Nakamura Defeats Dominguez With Black, So Knocks Caruana

Nakamura Defeats Dominguez With Black, So Knocks Caruana

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The 2023 American Cup continued in St. Louis on Monday with championship bracket semifinals that were won by GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So respectively. Nakamura was in fine form with the black pieces and outplayed GM Lenier Dominguez in the middlegame to take his match 1.5-0.5, while So required rapid playoffs to overcome the U.S. champion GM Fabiano Caruana.

In the women’s event, GM Irina Krush was held to a draw for the first time in the event however won her match by a 1.5-0.5 margin. FM Alice Lee also dispatched IM Nazi Paikidze with the black pieces in a convincing display from the rising star.

Action from the championship and elimination brackets will continue at The American Cup on Monday, March 21, 2023, at 11 a.m. PT/20:00 CET.

“I will try to press and see what happens” were the words that Dominguez left viewers with after a tame game one draw against Nakamura on Sunday and 10 moves into game two it was clear he was indeed playing for the win.

Dominguez tried his best to muddy the waters in an Open Sicilian. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Though Dominguez managed to build an edge and gain the bishop pair, time pressure was a problem for the Cuban-born GM, who had less than seven minutes left by move 26. Against one of the world’s best fast chess players, this proved to be fatal and Dominguez’s position quickly collapsed.

Our Game of the Day that saw Nakamura progress through to the championship bracket final has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

A slicing rook sacrifice was the nail in the coffin for Dominguez’s position and made it easy for Nakamura to come up with a caption for his Youtube recap, “Dear Youtube, I Sacrificed THE ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOK”, playing on GothamChess’ viral moment.ย 

After drawing their second classical game in a 52-move, Nimzo-Indian Defense where they averaged 98.8% accuracy, So and Caruana required playoffs to determine who would become Nakamura’s championship bracket final opponent.

So and Caruana have been unbreakable in classical thus far. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Playing with the white pieces, So opted to play the Ruy Lopez and Caruana set up solidly with the Morphy Defense, Columbus Variation. On move 12, the reigning U.S. champion played the slightly inaccurate 12.Rab8? and gifted So a continuation that would isolate his a-pawn.

With a permament structural disadvantage Caruana desperately tried to hold his position together but So gradually inflated his advantage, eventually inciting a blunder from his opponent who had dropped below 10 seconds.

The win proved decisive for the world number eight as he was able to hold in the following game after quickly trading into an opposite colored bishop and rook ending. Although the game was played out until the 125th move, the result was never in doubt and Caruana was relegated to the elimination bracket.

Image: Saint Louis Chess Club/Twitter.

Image: Saint Louis Chess Club/Twitter.

Following a win against WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova on Sunday, Krush hinted that she would look to keep up the aggression in their second game. True to her word, the eight-time U.S. women’s champion was the first to strike with a queenside intermezzo, fearlessly giving up an exchange for a pawn and the initiative.

Krush has cruised through the field so far. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

With healthy connected passed pawns on the queenside, Krush began to tighten the screws with a liquidation combination that removed any serious chance of her opponent swindling. Despite garnering a strong edge, Krush opted to secure the match result with threefold repetition and booked her spot in the championship final (should Krush win, she would still have to face off against the winner of the elimination bracket).

FM Alice Lee‘s rise to stardom continued on Monday with a black pieces victory over IM Nazi Paikidze that pushed her FIDE rating to 2386, gaining her the number two spot on the U.S. women’s FIDE rating list.

Only coronavirus has been able to stop Lee’s meteoric rise. Image: FIDE.com.

In the Slav Defense: Modern, Quiet, Schallopp Variation, Lee took space in the center early and launched a queenside assault after Paikidze castled long on move 12. Not one to shy away from complexity, Paikidze fought back by infiltrating Lee’s kingside but the lack of space in the center was her downfall and her 14-year-old opponent crashed through decisively.

Lee will now face Krush in the championship bracket final and interestingly, should she defeat her opponent in their first classical encounter, she would pass the 2400 rating mark for the first time in her career.

With two IM norms under her belt, Lee has a good chance of smashing the record for the youngest female IM and WGM in U.S. history, which is currently held by WGM Carissa Yip (16 years, one month, and 18 days old).ย 

All Games

The American Cup is an over-the-board event in the U.S. capital of chess, St. Louis, featuring the country’s top grandmasters. Split into Open and Women’s categories, the players will compete in a double-elimination knockout bracket while competing for their share of the $300,000 prize fund.


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