The 2022 American Cup: Now the Fun Begins!

Multiple playing schedules are a hallmark of some of America’s biggest swisses.

Now that same frenetic energy is coming to the Saint Louis Chess Club.

It’s Day 3 of the 2022 American Cup, and with the first round in the books, play now transitions to the two-track Championship and Elimination brackets. And four players are going home at the end of the day.

GMs Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Leinier Dominguez, and Sam Sevian have all advanced to the second round of the Open Cup, while GM Irina Krush, WGMs Tatev Abrahamyan and Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, and FM Alice Lee are through in the Women’s Cup. Today they all will enjoy the first game of two-leg mini-matches, played at the languid time control of G/90+30.

Meanwhile, the players they defeated in round one — GMs Ray Robson, Sam Shankland, Wesley So, and Jeffery Xiong in the Open, along with WGM Katerina Nemcova, IMs Stavroula Tsolakidou and Anna Zatonskih, and FM Ruiyang Yan in the Women’s – will square off in one-day rapid mini-matches, capped with frenetic Armageddon showdowns if necessary.

Round 1 Recap, Open Cup

The knockout structure of the American Cup produced fighting chess from the outset, with two decisive results on the first day of the Open. Top seed Levon Aronian showed his quality with a strong technical win over Ray Robson, while Sam Sevian scored an important upset, defeating Wesley So with the black pieces in a fine game.

[pgn][Event "American Cup Champ"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2022.04.20"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Robson, Ray"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [WhiteElo "2785"] [BlackElo "2681"] [PlyCount "103"] [EventDate "2022.04.20"] 1. c4 e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 d4 4. Nf3 c5 5. O-O Nc6 6. e3 Nf6 7. exd4 cxd4 8. d3 Bd6 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bxf6 Qxf6 11. Nbd2 Qe7 12. Re1 O-O 13. Nb3 Qf6 14. Nfd2 Bc7 15. a3 a5 16. Nc5 Qe7 17. Na4 Bd7 18. Nb3 b6 19. Bxc6 Bxc6 20. Nxd4 Bb7 21. Nb5 Qd7 22. Qe2 Rad8 23. d4 Qc6 24. f3 Rd7 25. Kg2 Bd8 26. Nac3 Bf6 27. Rad1 Qc8 28. d5 Bxc3 29. Nxc3 exd5 30. Nxd5 Bxd5 31. Rxd5 Rfd8 32. Qe4 b5 33. Rxd7 Qxd7 34. c5 b4 35. axb4 axb4 36. Qxb4 Qd2+ 37. Qxd2 Rxd2+ 38. Kh3 Rxb2 39. Rc1 Kf8 40. c6 Rb8 41. Kg4 Ke7 42. c7 Rc8 43. Kh5 Kf6 44. Rc6+ Ke5 45. f4+ Kd5 46. Rc1 Kd6 47. f5 Ke5 48. g4 Kf6 49. Rc6+ Ke7 50. f6+ Kd7 51. Rc2 gxf6 52. Kxh6 1-0 [Event "American Cup Champ"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2022.04.20"] [Round "1.1"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Sevian, Samuel"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E48"] [WhiteElo "2778"] [BlackElo "2693"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2022.04.20"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. a3 Bd6 8. Qc2 c6 9. Nge2 Re8 10. Bd2 Nbd7 11. f3 c5 12. h4 h5 {Stockfish's move} (12... c4 13. Bf5 Nf8 14. g4 Rb8 15. h5 h6 16. O-O-O b5 17. Rdg1 N8h7 18. f4 Bxf5 19. Qxf5 Qc8 20. Ng3 b4 21. axb4 Bxb4 22. g5 Bxc3 23. Bxc3 hxg5 24. fxg5 Ne4 25. g6 fxg6 26. Qxd5+ Qe6 27. Qxe6+ Rxe6 28. d5 Nxg3 29. Rxg3 Ra6 30. Rhg1 g5 31. e4 Rd8 32. Kd2 Nf6 33. Ke3 Re8 34. Bxf6 gxf6 35. Rf1 Rb6 36. Kd4 Kg7 37. Rf2 Rb4 38. Rc3 a5 39. Re2 Kh6 40. Rxc4 Rxc4+ 41. Kxc4 Kxh5 42. d6 g4 43. Kd5 g3 44. d7 Rg8 45. Ke6 Kg4 46. Rd2 Kf3 47. d8=Q Rxd8 48. Rxd8 Kxe4 49. Kxf6 g2 50. Rg8 Kf3 51. Ke5 Kf2 52. Kd4 g1=Q 53. Rxg1 Kxg1 {1-0 (53) Predke,A (2682)-Donchenko,A (2636) Warsaw 2021}) (12... a6 13. O-O-O b5 14. g4 b4 15. axb4 cxb4 16. Na4 Bb7 17. Kb1 Rc8 18. Qb3 Qa5 19. Qa2 Bc6 20. b3 Bxa4 21. Qxa4 Qxa4 22. bxa4 Nb6 23. Bxa6 Ra8 24. Bb5 Reb8 25. Rc1 Nxa4 26. Bxa4 Rxa4 27. Rc6 Bf8 28. Rhc1 b3 29. Rc8 Rb7 30. R1c7 Rxc7 31. Rxc7 Ra2 32. Kc1 Ba3+ 33. Kd1 Ra1+ {0-1 (33) Predke, A (2682)-Petrosyan,M (2620) Warsaw 2021}) 13. O-O-O a6 $5 {Effectively inciting the following pawn sac.} 14. g4 hxg4 15. fxg4 Nxg4 16. h5 (16. Nxd5 cxd4 17. Nxd4 (17. exd4 Ndf6 18. Bg5 Be6 19. Nxf6+ Nxf6 {dynamic equality}) 17... Nf2 18. Bc3 Nxh1 19. h5 Ng3 20. h6 Nf6 21. Nxf6+ Qxf6 22. Bh7+ Kh8 23. hxg7+ Qxg7 24. Nc6 f6 25. Rxd6 {and White has compensation}) 16... Nf8 (16... Ndf6 17. h6 Nxh6 18. Rdg1 $44) 17. Rdg1 Nf2 18. dxc5 $6 {Perhaps So was worried about 19. ... Ng3 in the line after 18.Nxd5, so he tries to nudge the bishop off the diagonal. But Sevian doesn't need to recapture.} (18. h6 g6 19. Nxd5) (18. Nxd5 Nxh1 19. h6 Ng3 $1) 18... Be5 19. h6 g6 20. h7+ Kh8 21. Rh6 $6 {Giving Black a tempo to kick the rook.} (21. Rh5 $1 Bg4 22. Rxe5 Rxe5 23. Be1 Nxd3+ 24. Qxd3 Bxe2 25. Nxe2 {and White still has some compensation for the Exchange.}) 21... Bg7 22. Rh2 Ng4 (22... Nxd3+ 23. Qxd3 Re5 {also gives Black the advantage.}) 23. Rh3 $2 Ne5 $1 24. Rhg3 Ne6 25. Nf4 Nxf4 26. exf4 Nxd3+ 27. Qxd3 d4 $1 28. Ne4 Qd5 29. Ng5 Qxc5+ (29... Bf5 $1) 30. Kd1 Qd5 31. Qf3 Qa2 $2 (31... Qxf3+ {simplifies but gives up the attack.}) (31... Be6 $1 {is a cold-blooded defensive move. After} 32. f5 Qxf3+ 33. Rxf3 Bd5 34. Rh3 Rac8 $1 { it's the White king in the crosshairs!}) 32. Nxf7+ Qxf7 33. Rxg6 d3 34. Be3 $2 (34. Qxd3 {is forced, when White's attack nearly breaks through after} Bf5 35. Rxg7 Qh5+ 36. Kc1 Bxd3 37. Rc7 Re7 $1 {a key move, with the idea} 38. Rxe7 $2 ( 38. Bc3+ $8 Kxh7 39. Rxe7+ Kh6 $11) 38... Rc8+) 34... Qb3+ 35. Ke1 d2+ 36. Kf2 d1=Q 0-1 [/pgn]

Robson was able to strike back on day two, while the three remaining games were drawn. This allowed Sevian to advance to the second round of the Championship bracket, sending So into the Elimination side of things, while the remaining three pairings all went to rapid tiebreaks.

There Aronian and Dominguez took care of business with wins in the rapid matches, but after four draws — two classical, two rapid — it took an Armageddon game to decide the battle between Caruana and Xiong.

Caruana and Xiong (courtesy SLCC / Lennart Ootes)
Image Caption
Caruana and Xiong (courtesy SLCC / Lennart Ootes)


Xiong flagged in a winning position (seen below), handing Caruana the victory and sending him into the second round of the Championship bracket.

While this loss surely stung a bit, the good news for Xiong — and all the other players — is that the double-elimination format gives everyone a chance for redemption. We’ll see who can pick up the pieces, and who is going home, with today’s first Elimination bracket battles.

Round 1 Recap, Women’s Cup

The action was even more intense on day one of the Women’s Cup, with three decisive results out of the gate. Zatonskih defeated Abrahamyan, while Tokhirjonova ground Nemcova down in a long endgame. Perhaps the most instructive game of the round was the win by eight-time U.S. women’s champion Irina Krush over 14-year-old phenom FM Ruiyang Yan


Irina Krush (courtesy SLCC / Lennart Ootes)
Image Caption
Irina Krush (courtesy SLCC / Lennart Ootes)

[pgn][Event "American Cup Champ w"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2022.04.20"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Krush, Irina"] [Black "Yan, Ruiyang"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D38"] [WhiteElo "2421"] [BlackElo "2283"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2022.04.20"] [EventType "k.o."] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 O-O 7. e3 Bf5 8. Qb3 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Nbd7 10. Be2 c5 11. dxc5 Nxc5 12. Qb4 Nce4 13. Bh4 h6 14. Nd4 Bh7 15. Qxb7 Re8 16. O-O Qd6 17. Qa6 Qe5 18. Rac1 Nd7 19. c4 Nd2 20. Rfd1 Nxc4 21. Bxc4 dxc4 22. Qxc4 Nb6 23. Qb3 Be4 24. Bg3 Qf6 25. Nb5 Red8 26. Nd6 Bg6 27. e4 Qe7 28. f3 Nc8 29. Nc4 Rxd1+ 30. Rxd1 Nb6 31. Ne5 Bh5 32. h3 Re8 33. Kh2 Rc8 34. a4 Qc5 35. Rd2 Qc1 36. Rd6 Qc5 37. Qd1 f6 38. Qb3+ Kh7 39. Nd7 Nxd7 40. Rxd7 Be8 41. Rb7 Qd4 42. Qa3 Bc6 43. Rb4 Qd7 44. Qa1 Bb7 45. Rd4 Qf7 46. Qd1 Qa2 47. Rd2 Qc4 48. Rd7 Qc6 49. Qd4 Rf8 50. Rc7 Qa6 51. Qd7 1-0 [/pgn]

With draws in the Yan – Krush and Tokhirjonova – Nemcova games on day two, both Krush and Tokhirjonova advanced to the second round of the Championship brackets. Abrahamyan defeated Zatonskih to push their pairing to tiebreaks, as was the Lee – Tsolakidou pairing after their 56 move draw.

The rapid tiebreaks were a straightforward affair. Both Abrahamyan and Lee won both games to advance and stay in the Championship round. But Lee had a bit of luck in doing so, her first victory coming in the very late stages of an opposite-color bishop ending.


Alice Lee (courtesy SLCC)
Image Caption
Alice Lee (courtesy SLCC)

[pgn][Event "American Cup Champ w"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2022.04.21"] [Round "1.3"] [White "Lee, Alice"] [Black "Tsolakidou, Stavroula"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D35"] [WhiteElo "2334"] [BlackElo "2359"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/5Kp1/P5Pp/7P/2Bb4/4p3/5k2 w - - 0 64"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2022.04.20"] [EventType "k.o."] {[#]} 64. a6 Bxa6 $2 (64... e1=Q 65. Bxe1 Kxe1 66. a7 Be4 67. a8=Q Bxa8 68. Kxg6 {saves a tempo over the game, and Black is able to hold.}) 65. Kxg6 e1=Q 66. Bxe1 Kxe1 67. Kxh5 Kf2 68. g6 Kf3 69. g7 Bc4 70. Kg5 Ke4 71. h5 Ke5 72. h6 Bg8 73. Kg6 Ke6 74. h7 1-0 [/pgn]

Day 3

So the show goes on Friday beginning at 1pm Central, with both classical and rapid games being contested. The main drama comes in the Elimination bracket, where four players — two in the Open, two in the Women’s — will see their Cup dreams end today.

Championship Brackets
*one round per day, G/90+30*
Aronian – Dominguez
Caruana – Sevian
Krush – Tokhirjonova
Lee – Abrahamyan

Elimination Brackets
*two games per day, G/25+10, followed by playoffs*
Shankland – Robson (and reversed colors)
So – Xiong
Nemcova – Yan
Zatonskih – Tsolakidou


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