Thursday, May 10

US Championship Underway in St. Louis

The tallest chess piece ever was unveiled in St. Louis! 14 feet, 6 inches
The 2012 US Chess Championships kicked off this week at the world class Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.  After a decade that saw a different format almost every year, the organizers wisely went back to the traditional Round-Robin (all-play-all).  Instead of inviting up to 64 participants, they picked only 12 this year, mind you, 12 of the top 14 by USCF rating.

Defending champion Kamsky opens with a win as White.
Top to bottom, the field is fully  stocked by strong Grandmasters.  The two favorites must be top seed Hikaru Nakamura (2775) and defending champion Gata Kamsky (2741), both rated in the top 14 of the World.  They both take a break from battling the elite in Europe to compete against their compatriots at home.  In my opinion, only one other player holds a realistic chance at winning: third seed Alexander Onischuk.  That being said, two other participants carry the distinction of being a former US Champion: Yasser Seirawan (1981, 1986, 1989, 2000) and Yury Shulman (2008).

The St. Louis chess club is second to none in luxury.
In recent years, one big story at each US Championship has been the development of young players, most notably Josh Friedel (4th in 2008), Robert Hess (2nd in 2009) and Sam Shankland (3rd in 2011).  Only Hess, now rated fourth best in the country, earned an invitation, while Shankland tragically ended up as the first person below the final cut.  Bay Area readers may recall that 16-year old Gregory Young actually qualified by winning last year's US Junior, but his academic obligations got in the way.  Consequently, the youngest player (no pun intended) in the tournament is 17-year old Ray Robson, who claimed his spot with a lofty USCF rating approaching 2700.

US Championship 
Standings Rd 6 of 11
  • 4.5 Hikaru Nakamura 
  • 4.0 Gata Kamsky
  • 3.5 Alexander Onischuk, Aleksandr Lenderman and Yury Shulman
  • 3.0 Gregory Kaidanov and Alexander Stripunsky
  • 2.5 Robert Hess, Varuzhan Akobian and Ray Robson 
  • 2.0 Yasser Seirawan
  • 1.5 Alejandro Ramirez

The 2012 Women's Chess Championship runs concurrently as a 10-player Round-Robin.  Analogous to the men's event, two women are heavy favorites: defending champion IM Anna Zatonskih (2510) and IM Irina Krush (2457).  They split the last six years, but Zatonskih has won four times.

US Women's Championship 
Leaders Rd 5 of 9
  • 4.0 Irina Krush
  • 3.5 Anna Zatonskih
  • 3.0 Sabina-Francesca Foisor, Rusudan Goletiani and Iryna Zenyuk

Daily rounds begin at 11:00am PDT through May 19, except for May 14.  The time control is 40/90, G/30 with a 30 second increment from move 1.  If necessary, a playoff for 1st place will take place on May 20.  For exciting live video coverage and daily reports, make sure to check out the official website or the Internet Chess Club.

Round-by-Round Games to Enjoy!

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