Robson and Burke score
A year after the pandemic forced organizers of the U.S. championships to hold tournaments online, the strong national event is returning to chess over the board in Saint Louis. Three days before the Russian Championships kick off in Ufa, chess fans will be able to watch the two strongest national tournaments in the world almost simultaneously.
Of the top 10 players in the country, only Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky are absent from the squad, Lazaro Bruzon (currently number 11 nationally) making his debut after finalizing his transfer from the Cuban federation.
Fabiano Caruana got into trouble early against Lazaron Bruzon | Photo: Lennart Ootes
In the first round, the three highest-rated players had to work hard to save half the points. Fabiano Caruana got into trouble at the start of his match against Bruzón; Wesley So was worse but kept things under control against Jeffery Xiong; while Leinier Dominguez only managed to draw black against Aleksandr Lenderman after 62 strokes.
Today’s winners were Ray Robson and 2020 United States Junior Champion John Burke. While Robson didn’t have much trouble making the most of Daniel Naroditsky’s mediocre play, Burke survived a lost position before securing the total point against Dariusz Swiercz.
Swiercz missed his chance on the 24th move.
Here white had to start with 24.axb5, when black is in trouble no matter how they pick up. The tactical idea that gives White the advantage is to transfer the queen to a3, creating threats against the king while attacking the knight on e7.
Swiercz played instead 24.exf6, and after 24 … Rxf6 25.axb5 cxb5 26.Qa3, black can play 26 … Qd6 keep everything under control. The move order counts.
Burke would win the match after his opponent again played poorly in a final with rook, bishop and knight on turn and two bishops.
Dariusz Swiercz and John Burke | Photo: Lennart Ootes
Ranking after the 1st round
All the games
Among the women, Irina Krush (8-time victory) and Anna Zatonskih (4-time victory) are once again the seeds and will face a contingent of young rising stars eager to leave their mark. Carissa Yip, 18, is the third seed and the only player other than Krush and Zatonskih ranked 2,400 or higher, while two-time champion Nazi Paikidze comes in fourth – Paikidze last won the event in 2018 and did not participate in the following two events.
Four players kicked off the event with a win. The biggest surprise was given by Katerina Nemcova, who beat Zatonskih with the white pieces in 31 moves. In a strong position, the latter falters decisively on the 28th stroke.
Black’s best move here is 28 … Qb4, preparing to respond to 29.Nxf7 with 29 … Qxd4 +, and the connected central pawns give enough counter play for the rally. Instead, Zatonskih played 28 … K7f6, which fails to 29.Nd3
The movements of the retreating knight are always difficult to predict – 29 … R6f5 30.Rxf5 Rf1 + 31.Rexf1 and Black resigned.
Katerina Nemcova | Photo: Crystal Fuller