17 April 2015
10:55pm
Taguig City

While I was finishing this blog, the Shamkir Chess 2015 or the Vugar Gashimov Memorial chess tournament kicks off already.  As of this writing Wesley So battles Anish Giri and Magnus Carlsen versus Vishy Anand on round 1.

The just concluded US Chess Championship 2015 becomes one of the worst Tournament for Wesley So so far.  Having been highly criticized on social media for his 6 moves forfeiture of game nine between fellow GM Varuzhan Akobian due to writing personal notes “double check triple check use your time” on a separate sheet of paper during their encounter.

SO SHOCKED: WESLEY FORFEITED FROM U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP NINTH ROUND

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Wesley So explains his side on his FB fan page after forfeiting his game vs GM Varuzhan Akobian

While this happened, earlier of his games kibitzers noticed that there’s something wrong with him, and his Facebook posts seems sounds disturbed.

Until after the tournament, social media write-ups, comes out on what seems to be bothering Wesley. Two different story angle which surfaced, seems distracted the games of Wesley. You may read details here:

Eleanor So: “Wesley was very happy to see us in St. Louis”

One FB post of Wesley is doubtful, I cannot imagine that he can post such words. Or if yes, has the demon got inside of him? Hope not. Lets just pray that the family problem resolves and would not affect his precious life especially his coming tournaments.

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One of the few message by "Wesley So" on his FB fan page

Following below are games of Wesley So on US Chess Championship to which even bothered by distractions, he still emerged as 3rd place.

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US Chess Championship 2015 Final Standings

All games were annotated by Joshua Friedel on the official website chessbase.com

Round 1

So, Wesley 1-0 Naroditsky, Daniel

Wesley So’s opening was fantastic, obtaining a strong pair of bishops and a powerful center. Black’s knight on h5 was bad, but So made a couple of mistakes and allowed Naroditsky back into the game… until he blundered!

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.01
Round 1
White: So, Wesley (2788)
Black: Naroditsky, Daniel (2640)
Result: 1-0
ECO: E20 – Nimzo-Indian: Kmoch Variation
Annotator: Joshua Friedel

I’m sure many are eager to see how So will fare in his 1st US Championship. While he won his 1st round, it wasn’t without a few bumps.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 Wesley goes for one of the sharpest lines against the Nimzo.
4…O-O c5 and d5 are the other main moves.
5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Now we are in a version of the Saemisch, although it is slightly favorable for White since usually Black prefers to play c5-Nc6 before castling in these positions.
6… Nh5 7. Nh3 f5 Black tries to restrict Black’s center before e4 is played.
8. Nf2 b6 This is a new move, and it looks inaccurate to me. I think it is very important to fight for the center immediately in such positions. (8… d6 { has been played several times, with the idea of playing e5.})
9. e4 fxe4 10. fxe4 Qf6 This move looks natural, but the queen will have to move later. (10… Nf4 11. g3 Ng6 {would have been my choice. It isn’t exciting, but at least the knight doesn’t get stuck on h5.})
11. Ra2 Qf7 (11… Nf4 {once again, I would go with this move.})
12. Nh3 Now the knight is stuck, White controls all the necessary central and kingside squares, and also has the two bishops. Objectively it is lost, but Danya fights well.
12… Qg6 13. e5 (13. Rf2 {was also a killer, and perhaps simpler. The idea is if} Qxe4+ 14. Be2 {and Black is losing material.}) 13… Bb7 14. Bd3 (14. Rf2 {was still quite strong.})
14… Be4 Now matters aren’t so simple.
15. Bxe4 Qxe4+ 16. Qe2 (16. Re2 Qh4+ 17. Rf2 {was better.})
16… Qb1 Now Black is back in it, although the position is still unpleasant.
17. Qc2 Qxc2 18. Rxc2 g6 The ending is a relief for Black, although with White’s center and the dark squares it is hard to believe there is no edge.
19. Ng5 Nc6 20. Ne4 Kg7 21. g4 This is too ambitious, and gives Black counterplay. (21. Rf1 {White should probably trade off this odd rook on f1.} Rxf1+ 22. Kxf1 Rf8+ 23. Kg1 {and White is still a bit better.})
21… Nf4 22. Be3 Nh3 (22… Nd3+ 23. Kd2 Nf4 {was a better way to repeat moves.})
23. Rg2 Nf4 24. Rg3 The rook is slightly improved here, but Black still has plenty of counterchances.}
24…d6 I’m not sure the pawn sac is best objectively, but I like the spirit of the move, trying to crack away at the center and activate Black’s pieces.
25. exd6 cxd6 26. Nxd6 Rad8 27. Ne4 (27. c5 {looks natural, but after} bxc5 28. dxc5 Rb8 {Black gets excellent counterplay.})
27… e5 The game is a mess now with chances for both sides.
28. dxe5 Nd3+ 29. Ke2 Ndxe5 30. Nd2 Rfe8 31. Rf1 Na5 32. Rf4 Nexc4 After playing excellently to get back in the game, Danya gets a bit impatient.} (32… Kg8 {I like this move, avoiding Bd4 ideas and asking White what the plan is.})
33. Nxc4 g5 34. Rd4 Rxd4 35. Nxa5 I don’t think the rooks are as strong as the pieces here, especially with an extra pair of rooks on the board, which almost always helps the pieces.
35… Ra4 36. Nc6 Rxa3 37. Kd3 It will be a long time before Black will be able to create a dangerous passed pawn, and meanwhile storm clouds will start to form around the king.
37… Ra2 38. Rh3 Rg2 (38… h6 39. Bd4+ Kh7 {was a better defense, but after} 40. Rf3 {Black’s king is still in danger.})
39. Bd4+ Kg8 40. Ne5 Black is lost, and Wesley doesn’t give Danya a second chance.
40…Re6 41. Nd7 Rd6 42. Nf6+ Kf7 43. Ne4 Rd5 44. Rxh7+ Kg6 45. Rg7+ Kh6 46. Rxa7 b5 47. Ra6+ Black is losing the rook on d5, so he threw in the towel. Similar to Conrad against Hikaru, Danya had chances to make life difficult for Wesley, but one key mistake and opponents of this calibre simply don’t forgive.1-0

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Round 2

Shankland, Sam 0-1 So, Wesley

Sam Shankland’s 60+ lossless streak came to an abrupt an end in the following tragic way:

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.02
Round 2
White: Shankland, Sam (2661)
Black: So, Wesley (2788)
Result : 0-1
ECO: C65 – Ruy Lopez: Berlin defence

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nbd2 a6 8.Ba4 Ba7 9. h3 Ne7 10. Re1 c5 11. Nf1 h6 12. Ng3 b5 13. Bc2 Ng6 14. d4 Bb7 15. Be3 Re8 16. d5 c4 17. Bxa7 Rxa7 18. b3 Qc7 19. bxc4 Qxc4 20. a4 Qxc3 21. axb5 Qc5 22. Qb1 axb5 23. Rxa7 Qxa7 24. Qxb5 Rc8 25. Bd3 Nf4 26. Qb3 Ba6 27. Bxa6 Qxa6 28. Nf5 Kh7 29. Qb4 Rd8 30. Qd2 Rb8 31. Qc2 Rc8 32. Qd2 Rc4 33. Ng3 Qc8 34. Nh2 Rd4 35. Qe3 Rd3 36. Qa7 Qc3 37. Re3 Rxe3 38. Qxe3 Qxe3 39. fxe3 Nd3 40. Nf3 Nc5 41. Nd2 g5 42. Kf2 Kg6 43. Kf3 h5 44. h4 gxh4 45. Nf5 Nxd5 46. Nxd6 Nc3 47. Nf5 Kg5 48. Nd6 Kf6 49. Nf5 Ne6 50. Nxh4 Ng5+ 51. Kg3 Ngxe4+ 52. Nxe4+ Nxe4+ 53. Kf3 Nd2+ 54. Ke2 Kg5 55. g3 Ne4 56. Kf3 Nd2+ 57. Ke2 Ne4 58. Kf3 f5 59. Kg2 Nd2 60. Kf2 Kg4 61. Ng6 Nc4 62. Ne7 Nb2 63. Nd5 Nd3+ 64. Kg2 Kg5 65. Kf3 Nc5 66. Kg2 Ne4 67. Kh3 Nf6 68. Ne7 Ng4 69. Nd5 Kg6 70. Kh4 Kh6 71. Kh3 Kg7 72. Kh4 Kg6 73. Kh3 Kf7 74. Kh4 Ke6 75. Nc7+ Kd6 76. Ne8+ Kd5 77. Kxh5 Nxe3 78. Kg5 Ke4 79. Kf6 Kd4 80. Kg5 e4 81. Nd6 Kd3 82. Kh5 Kd4 83. Kg5 Kd5 84. Nb5 Kc5 85. Nc3 Kd4 86. Nb5+ Ke5 87. Na3 Nd5 88. Nc4+ Ke6 89. Nd2 Ke5 90. Nc4+ Ke6 91. Nd2 Nf6 92. g4 Nxg4 0-1

As annotated by Joshua Friedel

91. Nd2 Nf6 {After defending for a long time, Sam Shankland has reached a drawn position. Wesley So was unable to capitalize in a winning position, being up a pawn in a knight endgame.}
92. g4 (92. Nc4 {was the easiest way to draw, but most logical moves also held the half point.})
92… Nxg4 {It is unclear what Shankland missed…} (92… Nxg4 93. Nxe4 fxe4 94. Kxg4 Ke5 {is very obviously a lost pawn endgame.}) 0-1

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Round 3

So, Wesley 0-1 Sevian, Samuel

Without a doubt the game of the day!

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.03
Round 3
White: So, Wesley (2788)
Black: Sevian, Samuel (2548)
Result : 0-1
ECO: D45 – QGD: semi-Slav (5…Nd7)
Annotator: Joshua Friedel

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 Sam shows he’s not afraid to enter the sharpest lines against the world’s best.
7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Bd3 Bb7 11. a3 Rc8 12. Ng5 An ambitious move, famously used by Aronian in h is spectactular loss to Anand. There is no doubt that both players are aware of this game. (12. b4 { was the main line, but it has been shown that Black can in fact play c5 { anyway.})
12… c5 Sevian plays Anand’s move. Usually a safe bet.
13. Bxh7+ Wesley’s new move. (13. Nxh7 {as played by Aronian was punished spectacularly by Anand.} Ng4 14. f4 cxd4 15. exd4 Bc5 16. Be2 Nde5 17. Bxg4 Bxd4+ 18. Kh1 Nxg4 19. Nxf8 f5 20. Ng6 Qf6 21. h3 Qxg6 22. Qe2 Qh5 23. Qd3 Be3 {0-1 (23) Aronian,L (2802)-Anand,V (2772) Wijk aan Zee 2013 CBM 153 [Anand, V]})
13… Kh8 14. f4 g6 I’d be scared to play this move, but kids often have nerves of titanium. To be fair, I really have no idea what I’d play instead.
15. Bxg6 fxg6 16. Nxb5 Thus far Sam has used far more time than Wesley, and here he slips up.
16…Qe7 (16… Bb8 {first was necessary, and Qe7 next move.})
17. Qxg6 {Wesley lets him off the hook.} (17. Nxd6 Qxd6 18. Qxg6 {is monstrous for White, with e4-Rf3-Rh3 nearlly impossible to stop.})
17… Bb8 { Now we are back in less clear territory, with both players on their own.} 18. dxc5 (18. Bd2 {The computer likes this simple developing move, and as much as I hate to agree with machines, it looks very natural.}) 18… Rxc5 (18… Nxc5 {was a viable alternative, after which I still like} 19. Bd2) 19. Nd4 Rg8 ( 19… Nh7 {is slightly better, as there is no reason to provoke the queen to h6.})
20. Qh6+ Nh7 21. e4 (21. h4 {I like this move better, mainly cause it ensures the g-file will stay closed})
21… Ndf6 22. b4 Rcxg5 {Sam correctly sacrifices the exchange.}
23. fxg5 {Note how if Wesley played h4 this sac would be far less annoying.}
23…Be5 (23… Ng4 {immediately is recommended by the computer, with the idea that} 24. Bb2 Be5 {transposes to the game.})
24. Bb2 {I’d give this a question mark, but it’s hard to assign them to such natural moves in a crazy position.} (24. Nb3 {was actually much stronger, keeping g5 securing and inviting Black to grab on a1, which would weaken his dark squares.} Bxe4 (24… Bxa1 25. Nxa1 {can hardly be recommended, given the king on h8 on the open diagonal.}) 25. Ra2 Ng4 26. Qh5 Bxh2+ 27. Kh1 {and Black’s king is far looser than White’s.})
24… Ng4 25. Qh5 {This one maybe deserves two, however. Even the best players in the world have their off moments, although it is unclear what exactly Wesley missed here. Sam doesn’t miss his chance.} (25. Qh3 {immediately was necessary, and while the situation is still far from clear, White is still the one on top.})
25… Qxg5 (25… Rxg5 26. Rf7 {would not be recommended for Black, and perhaps was So was hoping for.})
26. Qh3 (26. Qxg5 Nxg5 {and Black’s pieces are just massive.})
26… Qe3+ (26… Qd2 {might be even stronger, but Sevian’s way works as well.})
27. Qxe3 Nxe3 28. Rf2 {Not the best defense, but White’s position was hopeless anyway.}
28…Ng5 {With pieces like this, White’s prospects are slim. Sam doesn’t let him off the hook from here.}
29. Kh1 Nc4 ( 29… Nxe4 {was immediately over, with the idea that} 30. Re2 Rxg2 {leads to mate.} 31. Rxg2 Nf2+ 32. Kg1 Nh3+ 33. Kh1 Bxg2#)
30. Bc3 Nxe4 31. Rf7 (31. Rf3 {was one last trick, with the idea that on} Nxc3 32. Rh3+ Kg7 33. Rxc3 { d4 shouldn’t be taken due to} Bxd4 (33… Kf6 {is still winning.}) 34. Rg3+ Kh7 35. Rh3+ Kg7 36. Rg3+ {with a draw, and if} Kf7 37. Rf1+ {Black is even worse.})
31… Nxc3 32. Rxb7 Bxd4 {Black’s clump of pieces dominate the board.} 33. Rf1 Rg7 34. Rb8+ Kh7 35. g3 e5 36. Rff8 Ne3 37. h4 Ne4 38. Rh8+ Kg6 39. h5+ Kg5 40. h6 {The pawn is getting far, but White’s king is in far too much danger.}
40… Rf7 41. h7 Rf1+ {and with mate coming soon, White resigned. Wesley will definitely be disappointed with his missed chances this game, but Sam outcalculated his elite opponent from a difficult position.} 0-1

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Round 4

Nakamura, Hikaru 1/2-1/2 So, Wesley

The epic game between the top players was not of the highest quality:

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.04
Round 4
White: Nakamura, Hikaru (2798)
Black: So, Wesley (2788)
Result : 1/2-1/2
ECO: D58 – QGD: Tartakower (Makagonov-Bondarevsky) system
Annotator: Joshua Friedel

1. c4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Be7 {Wesley opts for the solid Queen’s Gambit Declined against Hikaru.}
4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 b6 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Bg3 c5 11. cxd5 Nxd5 12. Nxd5 Bxd5 {Nothing out of the ordinary thus far.}
13. Qe2 cxd4 14. Nxd4 Bf6 15. Rfd1 Bxd4 {Black gives up the two bishops in order to diffuse White’s superior development and central space. This also leaves black with a powerful blockade on d5.}
16. exd4 Nb8 { a clever idea, rerouting the knight to a more active square. This was already played by Kasimdzhanov against Ivanchuk, and I’d be willing to bet both players have seen the game.}
17. Rac1 Nc6 18. Bb5 {Hikaru’s novelty.} (18. Qd2 {was chosen by Ivanchuk, but he was hardly able to trouble Kasim. Hikaru’s move is more direct.})
18… Rc8 19. Rc3 (19. Ba6 {looks nice at first, but runs into} Nxd4)
19… Ne7 20. Ba6 Rxc3 21. bxc3 {Hikaru’s intention was to provoke this trade, giving himself the hanging pawns. Since they can’t be blockaded it is hardly a risk, and the idea is to be able to expand with c4 at some point. Both of Black’s minors are very active, however, which gives Wesley full equality in my view.}
21… Nf5 22. Bf4 Qh4 {An active try, trying to provoke kingside weaknesses.} 23. Bc1 Rd8 24. f3 Rd7 (24… Qe7 {I like slightly better, since the queen doesn’t do anything on the kingside anymore.})
25. Bd3 Rc7 {This looked loose to me at first, but Black has everything under control.}
26. Bd2 (26. Bxf5 exf5 27. Qe8+ Kh7 28. Qe5 {leaves everything hanging, but Black has the clever move} Re7 29. Qxf5+ g6 30. Qd3 Re1+ 31. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 32. Qf1 Qxc3 {and Black is better.})
26… Qd8 27. Rc1 Qf6 (27… Qd6 {I’d rather have access to the queenside, and I don’t think Bxf5 is ever a problem.})
28. a4 g5 {This might not be terrible, but it looks reckless to me.} (28… Rc8 {It is hard to make pass moves, but I don’t think it will be so easy for White to make progress here.})
29. f4 {Naka tries to punish Wesley’s move immediately, but it might not be the best way to go.} (29. Rf1 { preparing f4 next looks more precise.})
29… gxf4 30. Qf2 Nh4 {This one is really a lemon, however.} (30… f3 {was best, and after} 31. c4 Bb7 32. d5 { The game is simply a mess. Best might be the solid} Ng7 {, preparing to capture on d5 next move.})
31. Bxf4 (31. Qxf4 {is just better for White, although I can’t be sure what was missed by the players.} Qg7 32. Be4 Bxe4 33. Qxe4 Nf5 34. Rf1 {and with d5 in the air and Black’s king weak, I’d much prefer White.})
31… Nf3+ {Now it is Black who is better!}
32. gxf3 Qxf4 33. Qg3+ Qxg3+ 34. hxg3 Bxf3 35. Kf2 Bc6 {Hikaru has a long defense ahead, although he has good chances to hold a draw.}
36. Ra1 f6 37. a5 b5 38. c4 { White wants to trade off a pair of pawns, but I’d have done it slightly differently.} (38. a6 Bd7 39. Rb1 {gives White more active counterplay.}) 38… bxc4 39. Bxc4 Kf7 40. Ke3 Ke7 (40… f5 {is slightly more accurate, preventing g4 ideas from White.})
41. Rb1 (41. g4 {It looks funny to put a pawn on a light square, but all Black’s pawns are fixed and weak now.} Kd6 42. Rf1 Bg2 43. Rf2 Rxc4 44. Rxg2 {and Rh2 next, with great drawing chances.})
41… Rc8 42. g4 {Naka finds it this time.} 42…Kd6 43. Ba6 {A precise move, avoiding discoveries against the bishop and forcing the rook to make a decision.}
43… Rg8 44. Rf1 {The game is approaching a draw now.}
44… Rxg4 45. Rxf6 Re4+ 46. Kd3 Rh4 47. Bc4 Bd5 {Once the bishops come off, there simply aren’t enough pawns left. The draw is relatively simple.}
48. Bxd5 Kxd5 49. Rf7 Rxd4+ 50. Ke3 {The a-pawn can’t be saved.}
50…Ra4 51. Rxa7 Ra3+ 52. Kf2 {Black’s remaining pawns can’t both be held.}
52…Ke4 53. Rh7 Ra2+ 54. Kf1 Kf3 55. Rf7+ Ke3 56. Re7 {A draw, but not without its share of action. Wesley was the beneficiary of mutual oversights, but he was unable to convert the extra pawn, which was made difficult by his weak pawns and limited material.} 1/2-1/2

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Round 5

So, Wesley 1-0 Gareev, Timur

A very strange game, but that seems to be typical of Gareev in this tournament. In a solid French defense Gareev threw in the move h5?! without much of any reason. He ended up losing a pawn because of it in an uncomfortable position, and So had few problems converting it. Gareev resigned in a position he could still have played on in, but he would surely have lost anyway.

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.05
Round 5
White: So, Wesley (2788)
Black: Gareev, Timur (2604)
Result : 1-0
ECO: C10 – French: Paulsen variation

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bd7 5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. O-O Ngf6 8. Ng3 Be7 9. b3 h5 10. Qe2 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 c6 12. h4 Qa5 13. Bb2 Ba3 14. Bxa3 Qxa3 15. c3 Kf8 16. Rfe1 Rh6 17. Ne2 Qd6 18. Nf4 Kg8 19. Bc2 Re8 20. Rad1 Qb8 21. g3 e5 22. Nh3 Ng4 23. Bf5 Rd6 24. Bxg4 hxg4 25. Qxg4 Nf6 26. Qf5 exd4 27. Rxe8+ Qxe8 28. Rxd4 Rxd4 29. cxd4 Nd5 30. Ng5 g6 31. Qf3 f5 32. Kg2 a5 33. g4 Ne7 34. Qe2 fxg4 35. Qxg4 Nf5 36. Nf3 Qe6 37. Qf4 Qd5 38. Kh3 Nd6 39. Kh2 a4 40. Qf6 axb3 41. Qxg6+ Kf8 42. axb3 Nf7 1-0

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Round 6

Robson, Ray 1-0 So, Wesley

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.07
Round 6
White: Robson, Ray (2656)
Black: So, Wesley (2788)
Result : 1-0
ECO: C67 – Ruy Lopez: Berlin defence
Annotator: Joshua Friedel

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 {This line has always been considered tame, but it has been very popular recently, as White has found new ways to press.}
5…Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 8. Rxe5 O-O 9. Nc3 Ne8 {Once again, the latest trend.}
10. Nd5 Bd6 11. Re1 Nf6 {A rare move.} (11… c6 12. Ne3 Bc7 13. Nf5 d5 14. Ne7+ Kh8 15. Nxc8 Rxc8 {has been played in dozens of games. White has snagged the bishops, but with Black’s position so solid it is very difficult to actually win here.})
12. Nxf6+ Qxf6 {Black keeps the bishops, but in return he has to live with a sad c8 bishop for a few moves.}
13. d4 c6 14. Be3 b6 ( 14… Bc7 {looks natural, but after} 15. d5 {Black still hasn’t solved all his problems.})
15. Bd3 Bc7  {Wesley prepares to play d5.}
16. d5 {An interesting decision, and one which I like. Ray gambits a pawn to permanently mangle Black’s pawns.}
16…Be5 17. c3 cxd5 18. Qg4 d6 19. Qa4 {Ray finds the best way to make trouble for Black. The queen looks strange here, but it covers the d4 square as well as harasses Black’s queenside.}
19…Qd8 20. Rad1 (20. Qc6 Be6 {helps Black.})
20… Be6 21. Bb5 {White aims for Bc6.}
21…a6 22. Bc6 b5 23. Qa3 {This might be a fine move, but it looked a little weird to me during the game.} (23. Qc2 {followed by taking on d5 seems to secure a slight edge.})
23… Rb8 24. Qxa6 {Ray gets a little too greedy.} (24. Bxd5 {was simple and good.})
24… b4 {Wesley tries to keep the game double-edged.} ( 24…Qh4 25. g3 Qa4 {gives Black excellent counterplay, but leads to a drawn game.} 26. Qxa4 bxa4 27. Bxa4 Rxb2 28. Bd4 Rxa2 {with a likely draw.})
25. Ba7 (25. f4 {was an interesting move, but Black has} bxc3 26. fxe5 cxb2 {with a complete mess.})
25… Rc8 26. cxb4 {Both players play enterprising chess, but I’m not sure this is objectively best.} (26. Bd4 {was again simple and best, although I doubt the chances of winning are very high after} 26…bxc3 27. bxc3 Qc7 28. Bxe5 Qxc6 29. Qxc6 Rxc6 30. Bd4)
26… Qh4 27. Rxe5 {The only move, but it’s a good one.} (27. g3 Qxb4 {leaves White with looseness on the kingside, queenside, and every other side.})
27… dxe5 28. Bc5 {White’s bishops are menacing, but Black’s center has the potential to become dangerous.}
28…Rfd8 29. a4   {This one is a little slow.} (29. b5 {would be my preference, securing c6 and giving White Bb6 ideas.})
29… d4 30. Bb7 Rb8 {A crazy position with time pressure. You can guess what’s coming.}
31. Ba7   {Ray attacks the wrong rook.} (31. Bb6 {is a better move, but after}
31…Bb3 32. Bxd8 Qxd8 33. Rd3 Bxa4 34. Qxa4 Rxb7 {Black’s pawns are far superior to White’s.}) 31…Qe7 {Wesley misses a big chance.} (31… Rxb7 32. Qxb7 Bd5 33. Qc7 Bxg2 {leaves White’s position in ruins. The queenside pawns are simply not fast enough.} 34. Qxe5 Qg4 35. Re1 Ba8+ {This is an important move, keeping the bishop out of the way.} 36. Kf1 (36. Qg3 Qd7 37. Bc5 d3 {and the d-pawn coupled with long diagonal threats win easily.}) 36… Qh3+ 37. Ke2 Qb3 {and Black’s attack will win material at the very least.}) 32. Bxb8 Rxb8 33. Bf3 Qxb4 {Black is still much better, but it isn’t over yet.} 34. a5 g5 {A little too fancy. I’d also be nervous about weakening the king with queens still on.} (34… Bb3 35. Ra1 Bc4 36. Qc6 Qxb2 {keeps the edge.})
35. h3 { After this simple move, life isn’t so simple anymore.}
35…Qxb2 {The wrong time to grab this guy.} (35… h5 {is the move I like. If you are going to play with g5, go all out! The computer screams equal of course, but I think it is the most practically challenging.})
36. Qd6 (36.Qc6 {planning to run the a-pawn is even better.})
36… Rc8 {This just loses on the spot.} (36… Qb4 {Keeps Black in it.} 37. Qxe5 Rb5 38. Qf6 Qxa5 39. Qxd4 {Black’s king is open, but with limited material the draw should be trivial.})
37. Qxe5 {Now Black’s king is open and the a-pawn is running.}
37…h6 38. Qxd4 Qxd4 39. Rxd4 Rc1+ 40. Rd1 Rc7 (40… Rxd1+ 41. Bxd1 {is a completely hopeless ending, since White will just keeping offering bishop trades while forcing the a-pawn down Black’s throat.})
41. a6 Ra7 42. Bb7 {and Wesley throws in the towel, as it’s basically worse than playing down an exchange. A topsy turvy game with both players showing great fighting spirit. Ray, likely feeling at home in the time pressure phase, managed to outplay his top 10 opponent.} 1-0

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Round 7

So, Wesley 1-0 Onischuk, Alexander

A cool game: So was able to put a lot of pressure on Onischuk in a position that seemed relatively harmless at first. Black had regained his gambited pawn in the Marshall, but So proved that the piece placement was still dangerous for Black. Onischuk blundered a piece in a position where he was already under severe pressure.

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.08
Round 7
White: So, Wesley (2788)
Black: Onischuk, Alexander(2665)
Result : 1-0
ECO: C89 – Ruy Lopez: Marshall

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8.
c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. Re1 Bd6 13. d3 Bf5 14. Qf3 Qh4 15. g3 Qh3 16. Be3 Bxd3 17. Nd2 Bf5 18. Bd4 Rfe8 19. c4 Bg4 20. Qg2 Qxg2+ 21. Kxg2 Nb4 22. Ne4 Bf8 23. cxb5 cxb5 24. Ng5 Bh5 25. g4 Bg6 26. f4 Nc2 27. Rxe8 Rxe8 28. Rd1 Nxd4 29. Rxd4 Be7 30. Nf3 Bb1 31. Nd2 Bf6 32. Rd7 Be4+ 33. Nxe4 Rxe4 34. Rxf7 Re2+ 35. Kf3 Rxb2 36. Be6 1-0

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Round 8

Holt, Conrad 1-0 Wesley, So

This would normally be the game of the day, if there were not so many awesome games to look at! Holt’s amazing preparation netted him a piece for two pawns, but So retained a strong initiative. Interestingly after So played basically the only move after Holt’s preparation, the University of Texas at Dallas student sank into a 55 (!) minute think.

So played somewhat strangely with a further sacrifice. Holt took the material, defended precisely and won a nice game.

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.09
Round 8
White: Holt, Conrad (2530)
Black: So, Wesley (2788)
Result : 1-0
ECO: D97 – Gruenfeld

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 Nc6 8. Bg5 Bg4 9. d5 Na5 10. Qa4 c6 11. dxc6 Nxc6 12. e5 Bxf3 13. exf6 exf6 14. Be3 Bh5 15. g4 Bxg4 16. Qxg4 f5 17. Qa4 Re8 18. Rd1 Bxc3+ 19. bxc3 Qf6 20. Be2 b5 21. Bxb5 Re4 22. Qc2 Rae8 23. O-O f4 24. Bxc6 Qxc6 25. Bd4 f3 26. Qd3 Re2 27. a4 Qd5 28. Kh1 Qh5 29. Qb5 Qh4 30. Rg1 Rd8 31. Rdf1 h6 32. Qc6 Rxd4 33. cxd4 Rxf2 34. Qe8+ Kg7 35. Qe5+ 1-0

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Round 9

So, Wesley 0-1 Akobian, Varuzhan

An absolutely shocking development in the tournament. Wesley So, one of the pre-tournament favorites, has definitely had a rough going in his first U.S. Championship. However nothing prepared him or the audience for what happened.

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.10
Round 9
White: So, Wesley (2788)
Black: Akobian, Varuzhan (2622)
Result : 0-1
ECO: D32 – QGD: Tarrasch

1. d4 e6 2. c4 d5 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. dxc5 0-1

Wesley So is a player that sometimes gives himself encouraging words or reminders by writing them down on his scoresheet. He had done this twice during this U.S. Championship and in both occasions the chief arbiter, Tony Rich, had warned him that this was against the FIDE rules of chess.

In today’s round So wrote something on another piece of paper, not his scoresheet, but that arose suspicion from Akobian as this is again against FIDE rules. The arbiter decided to forfeit So, and the full point was given to Akobian.

It is reported that Tony Rich consulted Franc Guadalupe, Zonal President and one of the most experienced arbiters in the country, before reaching the decision of forfeiting So. With the decision appealed it will be up to the committee to determine if the ruling stands or if there will be some sort of solution reached for the game before the tournament is over. The appeals committee of this tournament is comprised of IM Rusudan Goletiani, GM Varuzhan Akobian and GM Benjamin Finegold. Since Varuzhan cannot be expected to make an unbiased decision, the decision will fall on the other two members. In case of a tie a third neutral party will be called in.

Here’s a good blog by IM Greg Shahade that anayzes what happened between the game of GM Varuzhan Akobian and Wesley So
Wesley So forfeit: What should have happened

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Round 10

Kamsky, Gata 0-1 So, Wesley

After the drama from yesterday, So recovered very, very nicely

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.11
Round 10
White: Kamsky, Gata (2683)
Black: So, Wesley (2788)
Result : 0-1
ECO: A46 – Queens pawn game
Annotator: Joshua Friedel

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3  {Kamsky abandons his London System for a Catalan-esque hybrid.} 3…b5 {This move looks provocative, but it’s not unusual here. The idea is to punish White for not putting a pawn on c4.}
4. Bg5 {An aggressive approach that was played by Topalov earlier this year.}
4…c5 {A rare move, but certainly a logical one. Black wants to challenge the center in order to discourage e4.} (4… Bb7 {is the most common move, with a similar idea.})
5. Bg2 Bb7 {Now we are back to the main line.}
6. c3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Be7 8. O-O h6 9. Bxf6 Bxf6 10. e3 {This can’t be bad, but it is a little slow.} (10. Qd3 a6 11. a4 {was a more active approach, trying to provoke weaknesses right away.}) 10… O-O 11. Nc3 {A little provocative.} (11. Qd3 {is still quite reasonable.}) 11… b4 12. Ne2 Qb6 {I’d be nervous about abandoning the kingside, but Wesley seems to have it all under control.}
13. Nf4 Rc8 {So plays it cool.} (13… d6 {is a little safer, planning to answer Nh5 with Nd7.} )
14. Nh5 Be7 15. Ne5 {Quite honestly, I was already seriously concerned about Wesley’s position. White’s knights look threatening and the queen is headed to g4.}
15…Bxg2 16. Qg4 Bg5 (16… g5 {is also playable according to the computer, but no human wants to play a move like this.})
17. Kxg2 Qb7+ 18. Kg1 {h4 is coming next, but Wesley shows that everything is under control.}
18…d6 19. Nd3 {White gives up on his initiative.} (19. h4 {seems like the consistent way to play. In order words, a more aggressive approach.} 19…f5 {Only move.} (19… dxe5 20. hxg5 {is just atrocious for Black.}) 20. Qf3 {White needs to abandon the attack.} (20. Qd1 dxe5 21. hxg5 hxg5 22. dxe5 Nd7 {and Black is better.}) 20… Qxf3 21. Nxf3 Be7 22. Nf4 Kf7 {and while I don’t think White has any advantage, at least he can never end up worse.})
19… Nd7 20. h4 Bf6 {There is nothing wrong with White’s position yet, but his attack is dead and his pieces are not on ideal squares.}
21. Rfc1 a5 22. Ndf4 {This looks very optimistic.} (22. Nxf6+ Nxf6 23. Qe2 {and while I prefer Black slightly, at least the position is relatively safe.})
22… Qe4 {This move really messes with White’s coordination.}
23. Qe2 (23. Nxf6+ Nxf6 24. Qe2 e5  {and Black develops an initiative.})
23… Be7 {and now we see the problem with Ndf4. The knight on h5 is completely stranded.}
24. Qb5 {The only try.}
24…Nf8 25. Qd3 { This one doesn’t cut it, however.} (25. Rxc8 Rxc8 26. Qxa5 {looks scary, but after} g6 27. Qa7 Bd8 28. Qa6 Qc6 29. Qxc6 Rxc6 30. Nd3 gxh5 31. Nxb4 {and White has some compensation for the piece.})
25… Qb7 {White’s knights don’t dance together very well here. Black’s practically winning.}
26. Ng2 e5 { This hurts both of the knights.}
27. dxe5 dxe5 28. g4 {Going on the attack? Nope, he just wants the knight to get back to g3.}
28…Ng6 (28… Rd8 {is even better, as the queen has no good squares. For instance, if} 29. Qe2 Ng6 {and White has an even more passive version of the game.})
29. Qf5 (29. Ng3 Bxh4 30. Qe4 {gives White better chances to survive.})
29… Bxh4 30. Ne1 {This doesn’t help in the slightest, but the position was lost anyway.}
30…Re8 (30… Rxc1 31. Rxc1 Rd8 {is a killer, since Rd2 will be very strong.})
31. Rd1 Rad8 32. Ng2 (32. Nf3 {looks more active, but once again, it is nowhere near enough. })
32… Qb5 33. Rxd8 Rxd8 34. Qc2 Qd5 {I love centralizing moves. Kamsky plays on awhile, but the result is never in doubt.}
35. Qe2 Qd2 36. Kf1 a4 37. Ne1 Qd5 (37… e4 {I like this sadistic move, but everything works.})
38. e4 Qe6 39. Nc2 Bg5 {Everything hangs and Rd2 is a big threat.}
40. Ne3 Bxe3 41. fxe3 Nh4 42. Rd1 (42. Kf2 {defends a little better.})
42… Rxd1+ 43. Qxd1 Kh7 44. b3 axb3 45. axb3 g6 46. Ng3 h5 47. Qd5 Qf6+ 48. Ke2 hxg4 {Kamsky plays on even here, likely in shock.}
49. Kd3 Ng2 50. Qb7 Kg7 51. Qb5 Nxe3 52. Ne2 Nf1 53. Kc4 Qd6 54. Qxb4 Nd2+ 55. Kc3 Nb1+ 56. Kc4 Qa6+ {Finally, Gata gives up. Not his finest day, but it was a very clean game by So, who recovered very impressively from his tough day yesterday.} 0-1

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Round 11

So, Wesley 1-0 Troff, Kayden

U.S. Chess Championship 2015
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.12
Round 11
White: So, Wesley (2788)
Black: Troff, Kayden (2532)
Result : 1-0
ECO: A15 – English

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Qb3 Nb6 6. d4 Bg7 7. Bf4 Be6 8. Qa3 c5 9. Qxc5 Nc6 10. e3 Rc8 11. Qa3 Nc4 12. Bxc4 Bxc4 13. d5 Qa5 14. Qxa5 Nxa5 15. Be5 Bxe5 16. Nxe5 f6 17. Nf3 b5 18. b4 Nb7 19. Nd4 Nd6 20. Kd2 h5 21. e4 Kf7 22. f3 h4 23. a4 bxa4 24. Nxa4 Rh5 25. Nc5 a5 26. Rxa5 Bxd5 27. Ra7 Bc6 28. Ke3 Be8 29. Rc1 Rb8 30. Nd3 Rg5 31. Rc2 Bb5 32. Rcc7 Nc8 33. Ra2 Nd6 34. f4 Rh5 35. Nc5 Ne8 36. Rb7 Rxb7 37. Nxb7 Bf1 38. Nd8+ Kg8 39. N8c6 e5 40. fxe5 fxe5 41. Nf3 Nd6 42. Ncxe5 Kg7 43. Ra7+ Kf6 44. Ng4+ 1-0

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