The American Cup Day 1: Sevian Upsets So

GM Sam Sevian is on the brink of a 2700+ rating after beating the reigning U.S. Champion Wesley So in the first round of The American Cup. This brand new tournament, featuring a double elimination bracket, started on Wednesday in St. Louis, USA.

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Similar to the U.S. Championships, The American Cup has an “open” group (with male players only) and a women’s group playing side by side, all but one representing the United States. In this new tournament a fresh and somewhat complicated format is being used for both of these groups.

The events are double elimination brackets, with the first round consisting of two classical games (90+30) followed by a tiebreak in case of a tie (two 10+5 games followed by armageddon). So far so good.

However, players who win their first-round matches move to a “Champions Bracket,” while the losers of the first round move to an “Elimination Bracket” which doesn’t have classical games but rapid (25+10). Only when you lose a match in the elimination bracket you are knocked out from the tournament.

“The format is very exciting,” said GM Levon Aronian about it. “Normally, one mistake and you’re gone in a knockout tournament. Here you have a chance to be kind of a zombie and come back to life!”

The American Cup 2022
The women’s group of The American Cup, with on the left arbiter Chris Bird. Photo: Austin Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The first day of the open group saw two winners. We’re starting with Sevian’s upset victory, which got him to a 2699.2 live rating. If he draws with So on Thursday, Sevian will break 2700 for the first time (while pushing his opponent to the elimination bracket).

This game was a Nimzo-Indian that soon looked more like an Exchange Queen’s Gambit Declined, with White putting his king’s knight on e2. Where GM Mikhail Botvinnik was the one demonstrating the power of castling kingside and pushing the center, So tried an even sharper setup, castling queenside and quickly sacrificing a pawn for a fast attack.

However, returning the pawn and putting his king’s bishop on e5 was an excellent decision from Sevian, who soon took over the initiative, despite leaving his queenside rook and bishop untouched. Black got a winning position but it should be noted that in time trouble, So missed a chance to save himself.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov will be added soon.

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Sam Sevian 2022
Sam Sevian. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The other winner was GM Levon Aronian, who played his first OTB game in the Saint Louis Chess Club under the American flag. He played GM Ray Robson for the first time ever, and won in some kind of a reversed Benoni.

Aronian won a pawn, after what he felt was an inaccurate move by Robson, but had to give up his fianchetto bishop for it. Then Robson failed to immediately find the correct setup that would have given enough compensation. Aronian’s knowledge of the rook endgame, where pushing the f4-pawn wins the game, was instructive:

Levon Aronian American Cup
Levon Aronian won his first classical game on American soil since switching federations to the U.S. Photo: Austin Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The first game to finish was the draw between GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Sam Shankland, who played a very theoretical Italian that was quite similar to Esipenko-Giri from Wijk aan Zee this year. This time, the trade of three pawns for a piece led to equality.

Also in Caruana-Xiong, a Petroff, the result was a draw despite wild developments on the board and missed chances for both players. You can find all games at the end of the report. 

The American Cup 2022 results

Of the three wins scored in the women’s group, WGM Begim Tokhirjonova‘s was perhaps the most impressive as she nicely outplayed WGM Katerina Nemcova with the black pieces using lots of little tactics here and there.

However, the only draw of the round was the most spectacular game of all. Greece’s IM Stavroula Tsolakidou, the only player among the 16 not representing the U.S but who studies at Saint Louis University (SLU), should have finished off her devastating attack: 

The American Cup 2022 Women results

With each match consisting of two games, So, Robson, Yan, Nemcova, and Abrahamyan are now all in a must-win situation in order to force a rapid playoff.

All Games Day 1

The American Cup is an over-the-board event in St. Louis featuring some of the best grandmasters playing for the United States. Players compete in two distinct double-elimination events for a piece of the $300,000 prize fund.

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