Drifting Away at the 2018 US Chess Championship

Alexander Onischuk

v Sam Shankland

U.S. Championship 2018 round 10

D38 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin variation

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 O-O 8. e3 Bf5 9. a3 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 Nbd7 11. Be2 c5 12. O-O g5 13. Bg3 Ne4 14. c4 dxc4 15. Bxc4 Rc8 16. Rc1 Qe7 17. Bd3 Rfd8 18. Qe2 Nb6 19. Bxe4 Bxe4 20. Ne5 cxd4 21. Rxc8 Rxc8 22. exd4 Bf5 23. Qh5 f6 24. Ng4 Bxg4 25. Qxg4 Qd7 26. Qf3 Nd5 27. Qh5 Kg7 28. f4 Qe8 29. Qf3 Qe3+ 30. Qxe3 Nxe3 31. Rf3 Nd5 32. fxg5 hxg5 33. h4 gxh4 34. Bxh4 Kf7 35. Be1 b6 36. Bd2 Rc2 37. Rd3 Ke6 38. g4 Kd6 39. Kf1 Kc6 40. Ke1 Kb5 41. g5 fxg5 42. Bxg5 Kc4 43. Rg3 Nc3 44. d5 Nxd5 45. Kd1 Rc3 46. Rg4+ Kb3 47. Rd4 Ne3+ 48. Bxe3 Rxe3 49. Kd2 Rh3 0-1

This was a well-played game except for a single move pair when both moves were “colorful” over at the ChessBomb. After 27 moves this position was reached:

Because of the pawn structure black has a minor advantage. According to Stockfish white should now play the move 28 Re1. The second choice of 28 h4 also looks reasonable. Unfortunately, Onischuk produced a RED MOVE with the awful 28 f4?

This is a losing move. All Sam needs to do is take the pawn with the knight and it’s “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” There is really nothing else to consider…Unfortunately, Shankland did consider an alternative, producing another RED MOVE, with 28…Qe8?

After seeing his move I had to go back to the board containing pieces and look at 28…Nxf4 again and again. During the tournament I have awaited going to the ChessBomb for Stockfish analysis until after the game has ended. Inquiring minds want to know, so I “just had” to learn if there was something I was missing. There was not…The Fish gives 28… Nxf4 29. Qd1 Qxd4+ 30. Qxd4 Ne2+ 31. Kf2 Nxd4, along with more moves you can find if you check out the game at Da Bomb. This is another example of Shankland “drifting away,” like Dobie Gray. Fortunately for Sam, Al’s move was so bad Sam still retained an advantage with which he ground Onischuk down.

I have absolutely no idea why we Chess fans have seen such a proliferation of back-to-back blunders recently. Any readers have any ideas?

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