2022 U.S. National Championships - Day 8 Recap
by WGM Sabina Foisor
Day 8 of the 2022 U.S. Senior, U.S. Junior, & U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships brought another thrilling day of chess but the tiredness started to be felt by the players as only one round remains. Many unexpected blunders decided some of today’s games. With one round to go, things are heating up and the titles are still up for grabs in each of the three events.
In an incredible turn of events, in the Senior Championship the leader, GM Larry Christiansen fell to the hands of GM Alex Shabalov, while GM Vladimir Akopian only drew his game, against GM Joel Benjamin, which allowed a 5-player tie for first going into the last day.
In the Junior Championship, GM Christopher Yoo was able to come back after yesterday’s loss and won his game against the talented GM Abhimanyu Mishra. Yoo takes the sole lead in the event by one point ahead of his closest competitor GM Andrew Hong. The latter only drew his game against GM Awonder Liang, staying a point distance from Yoo.
In the Girls’ Championship, WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki came back with an important victory today securing herself a definite playoff for 1st place going into tomorrow’s final round. She is closely followed by FM/WGM’s Jennifer Yu and Thalia Cervantes and poetically, Sophie and Thalia are facing off for tomorrow’s final round.
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 8
GM Alex Shabalov was the man of the hour taking down the leader to share the 5-way co-lead of the 1st place | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
GM Larry Christiansen had a solid performance up to this point, being the only competitor who hadn’t lost a single game. His opening choice was proof that he is going to employ the same strategy of playing solid and pushing for a win should the position allow him to in his game against GM Alex Shabalov. After a miraculous save in the previous day with the White pieces, “Shaba” was in a must win mission, had he wanted to stay in contention for the title.
Position after 17…Rxf8
Out of the opening it seemed that White had a slightly better position. Shabalov started to complicate things in his own style, but after allowing White’s 26. c4, Christiansen was the one with the initiative.
Position after 26. c4
Things fizzled out once again as the trade of the queens was allowed by Christiansen leading to a drawish endgame.
Position after 32…Rxb6
It was on move 40 and 41 that a mutual blunder happened.
Position after 40. fxg4
First, it was Christiansen that could have taken the advantage, as Black played 40…Ne8?? missing 41. Ng6+ which would have won a piece for Christiansen leading to a position with big chances to be converted by White.
Position after 43…Kd8
A few moves later, Shabalov managed to consolidate his position and kept the pressure on the d5-pawn. In a difficult moment Christiansen blundered his g4-pawn, playing 44. Ne7?? Instead of 44. Ne4 and after that Shabalov showed great precision to win the game and leave the title of this year’s Senior Championship still up for grabs.
GM Vladimir Akopian during his Round 8 game | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
GM Akopian found himself with a pawn up coming out of an interesting line of the Slav Defense against GM Joel Benjamin, but White always seemed to have compensation for it. The players battled it out to a two versus one rook endgame and eventually agreed on a draw on move 96.
3-time US Champion, GM Joel Benjamin held GM Akopian to a draw keeping the tournament unclear going into tomorrow’s round | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
GM Dmitry Gurevich won his game due to an unexpected piece blunder by his opponent.
GM Max Dlugy looking confident | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller
GM Max Dlugy stated in the post-game interview that he has specially prepared the Anti-Moskow Line of the Semi-Slav against GM Igor Novikov. He had a better position coming out of the opening, and took advantage of a blunder by his opponent 22. Rac8 that dropped the b5-pawn without compensation. He went on to convert the game.
Senior Standings after Round 8
Senior Round 9 Pairings
U.S. Junior Championship
Junior Results of Round 8
GM Christopher Yoo closing in to winning the Junior Championship | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller
After an unexpected loss for both players in the previous round, GM’s Christopher Yoo and Abhimanyu Mishra, showed significant determination to play for a win in their round 8 encounter. In a sharp sideline of the London System, the players blitzed out their fort 10 moves and reached a very original position where they had both castled on opposite sides. According to the engines, the position was balanced, but it seemed harder to handle for Black. It was Mishra who blundered first with 11…Nxg4?? .
Position after 11…Nxg4??
In this position Yoo could have played 12. Nd4!! leading to a decisive advantage.
Both players seemed to have missed this winning idea and the game continued with Mishra being able to trade queens a few moves later leading to a balanced endgame, though it seemed that White kept the initiative thanks to his minor pieces’ activity.
Yoo may have played slightly imprecise, giving Mishra one opportunity for activity.
Position after 22.Bxf3
In this position Black, instead of 22…Rg6?! could have played 22…Rd2 creating some threats on the 2nd rank and pressing White to give up the bishop pair.
Position after 23. Bg3
A move later in order to find a way to get some activity, Mishra gave up his extra c6-pawn with 23…Bd6?? . Instead 23…Nd3 would have kept the game going.
After getting the c6-pawn, Yoo won the e5 pawn and the game continued very precisely, not giving his opponent any chance to come back into the game and he went on to win the game.
GM Awonder Liang keeping his cool during Round 8 | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
The game between GM Andrew Hong and GM Awonder Liang was another key match-up of the round, as the first was keeping a close tie to the leader, GM Christopher Yoo. Coming out of the opening, which was a Ragozin, the position seemed balanced, but Hong managed to find a way to create some attacking ideas on the kingside following the Pillsbury Attack with f4-f5. It was on move 26 that he could have kept the pressure playing 26. Qf3 .
Position after 25…Re8
Instead he played 26. Qd2, which allowed for an interesting and creative continuation by GM Liang to sacrifice his queen for a rook and a knight.
Position after 27.Nf6
Although Hong kept pressing, it wasn’t enough and the game eventually ended in a draw.
Trophies of the 2022 US Girls’, Junior and Senior Championships | Photo: Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
Junior Standings after Round 8
Junior Round 9 Pairings
U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship
Girls’ Results of Round 8
WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki is all smiles after today’s fast win | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki was in a must win situation against WFM Anne-Marie Velea after losing her game yesterday against FM/WGM Jennifer Yu and allowing 3 of her closest competitors to close the gap only by one point. Sophie needed to win today and regain that winning confidence considering that she will have to play in the last round against FM/WGM Thalia Cervantes, who has been trailing her in the standings by one point.
Today’s game was a walk in the park for Sophie as her opponent blundered in as early as move 8.
Position after 8…Nfd7??
Sophie found the simple 9. cxd5 cxd5 followed by 10. Nxd5 that led to the winning of a colossal amount of material and subsequently the game. She mentioned in the post-game interview that she tried this line as a surprise for her opponent’s exact system and she got lucky as her opponent must have confused her ideas.
FM/WGM Jennifer Yu, had a dominating position out of the opening and she converted in a beautiful way against WFM Gracy Prasanna, keeping a close tie (6/8) to Sophie.
FM/WGM Jennifer Yu during Round 8 | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
FM/WGM Thalia Cervantes won her game against FM Ruiyang Yan. Thalia’s destiny is in her own hands as she will be facing Sophie tomorrow in an intense fight for the shared first place. Should she win her game the spectators will be able to see a playoff between the two, or we could see a 3-way tie, should Jennifer catch up with the two players as well.
FM/WGM Thalia Cervantes keeping her chances alive to tie for 1st tomorrow.| Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
Girls’ Standings after Round 8
Girls’ Round 9 Pairings
The live coverage with grandmasters Cristian Chirila and Yasser Seirawan as well as IM Dorsa Derakhshani continues tomorrow with Round 9 on Saturday, July 16 at 12:50 PM CDT on uschesschamps.com or our YouTube and Twitch.