So, Foisor claim top hon­ors in un­pre­dictable U.S. ti­tle fights

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - DAVID R. SANDS

With his top ri­vals fall­ing by the way­side, GM Wes­ley So held off an un­ex­pected chal­lenge to claim his first U.S. na­tional cham­pi­onship Mon­day at the Chess Club and Scholas­tic Cen­ter of St. Louis.

The 23-year-old Philip­pine na­tive de­feated sur­prise fi­nal­ist GM Alex Onis­chuk 11⁄2-1⁄2 in a rapid play­off, barely hold­ing off Onis­chuk’s at­tempt to tie the match in the de­ci­sive sec­ond game. The play­off was needed af­ter the two topped the 12-player field with iden­ti­cal 7-4 scores.

On the women’s side, WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor, seeded sixth in the 12-player field, earned her first U.S. ti­tle with a 8-3 score, a full point clear of 2016 women’s champ NM Nazi Paikidze.

Com­ing up short on the men’s side were de­fend­ing cham­pion GM Fabi­ano Caru­ana and four­time for­mer cham­pion GM Hikaru Naka­mura, both of whom were ex­pected to con­tend with So for the ti­tle. Round 9 proved fa­tal to both play­ers’s chances, as Caru­ana was jolted by a loss to GM Varuzhan Ako­bian and Naka­mura’s hopes were de­railed by an un­timely loss to Onis­chuk.

On the women’s side, Vir­ginia WM Jen­nifer Yu had a mas­sive say in the stand­ings en route to a fine 6-5 re­sult, de­feat­ing Paikidze and top seeds GM Irina Krush and Anna Za­ton­skih — both mul­ti­ple past cham­pi­ons — dur­ing the event.

The 41-year-old Onis­chuk was not a fa­vorite com­ing into the tour­ney, but he won the ti­tle a decade ago and still is the sixth high­est rated player in the coun­try. His vet­eran savvy and tech­ni­cal skill were both on dis­play in his win Satur­day over U.S. ju­nior champ GM Jef­fery Xiong. Black mis­han­dles the open­ing (12 ... Nc6? is rarely played for a rea­son) and soon coughs up a pawn to White’s bishop pair. The game’s best move may be 40. Rf2!, al­low­ing the op­po­site-col­ored bishop end­ing af­ter 40 ... Bc3 41. Rxb2 Bxb2 42. Ke4.

Black ex­pertly uses his as­sets on both sides of the board to force a won po­si­tion. Xiong re­signs af­ter 51. Kf3 Kg7 52. Kg4 — White can ei­ther push the f-pawn and use his threats on both wings to ac­ti­vate the a-pawn or just sac­ri­fice his bishop for the g6-pawn and the Black bishop can’t hold back the three White pawns.

Foisor, who was born in Ro­ma­nia and played for the pow­er­house Univer­sity of Mary­land/Bal­ti­more County chess team, fin­ished in style with a dom­i­nat­ing win over 16-year-old Michi­gan NM Apurva Virkud in Sun­day’s Round 11. An open­ing mis­take (9. a3 was bet­ter than Virkud’s 9. Bd2?! d4!) gives Black an over­whelm­ing pawn cen­ter that quickly rolls up the White po­si­tion.

Black cashes in with 23 ... e3! 24. fxe3 Qxe3+ 25. Kh1 (also los­ing was 25. Rfd2 Rf6 26. dxc5 Rxf2 27. Rxf2 Nd3 28. Qd2 Qd4! 29. Nc3 Re2! 30. Nxe2 Qxf2+ 31. Kh1 Bxe2) Rf6 26. Rg1 (see di­a­gram; on 26. Qxc5, Black has 26 ... Rxf1+ 27. Bxf1 Bf3+ 28. Rg2 [Bxg2 Qe1 mate] Qf2 29. Nd2 Qxg2+ 30. Bxg2 Re1+ 31. Nf1 Rxf1 mate) Qxg1+!, lead­ing to a mat­ing at­tack.

White re­signs af­ter 31. Ke3 Rf3+ fac­ing 32. Ke2 (Ke4 Re1+ 33. Re2 Rxe2 mate) Rf6+ 33. Ke3 Re1+ 34.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.