Niemann Wins: 'A Comeback Is Brewing'
"I just didn't feel like thinking." - Niemann. Photo: Crystal Fuller

Niemann Wins: 'A Comeback Is Brewing'

| 183 | Chess Event Coverage

The 10th round of the 2022 U.S. Chess Championship took place on Saturday with a single decisive result in favor of GM Hans Niemann. Draws for GMs Fabiano Caruana and Ray Robson left them on 7/10 and 6.5/10 respectively with chances for chasers to contest the top spot in the final three rounds.

The women's event saw two winners with black, WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova and FM Thalia Cervantes, while the tournament leader FM Jennifer Yu spun the dice in a game that could've ended in any result. Yu still leads the women's event with 7/10 and GM Irina Krush is ominously positioned right on her tail with 6.5/10.

Following Sunday's rest day, round 11 of the event will start on October 17 at 11 a.m. PT/20:00 Central European.

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As fatigue kicks in after 10 rounds of play in St. Louis, the endurance of the field comes into question. On Saturday, Niemann was the most energetic. Playing with the black pieces against GM Elshan Moradiabadi, Niemann opted for the King's Indian Defense in an attempt to spice up the encounter and was rewarded for his choice.

Are you not entertained? Niemann's chaotic style was on full display on Saturday. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

"I felt like I needed to go back to my roots of playing just absolutely psychotic chess," was what Niemann claimed in regard to his strategy against a struggling Moradiabadi. GM Rafael Leitao has unpacked the encounter in our game of the day below.

Niemann, playing up to his reputation, was candid about his tournament in his post-match interview, stating: "I think it's always good when someone as arrogant as me is humbled." Saturday's result left Niemann feeling bullish about his comeback chances in the tournament and more chaos is expected as a result in the following games.

GM Christopher Yoo gave Caruana next to no chance to win in their duel, choosing an ultra-solid line of the Symmetrical English Opening. Caruana poked and prodded for a while but as the pieces flew off it became clear that he wouldn't extend his lead heading into the rest day.

Yoo was unbreakable in round 10. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Robson's game against GM Sam Sevian also flatlined after the queens were exchanged in a balanced line of the Ragozin Defense. Even Stockfish didn't quite understand how drawn the endgame was when Sevian cheekily sacrificed his bishop for a pawn to block up the position.

Looking ahead, Caruana will play white against GM Jeffery Xiong while Robson will also play white against GM Awonder Liang in round 11. With both players tipped as the favorites, the next round could go a long way to deciding this year's champion.

U.S. Championship | All Games Round 10

Round 10 Open Standings

The most important game of the women's event in round nine was a tale of three parts that almost saw Yu lose her lead, then extend it, before eventually drawing and maintaining her half-a-point buffer over Krush. The game was an evaluation rollercoaster and Yu will be relieved to have the rest day to settle her nerves ahead of a round 11 clash against Tokhirjonova.

Krush was unable to make inroads against FM Rochelle Wu who showed ample understanding of the Semi-Slav Defense. Krush will take on IM Nazi Paikidze in round 11.

Taking on a tournament's top seed is never an easy task. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Although five of today's games ended in draws, the two decisive results introduced new challengers to the top spot. Tokhirjonova took advantage of FM Ashritha Eswaran's inconsistent form and executed an incisive pawn break in the late middlegame. The tactical shot only gave Tokhirjonova a minute advantage however she was able to turn the initiative into a material advantage, winning the exchange not long after.

After losing in round nine, WIM Megan Lee was unable to find her feet against Cervantes who was riding the momentum after her barnstorming, game of the day victory on Friday. Cervantes showed expert knowledge of the pawn structures arising from the Sicilian Najdorf and ground down Lee in a bishop and pawn ending to move to 6/9.

Cervantes has picked up the pace winning consecutive games. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

13-year-old FM Alice Lee also fell agonizingly short of joining Krush on 6.5/10 after blundering away a winning bishop and pawn ending against IM Anna Zatonskih

Should Yu and Krush draw their round 11 games, a huge clash awaits in the penultimate round where they are paired against each other. For Krush, the game will be one that she needs to win with the black pieces in one of the more dramatic finishes to a chess event in recent times.

U.S. Women's Championship | All Games Round 10

Round 10 Women's Standings

The 2022 U.S. Chess Championships take place October 4-20, 2022 in St. Louis to determine the next chess champions of the United States. The 2022 U.S. Women's Championship is being held concurrently. Both events have the same format: 14 players, 13-round tournament with a $250,500 prize fund for the U.S. Championship, and $154,000 for the U.S. Women’s Championship.

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