2022 U.S. National Championships - Day 7 Recap

 by WGM Sabina Foisor

Round 7 of the 2022 U.S. Senior, U.S. Junior, & U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships was certainly the most dramatic day yet, with many of the leaders suffering tough defeats, allowing some players to close in the gaps, and the contention for the crowns is still up in the air.

The standings in the Senior Championship have been somewhat shaken with GM Larry Christiansen taking back the lead once again, after winning in style against GM Igor Nivikov. The other co-leaders, GM Dmitry Gurevich and GM Maxim Dlugy, both lost their games today against GM’s Gregory Kaidanov and Vladimir Akopian, respectively. 

In the Junior Championship, GM Christopher Yoo maintains his position at the top of the leaderboard, though he was stopped today from his dominating performance by IM David Brodsky. GM Andrew Hong won a beautiful game against GM Brandon Jacobsen and is now closing the gap by half a point. 

In the Girls’ Championship, WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki’s winning streak came to an end at the hands of former US Women’s Champion, FM/WGM Jennifer Yu. Today’s win allowed her, FM Rochelle Wu and FM Thalia Cervantes to close the gap to only one point away from the leader. With two rounds to go there is still hope for one of these players to catch up and share the first place prize.

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 7

GM Vladimir Akopian found himself half a point behind the co-leaders, facing one of them in today’s round, so he was in a must-win situation against GM Maxim Dlugy. The players chose a typical line of the Sicillian - the Richter-Rauzer Variation, where the queens were traded off the board relatively early leading to an endgame where White stands slightly better, but overall it should be a risk-free position. Akopian played it out superbly, pushing his queenside majority and dominating the d-file, while restricting his opponent from progressing on the kingside. It is not clear where Black went astray, but White soon found himself in a dominating endgame. 

  Position after 26…f6

In this position, Akopian could have followed with 27. Bb7 followed by Nb4-c6. However, a wrong move order changed temporarily the course of the game leading to a balanced yet difficult bishop versus knight ending. Black's knight was trapped on the rim (in h5), but White’s bishop had no way to progress either.

  Position after 43. Kxa5

Akopian’s luck allowed an unfortunate decision for Dlugy, who hallucinated with 43...Nf5??, most likely thinking that he can give up his knight for White's pawns to force a draw. Unfortunately he missed a study-like move that allowed White the win. 

  Position after 44…gxf5

This is the position, where after 45. Bf3, which was played by Akopian relatively fast, Black’s 45… e4 is not sufficient as White continues: 46. dxe4 and after 46…Kxc6 47. Exf5 followed by f6 and White was able to keep the f-pawn on the board to win the game.

Position after 51.Kb4 where Black resigned

This is the position where, Black resigned as White’s king is in the box of the e-pawn and the a-pawn will be stopped by the bishop, which will continue protecting the f-pawn to win the game.

GM Gregory Kaidanov bringing home his first win  | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

After a heartbreaking loss in the previous round, where he lost a much better position against GM Alex Shabalov, GM Gregory Kaidanov chose to play the Slav Defense in today’s round against GM Dmitry Gurevich. The game transposed to a good version of the Catalan where Black was able to play the move c5 with ease freeing his light-square bishop. 

Position after 20…0-0

In this position, White's knight seemed uncomfortable in Black's camp (on b5) and Gurevich tried to use tactical means to bring it back to his camp with 21.Nc3?!. However, the move proved too passive and the very same knight soon ended up on d1, denying White’s rook from any open file. After this, White was too passive and Black's mounting pressure proved too hard to handle and Gurevich conceded his first loss after the time control.

Position after 30…Qxb3

IM Igor Khmelnitsky feeling comfortable in his game against GM Alex Shabalov| Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

GM Lary Christiansen has kept his cool throughout the entire competition. The game was balanced throughout, though both players made a few inaccuracies coming out of the opening.

Position after 32…Rd8

It was at this moment that GM Novikov could have kept a small edge had he played the critical 33.Nd4! and instead of trading the queens with 33. Qxd6. 

Position after 35…bxa4

The position seemed to lead to a draw, but right before the time control was reached, GM Novikov over-pushed with 36.Ne5?, instead of playing 36. Rxc4 which could secure a draw. Subsequently, after the time control a bishop and knight versus two knights endgame was reached where Black's bishop proved to be a decisive factor. 

Position after 56…Bxg2

In what seemed like a classical reminder of games of Jose Raul Capablanca, GM Christiansen demonstrated a world-class technique and converted his advantage into a full point to lead with half a point over GM Akopian going into the final two rounds. 

GM Alex Shabalov was able to save and draw a position that seemed to be lost out of the opening against IM Igor Khmelnitsky. In the battle between the two former 3-times US Champions, GM's Joel Benjamin and Nick De Firmian finished in the favor of the first.

3-time US Champion, GM Joel Benjamin won today’s game | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Senior Standings after Round 7

Senior Round 8 Pairings

U.S. Junior Championship

Junior Results of Round 7

IM David Brodsky seems confident taking down the leader, GM Christopher Yoo | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Going into today’s round with 1.5 points lead and two back-to-back White pieces, it seemed that GM Christopher Yoo was ready to run away with this event. However, today's loss at the hands IM David Brodsky (who seems to have regained his form after taking down GM Awonder Liang yesterday) threw potentially the Junior event into the air; considering that GM Andrew Hong won his game, closing the gap between him and Yoo by half a point.

In today’s round GM Christopher Yoo may have chosen a too ambitious and sharp line, where White sacrifices an exchange in a newly developed line of the Open Spanish and where precise play is required. 

Position after 11…Bg4

Unfortunately for him, he did not make the most of his initiative and after a few inaccuracies (last one being 26.Be4), he found himself in a worse endgame. 

Position after 25…Kxf7

The tournament leader fought his way back keeping the pressure on his opponent which led to IM Brodsky to make a few inaccuracies. It seemed that Brodsky threw his advantage away with 38...b4?. 

Position after 38.Rc6

Here White had to activate his king along with his rook and bishop, which should have provided sufficient compensation for Black's connected passed pawns. Sadly, Yoo, chose a wrong path and ended up giving up an exchange for two pawns (move 40), which was not justified and the rook versus bishop endgame proved easily winning for Black.

Position after 50…a4

From here on IM Brodsky converted with ease.

GM Andrew Hong, taking advantage of a mistake form his opponent GM Brandon Jacobsen  | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

GM Andrew Hong scored a crucial win to narrow the gap by half a point with the leader. Hong had a relatively easier game today, as his opponent GM Brandon Jacobson went astray early on with the inexplicable 12.Rfd1?? .

Position after 12.Rfd1??

Though some precise calculation was required, Andrew easily cruised through the game with a typical crushing attack in a typical Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) position. 

Position after 14.h3 

It is here that Hong continued with the beautiful combination 14...Nf3+! followed by 15....Nxe3! , which was in accordance with classics created by the likes of Morphy or Tal!

IM Justin Wang pictured during his Round 7 game | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

GM Abhimanyu Mishra, similarly to GM Andrew Hong, needed a win to take advantage of the unexpected loss of GM Christopher Yoo. However, Mishra's endeavor backfired, unlike Hong's. After a solid opening in Italian where White managed a small edge thanks to his extra space on the queenside. 

Position after 23.d5

The best continuation in this position would have been 23...cxd5! followed by e4, which would have fully equalized. 

Position after 25…Rf5

IM Justin Wang continued instead with  25...Rf5? found himself in a losing position.

Had Mishra found 26.Qc4!, a strong prophylactic move against Rc8 and e4, the game would have had another end. Unfortunately for Mishra, he did not find the move and all of his advantage was gone in the next two moves. Somewhat rattled by the course of the game and having the burden of accuracy on his shoulder, he made a number of erroneous mistakes and was lost due to a mating attack against his king. Justin Wang had no problem delivering the mating attack. A tough loss for Mishra before facing GM Christopher Yoo with the Black pieces in the key next round game.

With only half a point lead, it is still possible to consider Yoo as the favorite, but things are much more complicated now than before for the leader.

Junior Standings after Round 7

Junior Round 8 Pairings

U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

Girls’ Results of Round 7

A focused FM/WGM Jennifer Yu as she stopped the leader from continuing her 100% score  | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club,Crystal Fuller

Having had two points lead over the field, WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki did not need to take so much risk in this game, given that she was leading one of her closest rivals FM/WGM Jennifer Yu. 

Position after 9.f3

Things looked promising as Jennifer, made a mistake and played 9...Bd7? instead of playing Nfd7 and taking on d7 back with the Bishop. In the post-game interview, Jennifer did realize that she had forgotten to trade the knights first. Luckily for her, she didn’t during the game so it most likely didn’t affect her attitude or confidence.

Position after 13…Rc8

It is here that Sophie misplayed with 14. Qb3, but even so after 16 moves, it seemed that White was in the driving seat, but unfortunately Sophie displayed some inaccuracies and soon found herself in a slightly worse position. It seemed the veteran Yu has had more experience than the newer Girls’ Junior competitor Morris-Suzuki.

Position after 32…Rd4

For instance, on move 33 she could just wait and try to improve her position with 33. Rac1, but instead she chose a principally wrong continuation 33. Rxd4 exd4 and 34. e5, which gave her opponent the activity she needed. From here onward, Yu demonstrated convincing technique and outplayed her in-shape opponent step by step to keep things interesting in the Girls' Championship.

FM Rochelle Wu determined to keep her winning score | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

All the games in the Girls’ Championship were decisive today. Aside from Jennifer, FM’s Rochelle Wu and Thalia Cervantes played convincing games and beat WFM Gracy Prasanna and WIM Ellen Wang, respectively, to keep a share for 2nd and only a point behind the leader.

With only two more rounds and a possible playoff left to go, anything can still happen in this event for all three fields.

Local star FM/WGM Thalia Cervantes keeping up with the shared lead for 2nd place | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Girls’ Standings after Round 7

Girls’ Round 8 Pairings

The live coverage with grandmasters Cristian Chirila and Yasser Seirawan as well as IM Dorsa Derakhshani continues tomorrow with Round 8 on Friday, July 15 at 12:50PM CDT on uschesschamps.com or our YouTube and Twitch.