April 16, 2024

U.S. Championships begin at Saint Louis Chess Club

The 2023 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship kicked off on Thursday, October 5, at the Saint Louis Chess Club. The 11-round Round Robins offer a combined prize fund of over $400,000 and feature 24 of the country’s top players.

To celebrate the accomplishments of the 2023 U.S. Chess Hall of Fame inductees at the 2023 US Hall of Fame a special Induction Ceremony was held at Saint Louis City SC, CITYPARK, Ultra Club together with opening ceremony for the 2023 U.S. Chess and U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. The ceremony honored former U.S. Women Chess Champion and a pioneer of women’s chess development in the country Lisa Lane (who was unfortunate not to be able to attend), one of the greatest problem composers in chess history William Shinkman, and the 2008 U.S. Champion GM Yury Shulman for their many contributions to chess.

In his acceptance speech Yury Shulman recalled some wonderful moments from his long chess career | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The U.S. Championship features ten players rated 2700 or higher, as well as the U.S. Junior champion GM Abhimanyu Mishra and the U.S. Open champion GM Andrew Tang.

The U.S. Women’s Championship brought together five former champions: GM Irina Krush, IMs Anna Zatonskih, Carissa Yip, and Nazi Paikidze, and FM Jennifer Yu. Joining  them are a number of familiar competitors — including FM Alice Lee and WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova — and newcomers WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan and FM Ruiyang Yan.

GM Sam Sevian and IM Nazi Paikidze were the sole winners on the first day of the 2023 U.S. Chess Championships, picking up the early lead as several players missed decisive opportunities in their games.

2023 U.S. Championship

The tournament started off with all four top seeds facing off against each other, as Aronian was paired White against Caruana, and So against Dominguez. Both games were drawn without much drama, as was the game Xiong-Mishra. Missing an early chance was the 2018 U.S. Champion GM Sam Shankland, who didn’t notice that his opponent, GM Andrew Tang blundered with his move-order in the London System:

Tang – Shankland: 5…Qxb2! would have been a real cold shower, as 6.Nb5 Ne4! wins a second pawn for Black.

An early miss for Shankland, who jested that both players should be „kicked out of the tournament.“ | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

After missing this chance Shankland managed to gain an extra pawn in a rook endgame, but Tang defended precisely to hold the draw. Meanwhile the game Niemann-Swiercz saw both players overlook opportunities, first Niemann who decided against a promising rook sacrifice, then Swiercz who could have reached a winning endgame with an extra exchange.

Niemann – Swiercz: with less than a minute on his clock, Niemann couldn’t convince himself to play 32.Nxg5!, with a potent attack after 32…hxg5 33.Rf1 (heading to f5).

A near-brilliancy for GM Hans Niemann | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The only winner in the event was Sevian, who was in deep trouble against Robson out of the opening, as Robson had caught Sevian’s king in the center of the board. But a misstep allowed Sevian to untangle his position, and eventually overtake the initiative, scoring a decisive point.

Robson – Sevian: 42…Kg8! was a cold-blooded shot, preparing Rf8 and intending Qg5+ in case of Rxe7.

Although he was in real danger, the recent Chess9LX champion completely turned things around. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

2023 U.S. Women’s Championship

A critical match-up to kick off the tournament took place between top seed and eight-time champion GM Irina Krush against 2021 winner IM Carissa Yip. Although Krush achieved a completely winning position against Yip’s King’s Indian, she failed to capitalize and was even losing at one point, with the game eventually drawn.

Krush-Yip: 31.Ng4! would have made life very difficult for Black.

GM Irina Krush had a golden opportunity today, but let a key rival off the hook. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The games Yu – Abrahamyan, Zatonskih – Pourkashiyan, Yan – Cervantes, and Lee – Tokhirjonova were also drawn, with reigning champion WGM Jennifer Yu spoiling a large advantage in a middlegame with opposite colored bishops. Tokhirjonova also had Lee on the ropes, who eventually escaped in a drawn endgame.

The 2022 champion also built up a nice position, but couldn’t convert against Abrahamyan. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

The lone winner was two-time champion IM Nazi Paikidze, who found an incredible resource in order to convert a position with a full extra queen against FM Ashritha Eswaran:

Paikidze – Eswaran: 41.Kh4!! was the only winning move, with idea 41…Qe2 42.Qxg7+!! Kxg7 43.Bc3+ and mate next move.

The two-time champ (Paikidze) started off with a strong bid for her third national title. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes

The 2023 U.S. Chess Championships continue on October 6th, starting at 1:20 PM CDT. Catch all the action live with grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila, and Katerina Nemcova on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.

Written by uschess.org and IM Kostya Kavutskiy