Wesley So wins the 2021 US Chess Championship

GM Wesley So won the tiebreaks in the playoffs and is the 2021 US Chess Champion. After 11 rounds in the 2021 US Chess Championship, three GMs shared first place: So, Fabiano Caruana and Sam Sevian. These three played a quick play-off to determine the winner.

Three quick games were enough to break the tie as So won both of his games to become the US champion. He won $50,000 for first place, while Caruana and Sevian both made $30,000.

How to look?
The games of the US Chess Championship can be found here: Open | Ladies.

The format for the playoffs was simple: first, the players would have a round-robin tournament with a 10-minute time control with a 2-second delay. If no winner were determined, the remaining ties would be broken by blitz games with a 3 minute time check and a 2 second delay. Finally, if it were necessary, the outcome would be determined by Armageddon games.

The first match of the day was between Caruana and So. Caruana had the white pieces and he had great success in England’s opening in this tournament and in general, which has to be explained in large part by the vast amount of experience he has gained in these positions playing them in his World Cup games. 2018 game against GM Magnus Carlsen. Of course, these positions are almost identical to the Rossolimo variant of the Sicilian, which is why they are often called the Reverse Rossolimo.

As a result, Caruana decided to open with 1.c4 and went for the 4.e4 variant of the English opening, the rule highly popularized by Carlsen himself. Black has some decent setups, but instead of forcing variations, went for a quiet positional setup.

Black got a position where he didn’t have much space, but white had a very limited light-square bishop and a somewhat unreliable pawn structure. So things got a little better for a while, but the queen swap on move 22 gave Caruana the initiative. On move 33, Caruana found a brilliant piece sacrifice and won, but serious time problems started to arise, resulting in several errors. So managed to save, and then white made some more inaccurate decisions and found himself in a lost position. He eventually lost in time while trying to make his 46th move.

The next match was between Sevian and Caruana. Sevian had the white pieces and these two players had already played with the same suits in round six of the classic segment of the tournament. That match ended in a sensational victory for Sevian, as the leading group played a little too ambitious.

This match was important not only for the two players, but also for So, because if that match ended in a draw, it would be enough for him to tie Sevian with White to become the 2021 US chess champion. Interestingly, a draw would also be a great result for Sevian, as then So would want to tie him up, allowing Sevian to take second place. If he wanted more than that, then of course he had to play for the win.

Instead of going for a draw-like variant, Sevian opted for the bishop’s opening and got a fairly complex position. Several pieces were soon exchanged, but Caruana had a plan to grab space on the kingside, but his opponent failed to comply adequately. Shortly afterwards, black grabbed a lot of space and developed a significant amount of pressure. This resulted in Sevian losing a piece and the game, restoring the intrigue somewhat.

In game two of tie-breaks, Caruana defeated Sevian with Black to restore the intrigue. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Now, if Sevian beat So, there would be another draw; if not, So would be the champion and there would be a battle for second place, but the important thing was that Sevian now had to play for a win in the last round.

Unfortunately for him, giving up all space and opening the game too quickly resulted in Black’s position breaking up and becoming the next American champion. Let’s see how that happened:

While commenting on his win in the interview with GM Maurice Ashley, So behaved very modestly and said the following: “I thought the tournament was pretty much over yesterday, Fabiano won almost three games in a row. It just gave me a new breath of life that the tournament was not over yet that I might still have some chances I just wanted to play fast today and make some good moves Fabi is playing for the win with both suits soon I found myself in a very difficult position “Probably missed a win somewhere in the endgame. I played without pressure: I didn’t expect this play-off, so I was just playing chess: if there are opportunities, good; if I lose, that’s fine.”

It just gave me a new breath of life that the tournament wasn’t over yet. I just wanted to play fast today and make some good moves. When the opportunities come, good; if I lose, that’s fine.
—Wesley So

American champions Wesly So.  2021
The Saint Louis Chess Club promptly congratulated So on his win. Image: Twitter.

US Tiebreak Games Championship

The 2021 United States Chess Championships will take place from October 5-19, 2021 in St. Louis to determine the next United States chess champions. At the same time, the 2021 US Women’s Championship will be held. Both events are the same format: 12-player, 11-round tournament with a prize pool of $194,000 for the US Championship and $100,000 for the US Women’s Championship.


Earlier messages:

  • US Chess Championships R11: Caruana, So, Sevian advances to tiebreaks
  • US Chess Championships R10: Caruana Share First, Yip Women’s Champion
  • US R9 Chess Championship: Leaders Draw, Caruana Wins
  • US Chess Championships R8: Lenderman Survives Fear, Everyone Draws
  • US Chess Championships R7: Sevian, so join leaders
  • US Chess Championships R6: Leaders Draw, Sevian Beats Caruana
  • US Chess Championships R5: Naroditsky defeats Caruana, Lenderman shares first
  • US R4 Chess Championship: Robson Sole Leader
  • US Chess Championships R3: Caruana, Sevian Join Leaders
  • US Chess Championships R2: So joins leaders, Naroditsky defeats Xiong
  • US R1 Chess Championship: Robson, Burke Take the Lead
  • American Chess Championships: all information

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