2023 American Cup - Day 4 Recap

Day 4 of the American Cup featured a rest day for the Elimination Bracket, as the second stage of matches in the Champions Bracket were completed. Hikaru Nakamura defeated Leinier Dominguez as Black to win their mini-match 1.5-0.5, while Wesley So bested Fabiano Caruana in a rapid playoff. In the Women’s Section, both Irina Krush and Alice Lee advanced, relegating Begim Tokhirjonova and Nazí Paikidze to the Elimination Bracket.

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.


DOMINGUEZ - NAKAMURA | 0-1, 49 moves

Although a draw would take the match to a rapid playoff, Nakamura selected the rare Kalashnikov Sicilian, likely surprising Dominguez who wasn’t able to get much out of the opening. The players reach a balanced middlegame with two bishops for Dominguez vs. Nakamura’s two knights, but with Hikaru having the healthier structure and a lot more time on the clock. In the end Dominguez’s time-pressure proved to be the deciding factor, as he wasn’t able to solve all his problems as Nakamura’s knights dominated the board, with a powerful exchange sacrifice by Hikaru to close things off. 

47…Rxe3! 48.fxe3 h4-+ was a nice finish, decimating White’s kingside.

5…d6!?, a surprise from Nakamura. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

SO - CARUANA | ½-½, 52 moves | PLAYOFF 1.5-0.5

After drawing the second classical game–a solid Qc2 Nimzo which ended up in a tricky but drawn queen ending, the players went to a rapid playoff. In the first set of games So struck first with White, outplaying Caruana strategically in a Ruy Lopez, which led him to win a pawn and achieve a decisive queen and knight endgame.

43.Rxb6! allowed Wesley to snag a pawn, giving him a decisive advantage.

The second game saw another Queen’s Gambit Accepted from So, a repeat of the first classical game. This time Caruana opted for a different line (9.Qe2) but must have mixed something up in remembering his preparation as Wesley quickly got a preferable position. Only needing a draw to advance, Wesley played it extremely safe, and actually found himself worse in an endgame with rooks and opposite colored bishops. But Fabi failed to find the most precise way to press his advantage and So was eventually able to hold the game.

Game 2 of the Playoff, where So would just need to survive. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes


TOKHIRJONOVA - KRUSH | ½-½, 53 moves

Needing to win to equalize the match, Begim took on an isolated queen pawn in order to create attacking chances against Krush’s king. But a strong exchange sacrifice by Krush neutralized White’s attack completely, leaving her with a huge advantage. After further complications Krush ended up with four pawns for the piece and likely could have won, but instead decided to allow a three-fold repetition and clinch the match.

17…Nxb2! would allow White to take on f8, but Black was left with huge compensation.

Irina could have pressed more to win, but was satisfied to advance with a draw. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

PAIKIDZE - LEE | 0-1, 38 moves

A quiet Slav quickly turned into a strategic battle as Paikidze gained the bishop pair early on before taking queenside space with c4-c5. Paikidze then sacrificed her h-pawn, but allowed Lee to establish a powerful knight on f3. From there Lee took over, breaking through on the queenside before eventually liquidating into a won endgame.

27…Bb4!-+ exerted maximum pressure on White, threatening to take on c3.

Alice Lee will face Krush in the finals once again. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The 2023 American Cup continues Tuesday, March 21 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.