2022 U.S. National Championships - Day 6 Recap

by WGM Sabina Foisor

Coming back after the rest day, the fights in today’s Round 6 of the 2022 U.S. Senior, U.S. Junior, & U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships did not disappoint, bringing more inspiring chess and dramatic results.

In the Senior Championship, GM Larry Christiansen drew his game against the top-sedd GM Vladimir Akopian. As a result, Christiansen has two co-leaders who have joined him for first place; GM Dmitry Gurevich and GM Maxim Dlugy, who both won their games against GM Nick De Firmian and GM Joel Benjamin, respectively. 

In the Junior Championship, GM Christopher Yoo won his game and extended his lead to 1.5 points, having bagged the whopping 5.5/6 . In the 2nd place GMs Andrew Hong and Abhimanyu Mishra are tied with 4/6. 

In the Girls’ Championship, WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki is simply unstoppable. Sophie won yet another grueling game against FM Yan Ruiyang and posted her sixth consecutive win. She is running away with the event, extending her lead to two points.  FMs Jennifer Yu, Thalia Cervantes and Rochelle Wu, share the second place with all three standing at 4/6.

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 6

 GM Dmitry Gurevich - joins GMs Larry Christiansen and Max Dlugy in a 3-way tie for 1st | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

After two back-to-back losses, and a rest day, GM Nick De Firmian seemed determined to make a comeback going into today’s round. The three-time US Champion played a classical line (Be2 and short castle system) in response to GM Gurevich’ Najdorf Sicillian. Gurevich sacrificed his f-pawn in order to seek active play on the dark-squares and his opponent’s weak king. De Firmian took the pawn and seemed in control, but, unfortunately for him his back-to-back blunders on move 23 and 24 ended up costing him his two bishops for a rook. 

  Position after 22…Rae8

In this position, De Firmian played 22. Rfe1 allowed Bh4, which forced the return of the rook to f1. Instead he could have played 22. Bg3 followed by strengthening his pawn chain with b3 would have kept a small advantage.

Position after 24. Rf1

In this position Black continued with 24…Rxe2  25. Qxe2 Rxf4, after which Gurevich showed a consistent technique and gradually converted his advantage to join the leaders.

 Pre-game chat: GM Larry Christiansen (left), GM Maxim Dlugy (right) | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

GM Maxim Dlugy made the most out of his two back-to-back White pieces to catch up with the leader GM Larry Christiansen. He deviated from his typical London System, playing 2. c4 allowing his opponent GM Joel-Benjamin entering the Ragozin.  Somehow Black didn’t get the chance to fully equalize out of the opening and the three-time US champion found himself in a worse position with a bad pawn structure  where he did not seem to have enough active play. Soon Dlugy was able to find a way to capitalize on Black’s inferior position, being able to put sufficient pressure on the c6-pawn, until he won it. After capturing in c6, on move 32, he found himself in an up a pawn winning position. After passing the time control, however, he has made a few inaccuracies which could have allowed his opponent a tactical play that game some drawing chances. 

  Position after 50. Rb2

It was in this position, after move 50, that a golden opportunity arose for GM Benjamin 50….f5!! , a move that would have messed up White’s chain of pawns and majority. Unfortunately, for him, he continued 50…Rb8? instead. 

Position after 51.Qg3

A few moments later the position above happened which allowed for a queen trade to a completely winning rook endgame, which Dlugy converted with ease.

 GM Alexander Shabalov -deep in thought during his Round 6 game | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

GM Larry Christiansen drew his game against the highest seed, GM Vladimir Akopian. The game between GM’s Gregory Kaidanov and GM Alexander Shabalov was a topsy-turvy game that was in the end won by the latter despite Kaidanov’s big advantage out of the opening. 

Senior Standings after Round 6

Senior Round 7 Pairings

U.S. Junior Championship

Junior Results of Round 6

 GM Christopher Yoo continues his dominating performance after 6 rounds | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

GM Christopher Yoo seems to be cruising on his way to winning the 2022 US Junior Championship, and earning a much coveted seat at the upcoming US Championship. In the previous round, Yoo played a reversed Benko (which later transposed to a reversed Blumenfeld Gambit), but today it was the current Junior leader who had to face the same opening, with reserved colors. Right out of the opening, it seemed that IM Wang never had enough compensation for his sacrificed pawn and that it was in fact Black, who had the upper hand almost the entire time. White did keep active pieces which led to an ensuing rook and knight endgame where Black had an extra pawn on b6. 

  Position after 36…Rc2

With White keeping both his rook and knight active it seemed that the game could end in a draw. However, toward move 40, Justin Wang made numerous inaccuracies and found himself in a losing knight ending right after the time control. 

Position after 42…Nxb7

From here on GM Yoo delivered the win with high precision, extending his lead to 1.5 points from the other competitors.

GM Abhimanyu Mishra was the person who had some hope to catch up with GM Christopher Yoo. Mishra showed his desire to win, choosing the aggressive Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense and played through a sharp line relatively fast. Nevertheless, IM Balaji Daggupati played solid and to the point and did not get rattled by his opponent’s speed. The game quickly simplified to a drawish endgame and when a draw seemed like the most plausible outcome. However, most likely out of his desire to win, Mishra, played 29…d3 allowing his opponent to capture his bishop in f4 going for a rook and bishop versus rook and knight endgame, where he had the latter. IM Daggupati played the endgame really well and after many inaccuracies Mishra found himself in a zugzwang. Had White won Black’s f4-pawn it seemed that the position would be winning for White.  

Position after 50… Rc5

It was in this position that Daggupati missed the chance to win. He played 51. Rf6 thinking that focing Black to play 51…Na8 would help place the knight on a wrong square. Instead it helped bring it on b6. The winning move would have been 51. Rxf4! .

Position after 73…Kg7

Mishra held to the position with tooth and nail, not allowing his opponent to find a way to convert. The game eventually ended in a draw.

IM David Brodsky has a nice win against the top seed GM Awonder Liang | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

GM Awonder Liang has not had a good 2022 US Junior Championship. After a disappointing start, the top-seed had two back-to-back wins and seemed to be back on track. Unfortunately, for him today was another disappointing performance. In today’s game against IM David Brodsky, Awonder chose a risky line in Caro-Kann that goes into a pawn sacrifice.

Position after 19.Be3

In this position the engine suggests 19… Bg6, followed by the trade of the rooks in f1 and bringing the queen on f8 to trade the dark square bishop. Instead he played 19…Qd7.

Position after 28. Rf3

Despite finding a way to bring his pieces on the kingside, soon his activity fizzled out and it was clear that White’s extra pawn would be a decisive factor in this game. IM David Brodsky had very little problem converting his advantage into his first win in this event.

GM Andrew Hong won today to share 2nd place with GM Abhimanyu Mishra | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

GM Brandon Jacobson took down NM Pedro Espinosa, while GM Andrew Hong, was able to take advantage of a final mistake by IM Carissa Yip in a hard fought game, where Carissa was winning through the most of it, and win to catch up with GM Abhimanyu Mishra in the share for 2nd place.

Junior Standings after Round 6

Junior Round 7 Pairings

U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Girls’ Results of Round 6

WFM Sophie Morris Suzuki wins again!! Separating herself from the pack by 2 points | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki won another game and is on her way to win the US Girls’ Championship, in a similar fashion to GM Christopher Yoo in the Junior. Her sixth consecutive win came at the hand of FM Ruiyang Yan, when the latter lost her way in a tactical battle in the Kan Sicilian. 

Position after 25. g3

The game between the two players was quite balanced, until Sophie found the resourceful 25…Bxe4! .

Position after 26…Ng4

The game continued 26. fxe4 Ng4 . Ruiyang seemed rattled by this idea and did not find 27.Qe2! which would have kept the tensions. Instead her 27.Qc2 handed over a positional dominance to Sophie.

Position after 29…Rxc5

From here on, the current leader gradually and surely converted her advantage into a full point.

Former US Women’s Champion, FM Jennifer Yu, needed a win in order to keep her hopes of catching WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki before their face-to-face encounter. However, things didn't go well for her in today’s Round 6 against FM Rochelle Wu. 

Position after 19…Bd7

After achieving a good position out of the opening, Jennifer chose the dubious plan of putting her knight on b3 instead of f3 (20.Nb3?). Rochelle replied with the strong positional move 20…c5! where White’s knight on b3 is completely out of the game.

Position after 20…c5

Jennifer may have counted on her next move 21.Bxf6 to double Black’s pawns and weaken her kingside. However, she could hardly cause any harm to Black’s king. Later on Wu mobilized her pieces and White’s position looked difficult. 

Position after 27… Bxh3

Jennifer had one more chance to keep the game afloat had she found the interesting 28. e5! , which the commentators discussed in the live commentary. The idea would be to activate her d2-knight to e4 and then f6. The  following line was suggested 28. e5 Bg4 29. Ne4! Qxd1 30. Nxf6+ Kf8 31. Qxd1 Bxd1 32. Nxd8 with an equal position. Instead, Jennifer played the inexplicable 28. f5?? , which simply drops the f-pawn, leaving  White in a losing position, which Rochelle had no trouble converting to a win.

A happy FM Rochelle Wu as she catches the lead for 2nd place after today’s win | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

FM Alice Lee does not seem in her best form at this event, but her determination to fight until the end has paid off and brought her some points in this tournament. Today the opening went wrong for Alice and she found herself on the losing side of a Grunfeld structure endgame, where Black was dominating the c-file. A positional win seemed to be within reach for the local favorite, FM Thalia Cervantes.

Position after 41.Be2

However, things had a dramatic turn after she became somewhat restless and chose to rush with 41…b4?, instead of first taking the h-pawn.

After a few accurate moves, it seemed that Alice was out of the danger zone. 

Position after 49. Ra5

Whether it was tiredness or something else, Thalia inexplicably blundered with 49….R4b5?? missing 50.Rxb3!. She must have been shaken by her blunder and although the draw was still within her reach with accurate play, she unfortunately gradually lost the thread and the game to Alice Lee, leaving Sophie Morris-Suzuki with two points lead over her closest rival.

Girls’ Standings after Round 6

Girls’ Round 7 Pairings

The live coverage with grandmasters Cristian Chirila and Yasser Seirawan as well as IM Dorsa Derakhshani continues tomorrow with Round 7 on Thursday, July 14 at 12:50PM CDT on uschesschamps.com or our YouTube and Twitch.