American Cup Kicks Off Tuesday in Saint Louis

The 2024 American Cup kicks off at the Saint Louis Chess Center, tomorrow, March 12. The ten-day blowout showcases 16 top American players in an unusual double-elimination format consisting of both classical and rapid head-to-head matches across two eight-player fields (Open and Women's). The event boasts a $400,000 overall prize fund (with $250,000 designated for the Open and $150,000 for the Women's event).

The fields and brackets are already available, and the games begin daily at 1:00 p.m. CDT with live commentary available on YouTube, with commentary from GMs Yasser Seirawan and Cristian Chirila, as well as WGM Anastasiya Karlovich. A bonus for spectators is that there is no overall rest day in this event, with certain days designated as rest days for only the losers' brackets and others for only the winners' brackets. Which is to say: there's chess every day. The format is, broadly speaking, the same as last year (explained here).


Lee Krush
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Last year's finalists: Alice Lee and Irina Krush (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


In the Women's event, last year's finalists — IM Alice Lee and GM Irina Krush — are this year's third- and first-seeded players, respectively. Last year's final was Lee's first-ever classical chess victory over Krush. Will she get another chance in this year's final? Considering that Lee first has to get past sixth-seeded WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (never an easy task) and then face either two-time U.S. Women's champion WGM Jennifer Yu or second-seeded WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova (who was on a roll last fall at the U.S. Women's Championship) to advance to the winner's final, it's certainly not a given. Krush will have to get past newcomer WIM Zoey Tang, after which the winner of the "coin-toss" match-up between IMs Anna Zatonskih and Nazi Paikidze awaits. 


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Nakamura was all smiles after last year's finals victory over Wesley So. But with Nakamura sitting this year out, will So triumph over the likes of Caruana, Dominguez, and Aronian? (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


In the Open section, GMs Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So (last year's runner-up) are seeded on opposite ends as the top and second seeds, respectively. But it's by no means a collision course, as Caruana will have to face GM Grigory Oparin and then (if he wins) the winner of the "Armenian-American Cup," where fourth-seeded GM Levon Aronian and fifth-seeded GM Sam Sevian will battle it out. So faces GM Sam Shankland in the first round, after which the winner of GMs Leinier Domingues and Ray Robson awaits. 

Of course, thanks to the double-elimination format, we're guaranteed to see a number of entertaining match-ups featuring most of these players, including those who lose their classical match in the first or second round. We might even see a player run through the losers' bracket all the way back to the grand final! 

Games begin tomorrow, March 12, at 1:00 p.m. CDT. Until then, relive last year's highlights from Chess Life Online's coverage