Upsets Shake Up American Cup After Four Days

After the first round of matches saw mostly "chalk" advance in St. Louis, the American Cup has finally embraced the spirit of March Madness. The Winners Final in the Women's section will indeed see a "threepeat" of the clash between IM Alice Lee and GM Irina Krush that has become a hallmark of this annual event.




As the top seed in the section, Krush's 3–1 win over IM Nazi Paikidze was expected, although the match was closer than the score suggested. The first day could not have gone any better for Krush, who began with a classical victory that barely took her out of book preparation:



Krush followed this up by equalizing quickly in the rapid game, allowing Paikidze to drift in a difficult position. 



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A victorious Krush survived a scare on the fourth day of the American Cup (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


Paikidze came out swinging with the white pieces in her "must-win" encounter, launching a devastating kingside attack that Krush was unable to withstand. Krush rallied, though, denying Paikidze's upset bid in their rapid game.




On the other half of the bracket, Lee's 3–0 win over WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova was an upset, at least according to the seeding. Losing her first classical game with the white pieces set Lee up to take over the match from there:




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Alice Lee was all business against Tokhirjonova, winning all three games (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)



While a three-seed who has made it to the last two finals might not count as much of an upset, in the first round of the Elimination Bracket, eighth-seeded WIM Zoey Tang again impressed, this time holding on to win her match against IM Anna Zatonskih! 





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Tang is one of the main stories of this year's event, having both defeated Krush in a classical game and knocked Zatonskih out of the tournament all in three days (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)




We also saw seventh-seeded FM Jennifer Yu eliminate WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, although, again, it's hard to call this much of an upset as each player is so accomplished. The two players lived up to their spirited, combative reputations, though, to say the least: 


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Jennifer Yu played one of the more entertaining matches of day three, knocking out Tatev Abrahamyan in the process (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)




In the Winners Bracket of the Open section, there is madness at the top. Most notably, top-seeded GM Fabiano Caruana lost in a blitz playoff to GM Levon Aronian, while GM Ray Robson's "Cinderella" run continues thanks to rapid dominance over GM Wesley So.




This sets up a Winners Final between fourth-seeded Aronian and sixth-seeded Robson that likely busted many fans' brackets. Here are the key moments in the penultimate games from each of Aronian's and and Robson's matches:




Photos courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC


In the Elimination Bracket, GM Sam Sevian knocked out GM Grigory Oparin thanks to resolute defense in their penultimate game:



The other elimination match saw GM Leinier Dominguez send GM Sam Shankland packing in a back-and-forth match in which the duo traded a pair of wins in the last two rapid games before trading another pair of wins in the first blitz playoff.


Life imitates art: Sam Shankland and Leinier Dominguez each attended the World Chess Hall of Fame event after a roller-coaster of an elimination match (photos courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


The third blitz game appeared headed towards a draw before tragedy befell Shankland:



Needing only a draw, Dominguez finally broke through in the eighth game of their marathon battle:



Games continue today at 1:00 p.m. CDT and can be followed live on YouTube and


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Last year's coverage on Chess Life Online