Sam Shankland had the tournament of his life in St. Louis this year. The reigning Olympic champion defeated a tough crowd, including this year's Candidates winner, to win the title of US chess champion. The $50,000 prize will be a nice addition to the +30 ELO points he'll take home. According to, Shankland has joined the 2700+ club for the first time, crossing the line with his win on the very last day.

The tournament

It was a hard-fought battle between some of the best players in the world. Varuzhan Akobian, a perennial favorite to go top three, started out strong with two wins, matching last year's US champ, Wesley So, before having a shockingly bad last nine rounds, ending with a -2 spread in a ninth-place tie.

Hikaru Nakamura, blitz god and one of the highest earning players of all time, has not been in form this year. He failed to qualify for the Candidates and finished dead even in a tie for fourth place here. At no point in this tournament did he have more wins than losses and his first six rounds were all ties.

The top two, Shankland and Fabiano Caruana, both had slow starts, but Shankland took a full point lead in the sixth round. After a tie to So in the seventh, Caruana caught up and the two shared the top spot until round nine when a draw against Nakamura let Shankland take a half-point advantage in the standings. Shankland maintained this advantage through the last two rounds, with both men winning out.

The two men drew head-to-head in round five.


Caruana had a good showing here. His performance rating was a 2837 and he came in second place. Still, he would have liked to have done better. After winning the Candidates tournament two months ago, Caruana is in a race against time to prepare for a battle against Magnus Carlsen in the world chess championship, a more highly coveted position.

This November, Caruana and Carlsen will play in London to see who gets to be number one and that's why a good showing here was vital. Carlsen noticed the half-point difference in this sly tweet

Carlsen has been the world champ since 2014 when he beat Vishy Anand, India's first Grand Master and world champ, in a clever rook v bishop endgame.

Women's champ

The women's US championship is finishing tomorrow. The first 11 rounds ended with a tie between Annie Wang and Nazi Paikidze. The play-off was unlikely as Wang had a significant lead in the 11th round against her opponent over the board and Paikidze had already drawn her match. Converting the win or taking a draw would have made her champion. Instead, she threw in a blunderous Ned5 and lost. This stunning ending will lead to a high stakes blitz game that Paikidze is expected to win. The only full Grand Master playing in the women's tournament, Irina Krush, came in third.