2020 U.S. Senior Championship - Day 3 Recap
GM Joel Benjamin made history today after winning the 2020 U.S. Senior Championship, becoming the first trifecta (U.S. Junior, U.S. Championship, and U.S. Senior) champion in US Chess history. The win came after scoring a solid 2.0/3 during the final day of action, finishing with 6.5/9, a clear 1.5 points ahead of the rest of the field. Benjamin’s main contender, GM Igor Novikov ended up tied for second place with GM Gregory Kaidanov and GM Dmitry Gurevich, all with 5.0/9.
Benjamin played quite well throughout the event, though did admit to catching some breaks in a few games. Grateful for the opportunity to compete for a national title, the three-time U.S. champion said “I’ve felt for a long time that we have an incredible bunch of strong, serious players, and that we should have this opportunity...it really makes a huge difference in our lives.”
The first ‘trifecta’ champion in US Chess history, GM Joel Benjamin
Check out all the games from the final day of action here, and you can watch a video replay of the event’s live coverage featuring WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Maurice Ashley here.
The first round of the final day was crucial for the standings, as GM Igor Novikov had White against the tournament leader, GM Joel Benjamin. Despite needing a win to catch up, Novikov stayed true to his technical style but ultimately wasn’t able to pose enough problems and ended up needing to hold a difficult rook endgame. This draw meant that Benjamin would keep his half-point lead going into the final two rounds.
GM Novikov had a decent game but needed to pose more problems against the tournament leader.
The rest of the games were drawn with the exception of Shabalov - Goldin, where ‘Shabba’ found a nice tactical shot to refute his opponent’s discovered attack:
GM Goldin’s last move 21...Nb4 was met with the powerful counter 22.h4!, which wins material for White in all lines
The penultimate round nearly decided the event as Novikov ended up losing to GM Alex Yermolinsky, who displayed nice technique to convert his small advantage of playing against the isolated queen pawn:
GM Alex Yermolinsky played spoiler today, effectively ending Novikov’s chances for the title.
Meanwhile Benjamin made a solid draw against GM Larry Christiansen, giving Benjamin a full point lead going into the final round.
Needing a draw in the last round to clinch the title, Benjamin faced 10th seed FM Shelby Getz, who despite being the underdog had already impressed in the event with his gutsy play. Facing Getz’s usual 1.a3, Benjamin built up a good position and was looking quite comfortable with Black. After getting his (charitable) draw offer declined, Benjamin went on to win in style, sacrificing his bishop to open up White’s king and launch a decisive attack:
The crowning shot 27...Bxc3!, winning after 28.bxc3 Qe3+ 29.Kb1 Rb6+ 30.Ka1 Qxc3+ and mate next move.
This win allowed Benjamin to finish with 6.5/9, 1.5 points ahead of his nearest rivals and 1st place prize of $12,000.
Up next is the 2020 U.S. Women’s Championship, which begins October 21, with live coverage from WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Maurice Ashley starting at 12:50 PM CDT on USChessChamps.com, YouTube, and Twitch.
The 2020 U.S. Championships features a series of five national title events, all taking place online from Oct 8-29, starting with the 2020 U.S. Girls Junior Championship. For full details, pairings, and results of the events, make sure to check out USChessChamps.com.