The 2023 American Cup Finals kicked off in exciting fashion with the first games between Hikaru Nakamura vs. Wesley So and Irina Krush vs. Alice Lee. In the Open, Nakamura sacrificed his queen for two rooks in a roller-coaster game that would ultimately end in a draw. Meanwhile Krush took a 1-0 lead after winning a very sharp first game as White.
Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment for all games in the Champions Bracket, with a rapid time control of 25+10 for the Elimination Bracket and a 10+5 time control for all playoff matches.
In this unique double-elimination format, the losers of each match will get relegated to the Elimination Bracket, where they will get a second chance to continue the tournament.
OPEN SECTION – CHAMPIONS BRACKET
NAKAMURA – SO | ½-½, 49 moves
What started out as a relatively quiet English Opening heated up rather quickly, as Nakamura blasted things open with multiple pawn breaks in the center. A few moves later Hikaru decided to sacrifice his queen, leaving himself two rooks and a bishop against So’s queen and knight. With several possible mating nets and a strong passed pawn, Nakamura then sacrificed his bishop as well, leaving Black’s king and knight paralyzed, but it wasn’t winning on the spot as So could still defend.
31.h4!! was an incredible shot from Nakamura, with idea 31…Nxf1 32.Rg5!+- (and Bg7 mate next).
A tremendously complicated position arose, where Wesley then missed a chance to consolidate his material advantage and possibly win the game, instead letting Nakamura off the hook with a draw and ending with an unexpected stalemate.