Khachiyan, Lee, Mishra Win National Titles In St. Louis

Khachiyan, Lee, Mishra Win National Titles In St. Louis


GM Melikset Khachiyan won the 2023 U.S. Senior Chess Championship, IM-elect Alice Lee won the 2023 Girls’ Junior Chess Championship, and GM Abhimanyu Mishra won the 2023 U.S. Junior Chess Championship. Khachiyan and Lee clinched their first national titles in round eight with a round to spare, while Mishra’s title was closely contested until the ninth and last day.

Khachiyan won $20,000. Lee won $6,000, and Mishra won $12,000, and the juniors also received a $10,000 scholarship funded by the Dewain Barber Foundation and US Chess. No tiebreaks were needed in any of the three tournaments.

Melikset Khachiyanm
The winner of the 2023 U.S. Senior Chess Championship, Khachiyan. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The rosters of all three tournaments were filled by invitation. They were 10-player round-robins with a time control of 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus a 30-second increment starting on move one. The senior section hosted players 50 years or older, while the junior events brought in players under the age of 20. 

The senior tournament was the only one where the defending champion returned to St. Louis. Last year, GM Alexander Shabalov won a playoff with five (!) players who all tied for first after nine rounds. This year, he was Khachiyan’s closest rival and finished in second. The other defending national champions, GM Christopher Yoo and FM Jennifer Yu, the latter too old to play, did not participate in their respective tournaments. 

Khachiyan’s terrific first half of the tournament allowed him to coast to victory in the later rounds. He won five of his first six games, making just one draw in round three against GM Joel Benjamin

He defeated the highest seed, 2612-rated GM Vladimir Akopian, in the very first round. His best attacking game came in round four against GM Dmitry Gurevich, a model game for playing the black side of the Maroczy Bind. But our featured game highlights an endgame “tragicomedy” moment, to use the late IM Mark Dvoretsky‘s term, where the erroneous trade into a king and pawn endgame cost IM Douglas Root a full point in round six.

The Armenian-American grandmaster drew his last three games to win the tournament, with his title already guaranteed in round eight.

The favorite to win the Girls’ Junior was IM Carissa Yip, who won the 2021 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship (not the junior event). Lee, who fulfilled all her requirements for the IM title this year, showed that there’s a new junior chess queen in town.  

Newly IM, newly U.S. girls’ junior champion, Alice Lee. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Like the other two champions, Lee went undefeated over nine rounds. She won six games and drew three. Her victory with the black pieces against top-seed Yip in round seven was obviously the most important. In a wild, imbalanced endgame, Lee outplayed her opponent, lost the advantage, and then outplayed her opponent once again to win the 60-move marathon.

Lee also won the tournament with a round to spare, but that didn’t stop her from winning her last game against WCM Shreya Mangalam with Black, just for good measure. 

6/9 was enough to win clear first in the Junior section. Going into the last round, Mishra and IM Arthur Guo led with 5.5, and three players trailed just a half-point behind: GMs Brandon Jacobson, Andrew Hong, and Balaji Daggupati. The title was completely up for grabs in the ninth and last round.

The stars aligned for Mishra as his game with Daggupati ended in a draw, but Guo lost with White to IM Kirk Ghazarian. Hong and Jacobson, with a draw in their game, were unable to reach a potential tiebreaker with Mishra, who won the tournament outright.

Embraces after victory for Mishra. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Mishra won three games and drew six. His most tempestuous and complicated victory was in round four against Hong, who finished in second place last year and, again, tied with four others in second this year. 

But our featured game is his victory against IM Arthur Xu in the penultimate round, which was critical to placing him in contention for first place. After the slow move 18…Rfd8, Mishra aggressively sent Garry, the g-pawn, forward, and later Harry, the h-pawn, to win the exchange and then the game.

Mishra just needed a draw in the end to win the tournament, but he was even much better/winning for a brief moment in his last game. Despite his not earning the full point, fate still smiled upon the youngest grandmaster in history, who outgunned the four other contenders.


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