2023 American Cup - Day 9 Recap

8-time U.S. Champion Irina Krush bounced back from a loss in classical to defeat a surging Alice Lee in a rapid playoff and win her second straight American Cup title. Meanwhile Wesley So won a playoff on-demand against Hikaru Nakamura in order to force a final Elimination Match in the American Cup tomorrow.

Women’s Section - Final Standings

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.


SO-NAKAMURA | ½-½, 37 moves | PLAYOFF SO 2-0

The second classical game was drawn fairly quickly, with both players preserving energy for the rapid playoff. The first game of the tiebreaker was rather sharp, with players castling on opposite sides of the board. But Nakamura made a critical mistake in planting his knight on g2, from where it had no way out. So shrewdly traded queens and then threatened to win the knight, forcing Nakamura to give up multiple pawns just to enter a lost rook endgame.

After 51.Be6, despite being a pawn down White was completely winning, as the knight on g2 is trapped.

The second game saw Nakamura in a must-win situation for the first time in the tournament. But he couldn’t get very far out of the opening against So’s solid Nimzo-Indian Defense. Things went from bad to worse for Nakamura as So found a creative piece sacrifice which would allow a draw if taken. Nakamura was forced to find a way to play on, but was only worse for the rest of the game. Eventually he went all-in trying to win a drawn queen endgame, but So kept his cool and ended up converting the second game as well.

17…Bf3! was a clever sacrifice by So, with a likely perpetual in case of 18.gxf3 Qg5+

So was simply on fire in rapid today. Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

Nakamura has been invincible so far in the tournament, but today was not his day. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes


LEE - KRUSH | 1-0, 48 moves | PLAYOFF KRUSH 1.5-0.5

Having lost the first game yesterday, Lee was in a must-win situation going into today’s classical game. She didn’t manage to get any advantage against Krush’s Bogo-Indian Defense, but as she started to apply a bit of pressure Krush unexpectedly blundered in the middlegame, miscalculating a knight sacrifice that would leave her down a piece. Lee seized upon her chance and tied the match at 1-1, forcing a playoff.

25.Nc8! was a winning tactical shot, as Black can’t avoid losing material (25…Rdd8 26.Ne7++-)

In the playoff, Krush recovered nicely, as she managed to outplay Lee in a drawn rook and pawn endgame, winning the first game as Black. This put Alice in a must-win situation in the second game, and although she was under pressure out of the opening, she managed to defend and even emerge with an extra pawn in a knight endgame. However it wasn’t enough to win, as Krush had plenty of activity with her king and knight to save the day, eventually forcing a draw in order to clinch the playoff and win her second title.

It wasn’t easy, but top seed GM Irina Krush got it done. Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

Second place and a cool $18,000 2nd place prize for WIM Alice Lee. Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The 2023 American Cup concludes Sunday, March 25 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.