Krush Extends Queenship, Wesley So Defeats Nakamura In Tiebreaker
Irina Krush secured her second American Cup win by defeating Alice Lee. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Krush Extends Queenship, Wesley So Defeats Nakamura In Tiebreaker

| 20 | Chess Event Coverage

It took two full games and two messy tiebreakers before the victors of the action of day nine in The American Cup were decided.

In the Women's event, GM Irina Krush needed only a draw, but lost the regulation game before ultimately deciding the match and the title in rapid play against FM Alice Lee.

In the Open event, GM Wesley So had to win the match against GM Hikaru Nakamura to secure a third match. He did so by drawing the regulation game and then winning the tiebreaker convincingly.

The decisive tiebreaking match of the Open Event of the 2023 American Cup will start on Sunday, March 26, 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. 

There were no less than five (out of six) decisive games on day nine, which made it an exciting one for the online spectators and a rather stressful one for the players involved.

Regicide averted

For anyone interested in ancient history, and here I'm not referring to what happened before the year 2000, but rather at least 700-800 years ago, there was a propensity for murdering the monarchs: kings, queens, emperors, chiefs as well as more mundane people in charge, for the sole purpose of assuming the role by the schemer or schemers themselves. It seemed it was more the exception than the rule that the person in charge lived happily ever after and died of old age. 

In the Women's event, there can be no debating that Krush has been the queen. Last year, she convincingly won every match and never lost a game. This year, despite an unbeaten record, had been less convincing but nevertheless won every match. A remarkable record.

Lee was facing the unenviable task of having to shake off three previous match losses, two last year and one in the champions bracket of this year's event, a loss in game one of the final, and thus having to win game two of their match to secure a tiebreaker and then having to win another match the following day. All this against a player she had never beaten. But if recent history has taught us anything, the 13-year-old is resilient, doesn't give up, and will keep fighting regardless of how the odds are stacked against her.

In their first game of the match, Krush won quite convincingly with the white pieces, never really letting Lee get the kind of play that she typically excels in—sharp, messy, complicated positions where raw calculation and nerves of steel are the deciding factors.

Thus, in their second game, Lee would have to come up with something special to have a chance. However, as IM Nazi Paikidze demonstrated in the elimination bracket finals, Lee can be outprepared, particularly in multiple games in a row, because her opening knowledge is still one of the weaker spots in her armor.

Krush's opening of choice against Lee's 1.d4 was the ultra-solid 4...Bxd2+ Bogo-Indian, a past favorite of Mr. Solid himself, Swedish GM Ulf Andersson, the 1980s version of former world champion GM Boris Spassky, as well as occasionally the current world champion, GM Magnus Carlsen.

If White is not careful and aggressive, Black easily achieves a balanced game and a good version of Queen's Gambit Declined. Lee clearly didn't seem prepared for this opening and allowed Krush an improved version of the QGD Exchange Variation; if anything, Black almost looked better. However, despite needing only a draw, Krush went into a complicated line, miscalculated, then equalized, only to mess it all up again and eventually lose.

This was Lee's first win against Krush and also Krush's first loss in her two American Cup campaigns. The loss was mostly due to Irina defeating herself rather than anything special done by Lee. That, however, should not take anything away from Lee, who defeated a GM in a must-win situation as a 13-year-old.

Alice Lee beat Irina Krush for the first time to secure a tiebreaker. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

After the match, Krush revealed that she had shaken off the loss by discussing the merits and future of Chess960 (or Fischer Random) with her coach ahead of the tiebreaker, which we should add, had nothing to do with Fischer Random.

In the tiebreaker, the colors were repeated from the previous game, thus Krush played Black again, and once more chose the 4,,,Bxd2 Bogo-Indian. Her game plan in the previous game had worked; it was only the execution that had failed in the end. This time, Lee reacted better and soon had excellent chances, but after some missed opportunities, the game ended in a rook ending where Lee failed to hold the draw.

The second game now required a win by Lee with the black pieces. That, however, was not to be...

With that draw, Krush averted the attempted regicide and retained her queenship, at least until next year, when Lee will return a year older, stronger, and more experienced.

Irina Krush took care of business in the tiebreaker. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the Open event, So had the white pieces after the previous day's wild play where he apparently missed some winning chances. However, after solid preparation by both players, there was nothing to be had, and the game soon petered out into a drawn rook ending.

On to the rapid play tiebreaker. In the champions bracket, Nakamura had previously eliminated So after a tiebreaker, but So has in the past also beaten Nakamura in a rapid tiebreaker, for instance, in the Global Championship in November last year. This time, we got two exciting and error-filled and error-fueled battles.

In game one, Nakamura got off to a good start but eventually, the battle swung the other way...

Lots of missed opportunities = great frustration. Nakamura resigns in disgust. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Our Game of the Day has been annotated by GM Rafael Leitao.

In the second game, Nakamura had to win, but it quickly became obvious that So was both highly motivated and absolutely on fire. His 17...Bf3!? is probably more stunning than actually good, but it tells us everything we need to know about his mindset.

In the concluding phase of the game, So several times avoided continuations that are better or winning for him in favor of lines that simplify and would lead closer to the desired draw.

Ultimately, White overplayed his hand and had to resign from a lost position.

Certainly a disappointing outcome for Nakamura but a very satisfying one for So, as everything is now up in the air for Sunday's rapid showdown. 

Nakamura shows his disappointment after losing the second game in the tiebreaker. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

All Games

Concerning the prizes in the Women's event, Krush picks up $25,000 plus the $5,000 bonus for winning the championship bracket. Lee gets a cool $18,000 for her brilliant effort. Paikidze, who lost the final of the elimination bracket, receives a check for $12,000.

The remaining prize winners are WGM Begim Tokhirjonova, $10,000; WGM Tatev Abrahamyan and WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan, each $9,000; and WGM Katerina Nemcova and IM Anna Zatonskih, each $6,000.

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:

More from FM chansen64
After Blunder By So In 4th Game, Nakamura Wins The American Cup

After Blunder By So In 4th Game, Nakamura Wins The American Cup

Third Game Is A Charm For Lee, So In Elimination Brackets

Third Game Is A Charm For Lee, So In Elimination Brackets