American Cup: Aronian and Robson reach Champions Bracket final

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/16/2024 – Levon Aronian and Ray Robson defeated Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So respectively to reach the final of the Champions Bracket in the open section of the American Cup. Meanwhile, the women’s tournament saw Irina Krush and Alice Lee getting clear wins to advance to the final in the Champions Bracket for a third year in a row. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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So loses on time

Only the participants who survived in the Champions Bracket played on Friday at the American Cup. In the open section, the semifinals were won by Levon Aronian and Ray Robson. Aronian beat Fabiano Caruana after drawing the four games ‘in regulation’ and grabbing back-to-back wins in the blitz tiebreakers. Robson, on his part, obtained a 3-1 victory over So in what turned out to be a very interesting match.

Caruana and So were thus knocked down to the Elimination Bracket. On Saturday, the fifth day of action in Saint Louis, Caruana is set to face Leinier Dominguez, while So will face Sam Sevian. In the Elimination Bracket, each match starts with four rapid games (15”+10’), which might be followed by blitz playoffs if needed.

In last year’s edition, Caruana was also defeated by Aronian — in the Elimination Bracket, in Armageddon.

American Chess Cup 2024

American Chess Cup 2024

Robson entered the second day of his match against So with a 1-point advantage. After drawing the classical game with white, Robson only needed a draw in rapid to win the match. The 29-year-old reached a rook and knight endgame which actually favoured Black (Robson). However, So found a tricky recourse that suddenly gave him hopes to get an unexpected win.

46.Ne6 invites Black to capture with the f-pawn, opening up the file, with the white pawn two squares away from promotion and the rook protecting it from behind. Robson found the correct reply in 46...Rh4+, but after 47.Kg2 erred by taking the bait with 47...fxe6

Robson could have kept his advantage with the forcing 47...Nd4, surely a difficult move to find with 15 seconds on the clock — though the simpler 47...g5 was also strong.

After the text, however, there followed 48.f7 Rf4 49.f8Q Rxf8 50.Rxf8 Kg7

The position is a tablebase draw, but So’s ability to create something out of nothing was certainly remarkable — and in a practical game White had realistic chances of converting the position into a win.

The encounter ended up lasting 76 moves, with So unexpectedly losing on time. The position continued to be drawn according to the tablebases, as Robson demonstrated great technical ability throughout.

Wesley So, Ray Robson

Wesley So and Ray Robson are excellent friends | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All games - Champions Bracket

Women’s: Krush and Lee in yet another final

This is the third edition of the American Cup, and for a third year in a row Irina Krush and Alice Lee reached the final of the Champions Bracket in the women’s section. Both in 2022 and 2023, Krush won the final of the ‘upper bracket’, Lee bounced back by winning the ‘lower bracket’ and Krush won the rematch to grab back-to-back titles.

Both finalists entered the second day of their confrontations with a 2-point lead. Lee grabbed a third win over Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova to end the match at once, while Krush lost her classical encounter against Nazi Paikidze before securing match victory with a win in the rapid.

In the Elimination Bracket, Tokhirjonova is set to face Zoey Tang on Saturday while Paikidze faces Jennifer Yu.

American Chess Cup 2024

American Chess Cup 2024

Facing Tokhirjonova’s risky setup — she was in a must-win situation — Lee quickly got an edge with the white pieces. It did not take long before Black’s position collapsed, and it was all fun for the 14-year-old prodigy once every tactical idea in the position seemed to work for her.

White is already two pawns up and has a strong central passer on the d-file, but 32.Qxe6 is a deadly shot that resolves matters quickly. There followed 32...Qxc4 33.Nf6+, and Tokhirjonova threw in the towel.

33...Kg7 loses the queen, as the bishop would be pinned by the rook, while 33...Kh8 also gives way to 34.Qxc4, since 34...Bxc4 would allow 35.Rxh7#. Brilliant!

Alice Lee

Alice Lee | Photo: Lennart Ootes

All games - Champions Bracket


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.