2022 U.S. National Championships - Day 5 Recap

 by WGM Sabina Foisor

Day 5 of the 2022 U.S. Senior, U.S. Junior, & U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships brought another entertaining round as some of the players chose gambits as a way to surprise and potentially throw-off their opponents, gaining initiative and trying to improve their place in the standings.

In the previous round a sole leader had emerged in each one of the events, and going into the rest day tomorrow, those players maintained their lead in their respective field. In the Senior Championship, there were two decisive results by GM’s Dlugy and Akopian against GM De Firmian and IM Khmelnitsky, respectively, but GM Larry Christiansen drew his game against GM Joel Benjamin and maintained his sole lead with 3.5/5. Three players are following him with 3/5 GM’s Gurevich, Akopian and Dlugy. 

In the Junior Championship, GM Christopher Yoo won his game against IM Daggupati increasing his lead by one point to the next competitor, leading the event with 4.5/5. GM Abhimanyu Mishra finds himself in second place with 3.5/5 after today’s round where he had a big chance to win his game against GM Andrew Hong, but in the end he missed the chance to convert. After his lucky save, GM Andrew Hong finds himself in the 3rd place going into the rest day. 

In the Girls’ Championship, WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki continued her blazing performance, winning her game against WIM Ellen Wang. She stands in first place with 5/5. FM/WGM’s Jennifer Yu and Thalia Cervantes both won their games sharing 2nd place with 4/5.

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 5

GM Larry Christiansen - maintaining the lead going into the free day | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

The game between the top seed going into this event, GM Vladimir Akopian and one to the last seed, IM Igor Khmelnitsky, was anything but a one-sided win for Akopian. Although the game was long over before Khmelnitsky threw the towel, it was only due to an early strategic decision by Black, that Akopian won this game. On the White side of a game in the Nimzowitsch Variation of the Sicillian, IM Khmelnitsky was doing well both on the clock and the board as White didn’t seem to get much out of the opening.

Soon after the opening was over, a classical position of Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) position emerged, and GM Akopian offered a Bishop trade after 17.Nh4. 

Position after 17. Nh4

Had Black played 17…Bxd3, the position would have been roughly balanced. Instead, Khmelnitsky opted for the unexplainable 17…Qf6, after which, Akopian continued with 18.Nxg6 fxg6 19.f4!

  Position after 19.f4!

After 19. f4! White is positionally winning thanks to his two bishops, particularly his fantastically placed bishop on d3, Black’s weakness on g6. From here onward, Akopian cruised through the technical part with ease.

 GM Vladimir Akopian working on closing up the gap to the leader | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

After a heartbreaking loss to the current leader, GM Larry Christiansen, in Round 4, GM Max Dlugy was up for another long battle of heavy pieces all the way till the end. The game was balanced throughout the opening and the middlegame. Soon a rook and queen endgame with four pawns for each player ensued. The players kept battling it out for hours. Dlugy had a passed b-pawn, but his king was exposed to many checks on the kingside.

Position after 55. Rc5

It seemed that waiting for the right moment to give a perpetual check was the right policy for De Firmian, however the three-times US Champion started pushing his kingside majority, which only blocked his queen from further checks against White's king while the very same pawns became target for White's more active rook and queen.

Position after 64. Rc8

The game was filled with mutual 'tactical oversights' throughout the time scramble, but it was Dlugy who finally mobilized his pieces and won the game just a few moves after the position pictures above, as Black’s pieces are uncoordinated and the push of the pawns on the kingside proved to have created weaknesses instead of helping with a potential attack on his opponent.

With this win, Dlugy is back in the mix of 'chasers' behind Christiansen with 3/5 while De Firmian is now tied for last after the second consecutive loss.

GM Maxim Dlugy pushing to victory in Round 5 | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

Senior Standings after Round 5

Senior Round 6 Pairings

U.S. Junior Championship

Junior Results of Round 5

 GM Christopher Yoo focused to continue his amazing play | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

The leader, GM Christopher Yoo chose a reversed Benko which later transposed to reversed Blumenfeld Gambit against IM Balaji Daggupati. The players left the well-known theoretical labyrinth as early as move 7. As he stated in his post-game interview, Christopher wanted to get a game and probably avoid any preparation from his opponent.

Position after 15. h3

After completing their development, White had a small advantage but it was obvious that thanks to his massive center, it was easier to play as White. IM Daggupati, made a very dubious choice by picking up the d2-pawn, playing 15…Bxf3 and 16…Qxd4. Instead 15…Be6 had to be played. The extra pawn was not sufficient to meet White's two bishops and his pressure along the f-file and Black went down the flames without much of a fight.

GM Abhimanyu Mishra looking sharp in Round 5 | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

The longest battle of the day remained exciting until the last few moves. GM Abhimanyu Mishra needed a win to keep a close pursuit behind GM Yoo's onslaught. After a sharp line in the Italian, GM Hong made a wrong judgment call by playing 20....Nxe5?, after which in the ensuing middlegame White's knight on e3 and his control over the center gave him a tangible advantage. 

Position after 20…Nxe5

From here on, Mishra worked diligently and achieved a completely winning position.

Position after 33…Red8

In this position Abhimanyu played 34. c6?! Giving some chances to his opponent. Instead, 34. Nb6!! Would have led to a nice technical win.

As the game went on, Mishra found himself in an endgame where he had a queen for a rook and a bishop with three pawns for each player on the kingside. In normal circumstances where, Black has his pieces coordinated, this endgame should be a draw but his position was far more complicated as Hong's king had a somewhat dubious placement on the g6-square. GM Hong missed a few chances to bring his king back to safety. Soon the position became somewhat dependent for Black on finding only moves using tactical means. 

The draw seemed within reach, but Hong blundered once again with 57...Rb6?? after which Mishra could obtain an endgame with the h-pawn and queen vs rook and h6 and f7 pawns.

Position after 57…Rb6??

Mishra could take on h5, move his king and take the bishop on e6, after which he would have obtained a winning position according to tablebase. Super GM and former US Champion, Sam Shankland had this say on this on both his Facebook and Twitter accounts;

Nevertheless, Mishra did not enter this endgame and tried a different route, but Hong defended fiercely and after a grueling 107 moves fight the game ended in a draw.

IM Justin Wang drew his game against IM David Brodsky. GM Brandon Jacobsen blundered a piece in an equal position against GM Awonder Liang, while IM Carissa Yip’s Hippopotamus System did not work well from the White side and NM Pedro Espinosa scored his first victory.

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 the current US Women’s Champion, IM Carissa Yip with a brilliant attack starting with a pawn sacrifice in a King’s Indian Defense.

Junior Standings after Round 5

Junior Round 6 Pairings

U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Girls’ Results of Round 5

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

WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki is on fire at this event. Sophie demonstrated a flawless performance of opening understanding, accuracy, and execution of strategic planning in her Round 5 game, achieving a winning position in no time against WFM Ellen Wang. 

Position after 15. Be3!

In this position Sophie found a beautiful idea to bring her bishop to c5 and trade it and then take advantage of her opponent’s weak pawns. In order to stay in the game Ellen tried sacrificing a pawn a few moves later, but it only led to a worse position.

Position after 23…Rf4

After attaining a winning position, Sophie may not have always chosen the best continuation, but she remained calm and in control the entire time and scored her fifth consecutive win before going to the rest day. A brilliant performance!

FM/ WGM Jennifer Yu continues her series of wins | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

To stay in close pursuit, one of the top seeds and former US Women's Champion, Jennifer Yu was in a must-win situation. The opening outcome was suboptimal and Jennifer saw herself in a worse side of a good knight vs bad bishop middlegame. However, Ruiyan blundered her way to capture a positionally sacrificed pawn back and the game became even. Later on in the game, Jennifer Yu's gradual b-pawn push became decisive as the c2 square became an important outpost for Black's heavy pieces. Despite several opportunity misses by both players Jennifer converted her initiative into a full point.

FM/WGM Thalia Cervantes won her game as well against WFM Gracy Prasanna, maintaining her shared 2nd place with Jennifer.

Girls’ Standings after Round 5

Girls’ Round 6 Pairings

The live coverage with grandmasters Alejandro Ramirez, Cristian Chirila and Yasser Seirawan continues tomorrow with Round 6 on Wednesday, July 13 at 12:50PM CDT on uschesschamps.com or our YouTube and Twitch.