The $262,000 U.S. Championship, being held at its now spiritual home of the Saint Louis Chess Club, has taken a twist by adopting the theme of being the ’22 Disrespect Championship’ – fuelled by player open hostilities aimed at Hans Niemann, who, after his opening round win against the youngest entrant Christopher Yoo, 15, gave us yet another masterclass of his now infamously dismissive quotes.
In his post-game interview, in his typically truncated style, Niemann said: “It was such a beautiful game that I don’t need to describe it”. Clearly frustrated, Yoo bounced back with a stunning sacrificial victory with black in round two over the defending champion, Wesley So, only then to let rip on the past suspicions of Niemann play, bluntly counter-commenting that he’d felt “disrespected on every level” by what he had said.
The tensions only increased as Fabiano Caruana took to Twitter with his put-down tweet of “the 2022 Disrespect Championship is just warming up” – and just warming up it was, as Caruana clearly enjoyed taking Niemann’s down in round four with a no-nonsense, hard-graft 80-move win to take the outright lead. He then added his own spin on the art of the truncated comment, quipping: “I think we’re no longer on chatting terms!”
Now, as the venerable national championship nears its midpoint, Caruana – after a fifth round draw with So before Monday’s rest-day – holds onto his slim lead at the top, a half-point ahead of young guns Sam Sevian and Awonder Liang – with Liang impressing with a shock win over Levon Aronian by deploying – of all things – the risky Scotch Gambit.
In the U.S. Women’s Championship, the 2019 champion Jennifer Yu, 20, has taken the sole lead with her fourth victory, to also enjoy a half-point lead over her nearest rivals in the race for the 2022 title.
The championship resumes on Tuesday (2pm CT) and is free and live to watch at uschesschamps.com.
U.S. Championship: 1. F. Caruana, 3.5/5; 2-3. S. Sevian, A. Liang, 3; 4-11. W. So, L. Dominguez, J. Xiong, S. Shankland, R. Robson, A. Lenderman. C. Yoo, H. Niemann, 2.5; 12-13. D. Swiercz, L. Aronian, 2; 14. E. Moradiabadi, 1.5.
U.S. Women’s Championship: 1. J. Yu, 4/5; 2-4. I. Krush, T. Abrahamyan, A. Lee, 3.5; 5. M. Lee, 3; 6-8. G. Tokhirjonova, T. Cervantes, R. Wu, 2.5; 9-11. A. Zatonskih, N. Paikidze, R. Yan 2; 12-13. A. Eswaran, S. Foiser, 1.5; 14. S. Morris-Suzuki 1.
GM Wesley So – GM Christopher Yoo
US Championship, (2)
Petroff’s Defence, Marshall Variation
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 Before the revival of the Berlin ‘Wall’ Defence during the Kramnik-Kasparov World Championship match in London in 2000, the Petroff’s Defence was the dreaded drawing system Black player’s would adopt to thwart aggressive opponents. Nowadays, the Petroff is more akin to a Sicilian Najdorf compared to the Berlin! 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 The Marshall variation, named after the legendary U.S. Champion Frank J. Marshall who had a fondness for a direct attack on his opponent’s kingside – even when playing Black! And here, just like his Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez, Black posts his bishops actively. 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Re1 Bf5 10.Qb3 Qd7 11.c5 Bc7 12.Qc2 Na6 13.a3 Bg6 14.Nc3 f5 15.Ne2 Bh5 16.Ng3 Bg6 17.Ne2 Bh5 18.Ng3 Bg6 19.b4 Game on! This is the right attitude from So. Being the the higher-rated player, more experienced and the defending champion, he rejects the offer of the repetition from his inexperienced 15-year-old opponent. 19…Rae8 20.Bb2 Re6 Very provocative and brave from Yoo – the teenager has opted to go all-in against the defending champion. 21.Ne2 Qe7 22.Ne5 f4! Yoo isn’t holding back! 23.Nxg6 Rxg6 24.f3 Qh4! It looks a little speculative, but it is, in fact, the most logical follow-up for Yoo given his previous moves. 25.Nc3 Rh6 26.h3 The ‘critical’ line looked to be 26.Nxe4! Qxh2+ (The alternative 26…dxe4 soon leads to the same thing.) 27.Kf1 dxe4 28.Bxe4 and a complex struggle ahead for both sides – and note that the immediate 28…Qh1+ 29.Kf2 Qh4+ doesn’t mean a drawing queen perpetual on h2 and h4, as after 30.Ke2! Qg5 31.Kd3 White king has safely run to the queenside. 26…Ng5! Threatening …Qg3 with an overwhelming attack. 27.Qf2 Qh5!? Did Yoo miss a ‘queen sacrifice’ moment with 27…Qxh3? It looks a stunner, but after 28.gxh3 Nxh3+ 29.Kg2 Nxf2 30.Kxf2 Rh2+ 31.Kg1 Rxb2 we’re more-or-less forced into the double rook ending of 32.Bxa6 bxa6 33.Re6 Rb3 34.Rxc6 Rxc3 35.Rxc7 Rxf3 36.Rxa7 Rd3 37.Rxa6 Rxd4 38.Rd6 that looks likely to be petering out to a draw, as both sides will have to proceed with great caution due to the passed pawns on both wings. I think the jury is out on whether Yoo missed this or not – I think he might well have rejected it to keep the pressure on So. If so, he fully deserves his win as most players would just be instantly seduced by the sexy-looking 27…Qxh3. 28.b5 Anything other than this, and So risks going downhill with all the velocity of Franz Klammer!. 28…Nb8 29.a4 Bd8 Once again, 29…Qxh3 was an option.] 30.Re2 Qf7 A subtle retreat from the fray, firstly threatening …Rxh3! but actually a cunning re-alignment of the queen and rook on the h-file. 31.Kf1 Nd7 32.a5 Making the teenager panic about the queenside is So’s only hope here – but Yoo just ignores what’s going on on that wing of the board. 32…Nxh3! It was just too tempting – but also an option was 32…Nf6 with the idea of …Nf6-h5-g3 before coming over the top with the knight sacrifice on h3. 33.gxh3 Rxh3 34.Qg2 Qh5! Now we see the real reason for Yoo retreating the queen to f7, as this new alignment on the h-file of the ‘heavy furniture’ is a more potent force. 35.Rf2 The king can try running from the danger zone, but it is no use. After 35.Ke1 Rxf3 White’s position is on the brink of total collapse. 35…Rg3 36.Qh2 Rh3 37.Qg2 Re8! Yoo holds his nerve with the cool move that just cuts the king off from running to sanctuary on the queenside. 38.Ne2 Re3! [see diagram] Yoo is the one having all the fun here, as So has to very gingerly navigate his way through a dangerous minefield. 39.Ra3 You know you are in a really difficult position when you have to resort to such moves to survive. The engine, though, opts to go for 39.Kg1 allowing 39…Rxe2 40.Bxe2 Rg3 41.a6! b6! 42.bxc6 Rxg2+ 43.Rxg2 Nf8 (It’s tempting to play 43…Nb8 but after 44.cxb6 Bxb6 45.Rc1! Bc7 46.Rc5 White has more than enough compensation now to save the game.) 44.Ra3 Qe8! 45.cxb6 Bxb6 46.Bb5 Qe1+ 47.Bf1 (No better is 47.Kh2 Ne6 48.Rd3 Qb4! and White’s position starts to fall apart.) 47…Qb4! and it is just difficult for White to bring some form of coordination to his pieces, which should allow Black to get in …Ne6 and pressure on the vulnerable d4-pawn. 39…Rh1+ 40.Ng1 Nf6 All the tactics were working in Black’s favour, and best was 40…Bxa5!! 41.Rxa5 Rxd3 42.Ra1 cxb5 43.Re1 Nb8! and with White paralysed, there’s no stopping the imaginative knight hop …Nb8-c6xd4. 41.Bc1 Qh4! Yoo doesn’t even give So the chance to unravel. 42.Bxe3 So’s frustration by being boxed in was very evident by this stage, as he missed the final chance to desperately hang on with 42.a6! bxa6 43.bxc6 Nh5 44.Bxh7+ Kxh7 45.Rxe3 fxe3 46.Bxe3 Ng3+ 47.Ke1 though after the simple 47…Bc7!, once again White is fast running out of useful moves to make. 42…fxe3 43.Bxh7+ Qxh7 44.Rxe3 Bc7! 45.Re7? It’s the final mistake, and something now has to give. The last, last chance to somehow try to hang on was with the ingenious engine find of 45.b6! axb6 46.a6! bxa6 47.cxb6 Bf4! (The point is that 47…Bxb6 48.Rb2! saves the game as 48…Bxd4 49.Rb8+ Kf7 50.Rb7+ Kg8 51.Rb8+ Kf7 52.Rb7+ etc is just a perpetual.) 48.Rb3 Rh2 49.b7! Rxg2 50.b8Q+ Bxb8 51.Rxb8+ Kf7 52.Rb7+ Kf8 53.Kxg2 and Black still has a lot of hard work ahead to convert his advantage. 45…Qb1+ 46.Re1 Qd3+ 47.Rfe2 Holding on a little longer, but no better, was 47.Ree2 Nh5! 48.Qxh1 Ng3+ 49.Kg2 Nxh1 50.Kxh1 cxb5 51.Rd2 Qh7+ 52.Kg2 Qg6+ 53.Kf1 Qb1+ 54.Kg2 Bxa5 55.Rc2 b4 and Black should easily be winning now. 47…Rh2 48.Qg5 Nh5 0-1 And So resigns as he can’t stop the killer-blow of …Ng3+.