Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Exhausted So

This post is a collaboration with Mr Andrew Crosby who is an expert in chess gambits.
Andrew usually plays them in his games with great success. In addition, he is an active member of our virtual club taking part in our online tournaments and matches.

The American Chess Cup began in 2022 using a hybrid format of games and a double-elimination bracket. 2023 edition repeated this system and eight GMs took part facing each other in a two-game classical (90+30) mini-match elimination. The winner in every mini-match progressed to a further knock-out round while the losing players competed in a second elimination bracket. The winner of the latter could still win the tournament by beating the winner of the main bracket in the last round (or grand final).

Every mini-match consisted of two classical games, rapid, blitz, and eventually armageddon tiebreaks until a winner was decided.

This seemingly intricate system has the advantage of giving every player a second chance.

In the 2023 edition of the American Cup, GM Hikaru Nakamura was the winner in the main bracket. And because GM Wesley So won the elimination bracket, he earned the right to play the final match against Nakamura.

After both players tied their classical games, they proceeded to the tiebreaks, which So managed to win. However, because the tournament is a double-elimination knock-out, Nakamura had a second chance and both players faced each other in a new series of four rapid games. The first three were tough games but all ended in a draw. However, the shock came in the fourth game when probably due to the mental effort expended in the games played in the previous 10 days, Wesley So blundered leaving his queen trapped.

The Open Section had a prize fund of $200,000. As a winner, Nakamura earned $50,000 plus the $10,000 bonus for winning the championship bracket. On his part, Wesley So earned $35,000 for his brilliant effort.

In chess history there are others examples of trapped queens.

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