US Chess Championships R11: Caruana, So, Sevian Advance To Tiebreaks
Sevian (left) and Caruana (right) shared first place alongside So with 6.5/11 and advance to the tie-break playoffs. Photo: Crystal Full/Saint Louis Chess Club.

US Chess Championships R11: Caruana, So, Sevian Advance To Tiebreaks

| 25 | Chess Event Coverage

In round 11 of the 2021 U.S. Chess Championship, all three leaders drew their games which resulted in a three-way tie for first place among GMs Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, and Sam Sevian. They all finished with 6.5/11 and will play a rapid playoff on Tuesday, October 19, to determine the champion. 

In the U.S. Women's Chess Championship, IM Carissa Yip won the event with a round to spare and finished with 8.5/11. Second place went to WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, who scored 7/11, while GM Irina Krush took third place with 6.5/11 score.

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

One of the leaders, So, was facing GM Ray Robson and had the white pieces. Before the round, many thought he was a big favorite to win the event. However, So chose a very quiet variation and quickly exchanged all the pieces to draw the game and guarantee himself a top-three finish: As we know, the other leaders drew and So advanced to the tie-breaks.

Wesley So played it very safe in the last round versus Ray Robson, which earned him a shared first place. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Another leader, Sevian, was expected to have a more difficult task because he was playing the last round with Black versus GM Daniel Naroditsky, who has been surprising his opponents with unusual opening choices throughout the entire tournament. But, this game turned out different: the players went for a famous repetition in the Italian game, where White rapidly grabs the center, but Black counterattacks it and ends up repeating moves.

Obviously, there was not much Sevian could do with Black versus a strong grandmaster to play for a win without taking a lot of risks, and it's understandable he did not want to: a top-three finish in such a strong tournament is, by all means, a massive success. 

Finally, the other leader, Caruana, had a completely different mindset: unlike the rest, he was willing to play ambitiously, try to win the game, and put as much pressure on the opponent as possible instead of looking for a safe quick draw. He completely outplayed GM Sam Shankland, but then failed to make a few precise moves and let the opponent save half a point. 

While discussing his playoffs chances with GM Maurice Ashley, Caruana said: "I feel pretty comfortable in that format, but I don't know, right now I'm too tired to think about it. It was a tough game and a tough tournament."

... It was a tough game and a tough tournament. 
—Fabiano Caruana 

Fabiano Caruana was very close to winning clear first, but drew his last game and ended up sharing the first place. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The player who was half a point behind leaders the entire tournament, GM Leinier Dominguez Perez, was slightly better versus GM Dariusz Swiercz, but never had a significant advantage and a draw ensued. Dominguez played a very solid tournament and finished with one win and ten draws, which ended up being enough to share fourth place. Swiercz had a rather successful end of the tournament as he managed to finish at a solid 5/11 mark after a turbulent start.

GM Aleksandr Lenderman, who was sharing the first place for a long time before losing to Caruana in the tenth round, was in a must-win situation with the black pieces versus GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista. The latter had a rather bad tournament and lost a few games in a row at the end, but he played a solid game with White in the last round and was pressing the entire time, never letting Black have a shot at winning. Eventually, Lenderman found himself in a queen endgame a pawn down, which was between lost and nearly lost. He managed to save half a point, which yielded him shared 4th-6th place and a solid rating gain.

Finally, GM John M. Burke finished the event on an amazing note by winning a gorgeous game against GM Jeffery Xiong in just 25 moves. In the Quiet Italian, White opened the center and quickly developed a decisive attack to finish at 5/11. Let's take a look:

Because there is a three-way tie, the tournament now moves onto the tie-break playoffs. Caruana, So, and Sevian will play each other in a round-robin rapid tournament with a time control of 10 minutes with a 2-second delay. If no winner is determined, the remaining ties are broken by blitz games with a time control of 3 minutes and a 2-second delay. Finally, if necessary, the outcome will be decided by Armageddon games.

 U.S. Championship All Games Round 11

Round 11 Standings

2021 US championships standings

In the U.S. Women's Chess Championship, the champion was determined with a round to spare but the last round was crucial for the overall standings.

One of the two players who was sharing second place, Krush, had the white pieces versus WGM Tatev Abrahamyan. She went for the English opening and got a comfortable advantage. However, at some point, White misplayed the position and it became balanced again. Unfortunately, as they say, mistakes seldom happen alone—soon White traded the queens when she should not have, and then got her bishop trapped. Abrahamyan did not let her opponent generate any counterplay and went on to easily win the game, leaving Krush in third place.

Tatev Abrahamyan shaped the final standings by beating Irina Krush with Black. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The other contender for the second place, Tokhirjonova, drew WGM Thalia Landeiro Cervantes in a complicated game, where White was nearly winning at some point, but then Cervantes, who was playing with Black, defended and was pressing a pawn up. This draw allowed the tournament debutant, who just started representing the United States, to win clear second place—a huge accomplishment!

The first-ever US Championship was a big success for Tokhirjonova, who clinched clear second place. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The 2021 Women's US Champion Yip drew her game—for the first time in the last seven rounds—by saving a lost position versus WGM Katerina Nemcova, which resulted in her scoring 8.5/11, which is an absolutely fantastic result. 

WIM Ashritha Eswaran outplayed WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor with Black. In the Slav defense, the players got a typical position with an isolated pawn for Black, and the situation looked balanced. However, White ended up missing a cute tactic, which gave Black a large positional advantage, which she eventually converted to end the tournament with 6 points out of 11.

Ashritha Eswaran was pressing in the last round and scored 6/11. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

WIM Megan Lee got a large advantage with White versus WGM Anna Sharevich, but the latter defended very stubbornly and managed to save half a point after many precise moves. Lastly, neither IM Anna Zatonskih nor IM Nazi Paikidze had a great tournament, and they quickly repeated the moves, drawing their game.

U.S. Women's Championship All Games Round 11

Round 11 Standings

2021 US Women's chess championship standings

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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