U.S. Championships Preview: The Beginning of a New Era
by Denes Boros
The U.S. Championship will take place between March 27 and April 11, 2017.
2017 U.S. Championship
In 2016, the American National team took home gold and won the prestigious Hamilton-Russel-Cup at the Olympiad in Baku. The team consisted of Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Sam Shankland, and Ray Robson.
During the Olympiad, Wesley So was the third board, behind Caruana and Nakamura; however, since the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Bilbao, So is now rated second, only behind Magnus Carlsen. Nakamura is also in great shape, as he won the Gibraltar Open for the third time. Caruana has been struggling with his form, but he will have a great chance to rebound at the U.S. Championship!
The main favorites are obviously the big three: Caruana, So and Nakamura. There are a few players who might pull a miraculous victory at the U.S Championship.
Sam Shankland had a fantastic run, helping Team USA win the Olympiad and he also won a couple of tournaments in Fagernes International, Edmonton International and the Biel Masters in 2016.
Ray Robson, also a member of the Olympic Champion team of Baku, must also have high expectations at the U.S Championships. He has been competing with the big three for quite a few years and, in 2015, he broke through and finished second, ahead Wesley So and behind Hikaru Nakamura. This year Robson will have a chance to prove that he is the best at the U.S. Championships!
It is impossible not to mention the new upcoming seventeen year-old talent; Jeffery Xiong. He had great results at youth events, where he achieved second place at Youth World Championship under 12 and also won the U.S. Junior Closed tournament. Recently, he also started to show great results internationally; winning the Capablanca Memorial ”B” Group, and the World Junior Championship with one round to spare. He was also close to qualifying to the Tata Steel Master’s Tournament, but he was edged out by Gawain Jones in the last rounds. Based on Xiong’s recent results, he is one of the players to look out for!
Even though, everyone is expecting one of these six players to finish on the top, it would be wrong to write down the rest of the field. Kamsky, Onischuk, Naroditsky, Akobian and Shabalov will also have their chances at this years championship. The deciding factor will be stability against the top three players. Hence, Kamsky and Onischuk can stand out here, as they have the necessary experience to do so. Gata Kamsky and Alexander Onischuk are both previous U.S. Champions and very solid classical players. If in good shape, they can surprise this field. Kamsky is a great fighter, and one of those players who had won a World Cup, which is something not many can brag about. Alexander Onischuk has all to hope for as he had a decent showing at 2016 U.S. Championship, finishing fifth, keeping up with Caruana, So and Nakamura.
This 2017 U.S. Championship will be one of the most contentious championships, with many young players competing against the best of the best. This could be the beginning of a new era.
2017 U.S. Women’s Championship
The 2016 U.S. Women’s Championship ended with a great surprise; Nazi Paikidze won her inaugural Championship in front of Tatev Abrahamyan, and Anna Zatonskih. Paikidze started her tournament with mild expectations, but she won the Championship with confident play. Will she make it two out of two?
The main contenders are Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih, and Tatev Abrahamyan.
Irina Krush, won the previous four championships, and if she finds her form this year, she will be a major threat for Paikidze.
Anna Zatonskih, made a great comeback, finishing third at last year’s championship. She did not play in the previous U.S. Women’s Championship, but as the winner of previous U.S. Women’s Championship, she has every chance to become the Champion of 2017.
Tatev Abrahamyan continued her great performance at the U.S. Women’s Championship where she finished second on tiebreaks behind Irina Krush in 2014. She repeated her performance in 2016. Abrahamyan is known for her fighting spirit, and if she can keep that positive spirit for the last rounds, she is more than likely to win the U.S. title in the upcoming years.
Katerina Nemcova debuted in the U.S. Women’s Championship with a fantastic result, tied for second place. She did not do as well in the previous Championship, but she still finished fourth. She played great chess in Baku at the Olympiad, and if she manages to save that form for this year’s Championship, she can easily finish in the top three.
The 2017 U.S. Women’s Championship is projected to be a close contest between Irina Krush and Nazi Paikidze, but with so many ambitious, and young players aiming for the top spots, it’s not easy to predict who will become the new U.S. Women’s Champion this April.