Robson's Hat Trick Closes The Gap
Robson scored his third win straight on Thursday. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Robson's Hat Trick Closes The Gap

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

Scoring his third win in a row, GM Ray Robson completed a hat trick on Thursday at the 2022 U.S. Championship. The 27-year-old grandmaster beat GM Elshan Moradiabadi with the black pieces and is now trailing the leader, GM Fabiano Caruana, by half a point. The other winner of the day was GM Jeffery Xiong.

In the women's event, WIM Megan Lee leaped into first place with a score of 6/8 after overcoming FM Ashritha Eswaran. GM Irina Krush was held to a draw in her game that surrendered the lead while FM Jennifer Yu won her game, leaving the chasers half a point off Lee's pace.

Round nine of the event will start on October 14 at 11 a.m. PT/20:00 Central European.

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Pundits were quick to claim that Caruana's one-point lead was all that he would need to secure first place in the championship after just seven rounds though Robson's efforts on Thursday indicate there will undoubtedly be a contest for the top spot. 

With the black pieces, Robson was able to rip open Moradiabadi's kingside and quickly convert the position after several mistakes from his opponent, moving to 5.5/8. GM Rafael Leitao has provided his commentary on our game of the day below.

Tournament leader Caruana looked comfortable in his game against GM Sam Sevian, equalizing with black in 10 moves before gaining a small edge after several inaccuracies from his opponent. Fortunately for the rest of the field, the advantage was not a decisive one and Caruana was unable to cause Sevian serious problems.

When Caruana cuts a downtrodden look while drawing with black you know he is in good form. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

GM Christopher Yoo employed the unorthodox Fantasy Variation to combat Xiong's Caro-Kann but Xiong was up to the task. After inaccurately castling queenside, Yoo found himself in a slightly worse endgame before he made the confounding decision to give up a pawn for free on move 23. The endgame was immediately worse for Yoo as there was little compensation for the pawn.

GM Alex Lenderman missed a huge opportunity to take down GM Leinier Dominguez after recapturing a bishop with a pawn instead of with his king. The unusual recapture would have left Lenderman up a clean piece however after missing the tactic, the position was drawn. Dominguez swiftly offered a threefold repetition and the game was drawn.

Speaking of Dominguez, legendary GM Larry Kaufman was kind enough to comment on Wednesday's 10-move game and recounted the following: "I think the shortest loss in U.S. Championship history since I've been playing was Shirazi vs. Peters about 40 years ago." The game that Kaufman referenced was indeed a five-move loss that we have highlighted below.

In round nine, Caruana will face GM Awonder Liang while Robson will take on Lenderman. Both will be considered heavy favorites with the white pieces.

U.S. Championship | All Games Round 8

Round 8 Open Standings

Lee emerged as the sole leader of the women's event off the back of a powerful triumph over Eswaran in round eight. The tournament's 12th seed was in trouble early after Eswaran introduced a novelty on move 11 of the Sicilian Defense, purposely giving up a pawn as part of her preparation (a similar line between GMs Surya Ganguly and Boris Gelfand in 2021 ended in a win for Black).

Lee's performance rating of 2524 has gained her 62 rating points! Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Lee was able to draw on some momentum in the subsequent moments and when Eswaran bungled her attack, Lee was ready.

Although plus-three is generally an excellent score after eight rounds, the pressure is on Krush to turn more of her draws into wins after Lee continued to demolish the field. A draw in her game today against the bottom seed WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki did not help matters but does set up for an exciting finish.

Krush in deep concentration. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Celebrating her 13th birthday on Thursday, FM Alice Lee "didn't want to lose" and decided to play solidly against IM Nazi Paikidze. Lee was rewarded for her approach and received her birthday wish after Paikidze snapped on move 29 and gifted Lee a winning position. 

Lee's 5/8 score is remarkable for her age and in round nine she will have a chance to ascend to the top when she takes on second-placed Krush with the white pieces.

Yu's approach in this tournament has been to try and score as many decisive results as possible and Thursday's game was no different. Needing a win to bounce back from her loss to Lee (Megan) in round seven, Yu played energetically to dispatch FM Rochelle Wu.

Despite the loss, Wu spent some time blitzing and kibitzing with friends of the Saint Louis Chess Club. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

U.S. Women's Championship | All Games Round 8

Round 8 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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