately in the Women’s Championship:

The women’s section featured some enjoyable tactical bloodbaths, with huge swings in most of the games. For instance, Nazi Paikidze bounced straight back with a win when her king on g8 finally found a refuge… on c2!


Debutant Maggie Feng found a nice finish against Sabina-Francesca Foisor (the only player in either section not to draw a game so far) and the youngest player of the event, Carissa Yip, got her first win with a sacrificial Sicilian attack. 

Carissa Yip: 13 and fearless - she said she's hoping to beat Nazi Paikidze in the next round! | photo: Lennart Ootes

Perhaps the most interesting moment of that game, though, was where Emily Nguyen could have turned the tables!


22…Bd5!! aims to block the d5-square so Be6+ and Bb3 won’t stop the attack on the queenside. After 23.Rxd5 Qb4! there are still defences for White to try, but objectively Black is absolutely winning. In the game Emily played 22…Rxf8 and was soon overrun.

15-year-old Jennifer Yu claimed the day's biggest scalp | photo: Lennart Ootes

The crucial game of the day, though, was about strategy. First Irina Krush confidently built up a huge position with dominant central pawns, then she carelessly liquidated into an ending she simply assumed would be better for her. The critical factor ended up being the black queenside pawns:


Black simply needs to drag the white king away from the queening squares: 46…Bxd4! 47.Bxf5 b3! 48.axb3 a3! and Irina Krush resigned since she couldn't stop the a-pawn.

The meant that 15-year-old Jennifer Yu has now beaten Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih in the first four rounds to become joint leader of the event. That’s remarkable, though it’s worth noting that in 2016 she drew Irina in Round 9 and then beat Anna in Round 10! Jennifer is joined by Krush, Feng, Paikidze and also Anna Zatonskih at the top - the latter drew despite a puzzling half an hour spent on her first four moves.

The kids are also making the adults struggle outside the St. Louis Chess Club! | photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 5 is the last round before the long tournament’s only rest day, and will see what’s likely to be the theme of the remainder of the event: the top trio of So (vs. Zherebukh), Nakamura (Naroditsky) and Caruana (Onischuk) trying to beat players they outrate by 150 points or more.

Don’t miss all the action from 20:00 CEST onwards here on chess24: US Champs | Women's US Champs  You can also watch all the action for free in our mobile apps:

         

See also:


Sort by Date Descending Date Descending Date Ascending Most Liked Receive updates

Comments 8

Guest
Guest 4657558812
 
Join chess24
  • Free, Quick & Easy

  • Be the first to comment!

Register
or

Create your free account now to get started!

I am aged 16 or older.

By clicking ‘Register’ you agree to our terms and conditions and confirm you have read our privacy policy, including the section on the use of cookies.

Lost your password? We'll send you a link to reset it!

After submitting this form you'll receive an email with the reset password link. If you still can't access your account please contact our customer service.

Data Consent Details

We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines.

Using chess24 requires the storage of some personal data, as set out below. You can find additional information in our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, Disclaimer and Terms of Website Use. Please note that your data settings can be changed at any time by clicking on the Data Settings link in the footer at the bottom of our website.

data details

Necessary Data

Some data is technically necessary to be able to visit the page at all. A so-called cookie stores identifiers that make it possible to respond to your individual requests. It contains a session ID - a unique, anonymous user ID combined with an authentication identifier (user_data). A security identifier (csrf) is also stored to prevent a particular type of online attack. All of these fields are alpha-numeric, with almost no relation to your real identity. The only exception is that we monitor some requests with the IP address that you are currently using, so that we are able to detect malicious use or system defects. Additionally, a technical field is stored (singletab) to ensure that some interactions are only processed in the browser tab that is currently active. For example, a new chess game will not be opened in all your current tabs. We use your local storage to save the difference between your local clock and our server time (serverUserTimeOffset), so that we are able to display the date and time of events correctly for you. You can also enable more data fields, as described in the other sections. Your personal decision on which data storage to enable is also stored as necessary information (consent).

Settings Data

We offer a range of personal settings for your convenience. Options include which opponents you prefer to be paired against, your preferred chessboard and pieces, the board size, the volume setting of the video player, your preferred language, whether to show chat or chess notation, and more. You can use our web page without storing this data, but if you would like to have your individual settings remembered we recommend enabling this feature. For logged-in registered users this setting is mandatory to store information about your privacy settings, users you have blocked and your friendship settings. As a registered user we also store your data consent in these settings.

Social Media Data

We embed a Twitter feed showing activity for the hashtag #c24live and also make it possible to share content in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If you enable this option social networks are able to store data in your cookies or local storage for the purpose of these features.

Statistics Data

We would like to measure how our page is used with Google Analytics, so that we can decide which features to implement next and how to optimize our user experience. If you enable this feature Google will store your device identifiers and we will send tracking events (such as page requests) to Google Analytics. These have no direct relationship to your person except for the IP address currently being used.

Marketing Data

To help cover the cost of free services we would like to show you advertisements from our partner networks. Members of these networks store data on the banners shown to you and try to deliver ads that are relevant. If you choose not to allow this kind of data we have to show more anonymous advertisements and will be more limited in the free services we can offer.

Other Data

For registered users we store additional information such as profile data, chess games played, your chess analysis sessions, forum posts, chat and messages, your friends and blocked users, and items and subscriptions you have purchased. You can find this information in your personal profile. A free registration is not required to use this application. If you decide to contact the support team a ticket is created with information that includes your name and email address so that we can respond to your concern. This data is processed in the external service Zendesk. If you subscribe to a newsletter or are registered we would like to send you occasional updates via email. You can unsubscribe from newsletters and as a registered user you can apply several mail settings to control how your email address is used. For newsletters we transfer your email address and username to the external service MailChimp. If you buy content or subscriptions on chess24 we work with the payment service provider Adyen, which collects your payment data and processes information about the payment such as fraud protection data.