U.S. Championship: So Still Leading the Way
Wesley So, still doing well. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

U.S. Championship: So Still Leading the Way

| 23 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Wesley So continues to lead the U.S. Championship with 5.5/6 points after two days of play. GM Jeffery Xiong and GM Ray Robson are still tied for second place while GM Hikaru Nakamura is on a disappointing 50 percent score.

"To have two people chasing you with only half a point behind is very disappointing," said So after the sixth round had ended. The remark was tongue in cheek, but it is indeed remarkable that the American grandmaster, who only conceded one draw, isn't leading by at least a full point.

So showed great attacking chess in his wins against GM Sam Shankland and GM Dariusz Swiercz as he improved his score to 5-0. Only then he calmed down with a trivial draw against GM Leinier Dominguez

Shankland didn't shy away from a sharp fight as he played the Samisch variation of the Nimzo-Indian. He got in trouble when he allowed a tactic:

Sam Shankland chess
Sam Shankland. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

So's win against Swiercz was a walkover. The American GM said he didn't expect the Grunfeld for this game, but he had a novelty ready anyway—an improvement over a move tried by GM Magnus Carlsen earlier this year. Swiercz didn't react well and got bulldozed by the white forces:

Wesley So
Wesley So. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Robson hasn't played much this year but is doing very well so far. The runner-up of the 2015 U.S. Championship won one of the most spectacular games of the year against GM Sam Sevian.

"I felt like I was doing very well, and then at the very end things became crazy," said Robson. "I knew like even if I had a winning position that he's gonna try every single trick and yeah, he almost got me."

Ray Robson 2020 U.S. Championship
Ray Robson during the live broadcast. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

After a hugely successful year so far, Nakamura finds himself in an unusual situation. Halfway through the tournament, he is close to losing his U.S. title.

For the second day in a row, he scored 50 percent. After a win vs. GM Alejandro Ramirez and a draw with GM Elshan Moradiabadi, Naka lost to the youngest participant, GM Awonder Liang.

The 17-year-old GM called it "probably one of the best games I've ever played" as he refuted over-aggressive opening play from his famed opponent. "I didn't really feel like what he was doing made a lot of sense."

Positionally, Liang got a dream position. "Not even from a perspective of winning the game, but just esthetically my position was so nice. Everything was going right, this game," he said.

Awonder Liang 2020 U.S. Championship
Awonder Liang during the live broadcast. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

After starting with 0/3, Liang did much better on the second day. His 2.5/3 included two wins with the black pieces. His approach to the tournament is admirable:

"I think it was just the understanding that I have nothing to lose, and I’m just gonna try maybe not just hold my own but actually try and win as many games as I can. Actually, by this point I’m already at the same amount of points wins as in my previous U.S. championships. It's not just about drawing games or holding against the top players but actually trying to beat them. If you do that, you’re going to end up taking some hits and taking some losses, which I probably will later in the tournament, but then you get to play some great games like this."

U.S. Championship | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 So,Wesley 2741 3026 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 5.5/6
2 Xiong,Jeffery 2730 2875 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 5.0/6 12
3 Robson,Ray 2605 2878 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 5.0/6 12
4 Sevian,Samuel 2571 2694 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.0/6 8.25
5 Shankland,Sam 2609 2643 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 3.0/6 6.25
6 Nakamura,Hikaru 2829 2591 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 3.0/6 5.5
7 Moradiabadi,Elshan 2566 2637 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/6 6.5
8 Liang,Awonder 2397 2629 0 0 0 1 ½ 1 2.5/6 4.75
9 Dominguez Perez,Leinier 2786 2554 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 2.0/6 8
10 Swiercz,Dariusz 2649 2523 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 2.0/6 4.25
11 Lenderman,Aleksandr 2642 2444 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1.5/6
12 Ramirez,Alejandro 2579 2358 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1.0/6

Games rounds 4-6

The 2020 U.S. Championship is played October 26-29 on lichess. It is a 12-player single round-robin with a time control of 25 minutes plus a five-second increment. The total prize fund is $150,000.

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