Nakamura With Black Defeats Dominguez, So Overcomes Caruana
Nakamura's live FIDE rating sits at 2775 after defeating Dominguez. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Nakamura With Black Defeats Dominguez, So Overcomes Caruana

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

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 Leinier Dominguez in the middlegame to take his match 1.5-0.5, while So required rapid playoffs to overcome 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 but won her match by a 1.5-0.5 margin. FM Alice Lee with the black pieces also dispatched IM Nazi Paikidze in a convincing display by the rising star.

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

How to watch?

The games of The American Cup can be found on our live events platform: Open | Women and will be broadcast daily with commentary at The rounds start at 11 a.m. Pacific/20:00 CET each day. 

"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 Monday, 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.

Although 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. 

After drawing their second classical game in a 52-move, Nimzo-Indian Defense where they averaged 98.8-percent accuracy, So and Caruana needed playoffs to determine who would be 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 for 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 permanent structural disadvantage, Caruana desperately tried to hold his position together, but So gradually improved his advantage, eventually inciting his opponent who had dropped below 10 seconds to blunder.

The win proved decisive for the world number-eight as he was able to hold in the next game after quickly trading into an opposite-colored bishop and rook ending. Although the game was played 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 Monday, 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's swindling. Despite garnering a strong edge, Krush opted to secure the match result with threefold repetition and booked her spot in the championship final. (If Krush had won, 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:

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 13-year-old opponent crashed through decisively.

Lee will now face Krush in the championship bracket final. 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)

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.

Previous coverage:

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