The Carlsen/Niemann alleged cheating saga that’s dominated the chess world and splashed across the worldwide media continues to rumble on, with news yesterday that FIDE, the game’s international governing body, have now referred the case to their Fair Play Commission for investigation. The focus of the three-member panel will be twofold: checking the World Champion’s claims of alleged cheating by Niemann and Niemann’s self-statement regarding online cheating.
Despite Magnus Carlsen declaring he would never play again in a tournament that included Hans Niemann in the field, and several other top players now raising concerns about the 19-year-old, there’s no stopping the US Junior champion playing in top tournaments as he was confirmed in the line-up for the $250,000 US Championship at the Saint Louis Chess Club, with the first round (of 13) kicking off next Wednesday.
Defending champion and third seed Wesley So is going for a fourth US title and a possible trifecta of successive outright wins, the first player to do so since Walter Browne during his golden period from 1974-77 (and before that, another legend in Bobby Fischer, with four-straight titles from 1962/3 to 1966/7) – but is expected to face stiff competition from rating favourites Fabiano Caruana (who lost in a playoff last year to So) and Levon Aronian.
US Championship line-up: Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Wesley So, Lenier Dominguez, Sam Shankland, Jeffery Xiong, Sam Sevian, Hans Niemann, Ray Robson, Dariusz Swiercz, Alex Lenderman, Christopher Yoo, Elshan Moradiabadi and Awonder Liang.
US Women’s Championship line-up: GM Irina Krush, IM Anna Zatonskih, FM Ashritha Eswaran, IM Nazi Paikidze, WGM Begim Tokhirjonova, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, WGM Jennifer Yu, GM Alice Lee, FM Ruiyang Yan, WGM Sabina Foiser, WGM Thalia Cervantes, WIM Megan Lee, WIM Rochelle Wu, WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki
The St. Louis organisers are well aware they will be under the scrutiny of an intense media spotlight – with Carlsen’s walking out of their marquee event of the Sinquefield Cup after losing to Niemann’s last month that started the media maelstrom – and they issued a pre-tournament statement stressing that their anti-cheating mechanisms will be stringent: “We anticipate hosting another successful event, complete with rigorous protocols to ensure the best chess players in the country can continue to compete on an even playing field.”
Play begins at 1pm (CT) daily from 5 October until 19 October, with a playoff, if needed, on 20 October, and can be followed live online at the official site uschesschamps.com.
GM Wesley So – GM Dariusz Swiercz
US Championship 2021, (2)
Sicilian Defence, Moscow Variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 This is the most combative line against the Moscow Variation – and one made famous by the remarkable struggle between Garry Kasparov and ‘The World’, an enthralling online match sponsored by Microsoft in 1999. 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.d4 Qg4 8.d5 The defending champion said after this game that he got a little worried here, as he’d “forgotten” the exact theory. The correct continuation is 8.0-0! – a gambit invented by David Bronstein – that leaves Black in a bind with e5 lurking, forcing 8…cxd4 (This is no time to go pawn snatching. After 8…Nxe4? 9.Nxe4 Qxe4 10.d5 Nd4 11.Nxd4 Qxd4 12.Qa4+! Kd8 13.Re1 and White faces a challenge trying to unravel.) 9.Nxd4 Qxd1 10.Rxd1 Nxd4 11.Rxd4 Rc8 12.b3 and White has more space and the better long-term prospects. 8…Nd4 9.Nxd4 Qxd1+ 10.Nxd1 cxd4 11.f3 Rc8 12.b3 e5! There’s nothing much in the position now – but So manages to squeeze a little out of the position, as Swiercz errs. 13.g4 Be7 14.Ke2 h5 15.g5 Nd7 16.Bd2 0-0 17.Nf2 a6 18.Nd3 f5 19.gxf6 gxf6 Not a bad move per se, but better was 19…Rxf6!? with the idea of doubling rooks on the f-file; following up with …R6f7 and …g5. 20.Rhg1+ The g-file and Black’s vulnerable h-pawn gives So a little something to build on. 20…Kh7? Things have gotten critical very quickly, and Swiercz had to play 20…Kf7 to meet 21.Rg3 with 21…h4 22.Rg4 (If 22.Rh3 f5! and Black is fine.) 22…f5 23.exf5 Ke8 and Black has excellent compensation with the doubled f-pawns and the threat of …b5 coming to open the game up for his active pieces. 21.Rg3! h4?! This just compounds Black’s problems – the last try was 21…Rg8!? 22.Rh3 Rg2+ 23.Nf2 Rcg8 24.Rxh5+ Kg6 25.Rh6+ Kf7 where there’s always hopes to save the game with Black’s more active rooks. 22.Rg4 f5 23.exf5 Rxf5 24.Rag1! Re8 There’s no time to track back to defend against So’s rook infiltrating to g7. After 24…Rf7 25.Bb4! suddenly now there’s the stunning winning tactic of Bxd6!! and Rxh4 mate hanging in the air. 25.Nf2 The knight finds an ideal outpost on e4 to swiftly move in for the kill. 25…Nf6 26.Rg7+ Kh8 27.Rf7! [see diagram] So has too many winning moves now, what with doubling rooks on the seventh and even Ne4 with the …Rf5 pinned. The end comes swiftly now. 27…Rh5 28.Rg6 Ng8 29.Ne4 Rd8 There’s no hope for Swiercz. After 29…Rh7 30.Rxh7+ Kxh7 31.Re6! Rd8 32.f4! and Black’s position collapses. 30.Bg5 Rh7 31.Rxe7 Rxe7 32.Bxh4 1-0 A key win for Wesley So en route to capturing the 2021 US Championship title.