Four players were knocked out of the American Cup as the first day of Elimination matches took place, with Robson – Shankland and Nemcova – Yan lasting all the way until Armageddon. In the Champions Bracket, GM Leinier Dominguez dealt a lethal blow to GM Levon Aronian, while FM Alice Lee won a fine technical game to also take the lead against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan. American Chess Cup 2022 preview / Participants / American Cup 2022 live / Many decisive games at the start of the American Cup / Five matches decided in playoffs in Day 2 / Official website
ARONIAN – DOMINGUEZ
Excellent preparation in the Petroff Defense gave Dominguez a very comfortable position out of the opening, as things quickly turned sour for Aronian, whose king found itself under heavy fire on the queenside. Dominguez was ruthless in the attack, and after a further blunder by Aronian Black’s attack was simply irresistible.
26…Bb2! was the clincher, setting up all kinds of mating threats such as Qxa2+ and Ra6 | 0-1, 28 moves
GM Leinier Dominguez | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
CARUANA – SEVIAN
An interesting treatment of the 4.e3 Nimzo allowed Caruana to seize the initiative out of the opening, but Sevian defended well, creating just enough counterplay on the queenside to stave off White’s attack. After some further complications, the players soon simplified into a drawn endgame, ending in a three-time repetition.
GM Fabiano Caruana | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
KRUSH – TOKHIRJONOVA
A dynamic battle saw Tokhirjonova accept an isolated queen pawn in exchange for active piece play. As the players approached time trouble, the position opened up and a complex material imbalance was reached with a rook and knight for Krush versus two bishops and two pawns for Tokhirjonova. A nervy time-scramble saw Tokhirjonova missing some chances, including a forced win, as the game eventually simplified into a draw.
WGM Begim Tokhirjonova | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
LEE – ABRAHAMYAN
Despite reaching a slightly more comfortable position out of the opening, Abrahamyan started to burn a lot of time and put all her hopes on a speculative kingside attack. Keeping her cool, Lee was able to neutralize Black’s play, and calmly refuted a flawed bishop sacrifice by Abrahamyan, taking a 1-0 lead in the match.
FM Alice Lee | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams
Elimination Bracket – Open Field
Elimination Bracket – Women’s Field
SO – XIONG
After an early opening blunder by Xiong, So was able to win two minor pieces for a rook and obtain a decisive advantage. Showing good technique, So managed to convert the first game with relative ease.
In the second game Xiong seemed to have good chances to bounce back, even having two extra pawns in an endgame with rooks and opposite colored bishops, but tricky defense allowed So to miraculously into a drawn ending, clinching the match.
GM Wesley So | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams
SHANKLAND – ROBSON
A very even match saw the first two games drawn without much room for fireworks, leading to a hotly contested playoff match. Robson was able to strike first, winning the initial playoff game thanks to a flurry of nice endgame tactics, but Shankland managed to level the score with a clean win in the very next game, taking the match to Armageddon.
In Armageddon, Robson won the coin toss and chose the White pieces, once again playing into Shankland’s ultra-solid Berlin Defense. Neither side was able to get a significant edge until the game came down to a sharp time-scramble with both players having under a minute on the clock. But it was Robson who would get the upper hand, finding a clutch fork in the end to win the exchange and the match.
GM Ray Robson | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
NEMCOVA – YAN
An incredibly dramatic match saw Nemcova needing to win on demand twice in order to stay in contention, first with Black in the 25+10 elimination games, then with White in the 10+5 rapid playoff, forcing an Armageddon.
In the final game Yan built up a nice advantage with White out of the opening, but would end up overextending and losing control over the game in the endgame. Nemcova pounced on the chance and ended up winning as Black in the Armageddon, knocking Yan out of the tournament.
WGM Katerina Nemcova | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams
ZATONSKIH – TSOLAKIDOU
Another topsy-turvy match started with the players exchanging wins as Black in the initial rapid games, taking the encounter to another playoff. Playing for the initiative right out of the opening, Tsolakidou managed to win a sharp struggle after Zatonskih overstepped the time limit in the first playoff game. Needing to win the next game, Zatonskih did gain an advantage with White, but soon lost her edge as Tsolakidou created sufficient counterplay and eventually went on to hold the game, winning the match.
IM Stavroula Tsolakidou | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
Day 3 of the 2022 American Cup will take place Friday, April 22 starting at 12:50 PM CT. Catch all the action live with grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila, and Alejandro Ramirez on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.
Article by IM Kostya Kavutskiy