Hikaru Nakamura and Irina Krush emerged as the winners of the 2023 American Cup, a unique competition featuring an exciting and rare double elimination format. The tournament brought world class chess masters to America's chess capital to compete in a fierce do or die struggle for $300,000 in prize money. Both champion prevailed in rapid tiebreakes.
Hikaru Nakamura pulled through to become the 2023 American Cup Champion after defeating Wesley So 2.5-1.5 in a difficult final elimination match. The finale started out with three solid draws, but finished abruptly in the fourth game after a blunder by So got his queen trapped inside Nakamura’s territory.
NAKAMURA - SO | 2.5-1.5
The day started with two 25+10 games in the final elimination match. The first game saw Nakamura emerge with an extra pawn in a theoretically drawn rook endgame, which So had few problems holding. In the second game Wesley was a bit better in a double-bishop endgame, but eventually allowed a draw by three-fold repetition, taking the players to a rapid playoff.
In the playoff So started as White, and after a balanced middlegame ended up with a very pleasant advantage in a knight endgame. But Hikaru defended well and managed to hold the draw.
After 33.Ba3, So had good winning chances thanks to the passed b-pawn, but never a clear win.
In the next game Hikaru got a bit of an edge after starting with 1.Nf3, but the game ended rather surprisingly in the middlegame after a devastating blunder by So got his queen trapped with no way out.
17…Qxd2?? was an unfortunate blunder, as after 18.Rfd1 Qb2 19.Nc4! Black’s queen was trapped.
After three solid draws Nakamura seized his opportunity to win the game, match, and title. Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
8-time U.S. Champion Irina Krush bounced back from a loss in classical to defeat a surging Alice Lee in a rapid playoff and win her second straight American Cup title.
After winning the first classical game against WIM Alice Lee, Irina Krush unexpectedly blundered in the middlegame, miscalculating a knight sacrifice that would leave her down a piece.
In the playoff, Krush recovered nicely, as she managed to outplay Lee in a drawn rook and pawn endgame, winning the first game as Black. This put Alice in a must-win situation once again, and although she was under pressure out of the opening, she managed to defend and even emerge with an extra pawn in a knight endgame. However it wasn’t enough to win, as Krush had plenty of activity with her king and knight to save the day, eventually forcing a draw in order to clinch the playoff and win her second title.
It wasn’t easy, but top seed GM Irina Krush got it done. Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
Next up for the Saint Louis Chess Club will be the Spring Classic, which takes place April 5-13. Fans should tune in for live commentary on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube & Twitch.tv channels.
Text: IM Kostya Kavutskiy
Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
Dates & Location:
March 17 - 26, 2023
World Chess Hall of Fame
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