Izoria Shocks Caruana At U.S. Champs Round 4
GM Zviad Izoria is congratulated by his mom and sister just after the game. | Mike Klein/

Izoria Shocks Caruana At U.S. Champs Round 4

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

No one is safe in St. Louis. Not even would-be world champions.

With a certain super-tournament in the Caucuses netting a combined zero wins in three rounds, the fighting chess in America's Heartland is counterbalancing that. In the first three days in St. Louis, the players produced a fecund crop of 19 wins at the 2018 U.S. Championships.

In today's round four, eight more wins came, including six-for-six by the ladies, making the tally an astounding 27 full points from 48 games. No result was more surprising than GM Zviad Izoria, who was tied for last place, shocking GM Fabiano Caruana, who needs no introduction.


GM Zviad Izoria was once 2660 at the age of 22, but the biggest win of his life came today at the age of 34. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Izoria, a self-admitted non-professional from the Bay Area of California, hung around in the ending long enough for the tournament's co-leader to over-press. He's got some new source material for lessons with his students.

His family also picked a great day to visit. Izoria's sister (WFM Ana Izoria) and mother came from New York, explaining that St. Louis is a lot closer than visiting him in California. Turns out the distance and timing were both impeccable. They embraced him after he descended the stairs.

"He still kept pushing and somehow I was just lucky in the end," Izoria said about the finish. "I feel bad for winning that kind of position."


For the moment, GM Fabiano Caruana was standing, but that all changed a few hours later. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Ana Izoria watched the final moves on the video monitor downstairs. It reminded her of when she and her brother were both much younger, and she would follow his games then too. But it has been a while since Zviad was playing in top-flight events.

With each player down to a rook, knight, and two pawns, Caruana offered one of them to advance his king. But then Izoria, clad in poker-chip-colored plaid jacket, wedged his rook in the middle of the action. He seemed to be baiting Caruana to chase it, which the world number two did. That's when he became the world number three.

Today's loss reminded many of Caruana's blunder in a better position at the 2017 U.S. Championship against GM Varuzhan Akobian. The difference today is that he was never really winning, unlike last year's tragedy.

Izoria said he doesn't worry about the players he's up against or the results he's endured in the opening rounds.

"I don't complain, I just show up for the chess game and try again," he said. His name will now likely be synonymous with this result.

Previously, Izoria was best known for winning first prize at the 2005 HB Global Chess Challenge. His check back then was $50,000. At the time, that was an outlandishly-high prize for a chess tournament in the U.S. Nowadays, that exact amount is the norm at the U.S. Championship.'s interview with Izoria.

The loss cost Caruana the tournament lead and about eight rating points. He's now a few decimal points behind GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the live rating list.

The only other winner of the round was new author GM Sam Shankland, who won his second game in a row.

"I had never seen Bf4," Shankland said of GM Ray Robson's rare bishop posting in the Open Spanish. "A lot of times when I play with Ray his moves don't make sense to me, and I still lose."

Robson Shankland

GM Ray Robson (left) an GM Sam Shankland, about as close to head-butting as two players get at the board. | Photo: Mike Klein/

The real issue for the Webster Gorlok was a miscalculation a few moves later. Robson allowed his knight to be pinned, thinking that 18. Qd3 would provide an antidote.

"I guess he must have missed 18...g6," was Shankland's guess. "Just like yesterday, I thought I would take material and hope I don't get mated."

With the upcoming world championship match, will Shankland's allegiance be with GM Magnus Carlsen, who he previously assisted in the runup to the 2016 title, or with Caruana, his longtime national team colleague and fellow American?'s video interview with Shankland.

In other action, GM Alex Lenderman was the one pressuring GM Wesley So as Black. Eventually, the defending champion held.

GM Hikaru Nakamura tried the King's Indian Attack against GM Awonder Liang's French, essaying a setup seen twice at the 2017 World Rapid and Blitz Championships. The topical line amounted to nothing since White couldn't make any holes near Black's king. They also drew.


GM Sam Shankland got back into contention by pulling himself up by his bootstraps. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

"I definitely expected to see some offbeat lines," Liang told "He had three draws in the first three games, so he was definitely looking for a win."

Deep down the teenager knew his position was OK, but he couldn't escape thoughts of the particular man pushing the pieces across from him. "It's just a thing in the background. You're playing such a strong attacking player."

Liang had played the three tournament leaders in the first three rounds, then today got Nakamura as Black. "I'm happy to be done with the 2800s," he said.


No Fischer Prize and also no Fischer heroics in the King's Indian Attack as GM Awonder Liang was well prepared to meet the e5 advance. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the U.S. Women's Championship, they also had a "perfect" day. But unlike in Shamkir, that meant all wins, not all draws. Players of the white pieces won five games while Black won the sixth.

Just like last round, IM Nazi Paikidze and WIM Annie Wang still lead the way in the standings. The only difference is that their 3.5/4 is now more impressive than yesterday's 2.5/3.


Be careful of fast starts, ladies. This Dodge Challenger was burning rubber up and down Maryland Avenue in the middle of the round. The tire squeal and pedestrians in the area caused one of the club's off-duty policemen to tell them to look for open files elsewhere. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Paikidze opened with 1. e4 and faced one of her old standbys, but as White. WGM Anna Sharevich paused after the surprise, then chose the Caro-Kann, which is also in Paikidze's toolkit as Black.

"I thought it would be a very long, quiet game," Paikidze said. It wasn't.

Paikidze was surprised by the plan beginning with 9...Na6. But surprised doesn't mean unhappy. A short time later, she offered some material without much pause.

"I wasn't 100 percent sure, but I went with my instinct," Paikidze told about the snap decision to give up a center pawn. "I like to sacrifice pawns for the initiative." 

Paikidze Sharevich

What's in the coffee cups? No truth to the rumor that both women are drinking blonde roast. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The only "blight" to an otherwise scintillating game is that a weird undeveloping move might have saved Black.

"24...Ng8 is not human," Paikidze said.


Next up for Paikidze is seven-time champion GM Irina Krush. That matchup has not caused any issues for the one-time champ. Paikidze has beaten Krush all three times they've played, which happen to be the last three U.S. Women's Championships. (Krush when presented with the stat: "There's not too many people I've lost to three times in a row.")

Paikidze doesn't have a dominant thought of why she matches up so well against Krush. "I think I just play normally and I think she overpresses," Paikidze told


IM Nazi Paikidze arrives at the club with her husband. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The second of the three wins was the dramatic final round of the 2016 event, which allowed Paikidze to leapfrog the leader to win. Paikidze called it the best game of her life but she doesn't want to think about it during upcoming clashes.

"I don't want it to affect my future games," she said. 


Up next for Paikidze: GM Irina Krush. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Krush got herself back in contention today. After getting snakebitten by Sharevich yesterday, Krush entered what she called a no-risk "ending" with the rooks and queens still alive. Despite being down a pawn, she was playing for a win all the way.

"I think she underestimated this heavy-piece ending," Krush said about FM Maggie Feng's play. Things got murky when the thrust 41. f5 came, but Krush converted nonetheless.

Krush now sits on 2.5/4. "I think my score is very fair based given the positions I've had," she said.'s interview with Krush.

Wang looked likely to cede a half point to Paikidze at the top of the standings, but 107 moves later, the she pulled out an ending of her own against WIM Jennifer Yu.

Wang's game lasted almost exactly four times as many moves as Paikidze's rout (107 vs. 27), but in the end, the youngster kept pace.

Annie Wang

WIM Annie Wang needed extra scoresheets today. | Photo: Mike Klein/

If Kasparov can write a book about a single game, then today required several volumes for completeness. Instead, here's the "CliffsNotes" on the remainder: Other winners included WGM Sabina Foisor, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, and IM Anna Zatonskih.


IM Anna Zatonskih, wearing a good-luck charm for the first time. She's now 1-0 with the bracelet for her German club. | Photo: Mike Klein/

2018 U.S. Championship | Standings After Round 4

Rank Name Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 GM So, Wesley 2786 1 ½ ½ 1 3
2 GM Shankland, Samuel 2671 ½ 1 ½ 1 3
3 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2647 ½ ½ 1 1 3
4 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2804 1 1 0 ½ 2.5
5 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2
6 GM Zherebukh, Yaroslav 2640 0 ½ 1 ½ 2
7 GM Xiong, Jeffery 2665 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1.5
8 GM Robson, Ray 2660 0 ½ 0 1 1.5
9 GM Lenderman, Aleksandr 2599 ½ ½ ½ 0 1.5
10 GM Izoria, Zviad 2599 0 1 ½ 0 1.5
11 GM Liang, Awonder 2552 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1.5
12 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2672 0 0 ½ ½ 1

2018 U.S. Women's Championship | Standings After Round 4

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

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). is on site and will be bringing you daily reports and video interviews.

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FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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