- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

There were some new names at the top and new faces making noise at the just-concluded U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship, which both wrapped up Monday at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

Florida GM Fabiano Caruana held off 2015 champ Hikaru Nakamura’s late charge to capture his first national title, having defeated his top rival in their critical Round 4 encounter.

On the women’s side, GM Irina Krush, the dominant American female player of our time, was denied her eighth women’s championship as the University of Maryland-Baltimore County IM Nazi Paikidze, 22, scored a surprise win. Fittingly, Paikidze clinched first place with a last-round win Monday over Krush.

For both Caruana and Paikidze, the victory came in just their second try at the title, and neither lost a single game during the championships.

The women’s crown has been traded back and forth between Krush and archrival IM Anna Zatonskih since 2005, but 13-year-old prodigy Jennifer Yu got the better of both in St. Louis. The rising star from Ashburn, Virginia, suffered some early losses, but in a late rush defeated veteran FM Alisa Melekhina in Round 8, had Krush on the ropes before conceding a draw in Round 9, and then blew Zatonskih off the board in Round 10 — 2½ points against three of the pre-tournament favorites.

The win over Zatonskih may have been the most impressive — after a lengthy stretch of positional fencing, Zatonskih as Black misses her chance to break out (either 39…f5! or the most speculative 41…Qxd5!? 42. exd5 Rxe1+ 43. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 44. Kf2 Re3 would have helped Black break her opponent’s bind) and Yu’s central pawns steamroller down the board. By 46. Kf1 Rh6 47. Bxh7 Qxd5 48. Be4 Qd7 49. f5, Yu has an overwhelming spatial edge while her bishop vastly outmatches her black counterpart.

It’s the former champ who cracks first: 49…Rxe5? (Rg8 50. Kg2 Bb4 at least keeps the fight going) 50. Bc6! Re3 51. Rxe3 Qd6 52. Rf3 just loses a full rook with no compensation. Zatonskih resigned soon after.

In addition to beating Nakamura, Caruana racked up points against the lower half of the draw, including a vital last-round win over U.S. junior champ Akshat Chandra to preserve his lead.

Against GM Alex Lenderman’s aggressive line here — like the Yu game, a Charousek-Petrosian QGD — Caruana absorbs White’s early pawn pushes and methodically revs up his attack against White’s shaky king. After a White inaccuracy — safer was 19. Qd2 — Lenderman’s pawn on g6 will fall and the gates open up to the White king.

With the attack in full swing, Caruana said after the game his only real regret came after 33. Rd1 Qg2 34. Rxb7 Rfe8 (see diagram), when he was dying to answer 35. Qxf5 with 35…Qd2+!! 36. Rxd6 Ne1 mate! Lenderman sidestepped that brilliancy, but sportingly said he felt Black’s play should be rewarded a satisfying terminus, which comes on 38. Kc4 (d5 Ne5+; 38. Rd7 Ne5+ 39. dxe5 Qxc6) Rxd4+! 38. Kc5 (Rxd4 Ne5+ again) Rxd1 39. Rxd1 Qg1+ 40. Kc4 Qd4 mate.

Yu-Zatonskih, U.S. Women’s Championship, St. Louis, April 2016

1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 c6 6. Bf4 Bf5 7. e3 Qb6 8. Qc1 Nf6 9. Be2 Nbd7 10. Nh4 Be6 11. h3 O-O 12. O-O Rac8 13. Bd3 Nh5 14. Nf5 Bxf5 15. Bxf5 Nxf4 16. Bxd7 Rcd8 17. Bf5 Ng6 18. a3 Bd6 19. b4 Bb8 20. Qc2 Qc7 21. g3 Qe7 22. Ne2 a6 23. Rab1 Bd6 24. Rb3 Rfe8 25. Rfb1 Nf8 26. a4 g6 27. Bg4 h5 28. Bf3 h4 29. g4 Nh7 30. b5 axb5 31. axb5 Ng5 32. Bg2 c5 33. dxc5 Bxc5 34. Nf4 d4 35. Nd5 Qd6 36. e4 b6 37. Rf1 Re6 38. Qd3 Rde8 39. Re1 Re5 40. Rbb1 R5e6 41. f4 Nh7 42. e5 Qb8 43. Re2 Kg7 44. Rbe1 g5 45. Be4 Qd8 46. Kf1 Rh6 47. Bxh7 Qxd5 48. Be4 Qd7 49. f5 Rxe5 50. Bc6 Re3 51. Rxe3 Qd6 52. Rf3 Qh2 53. Rf2 Qd6 54. Re8 Bb4 55. Bg2 Qc5 56. f6+ Rxf6 57. Rxf6 Kxf6 58. Ke2 Kg7 59. Bc6 Qd6 60. Kd1 Qf4 61. Re4 Black resigns.

Lenderman-Caruana, U.S. Championship, St. Louis, April 2016

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 f5 11. Bg3 Ngf6 12. Nh3 Nb6 13. Nf4 Bd7 14. f3 O-O 15. Kf2 Rc8 16. Bd3 c5 17. Kg2 cxd4 18. exd4 Bd6 19. Qb3 Kh8 20. Bb5 Bxf4 21. Bxf4 Nh5 22. Be5 Bxb5 23. Qxb5 Nc4 24. Rae1 Nxe5 25. Rxe5 Qf6 26. Kf2 Qxg6 27. Rg1 Qf6 28. Rh1 Nf4 29. Ke3 Ng6 30. Rxd5 Nxh4 31. Rd7 Qg5+ 32. Kd3 Nxf3 33. Rd1 Qg2 34. Rxb7 Rfe8 35. Rc7 Rb8 36. Qc6 Red8 37. Kc4 Rxd4+ 38. Kc5 Rxd1 39. Nxd1 Qg1+ 40. Kc4 Qd4 mate.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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