Niemann: ‘This Game Is A Message To Everyone’

Niemann: 'This Game Is A Message To Everyone'


GMs Hans Niemann and Sam Sevian were the two winners on the opening day of the U.S. Championship in St. Louis as Niemann looked to put to bed any speculations about his over-the-board play. The women’s section saw four decisive results, including a shock win for 12-year-old FM Alice Lee over FM Ashritha Eswaran.

Round two of the event will start on October 6 at 11 a.m. PT/20:00 Central European.

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You can find the the games on these pages: Open | Women, which are part of our live events platform.

The most prestigious chess event in America commenced on Wednesday featuring 28 of the country’s best male and female players across the two divisions. The U.S Championship, which was famously won by GM Bobby Fischer a record eight times, has a history of providing some of the highest quality chess in the calendar, and this year’s lineup promises to provide scintillating action. Heading the field is 2021 champion GM Wesley So, followed by stalwarts of top-level chess, GMs Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian, who is making his debut. 

Wesley So (pictured with legendary Philippine GM Eugenio Torre) looks to add a fourth U.S. title to his trophy cabinet. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Meanwhile, Niemann will certainly draw the attention of viewers throughout the event and will look to join the tournament’s youngest participants, GM Christopher Yoo and Awonder Liang, in a bid to shake up the expected results.

In an early battle among the youngest participants, Niemann took down 15-year-old Yoo with the black pieces.

Niemann posed with chess fans and staff at the opening ceremony. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The increasingly-popular Jobava London was the weapon of choice for Yoo though things quickly turned around as the young GM was repelled through the center.

Despite the healthy advantage, Niemann found himself with seconds left on the clock and needed to make several precise moves to make it to the time control at move 40. On move 36, Yoo helped his opponent with the blunderous 36.e6?? and was punished for the error once Niemann gained extra time on the clock. The exciting encounter was our game of the day today and GM Rafael Leitao has provided expert commentary on the game below.

The post-game interview at the Saint Louis Chess Club provided another twist to the ongoing Niemann saga as the 19-year-old GM gave his comment in weeks. The victor cut his interview short after giving a brief statement, leaving the interview room without further questioning. Host GMs Cristian Chirila and Yasser Seirawan were confounded by the response.

“I think that this game is a message to everyone. You know, this entire thing started with me saying ‘chess speaks for itself’ and I think this game spoke for itself and showed the chess player that I am and also showed that I am not going to back down and I’m going to play my best chess here regardless of the presure that I’m under. That’s all I want to say about this game. You know, chess speaks for itself, that’s all I can say. You can leave it to your own interpretation, but thank you. That’s all I’d like to say, yes. If it was such a beautiful game, I don’t need to describe it.”

The Olympiad teammates So, Aronian, and GM Sam Shankland were not in the mood for fighting on the opening day, with So and Aronian both agreeing to quick draws with the black pieces. Shankland’s game was a little testier against puzzle rush legend GM Ray Robson who provided some entertainment, castling queenside and pawn storming Shankland’s king. The Olympiad board five’s defense was adequate though and they agreed to split the point.

Caruana found himself in troubled waters against GM Leinier Dominguez who garnered the bishop pair early and began pressing his advantage. Timely activation of his rooks was the only thing that saved Caruana who was able to liquidate into a drawn ending soon after. 

Caruana survived a scare in round one. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Sevian picked up a full point in round one after toppling GM Elshan Moradiabadi, courtesy of a move 47 gaffe from the Iranian-born competitor. The position looked to be heading for a draw but Moradiabadi’s sense of danger was a little off, allowing Sevian to capitalize. Sevian will be hoping to repeat his heroics from last year’s championship where he finished equal first, before losing the playoff to So.

After a stellar introduction to super-GM chess this year, GM Jeffery Xiong almost broke through against GM Dariusz Swiercz but had to settle for a draw in round one. 

U.S. Championship | All Games Round 1

Round One Open Standings

# Fed Player Rating Total
1 Samuel Sevian 2684 1
2 Hans Niemann 2699 1
3 Aleksandr Lenderman 2535 0.5
4 Levon Aronian 2755 0.5
5 Awonder Liang 2608 0.5
6 Wesley So 2774 0.5
7 Jeffery Xiong 2690 0.5
8 Dariusz Swiercz 2652 0.5
9 Sam Shankland 2712 0.5
10 Ray Robson 2690 0.5
11 Fabiano Caruana 2763 0.5
12 Leinier Dominguez 2747 0.5
13 Elshan Moradiabadi 2534 0.5
14 Christopher Yoo 2563 0.5

The U.S. Women’s Championship this year will see GM Irina Krush vie for her ninth title (the first of which came back in 1998!). Given that the 2021 champion IM Carissa Yip is not taking part in this year’s championship, Krush holds a 50 rating point advantage over the second seed IM Anna Zatonskih. The youngest player in the field at only 12 years old, Lee, will look to prove her prodigy status with a big result in the event.

Krush is chasing her ninth title! Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The Women’s Championship started with three decisive results, with the young Lee, WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, and WIM Megan Lee all winning their respective games.

Lee made a huge statement after knocking over the third seed, WIM Ashritha Eswaran, with black. Employing the Caro-Kann, Lee survived an early kingside onslaught and proceeded to launch a central barrage of her own that paid dividends.

Flashy tactics were the theme in Tokhirjonova’s game against WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki and several brilliant moves helped the fifth seed score a win. See if you can spot the brutal attacking finish below.

The most anticipated game of the round was the clash between Olympiad teammates Krush and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, which ended drawn after both players missed small chances.

Abrahamyan attended the opening ceremony and drew the top seed Krush as her first-round opponent. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The final game to finish in round one was a long battle between Zatonskih and FM Jennifer Yu. Yu looked poised to upset the tournament’s second seed with the black pieces before her experienced opponent fought back to an equal rook and pawn ending. With time slipping away on both player’s clocks, Yu clutched up and tricked Zatonskih to shoot to the top of the leaderboard.

U.S. Women’s Championship | All Games Round 1

Round One Women’s Standings

# Fed Player Rating Total
1 Jennifer Yu 2297 1
2 Megan Lee 2226 1
3 Alice Lee 2263 1
4 Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova 2336 1
5 Tatev Abrahamyan 2308 0.5
6 Irina Krush 2432 0.5
7 Sabina-Francesca Foisor 2203 0.5
8 Nazi Paikidze 2354 0.5
9 Thalia Cervantes Landeiro 2272 0.5
10 Ruiyang Yan 2220 0.5
11 Anna Zatonskih 2368 0
12 Rochelle Wu 2317 0
13 Ashritha Eswaran 2365 0
14 Sophie Morris-Suzuki 2126 0

The 2022 U.S. Chess Championships take place October 4-20, 2022 in St. Louis to determine the next chess champions of the United States. The 2022 U.S. Women’s Championship is being held concurrently. Both events have the same format: 14 players, 13-round tournament with a $250,500 prize fund for the U.S. Championship, and $154,000 for the U.S. Women’s Championship.


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