2023 American Cup Begins Friday in Saint Louis


The second annual American Cup kicks off Friday, March 17, at the Saint Louis Chess Club. The tournament features 16 of the top US players competing in two eight-player brackets for $300,000 in prizes.

The creative double elimination format also combines classical and rapid chess, allowing for an exciting mix of top-level chess and tense, intuitive play.

Chess Life Online will be covering the event in great detail, with annotated games from some top US juniors. Keep your eyes peeled next week for recaps from WCM Chelsea Zhou, CM Davis Zong, IM-Elect Sandeep Sethuraman, and IM Justin Wang.

For today, here is a primer on the format of the event and how it played out last year.



Similar to the Champions Chess Tour, the American Cup will follow a double elimination knock-out format. Players will be seeded based on rating, with the top seed playing the eighth-seed, second playing seventh, and so forth in the first round of the champion’s bracket. Players will play two-game classical chess mini-matches until only two players are remaining.

What makes this different than a traditional knockout, however, is that each loser in the champion’s bracket will then be seeded into the elimination bracket. Unlike the 90-minute games with 30-second increment in the champion’s bracket, the two-game mini-matches in the elimination bracket will consist of 25-minute games with ten-second increment.

At the end of the elimination bracket, the loser of the champion’s bracket finals will play the last player standing in the elimination bracket to earn a spot in the final match against the winner of the champion’s bracket. But because the tournament is double elimination, if the champion’s bracket winner loses this match, they will have a sudden death rematch the next day.


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Caruana being presented with the American Cup in 2022 (courtesy SLCC)


For both the classical and the rapid bracket, if the mini-match ends in a tie, the tiebreaker will consist of a two-game playoff match consisting of ten-minute games with five-second increments. If the tiebreak match ends in a tie, then Armageddon will consist of a single blitz game with no increment. White will have five minutes for the game, and Black will have four minutes plus draw odds.

The two eight-player events will be run concurrently, with the open group competing for $200,000 and the women’s group for $100,000.


The Open

The open group features seven players over 2700 who have also represented the United States in at least one Olympiad. But don’t count out eighth-seeded GM Sam Sevian, rated 2687, who has strung together several impressive and prestigious results over the past year.


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Sevian the kingslayer at the 2022 American Cup (courtesy SLCC)


The trifecta of GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Fabiano Caruana, and GM Wesley So will be seeded one-two-three in the above order. The two-seed seems to suit Caruana just fine, as he won the 2022 event from the same position. Interestingly, Nakamura did not compete last year, while So lost his first-round match-up against Sevian.


Caruana Aronian
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Will Caruana and Aronian meet again in the finals? Or will So and Nakamura have something to say? (courtesy SLCC)


GMs Lenier Dominguez and Levon Aronian will play in a dramatic four-versus-five match-up. Last year, Dominguez defeated the top-seeded Aronian in the second round of the champion’s bracket, but Aronian exacted revenge in the elimination bracket to earn a date with Caruana in the finals.


Aronian Robson
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The first (and last) thing Robson saw at the 2022 American Cup: a handshake from Aronian (courtesy SLCC)


GMs Sam Shankland and Ray Robson are seeded sixth and seventh, respectively. Shankland will be looking to improve on last year’s results, where he lost consecutive matches to Dominguez and Robson to begin (and end) his event. Robson, as the eight-seed, lost his first-round match to Aronian in the champion’s bracket, but went on a tear in the elimination bracket until he had to face Aronian once again.


Caruana's 2022 triumph. Can he do it again?


Women’s field

GM Irina Krush returns to defend her title as the top seed in the women’s group. IM Anna Zatonskih is out for revenge as the second seed. She will face a first-round rematch against seventh-seeded FM Alice Lee, who upset Zatonskih in 2022.


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Don't get too comfortable, grandmaster! (courtesy SLCC)


Third-seeded WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, who has since made her debut on the American squad in their fourth-place finish in the 2022 Olympiad, is looking to improve on her fourth place finish from last year.


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Tokhirjonova will be full of excitement once again (courtesy SLCC)


The four-versus-five match-up will again be between evenly matched players, as WGM Katerina Nemcova will face two-time U.S. Women’s Champion Nazi Paikidze.

Sixth-seeded Atousa Pourkashiyan is making her American Cup debut after switching federations from Iran. The former Girls Under 12 world champion is also a nine-time Olympiad representative.


Zatonskih Abrahamyan
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IM Zatonskih faces off against the purple penguin herself, WGM Abrahamyan (courtesy SLCC)


And once again, don’t rule out the eight-seed! WGM Tatev Abrahamyan racked up a series of wins in the elimination bracket last year, and there’s no reason she can’t do it again.


Women's bracket
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Krush's path to victory in 2022



The first round of the champion’s bracket begins Friday, March 17 at 1 p.m. CT with the first game of the classical mini-matches. The second game will be played Saturday, March 18 at 1 p.m. CT, with tiebreaks to follow at 6 p.m. if needed.

From there, the schedules diverge based on bracket. The champion’s bracket semifinals will take place on Sunday, March 19 and Monday, March 20 at 1 p.m. CT, with tiebreaks to follow March 20 at 6 p.m. if needed. With no rest for the winners, the champion’s bracket final will then take place Tuesday and Wednesday, following the same format.

Since there will be more rounds of the elimination bracket, and each match will be shorter, things get more hectic here. The four losers of the first round of the champion’s bracket will play their elimination match at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. The two winners will be paired against the two losers of the second round of the champion’s bracket on Tuesday, March 21. The winners of these two matches will play on Wednesday, March 22. Then, the lone remaining winner will play in the elimination bracket finals against the loser of the champion’s bracket finals on Thursday, March 23.

The brackets then merge on Friday, March 24 at 1 p.m. CT for the first classical game of the finals. Saturday, March 25, could be the last day, if the winner of the champion’s bracket either wins the match outright or in tiebreaks at 6 p.m CT. But if the winner of the elimination bracket wins this match, there will be a final rapid match on Sunday, March 26 at 1 p.m. CT.

If this sounds too complicated, don’t worry! All you need to know is that there will be high-quality chess at 1 p.m. CT every day from Friday, March 17 to Saturday, March 25. Most days will feature a mixture of classical and rapid chess, with the two exceptions of Monday, March 20 (only classical) and Thursday, March 23 (only rapid). And if you’re lucky, there will be bonus rapids on Sunday, March 26.

Rounds will be streamed daily at uschesschamps.com with commentary from GMs Christian Chirila and Yasser Seirawan as well as IM Jovanka Houska.