U.S. Chess Championships Round 1: Robson and Burke Take Lead


One of the most anticipated tournaments in America, the U.S. Chess Championships, had its first round on Wednesday, October 6. This event is, as usual, being hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club. Twelve players compete for the prizes fund of $194,000 in the U.S. Championship, while twelve women play for the $100,000 prize fund in the U.S. Women’s Championship.

2021 US Chess Championships

In the U.S. Championship, the top seeds are GMs Fabiano Caruana (2800 FIDE), Wesley So (2778), and Leinier Dominguez Perez (2760). It hosts a number of other extremely strong players, such as America’s top young talent GM Jeffery Xiong, Former U.S. champion GM Samuel Shankland and many others. It is worth pointing out that GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista is participating in the U.S. Championship for the first time since changing his federation from Cuba.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship event, the top players are GM Irina Krush (2429 FIDE), IM Anna Zatonskih (2422), and IM Carissa Yip (2402).

With this introduction behind, let’s see how the tournament began. And by no means did it begin as many expected! 

GM John Burke became one of the two leaders after the first round
GM John Burke became one of the two leaders after the first round
Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club. 

GMs John M. Burke and Ray Robson were the only players to win their games in the first round, versus GMs Dariusz Swiercz and Daniel Naroditsky respectively. Burke and Robson took the early lead in the tournament, while the top seeds Caruana, So, and Dominguez drew their games.

GM Ray Robson (left) was another hero of the first round. Note that the GM who graduated from the SPICE program of Webster University wears a SPICE mask. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

It is pretty astonishing that two of the favorites—Caruana and Dominguez—were in a lot of danger today. Caruana was positionally outplayed by Bruzon and miraculously survived as the former Cuban grandmaster got into time trouble. 

It is GM Bruzon’s first-ever US championship. In the first round, he gave the top seed Caruana a hard time and almost beat him with Black. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the Dominguez versus GM Alex Lenderman game, Dominguez mixed something up in the opening and was struggling to find active moves after Lenderman advanced his d-pawn. However, White misplayed the position and gave the top seed a break.

It is interesting to point out that both Robson and Burke have been members of the famous SPICE chess program at Webster University. Robson graduated a few years ago, while Burke just began his junior year. So are a few other players, such as Bruzon and Lenderman. In the female section, WGM Katerina Nemcova also graduated from Webster and was a SPICE member.

 U.S. Championship All Games Round 1

Round 1 Standings

2021 US Chess Championship standings round 1
2021 U.S. Chess Championship standings round 1

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, four games ended decisively: Krush outplayed WIM Megan Lee, Nemcova beat Zatonskih, WIM Ashritha Eswaran won against WGM Anna Sharevich, and finally, WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova beat WGM Tatev Abrahamyan in an absolutely crazy game, where at some point the engine was showing +75(!) for her opponent.

Another debutant of the US Championships, WGM Tokhirjonova, scored a win and became one of the leaders. Photo credit: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The first round offered us a number of surprising outcomes. There is no doubt the upcoming rounds will be even more exciting, so be sure that you follow the online streams and read the next tournament reports!

U.S. Women’s Championship All Games Round 1

Round 1 Standings

2021 U.S. Women's Championship
2021 U.S. Women’s Championship round 1 standings.

The 2021 U.S. Chess Championships take place October 5-19, 2021 in St. Louis to determine the next chess champions of the United States. The 2021 U.S. Women’s Championship is being held concurrently. Both events have the same format: 12-players, 11-round tournament with a $194,000 prize fund for the U.S. Championship and $100,000 for the Women’s U.S. Championship.

Earlier reports:


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