Caruana Takes Share Of Lead; Wang Unstoppable At U.S. Championships Rd. 7
WIM Annie Wang, normally stoic, cracked a few smiles today. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Caruana Takes Share Of Lead; Wang Unstoppable At U.S. Championships Rd. 7

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Apr 25, 2018, 8:20 PM |
46 | Chess Event Coverage

Certain rules are forming at the 2018 U.S. Championships

1. Don't play the French against GM Fabiano Caruana.

2. GM Zviad Izoria is not to be underestimated.

3. There's a better chance of WIM Annie Wang making a mistake on her homework than at the chessboard.

In today's round seven, pre-round leader GM Sam Shankland defied his earlier statements and drew calmly with one of the big guns, GM Wesley So. That gave Caruana an opening, and he used it to play a bughouse-like game in dealing one-time leader GM Varuzhan Akobian his second straight loss.

Both Shankland and Caruana share the lead with 5.0/7. 

Caruana

Remember me? After losing in round four, Caruana has now won two in a row. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Also consequential was GM Hikaru Nakamura finally breaking his drawing streak, but not in a good way. Izoria won a technical ending that even had Nakamura flummoxed for a few minutes after he flagged.

In the U.S. Women's Championship, WIM Annie Wang ensured no one could equal her. She won again, today over WGM Anna Sharevich, and now has five wins and two draws (6.0/7). Wang's lead over IM Nazi Paikidze grew to a full point when the 2016 champion only barely hung on against IM Anna Zatonskih.

Wang may well need that buffer. Her last four rounds are against the past four women to win the event! Although pairings are known in their entirety after the opening ceremony, she told Chess.com that she only realized after round three that this brutal stretch would be her tournament's conclusion. 

Back to Caruana. After obliterating GM Alex Lenderman's earlier French in 23 moves, today he similarly attacked Akobian's longtime friend. Caruana has been playing bughouse many nights with grandmaster friends, and today many of those games' elements were in play. Namely, he punctured a hole on g7 with a pawn sac, had his king walk to open space to avoid mate, mostly ignored an impending promotion on a1, and finally finished with a flurry of checks to maintain the initiative.

No one was handing him any pieces, but he didn't need any for all the fun.

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"I thought he played a very dangerous line," Caruana said.

On his day off, Caruana watched "Ready Player One," a film about a virtual reality escape from future slums. The movie is science fiction, but is even more fictitious for Caruana.

His reality is about as utopian as it gets for a chess player—two tournament wins in a row, a shot at the world title, co-leading the U.S. Championship, and playing with aggressiveness to steamroll world-class opponents.

He said he didn't think this was his best game. Caruana prefers more protracted fights rather than one-sided crushes.

Chess.com's interview with Caruana.

Much earlier in the day, Shankland-So was most symmetric until the defending championship eked out an extra pawn, but it wasn't enough to win.

"It's very hard to create chances with either color," So said. 

Shankland was surprised that So didn't try for more.

"I thought he was going to come after me," Shankland said, noting that So has yet to play the other world top-10 players. "I'm kind of honored that these 2800 guys are giving me enough respect to just force a draw against me as Black."

Shankland

The giants don't seem so tall for Shankland this year. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Shankland said he thought about "trolling" So by baiting him to overpress. In the end Shankland decided that since he only spent 10 minutes preparing for the Grunfeld, liquidation was just fine. He earned the draw despite what he called his own "haphazard" play.

Earlier in the tournament, Shankland did not agree with the strategy of playing for draws against the "big three" while trying to rack up points against the rest of the field. Earlier in the event he said, "they can die."

Shankland seemed to defy his own plan today, but that wasn't necessarily the case as he explained to Chess.com.

"It feels impossible to outscore [the three top players] against the rest of the field," Shankland said. "Granted that I've already done that, it doesn't make as much sense (to follow that previous advice)."

Shankland also has (a wounded) Nakamura tomorrow as Black, where he doubtless would be happy with another lifeless game. "It's going to be the toughest challenge," he said. "I've already given up predicting what Hikaru is going to do. He's much more erratic in his choices than Wesley or Fabiano, and I totally failed to predict what they played."

Nakamura

GM Hikaru Nakamura has upgraded this tournament from the "normal" 8.4oz can of Red Bull to the 12oz. can. But they seem to also make a 20oz. size! | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Nakamura could be even more erratic after today. In the middle of the round, So said Nakamura was "starting to play like Anish Giri" with the six straight draws. But both broke the strings of draws today. Giri won in Shamkir while Nakamura justly lost a technical rook ending.

After the game ended, Nakamura still wondered if there was any hope for him depending on which file his rook toggled. He stayed and analyzed on the sidewalk for a few minutes, eventually realizing he was lost no matter what. So his flagging was moot.

Izoria, the tournament's everyman, is now done with the big three. Turns out, they weren't so big. He went 2.5/3 versus Caruana, Nakamura, and So.

Wang

Wang Yue, Wang Hao, now Annie Wang. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

In the women's tournament, Wang banged out another win. Although her king was under some duress and she was poorly developed, the teenager stayed calm and navigated the rough seas with a nifty practical lifeline: 29...Na6. She's not a greenhorn anymore.

"I was just trying to get my pieces out," Wang said. "I just concentrated on trying not to lose."

Chess.com's interview with Wang.

The win doubles her lead to a full game. It could have been more were it not for Paikidze's creativity in defense.

Paikidze

IM Nazi Paikidze's king adventures dropped her a full point back of the leader, but it could have been much worse. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

As told to Chess.com, her strategy didn't go too well. Despite coming off of the free day, Paikidze decided she wanted to avoid theory and just play a chess position. Her reasoning? Zatonskih's proclivity to think too long would be exacerbated.

"She plays a lot of openings," Paikidze said. "I just don't have anything prepared against her. I thought if I played something she didn't know, she'd use a lot of time."

Since she did indeed get low on time, Zatonskih halfway agreed to Chess.com, but pointed out the obvious fact that the strategy wasn't foolproof, otherwise Paikidze's king would not be walking to d2 on move 13. 

"I was having a terrible headache and wasn't able to calculate any variations," Zatonskih said.

"She was very lucky today," Zatonskih said. "She was desperate."

Chess.com asked Paikidze if she felt like she has a disadvantage by not having a grandmaster second or husband to help her prepare. Not really.

"I chose not to have a coach," she said. "I just like the freedom of playing whatever I want." She hasn't had one in six years.

Paikidze said Wang wasn't on her radar before the tournament.

"She has definitely impressed since the last time she was here." Both Paikidze and Wang made their U.S. women's championship debuts in 2015, although back then Paikidze scored more than double the number of points as Wang (7.5 to 3.5).

Krush

GM Irina Krush brought her back of tricks today but struggled to draw with WGM Sabina Foisor. Krush now trails Wang by 1.5 points. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Also wanting to avoid theory today was WIM Jennifer Yu. In her game against FM Maggie Feng, it was a trip to the zoo. Yu played the Orangutan and the crowd got to see it mate.

"Honestly I have no idea why I played that," Yu said. "You only live once."

Here's the first YOLO game in chess history:

Yu explained her opening choice further: "What's the worst thing that can happen? I can lose, but at least I'll have fun while I'm losing." 

You know what else was fun? Watching that moving sandbar of pawns create the prettiest pawn islands you may ever see. Curiously, a flank opening produced that awesome center.

Jennifer Yu

WIM Jennifer Yu is hiding it well here, but she could be seen smiling slightly when people saw she'd opened with 1. b4. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Between Yu and Izoria, who said earlier in the event he just plays for fun, it's a great reminder not to take this game too seriously.

Former champion IM Rusa Goletiani also reminded us of this. She lost her fifth game in a row and said she's been down since the passing of her friend, IM Nino Khurtsidze.

"Mommy ,did you try your best?" her daughter asked her.

"Yes," Goletiani said.

"Mommy, that's a win then. You have to go back. Next year you're going to do better."

2018 U.S. Championship | Standings After Round 7

Rank Name Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2804 ½ 1 1 0 1 ½ 1 5
2 GM Shankland, Samuel 2671 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 5
3 GM So, Wesley 2786 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5
4 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2647 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 3.5
5 GM Zherebukh, Yaroslav 2640 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.5
6 GM Lenderman, Aleksandr 2599 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5
7 GM Izoria, Zviad 2599 1 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 3.5
8 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 3
9 GM Xiong, Jeffery 2665 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3
10 GM Liang, Awonder 2552 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 3
11 GM Robson, Ray 2660 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 2.5
12 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2672 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 2

2018 U.S. Women's Championship | Standings After Round 7

Rank Name Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 FM Wang, Annie 2321 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 6
2 IM Paikidze, Nazi 2352 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 5
3 GM Krush, Irina 2422 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 4.5
4 IM Zatonskih, Anna 2444 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 4
5 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 2366 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 4
6 FM Yu, Jennifer 2367 0 0 0 ½ 1 1 1 3.5
7 FM Feng, Maggie 2243 0 ½ 0 1 0 1 1 3.5
8 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 2308 ½ ½ 0 0 1 ½ ½ 3
9 WGM Sharevich, Anna 2281 0 0 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 3
10 FM Gorti, Akshita 2252 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 1 3
11 IM Derakhshani, Dorsa 2306 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1.5
12 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 2306 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 1

The 2018 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship are twin 12-player round robins from April 18-30. The time control is 40/90, SD/30 with a 30-second increment from move one. You can follow all the action at the official website. Games will be daily at 1 p.m. Central time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. UTC). Chess.com is on site and will be bringing you daily reports and video interviews.

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