Caruana Wins To Join Lead At U.S. Championship
WGM Anna Sharevich wore white, and won as White, but she was the exception today. | Mike Klein/

Caruana Wins To Join Lead At U.S. Championship

| 52 | Chess Event Coverage

Yesterday at the 2018 U.S. Championships, White dominated, winning all seven decisive games. In today's round three, the roulette wheel tilted the other way. Black won a total of five games, and players of the second move collectively did better in both the U.S. Championship and in the U.S. Women's Championship.

For a day, St. Louis turned into Wakanda.

Here's two possible explanations. First, GM Fabiano Caruana, who was one of the Black winners: "These days it's very tough to find an advantage with White...But when you're Black, you usually get chances because your opponents push and you'll usually get an interesting game...Strangely enough, with Black you have more chances to win."

Or, the field is one giant Wesley Snipes fan base:

With pre-round leaders GM Wesley So and GM Varuzhan Akobian drawing today, Caruana moved into a three-way tie for first. All of those men have 2.5/3 and officially now gone is the Fischer prize for a perfect score.

The three men are bound by one other curious factoid. All three have played GM Awonder Liang in the opening rounds. It's been trial by fire for the tournament's youngest player, who has managed two draws from those three games, including one today against So.

Awonder Liang

GM Awonder Liang has never played a tournament that has started as tough as this one. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

In the ladies' event, 2.5/3 is also the leading score. IM Nazi Paikidze and FM Annie Wang both won today to get an early edge on the field.

Today the women's event gets top billing. Five winners in six games earns that honor. One of those getting toppled was seven-time champion GM Irina Krush.

While WGM Anna Sharevich chased Krush's king to e7 early on; Kamsky-Karpov this was not. Just when it seemed Krush had stabilized the position, Sharevich ripped it open. Krush admitted that she relaxed a little too early.


WGM Anna Sharevich has played in six Olympiads, all for Belarus. She'll need to win the U.S. Women's Championship to play her first one for the U.S. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Sharevich called her first-ever win against Krush "one of my most beautiful games." Sure, this was one of the few White wins, but Sharevich is blonde, so maybe she plays better with that color.

Hey, it's not any more of a stretch than proclaiming that people whose names begin the "A" score better on tests!

You'll note in the above analysis that Sharevich missed her first chance to play Qg6+, where one of the lines involves a beautiful sacrifice Nf5! This now represents the third iteration in as many rounds of missing exactly that move!'s interview with Sharevich.


How the mighty have fallen! First Krush, now this tree branch outside the Saint Louis Chess Club. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Moving back to the theme of the round, Wang, Paikidze, and FM Maggie Feng all won as Black. 

Feng also put her king on e7. Unlike Sharevich, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan couldn't ever bust through, no matter how many pawns she offered.

Paikidze was yet another woman who decided that castling is for cowards. She voluntarily exchanged queens on move five, then outplayed fellow IM Dorsa Derakhshani by taking over space on both sides of the board.

She loved her bishop on d4 but found it hard to break through.

"It doesn't matter at all," Paikidze said of her early hot start. "Unlike the last couple of years, we don't have a single player much lower than the others."


Blonde on Blonde: IM Nazi Paikidze (standing) wonders what happens if 8. Bb5+. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

In case you need a master class on this opening trap. IM Eric Rosen has you covered:

Unlike the other two winners as Black, Wang had to fade a couple of tactical shots. IM Rusa Goletiani had a large advantage, but for the second day in a row, couldn't convert the full point. When the attack dissipated, Wang scored the third point as Black for the women.

FM Jennifer Yu rebounded from her 0-2 start to also win today, against defending champion WGM Sabina Foisor.

Jennifer Yu

It's OK Jennifer, you won this round. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

In the U.S. Championship, Black won two of the three decisive games. Caruana won his second in a row despite admitting that "I went into this game thinking to make a draw in case it happens." He seemed surprised that GM Jeffery Xiong's usual solidness didn't come through today, but the Benoni does have a way to man a sane man crazy.

Analysis by GM Robert Hess

Caruana's earlier statement about having more chances to win as Black comes with a caveat. You also have much more of a chance to suffer. He recalled last year's Norway super-tournament. "Sometimes you get interesting games, sometimes you get tortured," he said, adding that it happened every game as Black in that event.

GM Sam Shankland won as Black against GM Zviad Izoria, while GM Yaroslav Zherebukh won in study-like fashion against GM Ray Robson.


Five winners today on the women's side of the room. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Zherebukh said he couldn't remember what to do in early h4 lines, even though he checked the opening this morning.

"I just lost control, then I just let it flow," he said.

The whole idea of playing the Exchange Slav in the first place came from an anonymous helper. "It would never have crossed my mind to take the pawn on d5 on move three," Zherebukh said, declining to name his assistant.


"CruelYaro" lived up his username in the ending today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

There's numerous examples of allowing one's opponent to promote first and still win, but in this case, White had neither a pawn on the seventh, nor any mates. Robson's newly-promoted queen was that impotent:

Zherebukh said without that Kc7 blunder that Robson "should normally hold such positions."'s interview with Zherebukh.

Finally getting on the scoreboard today was GM Alex Onischuk. Even though he didn't convert a winning position against GM Hikaru Nakamura, last year's runner up was pleased with his play. The hall-of-famer knows Nakamura well, and suspected he'd play one of his patented amorphous pawn structures to keep pieces on the board.

"I had everything today!" Onischuk said about all of his trumps.


GM Alex Onischuk is the head coach at Texas Tech University, but he told that only 30 percent of his job is coaching. | Photo: Mike Klein/

In deference to Nakamura, he admitted that against a player like that, even the bishop pair, extra pawn, and better position aren't enough. Still, it didn't have to come to that, as Onischuk had a one-mover that would have iced the advantage. Weirdly a simple retreat would have turned around his tournament.

"Probably what I did was a little too extravagant and I got myself in a lot of trouble," Nakamura said. He added that he felt lucky to draw after missing 19. c5!

Nakamura told afterward that he saw 23. Bf3 and said to himself silently, "Please just take on d6!" Onischuk fell victim to the mind control.

Nakamura also explained that he wasn't specifically playing so exotically just because his opponent had lost two in a row (Onischuk to "I was the prey today!"). Still, the four-time champ had just finished two games with almost no chances for either side.

"It wasn't the right kind of imbalance," Nakamura said about today's effort to stir the pot. "Today was much more interesting. For the first 15 moves it was great. After that it was not the right kind of chess."


GM Hikaru Nakamura stands watch over other competitors. | Photo: Mike Klein/

He said he recalled the 2006 U.S. Championship, where he began 0.5/3, although three draws this year is not quite as desperate. Back 12 years ago, he shrugged off the horrible start by rattling off five straight wins to finish only one point off the lead. The winner that year? Onischuk. 

In case any one of the underdogs is trying to figure out how to buck the odds and win the event, Shankland gave some advice today. He said it is not right to try to draw the "big three" and then beat the others.

"They're also human beings," Shankland said about Nakamura, So, and Caruana. "They can die."

2018 U.S. Championship | Standings After Round 3

Rank Name Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2804 1 1 ½ 2.5
2 GM So, Wesley 2786 1 ½ 1 2.5
3 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2647 ½ 1 1 2.5
4 GM Shankland, Samuel 2671 ½ ½ 1 2
5 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 ½ ½ ½ 1.5
6 GM Robson, Ray 2660 ½ 0 1 1.5
7 GM Zherebukh, Yaroslav 2640 0 ½ 1 1.5
8 GM Xiong, Jeffery 2665 0 ½ ½ 1
9 GM Lenderman, Aleksandr 2599 0 ½ ½ 1
10 GM Liang, Awonder 2552 ½ ½ 0 1
11 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2672 0 0 ½ 0.5
12 GM Izoria, Zviad 2599 0 0 ½ 0.5

2018 U.S. Women's Championship | Standings After Round 3

Rank Name Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 IM Paikidze, Nazi 2352 ½ 1 1 2.5
2 FM Wang, Annie 2321 1 ½ 1 2.5
3 IM Zatonskih, Anna 2444 ½ 1 ½ 2
4 FM Feng, Maggie 2243 0 1 1 2
5 GM Krush, Irina 2422 0 ½ 1 1.5
6 WGM Sharevich, Anna 2281 0 1 ½ 1.5
7 FM Gorti, Akshita 2252 ½ ½ ½ 1.5
8 FM Yu, Jennifer 2367 0 0 1 1
9 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 2366 ½ 0 ½ 1
10 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 2308 0 ½ ½ 1
11 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 2306 0 ½ ½ 1
12 IM Derakhshani, Dorsa 2306 0 0 ½ 0.5

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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