2022 U.S. National Championships - Day 4 Recap

 by WGM Sabina Foisor

Round 4 brought another exciting day of chess at the 2022 U.S. Senior, U.S. Junior, & U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships. The day was filled with convincing chess, but also lucky saves, double-blindness and turning around results. 

A sole leader has emerged in each one of the events. In the Senior Championship, GM Larry Christiansen put pressure on one of his co-leaders in a queen endgame to take home the win, while the other co-leader, GM Igor Novikov, suffered a loss against GM Dmitry Gurevich. In the Junior event, the leaders faced each other as well and it was GM Christopher Yoo that emerged victorious. He is followed by GM Abhimanyu Mishra, who won his game convincingly occupying the 2nd place with 3 points. In the Girls’ Championship, WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki took advantage of an early blunder by FM Alice Lee and she maintains the lead by a full point ahead of her competitors, FM/WGM’s Jennifer Yu and Thalia Cervantes, both with 3 points.

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. Each event features a 10-player round-robin format, with a time control of 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by an additional 30 minutes with a 30-second increment added from move one.

U.S. Senior Championship

Senior Results of Round 4

In a closed position resulting from a Queen’s Gambit Accepted (QGA), GM Dlugy tried to trade off pieces to give himself a little more space. In the following position, he played 34…f6.

Position after 34. g3

Although this was not a blunder, it gave White the chance to trade off pieces going into a pawn up queen endgame. In the following position, Black has two options to capture the c4 pawn directly or play Qc1+ first. GM Dlugy most likely followed the unwritten rule, that “checks cannot hurt” and went for the latter. In this position, unfortunately for him, it was the wrong approach as the position of White’s king being on the 1st rank would have helped him pushing his c-pawn to promotion.

Position after 47. Qxa4

The correct continuation would have been as follows: 47… Qxc4 48. Qa8+ Kh7 49. a5 Qd4 50. a6 c4 51. a7 c3 52. Qb8 c2 53. a8=Q c1=Q + 54. Kg2 and Black should be able to hold on to this position with correct play (diagram below).

The problem with the line played in the game was that White has an intermediate move Qe4+ followed by Qb7 after which Black’s checks on the long diagonal are stopped and White will simply push his a-pawn and promote a second queen.


Position after the final move 53. Qb7 1-0


 GM Larry Chrstiansen - on his way to winning Round 4 and taking the sole lead | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

All the other games were hard fought games. GM Gregory Kaidanov drew against GM Vladimir Akopian. GM Dmitry Gurevich played a dominant game taking down one of the co-leaders, GM Igor Novikov, white IM Khmelnitsky took advantage of an early mistake by 3-time US Champion, GM Joel Benjamin, to give up a pawn on move 12 and eventually converted the hard fought game. 

IM Igor Khmelnitsky pictured in Round 4 on his way to taking down 3-time US Champions Joel Benjamin | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

A particularly interesting battle happened in the game between GM’s Nick De Firmian and Alex Shabalov. In a slightly balanced position coming out of a Sozin Sicillian, De Firmian chose to give up an exchange in an attempt to take advantage of his opponent’s weak king.

Position after 20…g6 where White continued 21. Qg4?

Shabalov accepted to take the material and defended well. De Firmian had the opportunity to force a perpetual, but he went wrong once again, allowing his opponent to keep his king safe, while winning material on the other side of the board. My favorite move of the game happened in the following position:

Position after 30… e4

Shabalov gives up a pawn to open the long diagonal (a1-h8) to be able to defend, by keeping White forced to defend the f6 pawn. Ultimately he went on to win his first game in this year’s event.

GM Alex Shabalov - got his first win in the event | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

Senior Standings after Round 4

Senior Round 5 Pairings

U.S. Junior Championship

Junior Results of Round 4

The most important game in this round was certainly the one between the two leaders GM’s Andrew Hong and Christopher Yoo. In the first two rounds, Hong surprised with long and decisive preparations when he played with the White pieces. Today things didn’t look very well for him though.

 Pre-game handshake and smiles between the co-leaders GM Andrew Hong (left) and GM Christopher Yoo (right) -  | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

The players blitzed through the first moves on the Steinitz Variation of the French Defense, but it seemed that it was Andrew that was out-prepared this time around. In an attempt to surprise his opponent he played the interesting 12. Rd1 , preparing to capture in c5 and put pressure on the d5-pawn for a later break with f5.

Position after 21…Qc6

It seemed that Andrew tried a little too hard to keep his c5 pawn safe that he didn’t get the chance to activate his pieces. In the position he could have continued 22. Nc4 as an attempt to trade pieces after 22…Bxc5 23. Bxc5 Qxc5 24. Qxc5 Nxc5 25. Nb6 leading towards an equal endgame, as Black’s e4-pawn would eventually fall.

The more the game advanced, the more it seemed that it was Black that kept building up the pressure.

Position after 29…g5

This was a typical attempt for Black to activate his pieces through the kingside as well.

Position after 37…Qc8

White’s position started getting unpleasant by this point, but White could keep the game going by playing 38. Re1, instead 38. Rf1?? was played in an attempt to get rid of Black’s menacing e and f pawan. Unfortunately, had Black played 38…Nf4, the attempt wouldn’t have worked and Black would have had a decisive advantage.

Position after 38…Nh4??

Black gave White one more chance to keep the equality with 39. Bf2, but Hong missed that chance playing 39. gxf3 after which his position collapsed after39…Nxf3 followed by 40… Nd2. 

Position after 40…Nd2

The game continued a while longer, but with an exchange up, Yoo didn’t have any more trouble converting his advantage and taking home the full point and taking the sole lead of the Junior Championship.

Other dominating performances in this round were by GM Brandon Jacobsen, GM Abhimanyu Mishra and IM Daggupati taking down IM David Brodsky, NM Pedro Espinosa and IM Justin Wang, respectively.

After a difficult day blundering and losing from a completely winning position in Round 3, GM Awonder Liang had a nice comeback today taking down US Women’s Champion, IM Carissa Yip with a brilliant attack starting with a pawn sacrifice in a King’s Indian Defense.

GM Awonder Liang looking calm during Round 4 | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

Junior Standings after Round 4

Junior Round 5 Pairings

U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Girls’ Results of Round 4

The Girls’ Championship event brought heartbreaks to some and lucky saves to others. WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki kept her cool as she cruised through victory yet again against the highest rated player of the event.

 WFM Sophie Morris Suzuki wins again maintaining a full point lead | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Sophie capitalized on an early blunder by her opponent. On move 17, FM Alice Lee played 17. Qb1?? instead of Qb3 or Qb5 or Be3.

Position after 17.Qb1??

In the post-game interview, Sophie mentioned that she immediately noticed her opponent’s huge mistake that drops the d5-pawn, but too a few moments to gather herself, double check that she is not missing anything and went on with the correct 17…Nxd5. Alice continued at 18. Bb5, but after 18…Qb4, Black is simply a pawn up and Sophie didn’t let her advantage diminish, not even for a minute and went on to win a beautiful game.

All of the other games were sprinkled with either happiness on one side and sadness on the other. FM/WGM Jennifer Yu played a shaky opening that could have led to a lost position out of the opening, had her opponent seen the correct continuation.

Position after 17. Qxc1

In the diagram above, should WFM Zoey Tang have found 17… Qa5 + followed by Qxa6, Jennifer would have had to find a way to keep her position afloat. Instead, Black continued 17…bxa6 and after White was able to castle, Jennifer outplayed her opponent and brought home the win.

A big turn of events happened in the game between FM Rochelle Wu and FM/WGM Thalia Cervantes. Rochelle had a dominant position starting with move 19, when her opponent allowed her to remind with the passed d-pawn.

Position after 24. Qf5

The reason for the domination is the fact that Black’s pieces are stuck stopping the d-pawn, while the king has remained unprotected.  Rochelle played brilliantly getting into the following position:

  Position after 35…Rxd6

It is here that the commentators, as well myself were getting ready to call it a win. Rocheclle unfortunately missed the brilliant move 36. Rd7 that would have called it a day, as Black was forced to lose the rook in order to avoid checkmate on the g-file. Instead Rochelle played 36. Rf3. Though the mover per se is not giving up the advantage entirely, it does give opportunities to her opponent. Before making it to the time control, Rochelle played 38. Rxa7?? (Diagram below), which gave her the opportunity to save herself with a perpetual check.

Position after 38. Rxa7??, which allowed the beautiful 38…Qxf3 followed by Rd2+ and perpetual check. 

A tough turn of events for Rochelle and a nice save by the local favorite, Thalia! 

 FM Thalia Cervantes got her lucky save in round 4 | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

“A case of double-blindness”, is the way the commentators referred to what happened in the game between WFM’s Gracy Prasanna and Anne-Marie Velea. The girls played a good balanced game throughout, when all of a sudden Gracy decided to try to trade off some more pieces.

Position after 44. Be4??

Both players seem to have missed Black’s way of winning material after 44…Rxe4 45. Rxe4 and Rc4, which would have won the game for Black on the spot considering that there is no way of escaping the pin, leaving White with a piece down.

Position after 45…Bxe4??

 WFM Gracy Prasanna - determined to play well | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Anne-Marie missed her chance and unfortunately chose a wrong plan of trying to go for the kingside pawns leaving White with the b passed pawn, which eventually led to a victory by Gracy.

Lastly, I am a huge lover of studies and endgames, and could not overlook an unexpected blunder by FM Ruiyang Yan that could have cost her half a point. Typically rook endgames with a margin pawn and king in front are a draw, if the opponent’s king is not cut off by at least 4 files from the pawn, as is the case in the following position, but Black’s king has to be placed in d7 not to allow White to play Re8 followed by Rg8 and uncut themselves, free their king and push the h-pawn to promotion.

  Position after 68…Rg3??

It is not clear if it was a rush by Ruiyang, but she misplayed 68…Rg3?? allowing Ellen to convert after 69. Re8. Instead, Black had to play 68…Kd7! Unfortunately, Ellen missed the opportunity and played 69. Kh8 after which Ruiyan immediately answered 69…Kd7 and the game ended in a draw shortly thereafter.

WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki maintains her 100% score going into Round 5. 

Girls’ Standings after Round 4

Girls’ Round 5 Pairings

The live coverage with grandmasters Alejandro Ramirez, Cristian Chirila and Yasser Seirawan continues tomorrow with Round 5 on Monday, July 11 at 12:50PM CDT on uschesschamps.com or our YouTube and Twitch.