One championship down, one still to go!
by Cristian Chirila
One tournament ended and the other one continues tomorrow! The U.S. Women’s Championship declared its winner, and it is none other than the sensation of the tournament, Sabina Foisor! Sabina played a brilliant game and finished Virkud in style, while Nazi started well but failed to keep the pace and got slowly outplayed by the legend slayer, Jennifer Yu (she beat Nazi, Irina, and Anna). In the open section, it was a fairly quiet day, with Wesley So making a pragmatic decision and repeating moves in the opening. Onischuk drew his game with Kamsky with ease, while Var Akobian failed to stop Nakamura’s wrath and fell out of the tiebreak spot after an otherwise brilliant tournament. Tomorrow we have a bonus day of chess excitement, but first let’s get into today’s recap!
Naroditsky vs So
There’s not much to say about this game besides both players seemed content with a draw. Naroditsky mentioned he was slightly surprised by So’s Berlin, and decided against trying to break it. Wesley’s decision was obviously a pragmatic one, and only time will tell whether it was the right one. He is now heading into a head-to-head tiebreaker with Onischuk in which he will be the clear favorite (Nakamura gives him a 90% chance to win it).
Kamsky vs Onischuk
The two veterans have been comrades in the American chess circuit for many decades and have played each other countless times. Kamsky mentioned that it was particularly difficult to come up with a surprise weapon, as Onischuk is a master of opening preparation.
The players followed a long line of the Archangelsk and it seemed like Onischuk had the better chance at producing the shocker. Despite that, Kamsky soon showed why he is one of the most solid players to ever play in the U.S. Championship and quickly tamed the game with a sequence of precise moves. The players agreed to a fairly uneventful draw as soon as the rules allowed it, at move 30. Onischuk will face So in what will surely be his biggest challenge yet!
Nakamura vs Akobian
Beating Nakamura as black is something quite extraordinary, drawing him as black is something extremely difficult. Those were the two results that would have helped Akobian; unfortunately for him, Nakamura came into the game with a warrior’s mindset, no draws!
Despite that, Akobian’s preparation was once again very sharp and he managed to slowly outplay Naka in the middlegame. His biggest problem was once again his time management, and when the critical moment came, he was unable to make the right decision. Exchanging the queens was a clear mistake; instead, he should have kept the pressure with 26…Qa7! which would have gave him the initiative.
The endgame after the queen exchange was a very difficult one, and Nakamura did not forgive. With swift precision, Nakamura delivered and stole Akobian’s tiebreak ticket.
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Akobian, Varuzhan"]
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c6 4. O-O Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Bxf3 Nbd7 7. d4 e6 8.
Nd2 Be7 9. e4 dxe4 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 11. Bxe4 Nf6 12. Bg2 Qb6 13. c3 O-O 14. Qe2
Rfe8 15. Kh2 Rad8 16. b4 a5 17. bxa5 Qxa5 18. Bd2 Qa4 19. Rfb1 Rd7 20. Rb3 Rc8
21. Be1 b5 22. Rc1 c5 23. d5 exd5 24. Rxb5 c4 25. Rcb1 Bd6 26. Qd1 Qxd1 27.
Rxd1 Be7 28. a4 Ra8 29. a5 Bd8 30. Ra1 Rda7 31. Bxd5 Nxd5 32. Rxd5 Bxa5 33. Bd2
h6 34. Be3 Ra6 35. Ra3 Bc7 36. Rxa6 Rxa6 37. Rc5 Bd6 38. Rc8+ Kh7 39. Rxc4 Be5
40. Rc8 Ra3 41. c4 Kg6 42. Kg2 h5 43. Re8 f6 44. Re7 Rc3 45. c5 Kh7 46. Kf1 Rc4
47. Ke2 Kg6 48. Kd3 Rc3+ 49. Ke4 h4 50. g4 Bh2 51. f4 Rc2 52. Kd3 Ra2 53. c6
Ra6 54. c7 Rc6 55. Kd4 f5 56. Kd5 1-0
U.S. Women’s Championship
Paikidze vs Yu
Nazi came to the playing hall with great confidence and a wide smile on her face. No matter the results, she knew that her tournament had been a success and another title would be a historic achievement!
Her opening went smoothly and she soon found herself in the driver’s seat, but her 16.Nc3?! was inexplicable. There was no reason to remove the perfectly centralized knight; instead, she should have built her set-up around that powerful piece. After that, it was all an uphill battle, as the game always seemed to be one exchange away from complete simplification, something Nazi was trying to avoid at all costs as Sabina was always in a better position. White tried to keep the tension, but in doing so, she allowed her opponent to grab the initiative. Jennifer’s sequence of moves between move 30 and 40 seemed to be played by an elite grandmaster. Her impressive precision is surely something that will scare many of her opponents moving forward. The girl has a bright future!
Nazi was forced to resign and pass her champion’s torch to Sabina at move 51. In her post-game interview, she gave a candid description of the game, as well as her sincere congratulations to her friend and rival. Her attitude will surely earn her even more fans. Congratulations, Nazi!
[White "Paikidze, Nazi"]
[Black "Yu, Jennifer"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qb3 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bf5 6. g3 e6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O
Nbd7 9. e3 O-O 10. Qe2 h6 11. Nc3 Ne4 12. Nd2 Nxd2 13. Bxd2 e5 14. d5 cxd5 15.
Nxd5 Bd6 16. Nc3 Nc5 17. e4 Be6 18. Rfd1 Qe7 19. Be3 Rfd8 20. Rac1 Rac8 21. Rc2
b6 22. Rdc1 Nb7 23. Nd5 Qd7 24. Rd1 Rxc2 25. Qxc2 Rc8 26. Qd2 Qc6 27. Bf1 Qa4
28. Nc3 Qa5 29. a3 Bb3 30. Rc1 Rd8 31. Qe2 Bc5 32. Bd2 Bc4 33. Qe1 Bxf1 34.
Kxf1 Qa6+ 35. Kg2 Qd3 36. Rd1 Qc2 37. b4 Bf8 38. Nd5 Nd6 39. Bc1 Rc8 40. Kg1
Qxe4 41. Qf1 Nf5 42. Be3 Rc6 43. Qd3 Qxd3 44. Rxd3 Rd6 45. b5 Nd4 46. Nb4 Nxb5
47. a4 Rxd3 48. Nxd3 Nc3 49. Nxe5 Nxa4 50. Nc6 a5 51. Ne5 Bc5 0-1
Virkud vs Foisor
Once again, the explosive U.S. Women’s Championship is decided by a brilliancy! Sabina has been playing stellar chess all throughout this event. Her preparation has simply been outstanding, and if it wouldn’t have been for the accident against Krush, perhaps her championship victory would have already been sealed.
But that’s not how top competitions are being won, nobody runs away with a title! The grind, the suffering, the over the edge nervousness, it’s all part of competition at the highest level, in any field. Sabina once again came into the game with incredible opening preparation, and took swift advantage of her opponent’s early mistake (9.Bd2?). Her middle game play was technical and precise. Her expansion on the kingside was calculated and every single detail was taken into consideration before conducting the checkmate pattern!
[White "Virkud, Apurva"]
[Black "Foisor , Sabina"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 c5 6. dxc5 Na6 7. c6 bxc6 8. g3
d5 9. Bd2 d4 10. Ne4 Rb8 11. Nxf6+ Qxf6 12. Bg2 e5 13. O-O Bf5 14. Qc1 Bxd2 15.
Qxd2 h6 16. Qa5 c5 17. b3 e4 18. Nd2 Rfe8 19. Rad1 Rb6 20. Nb1 Qe7 21. e3 Bg4
22. Rd2 Nb4 23. exd4 e3 24. fxe3 Qxe3+ 25. Kh1 Rf6 26. Rg1 Qxg1+ 27. Kxg1 Re1+
28. Bf1 Rfxf1+ 29. Kg2 Rg1+ 30. Kf2 Ref1+ 31. Ke3 0-1
But her impeccable game is not the story here. The story is that of an underdog that has been underestimated by many, which has been tried by the ruthlessness of life. An underdog that through pain, resiliency, and hard work overcame the odds and rewrote history on her terms. This is the story to be told, and Sabina is the admirable heroine of it! Kudos to you Sabina, the 2017 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion!