2023 American Cup - Day 6 Recap
Hikaru Nakamura and Irina Krush both advanced to the finals of the American Cup after winning dramatic playoffs to secure first place in the Champions Bracket. Meanwhile in the Elimination Bracket, Levon Aronian knocked out Leinier Dominguez 1.5-0.5 while Nazí Paikidze defeated Begim Tokhirjonova. Nakamura and Krush will next face the winner of So - Aronian and Lee - Paikidze in the overall American Cup finals.
Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment for all games in the Champions Bracket, with a rapid time control of 25+10 for the Elimination Bracket and a 10+5 time control for all playoff matches.
In this unique double-elimination format, the losers of each match will get relegated to the Elimination Bracket, where they will get a second chance to continue the tournament.
OPEN SECTION - CHAMPIONS BRACKET
SO-NAKAMURA | ½-½, 41 moves | PLAYOFF NAKAMURA 3-1
After yesterday's relatively quick draw So went for the highly theoretical 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian in the second classical game, but Nakamura was well-prepared and neutralized So's prep quite effectively. After some trades the players ended up in a drawn endgame, taking the match to a playoff.
Collin Graham from Make-A-Wish made the first move in So-Nakamura. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
In the first rapid game So was very close to winning a rook and knight endgame, but slipped up during a time scramble and was forced to give up his knight for Nakamura’s passed pawn. However it was not easy to convert the position, and Hikaru even allowed So to trade off all the pawns and reach a drawn rook and knight vs rook endgame. Unfortunately for Wesley his king was caught in an awkward place to start, as he ended up blundering and losing the game.
After defending a difficult ending So finally cracked and blundered with 100.Rxe6+??, losing after 100…Kxe6 101.Kg6 Rd1-+
In the second rapid game So was able to bounce back and win on demand, opting for a Modern Defense where he managed to outplay Hikaru in a queenless middlegame. This took the playoff to blitz, which was then dominated by Nakamura, who again won the first game as Black and then took the second game against Wesley’s Modern Defense as well, clinching the match.
Despite losing his first game of the event, Nakamura got the job done in blitz. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
OPEN SECTION - ELIMINATION BRACKET
Dominguez started the match with his usual Petroff Defense, but sacrificed a pawn out of the opening in exchange for the bishop pair and long-term compensation. He was fine for the most part, but then started to slip during his time-trouble in an opposite colored bishop endgame. A further blunder allowed Aronian to pick up the first game.
Final position of Game 1 after 59.Rxf4, threatening both Rxf5 and Rf2+, winning.
In the second game Dominguez went for the Berlin Endgame as White, and was able to put some pressure, but Aronian defended well and never allowed a serious chance. Towards the end Dominguez managed to break through in a bishop endgame and even win Aronian’s bishop, but was left with a textbook drawn endgame, with the wrong color bishop for his rook pawn.
Final position of Game 2 – even with a dark-squared bishop, White can’t win here since there’s no way to force Black’s king out of the corner.
After knocking out both Caruana and Dominguez, Aronian will have to get through Wesley So to reach the American Cup finals. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
WOMEN’S SECTION - CHAMPIONS BRACKET
LEE - KRUSH | ½-½, 41 moves | PLAYOFF KRUSH 2-0
The second classical game came down to the wire in an extremely complicated rook endgame with passed pawns for both sides. At one point Lee was winning by force, but in heavy time pressure she let Krush escape with a draw, taking the match to a playoff.
Here 57.Kb7! could have won the game for Lee after 57…Rf8 58.Ra8 Rf7 59.Kc6+-, where Black’s pawns will not be fast enough.
Alice took White in the first game of the playoff and reached a pleasant rook and bishop vs. rook and knight endgame, but ended up blundering all of her kingside pawns in a time scramble, eventually leaving Krush with four connected passed pawns against a bishop and a completely winning ending.
In the second game Lee played the Queen’s Gambit Declined, and despite only needing a draw to advance Irina played very aggressively, castling queenside and allowing a double-edged middlegame. However her play worked out as her attack crashed through first, and she was able to win the second game as well.
An incredibly hard-fought match, Lee will get a second chance if she can defeat Paikidze in the Elimination Bracket finals. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
WOMEN’S SECTION - ELIMINATION BRACKET
PAIKIDZE - TOKHIRJONOVA | 2-0
In the first game Tokhirjonova took White and played an English setup, looking to put pressure on Black’s queenside. Paikidze reacted with a typical King’s Indian setup and was a bit worse until Begim misplayed her position, allowing Black to take over the queenside. A nice queen desperado tactic then finished the deal.
26…Qxd2! would leave White down a minor piece without enough compensation.
In the second game Paikidze played the Catalan and was better throughout the game, but in mutual time-trouble made a practical decision to sacrifice her bishop in order to force a perpetual check. Given the match situation Tokhirjonova tried a hail-mary by walking her king out into the open, but ran into a tactic that ended the game immediately.
Paikidze will get a second chance against Lee, who eliminated her from the Champions Bracket earlier. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
The 2023 American Cup continues Thursday, March 23 with tournament action live starting at 1:20PM CT with Grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila, and IM Jovanka Houska on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.