2022 U.S. Chess & Women’s Chess Championship - Opening Ceremony and Day 1 Recap

 by NM Vanessa West

America’s strongest chess players enter to find fish swimming through a giant mechanical clock. Sharks loom above grandmasters. Chess celebrities are photographed before colossal projections of octopuses and jellyfish. Where are we? The opening ceremony for the 2022 U.S. Chess Championships held at the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, a space of wonder and imagination, fitting to celebrate the ultimate game of the mind. 

A swarm of chess strength at the St. Louis Aquarium. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

In round 1, young grandmasters Sam Sevian and Hans Niemann took the lead as the only winners in the U.S. Championship. In the U.S. Women’s Championship, many of the players were out for glory, kicking off the tournament with four decisive games. 

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game; with a 30-second increment starting from move 1.

U.S. Championship - Standings after Round 1

U.S. Women’s Championship - Standings after Round 1

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony began with a speech from Rex Sinquefield, co-founder of the Saint Louis Chess Club, welcoming US Chess to the city for their new headquarters. Rex went on to announce an ongoing expansion of the chess club, which parallels the current state of growth of American chess overall with GM Levon Aronian making his first appearance at the U.S. Championships, four players who’ve ranked within the world top ten competing, and a host of talented up-and-comers fighting for the crown. 

Three notable chess figures were inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame: Daniel Willard Fiske, GM James Tarjan, and GM John Watson. Additionally, grandmasters Miguel Najdorf and Eugene Torre were inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame. Tarjan and Torre gave sincere speeches offering insight into the history of chess. Lastly, to commence the U.S. Championships, the players drew lots by choosing from rows of stuffed otters and sharks. 

Aronian drawing lots via choosing a stuffed shark at the opening ceremony. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

2022 U.S. Championship

Sam Sevian vs Elshan Moradiabadi 1-0

Sevian refused a repetition draw offer vs. GM Elshan Moradiabadi and pressed on for a win, eventually finding a way to break through on the kingside. 

Although Moradiabadi came close to holding the balance, Sevian’s 50.Ra7 was a turning point. After 50…gxf5 51.g6, Black has to give up material to prevent Rh7#. | 1-0, 61 moves

Sevian begins the tournament tied for the lead with Niemann | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Hans Niemann vs Christopher Yoo 1-0

Niemann got the better of GM Christopher Yoo in a highly dynamic and chaotic middlegame.

With 40…Re8, Niemann consolidates his material advantage, and his active rooks take over.  | 0-1, 55 moves

In his interview after the round, Niemann’s only comment on the game was, “It was such a beautiful game I don’t need to describe it.” | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

All of the other games ended peacefully.

2022 U.S. Women’s Championship

FM Alice Lee vs FM Ashritha Eawaran 1-0

Newcomer and youngest competitor, FM Alice Lee, gained the very first victory of the event in a thrilling game vs. FM Ashritha Eswaran.

In the opening, Eswaran delayed development to push her kingside pawns up the board toward Lee’s castled king. Lee responded by running her king back towards the center, allowing Eswaran to break into her kingside and gain a rook on the seventh. With both kings in the center, the game spun into chaos with both sides attacking each other when Lee discovered a beautiful tactical sequence.

With 25…d4! Black indirectly defends the b7-bishop (if 26.Rxb7? Qh1+) while opening its diagonal to enhance the king attack. After 26.exd4 Qh1+ 27.Ke2 Bf3+ 28.Kd3 Be4+ Lee won decisive material.  | 0-1, 37 moves

A powerful first game for twelve-year-old Lee at her U.S. Women’s Championship debut | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

WGM Begim Tokhirjonov vs WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki 1-0

WGM Begim Tokhirjonov trapped WFM Sophie Morris-Suzuki’s bishop in the middlegame and then capped off her victory with a picturesque mating combination. 

Tokhirjonova checkmated with 36.Qxg7+! Qxg7 37. Re8#  | 1-0, 37 moves

Tokhirjonova starts her second appearance at the U.S. Women’s with a victory | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

WGM Jennifer Yu vs IM Anna Zatonskih 1-0

The last game to finish was well worth the wait. Jennifer Yu displayed stunning endgame technique with just seconds left on her clock to defeat second seed IM Anna Zatonskih after over five hours of battle. 

Just as it looked like Zatonskih might be escaping with a draw, Yu played the subtle yet decisive 78…Rg5! (if 78…Rxg6 79.hxg6 h5 80.Kf7 h4 81. Kxg7 both sides promote). And after 79.Rxg5 hxg5 80.Kf5 g4 Yu’s passed g-pawn quickly promoted. | 0-1, 84 moves

Yu fought for hours to convert her extra pawn into the full point | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

WIM Megan Lee vs FM Rochelle Wu 1-0

WIM Megan Lee scored an upset victory against FM Rochelle Wu while the rest of the games ended in draws. 

Round 2 of the 2022 U.S. & U.S. Women's Chess Championships will take place tomorrow, October 6. Watch the action live at 1:20pm CT with commentators GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Anastasiya Karlovich, and GM Cristian Chirila on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.