Dominguez Strikes With Black: The American Cup Day 3


Day three of The American Cup featured one win in each of the Championship Brackets. GM Leinier Dominguez won as Black against GM Levon Aronian in Group A and FM Alice Lee defeated WGM Tatev Abrahamyan in Group B.

In the Elimination Brackets, GMs Ray Robson and Wesley So knocked out GMs Sam Shankland and Jeffery Xiong in Group A. In Group B, IM Stavroula Tsolakidou and WGM Katerina Necomva eliminated IM Anna Zatonskih and FM Ruiyang Yan, respectively. Thus, 12 of the initial 16 players remain in the tournament.

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The American Cup games

The first day to feature Elimination Brackets essentially had four simultaneous events: a Championship Bracket in Groups A and B and an Elimination Bracket in Groups A and B. The two Championship Brackets featured four boards that played only one game today at the classical time control of 90+30. 

The two Elimination Brackets also consisted of four players each, but these sections featured rapid chess games at the 25+10 time control. In the event of a tied score, which did occur, two tiebreak games would be played at the 10+5 time control. Day three indeed featured yet another tied score after that and spectators were treated to two armageddon games, one in Group A (which Robson won as White) and the other in Group B (which Nemcova won as Black).

The decisive game in the Group A Championship Bracket, Aronian vs. Dominguez, featured a win with the black pieces in a 5.Nc3 Petroff, considered to be White’s most ambitious line these days. White essayed the move 12.Ng5, sending his opponent into an approximately 26-minute think.

They followed Borisek-Bogner 2018 until Aronian’s 14.Bb5N, after which Dominguez felt that Black is already better. “All my pieces are going to the center with tempo … Maybe it’s not lost, but it’s certainly a very nice position right from the opening,” he said. Dominguez suggested 14.g4 may have been better and figured that his opponent seemed to have confused his opening lines.

In a sharp, opposide-side-castling position, Dominguez was faster, and after the slow move 21.g3 he broke through on the dark squares to abruptly end the game on move 28. Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Aronian-Dominguez American Cup
A great start for Dominguez, while Aronian is now in a must-win situation with the black pieces on Saturday and anything but a win will send him to the Elimination Bracket. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The other game, Caruana vs. Sevian, featured a Nimzo-Indian Defense with the novelty Rb1 by Caruana, also on move 14, but this one was sound. A possible shot at a small advantage may have been 19.e5, but the newly-2700-rated Sevian held his own competently, allowed no real chances, and simplified into a drawn rook endgame to secure the half-point.

The Group A Elimination Bracket, on the other hand, had some real fireworks, with an armageddon game as the cherry on top at the end. Starting with the initial rapid play, however, So won a convincing game after his opponent either miscalculated or confused his lines with 11.Nxd4??. After a long sequence, So won two centralized knights for one rook and went on to convert the material advantage with instructive, sit-down-take-notes technique:

What followed after was a heartbreaker for Xiong. Needing a win in the second game, he managed to outplay his must-draw opponent in a slightly better endgame until he was suddenly winning with a tremendous passed a-pawn. Up two pawns ultimately, with the engine giving an evaluation of over +5 at its peak, he fell apart and conceded the draw. With this result, Xiong was the first to be eliminated from the tournament.

So-Xiong American Cup
So-Xiong. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The other matchup, between Shankland and Robson, had draws in the first two games and went to the playoffs. Then each player went on to win with the white pieces, first Robson and then Shankland. The score was settled in the armageddon game where Robson allowed counterplay with a timely 26…c5!?, then equality, but quick and perhaps overconfident play by Shankland allowed the younger grandmaster to take the reins and win the game.

Robson, who eliminated Shankland from the tournament, remarked after: “I managed to get away with a win somehow.”

The American Cup 2022 results

The biggest upset of the day had to be 12-year-old Lee’s victory over the experienced Abrahamyan with the white pieces. In a timid Queen’s Gambit Declined where White played 4.e3 without developing the dark-squared bishop, Black played overly aggressively and stepped in the wrong direction with 20…Rg6?!, attempting to manufacture an attack that wasn’t quite there. After making powerful centralizing moves in response, Lee reflected: “I felt I was better after 23.Rac1, but I didn’t think it was that easily winning.” 

Her opponent tried to force the attack with 24…Bxh3?? and collapsed after the younger master took the free piece and defended accurately.

Alice Lee American Cup
Alice Lee. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The other game, Krush vs. Gulrukhbegim, started in the Nimzo-Indian Defense and heated up quickly. After a long tactical sequence, Black sacrificed the exchange for the bishop pair and a pawn. On move 37, Black declined a threefold repetition and shortly after won another pawn. After several more moves, the game went to the wire as both players played solely on the increment. Many more moves were made in only 30 seconds each and one very clear win was missed after 49.Qe8?? and 49…Kg7? were played.

Black to move and win:

Not only would Black have won a third pawn with 49…Qxf4, but after 50.Kh1 Qf1+ 51.Kh2, 51…Bd5 wins on the spot, threatening a mate on g2 that cannot be adequately defended. The game, however, ended in a draw, a moral victory for the eight-time U.S. Women’s Champion. 

The Elimination Bracket in Group B treated viewers to a rarity: four wins by Black. Each player lost with the white pieces in her first game but dealt the counterpunch in the second round, with the black pieces this time, sending both matches into the playoffs. 

A very amusing and surprising tactic occurred in the first game between Zatonskih vs. Tsolakidou, which was missed as White had 48 seconds on her clock.

White to move and win:

Tsolakidou won a nice game after playing creatively on the white side of the Catalan, first meeting the standard 4…Bb4+ with an unusual 4.Nc3 (instead of 4.Bd2), and then “self-trapping” her own bishop via 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4!?, although the engine approves. Ultimately, a direct and not-exactly-sound kingside attack (she was mostly worse from moves 24 until a final blunder by her opponent on move 30) finished the game. 

On the other board, the playoffs led to an armageddon game that was played simultaneously with Robson vs. Shankland. Yan won the first playoff game, followed by a win by Nemcova, but in the armageddon game, the latter was able to even pull off a win with the black pieces when she only needed a draw. 

All Games Day 3

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.

Earlier reports:


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