American Cup: Nakamura beats Dominguez, So takes down Caruana

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/21/2023 – Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So advanced to the final match of the champions bracket in the open section of the American Cup after beating Leinier Dominguez and Fabiano Caruana respectively. Among the women, Irina Krush and Alice Lee scored 1½-½ wins to set up a rematch from last year’s edition in the final. The losers of the day still have chances to win both events, via the elimination brackets. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

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Naka and So keep on winning

In last year’s inaugural edition of the American Cup, Fabiano Caruana triumphed in style by winning four matches in a row. This time around, if he wants to win the event again, he will need to do it via the elimination bracket, as he was defeated by Wesley So in the rapid playoffs of the semifinals.

On Tuesday, So will face Hikaru Nakamura in the champions bracket’s final. Naka did not play in the inaugural event, and has shown the strongest chess so far this year. The 5-time US champion defeated both Sevian and Leinier Dominguez by 1½-½ scores, not needing to play tiebreaks at all. His two wins and two draws in classical games allowed him to climb to fifth place in the live ratings list.

Caruana and Dominguez remain in contention in the elimination bracket, together with Aronian and Sam Shankland.

Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura does not play over-the-board chess often, but when he does, he shows that he has not lost his tremendous level | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Nakamura 1½ - ½ Dominguez

A draw in Sunday’s first game was followed by a remarkable win for Nakamura with the black pieces. Dominguez got into his usual deep time trouble and was unable to survive in a complex middlegame. Dominguez’s coolness while playing a move with one second on the clock (in a classical game) is admirable nonetheless.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

So 2½ - 1½ Caruana

Two draws in classical games meant this match would be decided in rapid playoffs. So scored with the white pieces in the first 10-minute encounter.


White has an extra pawn in this position with queens and knights, but converting his advantage into a win (in a rapid game) was no trivial task against a tough defender. So needed almost twenty more moves to secure the full point.

A 125-move draw in the next game granted So the ticket to the final. This time, it was Caruana who had an extra pawn, but there was no way to make progress in a locked-down setup with bishops of opposite colours.


This is the position on move 57. The pawn structure remained intact until a draw was finally agreed almost seventy moves later.


American Chess Cup 2023

Krush and Lee to meet again in champions bracket

The same two players who reached the final in 2022 won their semifinal matches in this year’s edition. Irina Krush and Alice Lee defeated Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova and Nazi Paikidze respectively to set up a rematch in Tuesday’s final of the women’s tournament. Both did it by scoring 1½-½ wins in the classical portion of their matches.

Moreover, Krush and Lee will face each other for a third time in the American Cup, as Lee lost twice to Krush in 2022 after regaining the right to play the 8-time US women’s champion by beating Tatev Abrahamyan in the elimination bracket last year. At 13, Lee is already the eighth highest-rated under-20 woman player in the world.

Paikidze and Tokhirjonova joined Abrahamyan and Atousa Puorkashiyan in the women’s elimination bracket.

Alice Lee

Incredibly strong at 13 — Alice Lee | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Krush 1½ - ½ Tokhirjonova

After winning game 1 with white, Krush agreed to a draw from a better position to advance to the final in the champions bracket.


Black has a superior position here, with his connected passers on the kingside ready to move forward when the time is right. Krush only needed a half point, though, and agreed to a draw.


Irina Krush

8-time US women’s champion Irina Krush | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Lee 1½ - ½ Paikidze

A double-edged game on Monday saw Lee getting a strong initiative on the queenside. Playing white, a combative Paikidze tried to untangle her position via 26.e4 in the following position — but that only made matters worse.


Lee replied by 26...Bb4, and later simplified the position to make the most of her material advantage. The 13-year-old secured the full point twelve moves later.


American Chess Cup 2023


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.