Note to self for Wesley So: Don’t make note to self!
The US Championship in St Louis turned into a debacle for second seed and world top-ten player So, who was expected to mount a serious challenge for the title alongside top seed rival Hikaru Nakamura, but instead had a nightmare debut that was punctuated with uncharacteristic blunders and a bizarre forfeit of his round nine game after just six moves.
So infringed the rules of chess when he faced Varuzhan Akobian, by writing sport psychology-inspired ‘motivational messages’ - similar to those recently used on-court by top tennis star Andy Murray - on his scoresheet. But after being warned twice previously by the arbiter that writing any form of notes during games is prohibited, So then resorted to writing another note to himself, this time on a separate piece of paper, and placing it under his scoresheet. But this also infringes the rule - and the arbiter, Tony Rich, had no alternative other than to forfeit So after just six moves.
So later explained on his Facebook page that he was unaware of the rule he had violated. “I have been having trouble concentrating so I wrote a note to myself on a piece of paper (not my scoresheet),” said So. “It said: 'double check triple check use your time'. Akobian saw it and complained to the arbiter and a forfeit was declared. I’m sorry I did not know it was against the the rules.”
So was forfeited under articles:
8.1b The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.
11.3 During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard.
11.5 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.
11.7 Persistent refusal by a player to comply with the Laws of Chess shall be penalised by loss of the game.
So’s nightmare debut made for yet another dream title win for Nakamura, who won his fourth US Championship with an undefeated score of 8/11. A final round win over former champion Alexander Onischuk sealed the deal for Nakamura. His nearest rival was the young rising star Ray Robson, who was just a half point behind on 7.5-points in outright second place; So in third place, on 6.5-points.
In the close race for the women’s title, GM Irina Krush scored a series of clutch wins for her four-successive championship victory, after catching up and then passing early front-runner WGM Katerina Nemcova in the final rounds. Krush won her seven US title on 8.5/11, a full point ahead of IM Nazi Paikidze and Nemcova, on 7.5-points.
Full details of results and placings can be found at www.uschesschamps.com.
H Nakamura - A Onischuk
US Championship, (11)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.e5 d5 6.Bb5 Ne4 7.Nxd4 Bc5!? A double-edged option. 8.Be3 0–0 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Bxc5 Nxc5 11.Bxc6 Rb8 12.0–0 12.Qxd5?! Qe7 and Black is going to get a lot of serious compensation for the pawns after Rd8 and Rb6 12...Rxb2 Perhaps the better way to play for equality was 12...Ba6!? 13.Re1 Rxb2 14.Qxd5 Rxc2 which looks better than in the game. 13.Qxd5 Qxd5 14.Bxd5 Rxc2 15.Na3 Re2 16.Rac1 Fundamentally the game should be all but equal - but Nakamura plays on the nagging problem of his opponent worring about the weak queenside pawns. 16...Nd3 16...Ne6 does restrict the development of the black bishop - but it had to be played. 17.Rxc7 Be6 (See Diagram) 18.Bb3! a5 If 18...Bxb3 19.axb3 Rb8 20.Nc2 Nxe5 21.Rd1 White's rooks are going to be dominant. 19.Ra7 Bxb3 20.axb3 Rxe5 21.Nc4 Rb5 22.Rb1 Nc5 The problem for Black, is that he can't use his rook quickly enough to try and round-up the b-pawn, as there is a back-rank mate: 22...Rfb8 23.Nxa5 Nc5 24.Nc6! Re8 (24...Rxb3? 25.Rxb3 Rxb3 26.Ra8+) 25.b4 with a technically won ending, where White not only has the extra pawn but also the better activity with his pieces. 23.Nxa5 Re8 24.g3 g6 25.b4 The game now steers much towards the previous note - the ending is easily won. 25...Nd3 26.Nc6 Re2 27.Rd7! Not 27.Nd4? Rxb4! 28.Rxb4 Re1+ easily draws. 27...Nxf2?? Desperation in a losing position - but this loses even quicker. Black's only option was 27...Rb6 28.Rxd3 Rxc6 29.b5 Rb6 (There's no salvation even with rooks on the seventh: 29...Rcc2 30.b6 Rxf2 31.b7 Rg2+ 32.Kf1 Rcf2+ 33.Ke1 Rg1+ 34.Kxf2 Rxb1 35.Rd8+) 30.Rd5 again, easily winning the double rook ending. 28.Nd4 Nh3+ 29.Kh1 Nf2+ 30.Kg2 Nd1+ 31.Nxe2 1–0