2022 American Cup: Double Elimination Chess


From April 18–29, 2022, the Saint Louis Chess Club held the American Cup. The tournament’s format was a rare one for chess: double elimination. With $300,000 in prize money on the line, each game counted.

Double Elimination

In the double elimination format, being knocked out of the winners’ bracket is not the end of one’s tournament. From the losers’ bracket, one can battle back to face the winners’ bracket victor in grand finals.

The double elimination format is popular in eSports such as Dota 2, a game that former World Chess Championship Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi has played. However, Double Elimination is rarely used in chess.

For the American Cup, the Saint Louis Chess Club called the winners’ bracket the “Championship Bracket” and the losers’ bracket the “Elimination Bracket.” The time control was 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment for all games in the Championship Bracket.

Open Division

In Group A, the open division, Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana won the Championship Bracket. In the grand finals, Caruana faced Grandmaster Levon Aronian, winner of the Elimination Bracket. After a draw in the first game of the grand finals, Caruana won the second game. Thus, Caruana was first and Aronian was second in the 2022 American Cup.

From the Saint Louis Chess Club press release, after Caruana won the second game in the two-game match against Aronian:


Caruana showed flawless technique to win the game and ultimately win the Open Section prize of $50,000 plus the $10,000 Champions Bracket bonus. 

“Every match in this tournament was quite tough but I took my chances in the most critical moments against each of my opponents,” said Fabiano Caruana.

In the American Cup Blitz tournament, held April 29, Caruana and Aronian tied for first.

Women’s Division

In Group B, the women’s division, FIDE Master Alice Lee was sent to the Elimination Bracket by Grandmaster Irina Krush. Here’s a position from Lee’s first match with Krush, which I first saw analyzed by FIDE Master Paul Whitehead and Grandmaster Nick de Firmian, during the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Café (online, see this link).

Lee won the Elimination Bracket. Then, she faced Krush in the grand finals. Lee lost a game, then drew a game, leaving Krush as the winner of the grand finals. Krush won $25,000 plus a $5,000 bonus for winning the Championship Bracket. According to the Saint Louis Chess Club press release, Krush said:


“I am very honored to win the title of The American Cup. I’ve been playing chess my whole life and it’s great to have competed and won a tournament called The American Cup.”

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on Amazon.com.

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