U.S. Champs Round 4: Nakamura Holds Off So, Nemcova Takes Clear Lead

U.S. Champs Round 4: Nakamura Holds Off So, Nemcova Takes Clear Lead

GM Hikaru Nakamura blundered but escaped against GM Wesley So in round 4 of the 2015 U.S. Championship in Saint Louis. Nakamura leads with GM Ray Robson who drew with GM Varuzhan Akobian.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Saint Louis, all eyes were on the key matchup of the 2015 U.S. Championship, as GM Hikaru Nakamura pressed for an edge against GM Wesley So in a strategic Queen’s Gambit Declined.

Fighting against two bishops and a small space advantage, So lashed out with 28…g5!?, aiming to open up the kingside and in his own words: “complicate things.” Though after seeing Nakamura’s reply of 29.f4!, Wesley “immediately regretted” the move.

The gamble, however, paid off as Nakamura blundered two moves later with 31.Bxf4?, overlooking the simple 31…Nf3+! This trick allowed Wesley to trade into a rook-and-bishop endgame with an extra pawn – though he was ultimately unable to convert.

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A tense battle, though it ended peacefully - 1/2-1/2. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold

“I thought I had good winning chances in the endgame,” So said. “But it wasn’t easy, and he defended very well.”

Nakamura expressed candid thoughts on the game, offering: “I think I was a little bit worse in the middlegame. I thought Wesley was imprecise with 27…Qf6, and I thought 28…g5 was just a blunder, frankly.

“If I go 31. Qxf4 instead of Bxf4, I suspect that I’m much better — if not winning. So to miss Nf3+ is very upsetting. If I lost today, I probably would not be sleeping tonight, but fortunately I was able to defend.”

The other leader, GM Ray Robson, was slightly better against GM Varuzhan Akobian’s solid Petroff Defense and tried an interesting pawn sacrifice to secure his strong dark-squared bishop on f4. This provided Ray with good compensation.

Without a clear plan to continue, the two players repeated moves before the first time-control. The draw pushes Robson to 3/4, sharing first place with Nakamura.

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Webster University's GM Ray Robson is in good form with 3/4. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

“In the end, I didn’t really think that I had more than enough compensation,” Robson said. “But I didn’t really see a way to improve my position, so I basically just tried to force a repetition.”

GM Timur Gareev continued his extravagant opening play, impressing commentators and spectators worldwide with the Wing Gambit against the Sicilian Defense of GM Gata Kamsky.

The reigning U.S. Champion did not play the most theoretically challenging response, allowing Gareev to build up a powerful attack. Gareev continued to spice things up with the enterprising exchange sacrifice 26.Rxa5!, gaining two connected passed-pawns that looked to win the game.

Unfortunately he missed his best chance in time trouble and allowed Kamsky to equalize, drawing an exciting game.

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Kamsky was visibly amused after seeing 2.b4!? from Timur Gareev. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold

The other three games today, Onischuk – Holt, Troff – Shankland, and Sevian – Naroditsky were hard fought but did not produce a decisive result.

In the 2015 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, WGM Katerina Nemcova emerged as the clear leader after a tense victory over FM Alisa Melekhina

After finding the nice shot 9…Nxc3!, Nemcova was able to damage White’s pawn structure on the queenside, forcing Melekhina to search for attacking chances on the kingside. Nemcova proceeded to grow her advantage considerably, but things weren’t easy as she needed to keep her king safe in the center.

In a controversial decision influenced by time pressure, Nemcova gave up a powerful bishop for Alisa’s passive knight with 37…Bxf3, making victory difficult. Fortunately her advantage stayed decisive, and Nemcova was able to collect the full point in a rook endgame, taking clear lead of the event with 3.5/4.

Analysis by GM Ben Finegold

“I felt that my advantage was slipping, so I thought ‘Let’s be focused, let’s not repeat the same mistake from the first round,’” Nemcova said. She was referring to her only draw in the event, where she was unable to convert a winning endgame against IM Rusudan Goletiani in the first round.

“Besides some strong inaccuracies, I think overall I’ve played quite well, so I’m happy about that.”

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WGM Katerina Nemcova, in the lead with 3.5/4. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In another game important to the women’s standings, IM Rusudan Goletiani outplayed IM Nazí Paikidze in the early middlegame to apply strong pressure against Paikidze’s hanging pawns in the center. This pressure allowed Rusudan to win a pawn, but offered Nazí certain drawing chances as only the queens and rooks were left on the board. Nazí defended actively, and Rusudan was never able to create any serious winning chances, ending in a draw.

Once again the overall action in the women’s event was quite decisive, as GM Irina Krush, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, and WGM Sabina Foisor defeated the rising stars WCM Apurva Virkud, WFM Jennifer Yu, and WIM Annie Wang. This means that Krush and Foisor are in striking distance of Nemcova with 2.5/4, while Abrahamyan is back to an even score.

Round 5 continues on Sunday at 1:00 p.m CDT, as serious contenders begin to emerge for the U.S. Chess Championships. Tune in to www.chess.com/tv for live coverage by GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley.

Reprinted with permission from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

2015 U.S. Championship | Round 5 Pairings

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 GM Holt, Conrad 1.5 2530 GM Troff, Kayden W 2.0 2532
2 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2.0 2622 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2.0 2665
3 GM Kamsky, Gata 2.0 2683 GM Robson, Ray 3.0 2656
4 GM So, Wesley 2.5 2788 GM Gareev, Timur 1.5 2604
5 GM Naroditsky, Daniel 1.0 2633 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 3.0 2798
6 GM Shankland, Samuel L 1.5 2661 GM Sevian, Samuel 2.0 2531

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2015 U.S. Championship | Round 5 Pairings

Table White Score Rating Black Score Rating
1 WFM Yu, Jennifer R 1.5 2180 WCM Virkud, Apurva 1.5 2132
2 WGM Nemcova, Katerina 3.5 2279 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 2.0 2322
3 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 2.5 2235 FM Melekhina, Alisa 1.5 2235
4 WIM Ni, Viktorija 1.0 2188 WIM Wang, Annie 1.0 1901
5 IM Paikidze, Nazi 2.5 2333 WGM Sharevich, Anna 1.5 2267
6 GM Krush, Irina 2.5 2477 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 3.0 2311

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2015 U.S. Championship | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Nakamura,Hikaru 2798 2846 3.0/4 5.75
2 Robson,Ray 2656 2778 3.0/4 5.50
3 So,Wesley 2788 2745 2.5/4
4 Akobian,Varuzhan 2622 2647 2.0/4 4.25
5 Kamsky,Gata 2683 2649 2.0/4 4.00
6 Onischuk,Alexander 2665 2581 2.0/4 4.00
7 Sevian,Samuel 2531 2681 2.0/4 4.00
8 Troff,Kayden W 2532 2653 2.0/4 2.75
9 Gareev,Timur 2604 2537 1.5/4 3.00
10 Shankland,Samuel L 2661 2571 1.5/4 2.50
11 Holt,Conrad 2530 2592 1.5/4 2.50
12 Naroditsky,Daniel 2633 2438 1.0/4

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2015 U.S. Women's Championship | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Nemcova,Katerina 2279 2516 3.5/4
2 Goletiani,Rusudan 2311 2459 3.0/4
3 Paikidze,Nazi 2333 2365 2.5/4 5.25
4 Krush,Irina 2477 2321 2.5/4 3.75
5 Foisor,Sabina-Francesca 2276 2327 2.5/4 3.75
6 Abrahamyan,Tatev 2322 2112 2.0/4
7 Melekhina,Alisa 2235 2140 1.5/4 2.75
8 Virkud,Apurva 2132 2253 1.5/4 2.75
9 Sharevich,Anna 2267 2143 1.5/4 2.00
10 Yu,Jennifer R 2180 2093 1.5/4 1.75
11 Ni,Viktorija 2188 2157 1.0/4 2.00
12 Wang,Annie 1901 2073 1.0/4 2.00
 
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