Zhao Leads Junior Closed, Zatonskih and Krush Win
By Mike Wilmering and Katie Baldetti   
July 13, 2010
GM Ray Robson and IM Sam Shankland

The two highest-ranked players coming into the 2010 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, GM Ray Robson and IM Sam Shankland, faced off today in round four. The game, a typical Caro-Kann in which Shankland castled kingside with Black, was hard fought but ended in a draw after 31 moves.


After the draw, Robson is in a three-way tie for second place with a score of 3/4. A victory today by FM Darwin Yang over FM Warren Harper gives them each 3/4 as well. Shankland’s 1.5/4 puts him in a sixth-place tie with NM Eric Rosen.

Robson said he was expecting Shankland to play the main line, 15...cxd4, but instead Shankland played 15...Re8, a line Robson said he didn’t know well.

“For a while I was worried that he would improve his position, and I couldn’t do anything,” Robson said.

Shankland said his only hope for a win was to somehow engineer Rxd6 and e5. 

“But I never managed to make it work,” Shankland said.

Shankland got off to a rough start as he was upset by the lower-rated NM Parker Zhao in round one and FM Warren Harper in round two.  In round three, he was down an exchange and looking worse in an endgame scenario against FM John Bryant, but he managed to take advantage of a blunder to earn his first full point of the tournament.

In his post-game interview with WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Ben Finegold, Shankland was asked whether he could overcome his shaky start and forget the tough losses in the first two rounds.

“Can I? Yes. Will I? That remains to be seen,” he said. “I’m hoping I can finish strong.”

A draw with Black against Robson was a definite victory for Shankland, who has announced he plans to walk away from competitive chess following the U.S. Junior Closed Championship.

Zhao knows about taking a break from the chessboard. He has competed in just two tournaments in 2010 (the Marshall Chess Club Grandmaster Challenge in January and April), opting instead to concentrate his energy on his studies. His victory today over Rosen vaulted him into clear first with a 3.5/4 score.

The Zhao-Rosen game was a closed Sicilian, which featured a multiple-piece sacrifice for White that fell just short.


“I don’t think the [22.]Nh5 [31.]Nf6+ idea was good here, because it didn’t work out in the end,” Zhao said. 

In his analysis with Finegold and Shahade, Zhao said the Nf6 sacrifice should have come sooner.

“After he missed [28.]Nf6+, I was just winning,” Zhao said. 

Zhao has White against FM Steven Zierk in round five. Zierk, who beat the struggling FM Conrad Holt, is in fifth place with a score of 2/4.
After a draw between the two top seeds at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Championship, IM Anna Zatonskih and IM Irina Krush each won their round four game to maintain a first-place tie with scores of 3.5/4. 
Zatonskih had another tough test today with Black against WIM Alisa Melekhina. Both players had used almost half of their time by move nine. At one point, Zatonskih spent almost 30 minutes on 6...g6. After mounting a kingside attack, Melekhina shifted her attack to the queen side with 24.Qa5, perhaps in an effort to complicate the position to take advantage of Zatonskih’s time trouble.


anna225.jpgOnce the queens were off the board, Zatonskih’s experience was too much for Melekhina as she was slowly outplayed by the three-time U.S. Women’s Champion. Melekhina will have Black against WGM Katerina Rohonyan in round five while Zatonskih has White against Iryna Zenyuk.

Krush looked strong in her victory over Rohonyan. After round two, Krush said she felt if she could play to her potential, she likes her chances of recapturing the title.


“I fell like I’m playing well,” she said. “If I keep playing like this, everything will be okay.”

WFM Tatev Abrahamyan won her round three game against WIM Iryna Zenyuk, which puts her in sole possession of third place with a score of 3/4.


Live coverage of round five begins at 2 pm CDT.
http://uschesschamps.com for videos, pairings and a link to the daily live stream at http://www.livestream.com/chessfm