Reports Mar 24, 2019 | 4:25 PMby Colin McGourty

US Champs 3-4: Magnus trolls as Fabi misses win

“When your winless streak matches your age” tweeted Magnus Carlsen after 26-year-old Fabiano Caruana missed a clear win against Leinier Dominguez, making it a 26th classical game in a row without a win. But for that miss we would have had the big three of Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So and Fabi all in the lead, but instead Dominguez takes Fabi's place. They’re joined by Jeffery Xiong, the hero of Round 3 after defeating defending champion Sam Shankland. Jennifer Yu leads the women with a perfect 4/4, making her the last player in with a chance of winning the $64,000 Bobby Fischer prize.

Not again! A 26th classical game without a win for Fabiano Caruana | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The star names have often suffered in the US Championship in recent years, but this time round So (vs. Gareyev in Round 2) and Nakamura (vs. Sevian in Round 3) have picked up wins, while it looked for all the world as though Caruana would do the same when Dominguez stumbled with 37…Ra3? in Round 4:

Since the queen is now tied to the a3-rook Fabiano could win material with 38.Nef6+, 38.Ngf6+ or the move he chose – 38.Nxh6+. It would have been instant game over if not for 38…gxh6 39.Nf6+ Nxf6 40.exf6 Rxg3+!, and Black at least gets a couple of pawns for the exchange. It still looked like a hopeless task for the Cuban grandmaster until an amnesty on move 47, when Fabiano played 47.Kh2? (47.Qf3! would have wrapped things up):

Dominguez admitted he’d been about to resign before this “atrocious” blunder (Caruana’s word), but suddenly he realised that after 47…Qf6! he wasn’t even particularly worse. 

Nakamura and Caruana don't seem to be taking things too seriously | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

There were more twists, with Fabiano winning again until he finally threw it all away with 71.Qa8? (e.g. 71.Qf3 would spoil nothing)

That mistake could be explained away by time trouble, but it was still somewhat reckless to put the queen as far away from his own king as possible. After 71…Qe3+! it soon turned out that with the white queen and rook both AWOL there was no way to stop a draw by perpetual check.

It was a great save by Dominguez, who is now on +1 after playing his first classical games in over two years, but you wonder if the lack of wins in classical chess is weighing on Fabi. Since defeating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in Round 8 of the Batumi Olympiad on 2nd October 2018 his classical results are:  

  • 3 draws in Batumi
  • 12 draws in the World Championship match vs. Magnus
  • 4 draws in the Grand Chess Tour finals in London
  • 2 draws and 1 loss (to Peter Leko) in the Bundesliga
  • 4 draws in the US Championship

A total of 26 games, and the World Champion, who had come in for criticism himself for his drawing streak before he finally won a game in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year, wasn’t going to miss an opportunity!

Magnus now has a 34.7 point lead at the top of the world rankings, with Fabiano in real danger of losing his 2nd place to Ding Liren. Anish Giri decided to raise his head above the parapet, with perhaps inevitable results!

Magnus is treating his Top 10 rivals as though they’re Lawrence Trent 

Magnus will be playing more Banter Blitz here on chess24 at 18:00 CET on Sunday 24th March!

Meanwhile back at the US Championships the standings after four rounds look as follows:

After Round 3 there had been a sole leader, Jeffery Xiong, who pulled off the impressive feat of beating defending champion Sam Shankland. In fact Jeffery was also the last player to beat Sam in a US Championship, 17 games ago back in 2017!

It was an emotional game! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Their clash was extraordinary, with Sam looking busted by about move 10 and seemingly falling for a killer blow on move 16:

17.gxf3?? Bh3+ is mate-in-2, while 17.Qxf3 Re3!! is crushing, so it should have been game over, but Jeffery admitted that he’d only seen 16…Bxf3! at the last moment and was trying to play on intuition for much of the game. The problem was that intuition was sometimes unreliable in such a wild position, and after 17.N3e4 Bg4 18.d7! only the extraordinary 18…Re5! stopped him from actually being worse. The game was anyone’s, but ultimately the winning move was the one Jeffery made by moving one of the 7 pieces on the h-file into the centre of the board:

Some mistakes were made, but Jeffery went on to win in 41 moves.

Robson went for some bold fashion choices before beating Xiong in Round 4 | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

In Round 4 Xiong’s luck ran out against Ray Robson, even if it took Ray 12 moves to accept a piece sacrifice he could and should have taken immediately! The other games were all drawn, but we’ve already seen the drama of Caruana-Dominguez, and that was matched by Sevian-Gareyev. First the entrance, a fashionable 25 minutes late!

When quizzed about it afterwards Timur offered no explanation and just shrugged, “Ah, that’s life!” He revealed he’d also been playing in another local tournament for a little rest and relaxation.

The game itself looked utterly hopeless for Timur when he put his rook on a4 only to see it shut in by 31.a3!, and after 31…Rb3 Sam Sevian blitzed out 32.Rd3?? and may simply have expected resignation. If rooks are exchanged his king will make a short march to gobble up the stranded rook on a4:

32…Rxb2!! came as the coldest of cold showers for Sam, since 33.Rxb2 runs into 33…Rxc4+ 34.Kf3 (34.Bd4! is better, but Black is still on top after 34…cxd4) 34…e4+! and Black is winning. Sam was in danger before the time control, but then regrouped well and ultimately even got to test if Gareyev could hold the theoretically drawn but tricky Rook vs. Rook + Bishop ending. He did, and that’s now two draws in a row for by far the tournament’s most eccentric player.

Job done! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

One tweet summed the game up best:

You can replay all the US Championship games below:

In the women’s section only two games out of 12 were drawn in Rounds 3 and 4, with too much mayhem to summarise. The one constant has been 17-year-old Jennifer Yu, who maintained a perfect 4/4 score:

It’s of course hugely unlikely that she’ll win $64,000 for repeating Bobby Fischer’s feat of scoring a perfect 11/11, but as you can see she has already defeated the highest rated player in the tournament.

Jennifer Yu more than withstood the test against Irina Krush | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Irina Krush put too much trust in her queenside pawns and then, with 33.Qa4?, committed a fatal error:

Jennifer found the forced 33…Qg5! 34.g3 Nf3+ 35.Kg2 Ne1+ and was soon a pawn and two exchanges up, with the white king remaining in danger. It would go from bad to worse for Irina, who put up heroic resistance before losing to Sabina Foisor in 146 moves in Round 4. Irina’s old rival Anna Zatonskih is in clear second place, just half a point behind Jennifer.

A best-game collection performance by Tatev Abrahamyan | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Perhaps the combination of the women's event came from Tatev Abrahamyan, who found 13...c4!! against Carissa Yip in Round 3:

We got to see the point in the game, as 14.Qxc4 ran into 14...Nxe5! 15.Nxe5 Bb5! and the white queen had been trapped. Tatev went on to win in style.

If Caruana doesn't want to have failed to win a game for more than his age he needs to beat Nakamura with Black in Round 5! Don’t miss all the action from 13:00 local time, 19:00 CET live here on chess24: Open | Women

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