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.
Replay the games of American Cup 2023
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.
Game 1 ended in a stalemate. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
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
Second place after a fantastic showing from Wesley So. | 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.