American Cup: Nakamura beats Sevian

by ChessBase
3/18/2023 – The 2023 American Cup kicked off with several decisive games on the first day of action, with Nakamura, Krush, Lee, & Tokhirjonova all taking a one-point lead in their initial matches. Their opponents (Sevian, Abrahamyan, Pourkashiyan, and Nemcova) will now have to win tomorrow’s game in order to force their match into a playoff. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

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Four winners

By IM Kostya Kavutskiy / Saint Louis Chess Club

The 2023 American Cup kicked off with several decisive games on the first day of action, with Nakamura, Krush, Lee, & Tokhirjonova all taking a one-point lead in their initial matches. Their opponents (Sevian, Abrahamyan, Pourkashiyan, and Nemcova) will now have to win tomorrow’s game in order to force their match into a playoff.

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment for all games in the Champions Bracket, with a rapid time control of 25+10 for the Elimination Bracket and a 10+5 time control for all playoff matches.

In this unique double-elimination format, the losers of each match will get relegated to the Elimination Bracket, where they will get a second chance to continue the tournament.

Open section - Champions bracket

Nakamura - Sevian | 1-0, 52 moves

The only decisive game in the Open Section saw Hikaru Nakamura grind down Sam Sevian in a double-rook endgame. A quiet variation of the Ruy Lopez gave Nakamura a small advantage out of the opening, which quickly grew into a very pleasant position as Sevian weakened his structure in order to trade pieces. With serious pressure on both sides of the board, Nakamura was able to convert the endgame into a full point.


After 27.Ke3, White was simply better all over the board.

Hikaru Nakamura

A smooth first win for Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

So - Shankland | ½-½, 37 moves

In a complex Ruy Lopez, Shankland was able to get a serious lead on the clock, as So burned a lot of time in the early middlegame. Shankland then opened up the position with a central pawn break, leading to tremendous complications. Although Black’s pawns were weak, Shankland was able to find a nice simplifying combination, liquidating into a drawn endgame.


25…Nxc3! 26.Nxc3 Rf5! was a nice find by Shankland, forcing immediate simplifications.

Sam Shankland

A comfortable first day draw for Shankland as Black | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Bryan Adams

Caruana - Robson | ½-½, 81 moves

A very sharp Catalan lead to a middlegame where Caruana had sacrificed a pawn for long-term compensation. But Robson dealt with the pressure well, eventually forcing Caruana to trade off into a drawish ending. In the end it was Robson who found himself up a pawn in a knight vs bishop endgame, but he wasn’t able to generate any winning chances and the game was later drawn.

Fabiano Caruana

Reigning champion Fabiano Caruana was held to a draw. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Crystal Fuller

Aronian - Dominguez | ½, ½, 103 moves

In the longest game of the round Dominguez opted for a solid but passive variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Aronian was not able to create much play until most of the pieces came off the board and the players entered a single rook endgame. With a tripled extra pawn, Aronian maintained some pressure and found some winning chances thanks to a creative rook lift, but precise defense by Dominguez allowed him to ultimately hold.


After 44.Rg6!? Aronian had some winning chances, but stronger was 44.Rg7! Kd6 45.Rg6!, with a better version of the endgame.

Levon Aronian

Aronian had a small chance but not enough for the full point | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Women’s section - Champions bracket

Krush - Abrahamyan | 1-0, 28 moves

A Nimzo-Indian saw Abrahamyan end up with an isolated queen pawn, with Krush maintaining a blockade on the d4-square. An interesting pawn sacrifice by Krush left Abrahamyan under huge pressure, both on the board and on the clock. After a further mistake by Black (20…Bc6), Krush was able to launch a decisive kingside attack, which resulted in her winning a full extra piece and the game.


After 23.Nf5!, Krush’s attack was simply devastating.

Irina Krush

The reigning American Women’s Cup Champion scored an excellent first win | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Crystal Fuller

Lee - Pourkashiyan | 1-0, 51 moves

Another Nimzo-Indian landed the players in an imbalanced pawn structure in the middlegame, with Lee holding a persistent edge thanks to her strong dark-squared bishop. As the pieces got traded off, accurate play by Lee allowed her to gain an extra pawn in a single rook endgame. Although the position could have been held, in time pressure Pourkashiyan committed a crucial mistake, and Lee was able to collect the full point.

Alice Lee

Last year’s runner-up Alice Lee also got off to a strong start | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Tokhirjonova - Nemcova | 1-0, 60 moves

An English Opening left Tokhirjonova with a serious strategic advantage in the middlegame, thanks to her powerful outpost on d5 for the knight and the weakness of Black’s backwards d6-pawn. As the queens came off Nemcova’s task only became more difficult, and a nice breakthrough on move 44 allowed Tokhirjonova to win the exchange and soon force resignation.


After 44.g5!, Tokhirjonova was able to break through on the kingside

Begim Tokhirjonova

'Begim' showed excellent technique today. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Crystal Fuller

Zatonskih - Paikidze | ½-½, 103 moves

The final game of the day saw an epic struggle between Zatosnkih and Paikidze. Playing with an isolated queen pawn, Paikidze was aimed to generate kingside counterplay. Zatonskih defended well, which ultimately led the game to immense complications. In mutual time pressure, Paikidze missed her chance to play a winning sacrifice, and soon had to settle for a drawn pawn up endgame.


After 37.Qb7, Paikidze could have won the game with 37…Bxf2+! 38.Kxf2 Qe3+ 39. Kf1 Rg4!-+, with no defense to Rf4+.

Nazi Paikidze

A missed opportunity for Nazí Paikidze | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Crystal Fuller

The 2023 American Cup continues Saturday, March 18 with tournament action live starting at 1:20PM CDT with Grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila, and IM Jovanka Houska on and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and channels.

All games - Open


All games - Women’s



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