2023 U.S. National Championships Pick Up Where 2022 Left Off

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Courtesy Austin Fuller/SLCC


The first round of the National Championships in St. Louis began with a bang on Saturday, with upsets in all three sections. For instance, in the U.S. Senior Championship GM Melikset Khachiyan toppled rating favorite GM Vladimir Akopian with the White pieces, while – remarkably – the U.S. Junior Championship saw a decisive result in every game. The top seeds in the Girls’ Junior Championship held serve for the most part, with the exception of IM Carissa Yip, who could not crack 400-rating-point underdog Kelsey Liu’s defense.

The championships are becoming more competitive every year, and the number of decisive games as well as the unpredictability of the results suggests that each section will be closer than ratings or past titles may imply.


U.S. Junior Championship:

Perhaps the most unexpected result so far was bottom seed Arthur Xu’s upset of GM Balaji Daggupati. It seemed to me that Balaji forgot something in his preparation and then pushed too hard. Once given a chance, Xu demonstrated exceptional tactical alertness and finished the game with impeccable calculation. A great start for Arthur!



White won most of the remaining games, with GMs Andrew Hong and Abhimanyu Mishra scoring excellent technical wins against IMs Justin Wang and Arthur Guo, respectively.


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Top-seeded GM Brandon Jacobson (R) unleashed quite an entertaining sacrifice (courtesy Austin Fuller/SLCC)


The sole exception to this trend was GM Brandon Jacobson, who inventively sacrificed material for a kingside attack against IM Jason Liang which – despite mutual mistakes in time pressure -- proved successful.



U.S. Senior Championship:

The Senior Championship is always the most interesting section for me to watch, as the list of players reads like a “who’s who” of American chess. Past winners GMs Kaidanov and Shabalov both scored victories to open the tournament, with Kaidanov slowly outplaying GM Patrick Wolff as White and Shabalov playing in his trademark tactical style to defeat IM Douglas Root as Black. GM Dmitry Gurevich played especially imaginatively against GM Igor Novikov and won an Exchange, but he could not overcome Novikov’s stern resistance.



Game of the day
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Game of the day? Khachiyan versus Akopian (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


In terms of tournament intrigue, however, the game of the round was unquestionably Khachiyan’s win against Akopian, a former Super-GM. In a complex middlegame, Khachiyan exchanged the right pieces and traded down to a winning endgame.



U.S. Girls’ Championship:


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On the live rating list, FM Alice Lee has overtaken IM Carissa Yip, and she got off to a hot start on Saturday (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


Though largely free of upsets, this section featured many interesting tactical moments. For example, 13-year-old FM Alice Lee’s precise play against Gracy Prasanna was particularly impressive:



WGM Rochelle Wu defeated WIM Iris Mou as White after Iris chose the wrong plan in the opening. Rochelle’s conversion was impeccable, and chess engines evaluated her play as near-perfect throughout.

In my view, the most instructive game was FM Zoey Tang’s victory against wildcard WCM Shreya Mangalam. Zoey nicely demonstrated the dangers of falling behind in development in an open position:



As mentioned, the only “upset” was Kelsey Liu holding IM Carissa Yip to a draw:



Kelsey Liu
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Nerves of steel! Kelsey Liu held the draw against Yip (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


As I always like to say, this is a long tournament, and it is far too early to bet on favorites or to count anybody out. One thing is clear, however: the National Championships continue to promise us captivating chess every year, and it will be exciting to follow the results as the tournament develops.

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