American Cup: Top Seeds Advance to Winners Semifinals

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GM Wesley So was all business in his quarterfinal victory over GM Sam Shankland. He will face Robson in the semifinal of the Winners Bracket (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


The 2024 American Cup saw four players each in the Open and the Women’s section advance to the semifinals of the Winners Bracket.

In each bracket, three of the four higher-seeded players advanced, with fifth-seeded IM Nazi Paikidze’s upset over fourth-seed IM Anna Zatonskih barely registering as an upset in the battle between two former U.S. Women’s Champions, although the lopsided 2½–½ score certainly was a surprise.


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IM Nazi Paikidze was the big winner on the first day of the Women's event, with a down-to-the-wire victory over IM Anna Zatonskih (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


With the white pieces in their first game, Zatonskih had Paikidze on the ropes in a King’s Indian Defense where Paikidze’s move order trickery ended up tying her pieces down. But without a second time control on move 40, Zatonskih seemed motivated to “do something” to prove how promising her position was, making a couple of inaccurate trades that shifted the momentum to Paikidze. From here, the position was a tactical mess, although Paikidze managed to play a number of safe, improving moves until she found a concrete win she was confident in.



Paikidze advances to play top-seeded GM Irina Krush, who won her match 3–1 against WIM Zoey Tang. Don’t be misled by the score, however, as Tang actually won the first classical game, which is quite a victory for the young Oregonian!


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The semifinals of the Winners Bracket are set (courtesy SLCC/


Second-seeded WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova and third-seeded IM Alice Lee each won their opening matches 2½–½, over FM Jennifer Yu and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, respectively. Their head-to-head semifinal should be particularly entertaining, given the impressive results of each player.


WIM Tang
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WIM Zoey Tang had the defending champ, GM Irina Krush, on the ropes after defeating her in their first-round classical game (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


In the Open, sixth-seeded GM Ray Robson’s 2½–1½ upset over third-seeded GM Leinier Dominguez was particularly impressive considering that Dominguez actually opened the match with a nice win on the white side of a Sicilian in their first classical game.



From there, Robson managed to even the score in the first rapid game. This is a new wrinkle in this year’s American Cup: rather than have rapid playoffs after the classical portion, there is one rapid game played each day after that day’s classical. This meant that, having already leveled the score, Robson’s second classical game was not “must win.” That didn’t stop him, though:



Robson goes on to play second-seeded GM Wesley So, who defeated GM Sam Shankland 2½–½. Top-seeded Fabiano Caruana took care of GM Grigory Oparin by the same score, while fourth-seeded GM Levon Aronian needed “extra innings” to survive a furious rally from GM Sam Sevian, winning 4–2 in the end.


The semifinals of the Winners Bracket in the Open (courtesy SLCC/


As an added bonus, remember that none of the players who lost their quarterfinal matches are eliminated. Rather, the Losers Bracket games begin today in both the Open and Women’s sections. As players are eliminated, the last player standing from this bracket will play in the Losers Final against the loser of the Winners Final. Then, the winner of that match will take on the last undefeated player in the Grand Final. So, don’t count anybody out just yet!

Games from the third day of action are currently underway, with day four beginning Friday, March 15, at 1:00 p.m. CDT. 



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Last year's coverage on Chess Life Online