Pusillanimous Play at the US Chess Championship

Varuzhan Akobian

v Samuel L Shankland

U.S. Championship 2018 round 06

E20 Nimzo-Indian defence

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 dxc4 7. Qxc4 b6 8. Nf3 Ba6 9. Qa4+ Qd7 10. Qc2 h6 11. g3 Bb7 12. Bg2 Be4 13. Qd1 Nc6 14. O-O Rd8 15. Be3 O-O 16. Rc1 Qd5 17. Qa4 Ng4 18. Rc3 Nxe3 19. fxe3

Qd6? (This is, at best, a vacillating move. What is the purpose of the move? An early mentor called a move like this a, “Dilly-Dally” move. If Shankland is to become one of the elite Chess players on the planet he needs to do some serious soul-searching in order to learn why he would make such a poor move. I would have played 19…b5, a FORCING move. Stockfish at Da Bomb rates it equal with 19…e5, which is the move usualy striven for in these types of positions)

20. Nh4 (I dunno what it is about double-blunders but it seems we Chess fans have seen a proliferation of them in recent years. Or maybe it’s the “red move” syndrome…This move is UNBELIEVABLE! Imagine GM Akobian, or me, sitting at a table in front of this position a student had prodced. He would look at the position, explain that white needs only to move the rook to complete development, and what better way to do so than make a FORCING move! Unfortunately, Var was at the board with the clock ticking…One does not need a clanking digital monster to see a move like Rfc1…But in case you do, this is the variation given by Stockfish to support playing…20. Rfc1 Ne7 21. Rxc7 a5 22. Ne5 Bxg2 23. Kxg2 f6 24. Nf3 Nd5 25. R1c6 Nxc7 26. Rxd6 Rxd6 27. e4 Rc8 28. Qb3 b5 29. Qc3 Ra6 30. e5 f5 31. Qc5 Raa8 32. Qe7 b4 33. axb4 axb4)

20…Bxg2 21. Nxg2 Ne7 22. Qxa7 Nd5 23. Rc2 Ra8 (Again he backs down from playing e5) 24. Qb7 c5 25. dxc5 bxc5

26. Qb5 (When action is required Akobian’s play becomes pusillanimous. 26 Rxf7 Rxf7 27 Qxa8+ was mandatory. Imagine GM Akobian, or me, sitting at a table in front of this position with a student…)

26…Rfb8 27. Qd3 Qe5 28. Rxc5 Qxb2 29. Rfc1 Rd8

30. Qe4? (Akobian lets go of the rope with the other hand…30. R5c2 Qb7 looks natural, does it not?)

Qxe2 31. R5c2 Qb5 32. Nf4 Nf6 33. Qb4 Qe5 34. Qc5 Qxc5 35. Rxc5 g5 36. Ne2 Rxa3 37. Rc8 Rxc8 38. Rxc8+ Kg7 39. Rc3 Ra1+ 40. Kg2 Ra2 41. Kf1 Ne4 42. Rd3 g4 43. Rd4 f5 44. Rd3 Kf6 45. Rd8 Ng5 46. Rh8 Ra1+ 47. Kg2 Nh3 48. Rb8 Re1 49. Rb2 Ke5 50. Ra2 Ke4 51. Ra4+ Kxe3 52. Ra3+ Ke4 53. Ra2 Ke5 54. Rb2 Kf6 55. Ra2 e5 56. Ra6+ Kg5 57. Ra2 Kh5 58. Rb2 f4 59. gxf4 Rxe2+ 0-1

Wesley So

v Zviad Izoria

Caruana losing to Izoria

U.S. Championship 2018 round 06

D02 Queen’s pawn game

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 e6 3. c4 a6 4. Nbd2 Nf6 5. g3 c5 6. Bg2 Nc6 7. O-O cxd4 8. cxd5 Qxd5 9. Nb3 d3 10. e4 Qb5 11. Nbd4 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Qd7 13. Be3 Bc5? (13… e5 14. Nf3 Ng4 15. Bd2 Bc5 16. h3 Nxf2 17. Rxf2 O-O 18. Qe1 Bxf2+ 19. Qxf2 f6, SF)

14. Nf5? (Wesley cannot pull the trigger. When the going gets tough, So becomes pusillanimous…Mikhail Tal may have paused a few moments to stare at his opponent before playing 14 Nxe6! Stockfish gives: 14. Nxe6! Bxe3 15. Nxg7+ Kf8 16. e5 Bg5 17. exf6 Qd4 18. h4 Bxf6 19. Nh5 Bg4 20. Qd2 Bxh5 21. Qh6+ Bg7 22. Qxh5 Rd8 23. Bxb7 d2 24. Rfd1 Rd6 25. Qf3 Qxb2 26. Rab1 Qf6 27. Qg4 h5 28. Qc8+ Qd8)

14… exf5 15. Bxc5 Nxe4 16. Re1 Qd5 17. Qa4+ b5 18. Bxe4 fxe4 19. Qxe4+ Qxe4 20. Rxe4+ Be6 21. Rd4 Rd8 22. Bd6 f6 23. Rxd3 Kf7 24. Rd2 Rd7 25. Bb4 Rxd2 26. Bxd2 Rd8 27. Bc3 Bg4 28. Re1 Rd1 29. Rxd1 Bxd1 30. f4 Ke6 ½-½

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