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Levon Aronian – Fabiano Caruana is the final in the American Cup 2022

Both GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Irina Krush managed to qualify to the finals in day 6 of the American Cup, after drawing the second game and avoiding a playoff in their Champions Bracket matches against GM Leinier Dominguez and FM Alice Lee. In the Elimination Bracket, GM Levon Aronian defeated GM Ray Robson 2-0, while WGM Tatev Abrahamyan ended up winning a playoff against WGM Begim Tokhirjonova. Taking place tomorrow will be the finals of the Elimination Bracket, with Aronian facing Dominguez and Lee taking on Abrahamyan for one more chance at overall tournament victory. American Chess Cup 2022 preview / Participants / American Cup 2022 live / Many decisive games at the start of the American Cup (day 1) / Five matches decided in playoffs (day 2) / Four players knocked out (day 3) / Caruana – Dominguez is the final in the Champions Bracket (day 4) / Levon Aronian – Fabiano Caruana is the final in the American Cup /  Official website

In day 7, after defeating GM Leinier Dominguez in a dramatic playoff, GM Levon Aronian qualified for the finals of the 2022 American Cup, where he will face GM Fabiano Caruana for the 1st place prize of $50,000. In the women’s field, FM Alice Lee earned herself a rematch in the $25,000 final against GM Irina Krush, after winning an incredibly close match against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan that went all the way to Armageddon. 

American Cup day 6 results and game review

Open Field – Champions Bracket

Women’s Field – Champions Bracket

Open Field – Elimination Bracket

Women’s Field – Elimination Bracket

CHAMPIONS BRACKET

DOMINGUEZ – CARUANA ½-½ 

Good preparation by Dominguez in the Italian Game earned him a serious advantage on the clock, as well as a clearly better position where he could play against Black’s isolated pawn. But a very practical pawn sacrifice by Caruana changed the character of the game, not letting Dominguez to simply improve his position. Dominguez was then unable to keep his edge as the players entered a rook and knight endgame where Black always had enough counterplay to survive. Further good defense by Caruana allowed him to hold the game, clinching the classical match 1.5-0.5.

23…e3! threw a wrench into White’s plans, as there was no comfortable way to capture the pawn. | ½-½, 56 moves

GM Fabiano Caruana | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

LEE – KRUSH ½-½ 

Also needing just a draw to clinch the match was Krush, who opted for the solid Cambridge Springs Variation against her young opponent. Lee played quite solidly in the middlegame, but wasn’t able to outplay Krush, who slowly managed to trade down into a drawish heavy piece endgame. Krush even ended up with an extra pawn in a rook endgame, but the position offered no winning chances for Black and the players soon repeated moves to draw the game.

GM Irina Krush | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

ELIMINATION BRACKET

ARONIAN – ROBSON 2-0

In a rematch of the Champions Bracket, Aronian started out the first playoff game with an interesting setup in a Reverse Benoni, forcing Robson to burn a lot of time in the opening. Unfortunately for Robson, his time-trouble would end up being the deciding factor in the match, as he eventually went down to 1 minute versus 15 and couldn’t maintain his accuracy. A few moves later, Aronian setup a nice tactic to win the exchange and converted the first game with ease.

37.Nxc5! was Aronian’s winning trick, with idea 37…Qxc5 38.d4 and 37…Qxf4 38.Nxd7+ | 1-0, 45 moves

In the second game Robson again started spending a lot of time out of the opening, looking to keep the position as complicated as possible. But Aronian played quickly and confidently, even sacrificing an exchange for a strong initiative on the kingside. Robson was then forced to enter a position with two rooks for the queen, but his king was too exposed and a further blunder allowed Aronian to win the second game as well.

GM Levon Aronian | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

TOKHIRJONOVA – ABRAHAMYAN | 1-3

The initial two games in the Elimination Match both came down to a complicated rook endgame. First Abrahamyan missed a serious chance to win as Black, allowing a draw–then Tokhirjonova was better in the next game but couldn’t make anything of her advantage, leading to a 1-1 tie and forcing a playoff.

The first game of the playoff was quite a sharp struggle in the Italian Game, with very few pieces getting traded before the players entered time-trouble. As the clocks ticked down, the position opened up, with many possible tactics under the surface. A strategic blunder by Tokhirjonova allowed Abrahamyan to trade off the light-squared bishops, leaving Black’s kingside extremely vulnerable. Abrahamyan pounced on the chance and immediately decided the game with a powerful attack.

34.Qc2+! was the game-winner, taking control over the light-squares on the kingside. After 34…f5 35.Ne5+ Black could not go 35…Kf6 in view of 36.Nh5 mate! | 1-0, 36 moves 

In the second game Tokhirjonova got a bit of pressure as White out of the opening, but it was quickly neutralized as Abrahamyan was able to generate decent counterplay on the queenside. The players then traded down into a heavy-piece endgame where only Black (Abrahamyan) had chances to push for the win. In the ensuing time scramble Tokhirjonova ended up blundering her queen, and was forced to resign on the spot.

Abrahamyan vs. Tokhirjonova during their Elimination Match | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

American Cup day 7 results and game review

Open Field – Championship Match

Women’s Field – Championship Match

ELIMINATION BRACKET

ARONIAN – DOMINGUEZ

In a repeat of their Champions Bracket match, once again Dominguez played the Petroff and achieved a completely winning position as Black. Only this time instead of giving mate, he had a technically winning queen endgame, with two extra pawns. But Aronian managed to stay in the game, creating counterplay with his queen and a passed c-pawn. Trying to get out of the checks, Dominguez stepped on the wrong square with his king, and Aronian was able to swindle a draw.

After 73.c6!, which saved the game for White. | ½-½, 83 moves 

The second game saw Aronian secure a small edge and start to press as Black, but Dominguez defended well and managed to hold the draw, leading to a playoff. In the first game of the playoff Aronian had Black again, and this time opted for a very risky setup against the Italian Game. Dominguez responded well but used up a lot of time to achieve a good setup. As the game sharpened up Dominguez lost control over the position, and a fantastic combination by Aronian decided the game.

32…Nc3!! won the game for Black, as after 33.Rxc3 Qxe4! the queen was untouchable due to back-rank mate. | 0-1 37 moves.

The final game was perhaps the wildest of the match. Just needing a draw to qualify, Aronian opted for the c3-Sicilian and quickly achieved a winning position. But a surprising blunder let Dominguez completely back into the game, with a queen and knight against Aronian’s two rooks and a bishop. Although it was a tricky situation for White, Aronian managed to sacrifice one of his rooks for Black’s knight and construct a fortress with his remaining rook and bishop, holding the draw and winning the match.

The key first game of Aronian vs. Dominguez, which was saved by Levon. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

LEE – ABRAHAMYAN

The Women’s Elimination Final saw a hotly contested match where White won every single game leading up to the Armageddon. First it was Lee who won a back-and-forth game by infiltrating with her queen and rook, then Abrahamyan struck back with the same combo in the next game, squeezing water from a stone in a symmetrical position.

In the playoff, Abrahamyan received White in the first game and landed a powerful knight sacrifice that obliterated Lee’s kingside.

36.Nxh6+! left White with a crushing kingside attack. | 1-0, 48 moves

This put Lee in a must-win situation for the next game, and she got her chance early on, as she spotted a nice zwischenzug tactic to win material and achieve a strategically won position. Abrahamyan tried to salvage things, but Lee’s technique was too good as she converted her advantage.

12.Nxf5! won a clean pawn for White, due to the threat of Nxe7+ | 1-0, 35 moves

In the Armageddon match, Abrahamyan won the coin-toss and chose the White pieces. This decision paid off as she had a chance to win a full piece out of the opening, but missed it in favor of just completing her development. This allowed Lee to get back in the game and fend off White’s initiative. Abrahamyan soon lost the thread and blundered an exchange, after which her position was simply dead lost. Lee grabbed the chance and even went on to win as Abrahamyan exhausted all of her resources.

Abrahamyan vs. Lee in Armageddon | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

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