Wesley So Wins 2020 U.S. Chess Championship
So wins his second U.S. title. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Wesley So Wins 2020 U.S. Chess Championship

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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80 | Chess Event Coverage

Two draws on the final day were enough for GM Wesley So to win the 2020 U.S. Championship and the $40,000 first prize. It was his second title that came three years after his first.

So's victory can be regarded among some of the best performances of his career. To remain undefeated in this field was no small feat, and to win seven games was truly magnificent. 

His 9/11 was the third-best score in U.S. Championship history. It was close to GM Bobby Fischer's 9.5/11 victory in 1966, the last time the great American played in the national championship. The best score ever was, of course, Fischer's 11/11 in 1963.

"It feels really great; this really means a lot to me, having the title of U.S. Champion. It's so big," So said. "When I first won in 2017, I really wanted to win the first time. After that I had a bit of a slump; my rating has gone down. I thought it's really difficult to win it a second time, and I was having already some doubts about whether I was going to. Winning a second title is really big to me."

After drawing a quiet game with GM Ray Robson, So's clash with GM Hikaru Nakamura in the final round wasn't much of a game either. For 25 moves, the players repeated their draw from the 2018 championship, which was also played in the last round in the year GM Sam Shankland won the title.

Wesley So 2020 U.S. Championship
So's interview after winning the 2020 U.S. Championship. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

GM Jeffery Xiong impressed as well. His sole second place behind So (worthy of $25,000) came with an 8.5/11 score that often is good enough for victory in 11-rounders. Together with the $4,000 he won for another second place in the Junior Championship earlier this month, he had a nice payday for his 20th birthday on October 30.

After his unfortunate loss to So the other day, Xiong wanted to put pressure on the leader in the penultimate round. In other words, he wanted to try and beat GM Aleksandr Lenderman, but the latter found a brilliant tactic that liquidated into a drawn endgame:

Jeffery Xiong 2020 U.S.Championship
Jeffery Xiong being interviewed. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Xiong's second place was not a guarantee at all during the final round. He was actually in trouble after miscalculating in the early middlegame but ended up profiting from Ramirez's poor form:

It was a tournament that everyone will remember for many years—the one (hopefully, the only one!) that was held online because of the pandemic. Nakamura will also remember it for what was probably his worst-ever result in the national championship.

Understandably, he was probably somewhat tilted (or mouse slipped 1.b3) as he went 1.b4 in the penultimate round:

Hikaru Nakamura 2020 U.S. Championship
Hikaru Nakamura finished on minus one. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

U.S. Championship | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 So, Wesley 2741 2894 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 9.0/11
2 Xiong, Jeffery 2730 2846 0 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 8.5/11
3 Robson, Ray 2605 2777 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 0 1 ½ 1 7.5/11
4 Dominguez Perez, Leinier 2786 2661 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 6.0/11
5 Shankland, Sam 2609 2645 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 5.5/11 26
6 Liang, Awonder 2397 2664 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 5.5/11 22.25
7 Sevian, Samuel 2571 2616 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 5.0/11 28.25
8 Nakamura, Hikaru 2829 2594 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 5.0/11 24
9 Lenderman, Aleksandr 2642 2579 0 ½ 1 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 4.5/11
10 Swiercz, Dariusz 2649 2509 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 3.5/11
11 Ramirez, Alejandro 2579 2478 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 3.0/11 14.25
12 Moradiabadi, Elshan 2566 2479 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.0/11 14

Games rounds 10-11

After the last round, a special online closing ceremony was held for the Juniors, Girls, Seniors, Women, and general U.S. Championships. It included a video message by GM Garry Kasparov, who said, among other things:

"Chess goes back centuries, from oriental palaces to European coffeehouses and now to Zoom and Netflix! The game adapts because the players adapt, the sponsors adapt, and chess keeps growing. Its beauty is innate, eternal, even as the environment changes around it."


The closing ceremony with Kasparov starting at 32:24.

The 2020 U.S. Championship was played October 26-29 on lichess. It was a 12-player single round-robin with a time control of 25 minutes plus a five-second increment. The total prize fund was $150,000.


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