So dodges bullet, Nazi wins the battle of the leaders
by Cristian Chirila
Today was the day after the free day, the day for which players have the most time to prepare for, the day where the biggest volume of opening novelties get released. That was what everybody expected going into round 6 of the 2017 U.S. Championships, and that was the product that was delivered! Wesley So fell under severe pressure after Akobian unleashed a deep and dynamic opening idea; in the women’s section, Nazi mastered the endgame and outplayed her biggest rival, Irina Krush, in the battle of the leaders. Both Wesley and Nazi stand half a point ahead of the pack. The last five rounds of the 2017 U.S. Championships will be explosive!
So vs Akobian was one of the most anticipated games of the day, especially given their personal rivalry that has been brewing over the past couple of years. Both players were having an extraordinary event, and Var surely came into this round with a great deal of hope and confidence as he was trying to avenge last year’s brutal defeat.
Wesley prepared a very sharp line of the QGD but was surprised when Akobian improved on a game between Caruana and Melkumyan with 12…Bg4! Akobian’s great opening preparation paid off as he quickly gained the initiative and forced his opponent on the defensive, but Wesley is not the hottest player in the circuit for no reason, and he managed to save the half point with precise calculation right before the time control.
A great save by Wesley, and a disappointing miss by Akobian who knows that he missed a great chance at becoming the new leader and the legendary player that stops Wesley’s historic no-loss streak.
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Akobian, Varuzhan"]
1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6 6. e3 Bf5 7. g4 Be6 8. h4
Nd7 9. g5 h6 10. g6 fxg6 11. Bd3 Nf8 12. Nf3 Bg4 13. Rg1 Nf6 14. Rg3 g5 15.
hxg5 hxg5 16. Bxg5 Rh1+ 17. Bf1 Qc8 18. Qb3 N8h7 19. Bxf6 gxf6 20. O-O-O Bd6
21. Rxg4 Qxg4 22. Qxb7 Rc8 23. Qa6 Rc7 24. Be2 Rxd1+ 25. Kxd1 Qf5 26. Nd2 Ng5
27. f4 Nh3 28. Bf3 Bb4 29. Nxd5 cxd5 30. Qb5+ Kf7 31. Qxb4 Qd3 32. Bxd5+ Kg7
33. Qb3 Nf2+ 34. Ke1 Rc1+ 35. Kxf2 Qxd2+ 36. Kf3 Re1 37. Bc4 Qh2 38. Qb7+ Kh6
39. Qe7 Qh1+ 40. Kf2 Qh4+ 41. Kf3 Qh1+ 42. Kf2 Qh4+ 43. Kf3 Qh3+ 44. Kf2 Qh4+
45. Kf3 Qh3+ 1/2-1/2
Caruana vs Kamsky was another noteworthy affair. Fabi’s theoretical prowess was quickly on display as he managed to amass a significant time advantage after the opening. The pressure was too much for Gata to handle and he decisively blundered early with 16…Be6?? Fabiano did not forgive his opponent’s misstep and obtained a decisive advantage which he converted with swift precision.
The reigning champion is now only a half a point behind the leader, coupled with the easier schedule, it is the perfect ingredient for an upcoming, highly disputed second part of the tournament. The race is heating up!
U.S. Women's Championship
Krush vs Paikidze might prove to be the decisive game of the tournament. Irina was placing early pressure on the reigning champion, however, Nazi defused her opponent’s attempt at an advantage and managed to secure the equality around move 20. Despite that, Irina slowly started to outplay her opponent and if she would have found 36.e4! then the story of the game would have been a completely different.
Unfortunately for her, that was exactly the moment of the blunder! Her 37.Nge4 allowed Nazi to win a pawn and the rest was history. With sublime confidence and technique, Nazi increased her advantage and forced Irina to capitulate. This is the third time in a row Nazi out powered Irina, and her bid for a second consecutive title is contouring nicely!
Yip vs Zatonskih was definitely the shocker of the round. With that being said, there are only as many times you can get away with murder. Anna once again fell into a severe time trouble. Coupled with her unpleasant defensive task, the 4 time U.S. champion was forced to surrender soon after the first time control.
Zatonskih failed to sustain the tempo imposed by her rivals and is now standing one point behind the leader. Her title run is starting to fade and she is the only person who can change that perception. Yip is back on 50% and will surely pose a serious threat for her future opposition.
[White "Yip, Carissa"]
[Black "Zatonskih, Anna"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bd7 5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. Be3 Ngf6 8.
Nxf6+ Qxf6 9. c3 h6 10. Qc2 Bxf3 11. gxf3 c6 12. f4 Bd6 13. f5 e5 14. O-O-O O-O
15. Kb1 Qh4 16. Rdg1 Nf6 17. f3 Rfe8 18. Qg2 Bf8 19. dxe5 Rxe5 20. Bf2 Qg5 21.
Qf1 Qh5 22. Bd4 Rxf5 23. Bxf5 Qxf5+ 24. Ka1 Re8 25. Qb1 Qf4 26. Qc1 Qf5 27. Re1
Rxe1 28. Qxe1 b6 29. Rg1 Nh5 30. Qe4 Qxe4 31. fxe4 f6 32. Be3 Kf7 33. Rd1 Ke8
34. b4 g5 35. a4 Ng7 36. a5 bxa5 37. bxa5 a6 38. Rb1 Bd6 39. h3 Bc7 40. Rb7 Ne6
41. Bb6 Kd8 42. Rb8+ Kd7 43. Ra8 Bxb6 44. axb6 Nc5 45. Rh8 h5 46. e5 fxe5 47.
Rxh5 Ne6 48. Rh8 Nd8 49. Rg8 1-0
The 2017 U.S. Championships are officially fired up, we are in for a treat in the last days of this exciting event!