The US Championship has ended and, as expected, the Italian-American GM Fabiano Caruana (2795) confirmed its favoritism and reached the title already in his first attempt.
Oh! Did I win?
It was an almost perfect tournament for Caruana. The closest he came to be pressed was during the start of the penultimate round against the experienced GM Gata Kamsky – who missed the move that would put the champion in trouble. Anyway, the great victory against a direct rival for the title, Hikaru Nakamura, in the third round was a great example of Caruana technique (see the analysis of the game here). In the previous round, Caruana gave a lesson on how to play against the French Defense (analysis here). The victim was the friendly GM Sam Shankland – who played the American Continental Championship in Brazil a couple of years ago.
(Which reminds us that another American GM also played in Pipa in 2014 and competed in this US final, Alexander Shabalov. He enjoyed the Brazilian sun and went every day to the beach quickly getting that typical and beautiful “shrimp tan”. it was incredible: Shabalov, every day, awas having breakfast with his “bathing suit” and headed for the beach as soon as it was over. But contrary to what would be obvious, since excessive sun causes fatigue and decreases productivity, he led great part of the tournament. Probably Saint Louis was not so sunny, since he had a disappointing tournament, finishing in the penultimate position…)
Going back to the French defense, another interesting game was the draw in the 8th round between Caruana victory and the well-prepared GM Ray Robson. Certainly a very important game for the theory of this defense (check the analysis here).
It is also worth noting Fabiano’s victory in the ninth round. The champion played black and won easily after playing a theoretical novelty in the popular Queen’s Gambit Declined against GM Aleksandr Lenderman (watch the game here). And there were victories against Onischuk, Akobian and Chandra – by the way, the photo up there is one of the moments during the game against the young Akshat, in which Caruana visited the “confessional booth” – yes, like the Big Brother: the player during the game, can visit this area and speak freely about what is happening on the board (or vote for someone to get out of the tournament. No, actually he can’t, but maybe the idea is not so bad…). Anyway: during his visit to the “confessional booth” Caruana declared: “Yes, I’m pretty sure I am winning.” What to say? He was right …
The bottom line: 6 wins, 5 draws. 8.5 out of 11, a full point ahead the second-placed Wesley So. Thus, Caruana seems to remain a future interesting opponent for World Champion Magnus Carlsen – and it’s not just us who are saying, but the eternal World Champion Garry Kasparov (who was in Saint Louis to comment on the final moments of the tournament and eventually face a challenge that deserves a separate text).
Nakamura, who was defending his title, ended up in third place with 7.5 points – the same score of Wesley So, but with a loss (against Caruana).
Not this time…
In the women’s tournament victory, against all odds, was achieved by Nazi Paikidze. After ten rounds Tatev Abrahamyan was leading by half a point and “only” needed to win in the last round to secure the title. However, Tatev lost the last game against the young Ashritha Eswaran, 16. And this gave Paikidze a chance to win the title – if she could win, with black, against Irina Krush. Paikidze managed to complicate a fairly quiet opening and was rewarded for her courage.
Nazi Pikidze: US champion!
And that was it for Saint Louis … or not. Who are we kidding? The best was still to come…
The return of the King
Written by Rafael Leitão’s Chess Academy Team in 02.05.2016.