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Sam Shankland Captures US Championships with Final Round Win (with Analysis)

Posted: 2 years, 2 months ago

By IM Vignesh Panchanatham

For prior coverage, see days onetwothreefive, six, seven (with analysis of the win by BAC coach GM Zviad Izoria over GM Hikaru Nakamura), eight, nine, ten, and four (with analysis of Zviad's win over world championship challenger, GM Fabiano Caruana.) 

With two contenders for the title in both the U.S. and the U.S. Women’s Championships, the final round on Sunday certainly delivered on the drama that it promised. Both GM Sam Shankland and WIM Annie Wang held a half point lead over their chasers, GM Fabiano Caruana and IM Nazi Paikidze respectively, but only one was able to maintain that lead.

GM Akobian and GM Zherebukh arrived in a rather tame double rook and minor piece endgame and made a draw quickly. GM So and GM Nakamura played a much sharper middlegame with a lot of double edged exchanges, but they also arrived at an equal double rook endgame. GM Izoria capped off a very solid and successful tournament with a draw against GM Lenderman, rather similarly reaching an equal endgame. GM Robson won an exchange against GM Xiong when both players were attacking each other’s kings on the open kingside, but the game wasn’t over until Xiong missed a clever rook sacrifice. Caruana took advantage of GM Onischuk’s incorrect capture to win a pawn, and after winning another weak pawn, the game was over.

With Caruana’s win, the only way for Shankland to avoid the playoff was to win, and he delivered! Shankland sacrificed the ability to castle for strong development and the open e-file and it payed off. GM Awonder Liang was unable to create much play, and Shankland’s pieces were free to move where they pleased until he won the pawns necessary to win. Congratulations to the 2018 US Champion, GM Sam Shankland! Sam joins GMs Nick De Firmian and Walter Browne as California champions (and perhaps we add GM Larry Christiansen, who was born in Southern California to the list). 

In the US Women’s Championship, WIM Wang faltered just before the finish line, falling with black to WGM Foisor. IM Paikidze was unable to completely take advantage of Wang’s loss, but got the draw required to take the tournament into playoffs. Playoffs will occur tomorrow at 11 AM PT and the Closing Ceremony will take place at 4:30 PT.