2023 American Cup - Day 2 Recap

Day 2 of the American Cup saw the end of the first stage of the Champions Bracket, with several matches (Caruana-Robson, So-Shankland, Aronian-Dominguez) all decided in a rapid playoff. Meanwhile Nakamura was able to draw the second classical game after winning yesterday, relegating Sevian to the Elimination Bracket. 

In the Women’s Section the favorites Krush, Lee, and Tokhirjonova all managed to win their second games despite only needing a draw, while Paikidze defeated Zatonskih in convincing fashion to win their match 1.5-0.5.

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.


SEVIAN - NAKAMURA | ½-½, 44 moves

Having won yesterday’s game all Nakamura needed today was a draw in order to clinch the match. He opted for an off-beat line in the Queen’s Gambit Declined (4…h6) and ended up slightly worse out of the opening but with a very solid position. Sevian looked to make the most out of his minority attack on the queenside, but a precise combination by Nakamura forced a drawn queen vs. rook and two minor piece endgame, where White’s king was simply too exposed to avoid a perpetual. With the draw secured Nakamura advances to the next stage of the Champions Bracket, while Sevian will be sent to the Elimination Bracket.

27…Ra1! was a fantastic shot from Nakamura, with idea 28.Rxa1 Qxe3+ where White must give up the queen after 29.Kf1 Nd2+=

The only player to advance without a playoff, GM Hikaru Nakamura | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

SHANKLAND - SO | ½-½, 36 moves

Game 2 of the classical portion featured a Berlin Endgame, where Shankland tried to play for a win but was never able to generate any chances. Shankland then went for the endgame again in the first game of the rapid playoff, and this time was able to put So under serious pressure. However So defended well, and although Shankland ended up with a powerful passed pawn in a rook and bishop ending, he wasn’t able to find a precise win with seconds on the clock, settling for a draw.

In the second game of the playoff So did not get much out of the Italian game, but managed to pose some serious problems in the late middlegame when Shankland allowed So’s queen to infiltrate his position. Shankland wasn’t able to salvage the situation and So soon broke through decisively on the kingside. 

Final position after 42.g4, Shankland resigned in view of an incoming zugzwang.

So survived the first playoff game and scored in the second. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

ROBSON - CARUANA | ½-½, 32 moves

The second game of the classical portion ended rather quickly, as Robson played the drawish Four Knights Scotch and essentially forced a draw out of the opening. In the first game of the playoff Robson switched to 1.d4, which was met with the Nimzo Indian Defense. Robson managed to seize the initiative in the middlegame, but failed to maintain his advantage as Caruana successfully forced a number of trades to equalize, soon drawing the game.

In the second game Caruana had White and managed to trick Robson in the Catalan, gaining a winning position right out of the opening. From there Caruana developed his advantage smoothly, eventually winning the entire queenside before deciding matters in the endgame.

After 15.Bd2 Black was already surprisingly lost, as Bb4 followed by Nd6 is incoming.

Caruana's prep worked out beautifully in the playoff. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

DOMINGUEZ - ARONIAN | ½, ½, 44 moves

In the classical game Dominguez opted for the Berlin Endgame as well, and squeezed Aronian for many moves in a same-colored bishop endgame, which was eventually drawn. A similar struggle then took place in the first game of the rapid playoff, with again Dominguez as White pressing in the Berlin but not being able to break through.

Following the other matches, the second game of the playoff was decisive, but this time with Dominguez emerging as the victor after Aronian badly misplayed the middlegame, allowing Black’s pieces to activate decisively. A few moves later Dominguez found the knockout blow 24…Rxf2, a sacrifice which would soon force heavy material losses and resignation.

24…Rxf2! was the winning shot, with a hopeless situation for White after 25.Rxf2 Bd4-+

Dominguez seized his chance in the second playoff game as well. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes


ABRAHAMYAN - KRUSH | 0-1, 52 moves

Despite only needing a draw to advance Krush opted for the Sicilian Defense, where a double-edged middlegame ensued. On move 15 Abrahamyan advanced e4-e5 a bit too early, allowing Black sufficient counterplay with a quick d7-d6 pawn break. Soon after Tatev was forced to exchange queens, allowing Black a comfortable endgame which Krush proceeded to convert into the full point.

A perfect 2-0 start for GM Irina Krush. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

POURKASHIYAN - LEE | 0-1, 53 moves

The game started as a Petroff Defense which quickly transposed into an Exchange French. Needing a win in order to equalize the match score, Pourkashiyan managed to gain the bishop pair, but Lee’s position was extremely solid nevertheless. After further complications Lee managed to create serious counterplay, forcing Pourkashiyan to sacrifice the queen. White had enough for the draw, but given the match situation Pourkashiyan was forced to play for the win, and eventually ended up blundering a nice simplification tactic, which Lee promptly spotted to win the game.

44…Qxe6! left Black with a winning rook vs. bishop ending.

WGM Alice Lee won her match 2-0 as well. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

NEMCOVA - TOKHIRJONOVA | 0-1, 34 moves

In another must-win game Nemcova opted for a slower setup as White, after which a complex middlegame structure arose. Both players missed some chances for an advantage, but the game was eventually decided in Nemcova’s time trouble, as she allowed a vicious counter attack which would soon result in mate.

34…Nf3+! ended the game, leading to forced mate after 35.Kh1 Qxh2+! 36.Rxh2 Rxh2#

Never in danger, Tokhirjonova will face Krush in the next round. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams

PAIKIDZE - ZATONSKIH | 1-0, 43 moves

Opting for the Catalan, Paikidze put early pressure on Zatonskih in the opening, who ended up getting into her usual severe time trouble quickly. With her king in the center, Paikidze still managed to maintain a serious edge thanks to her space advantage, even offering a strong piece sacrifice in order to launch a devastating attack. Zatonskih instead gave up a pawn in order to confuse the situation, but Paikidze navigated the complications well and eventually secured the win.

After 18.Rg1!, sacrificing the knight on e5 as after 18…fxe5 19.dxe5 Bb4+ 20.Kf1 there would be threats to trap the bishop with a3 as well as Nf6+.

A big win from IM Nazí Paikidze. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The 2023 American Cup continues Sunday, March 19 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.