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On chess: Chess matches all over the world

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 17, 2011 - Apparently April showers brought May chess matches. High-profile matches are being played all over the world, and yours truly is getting in on the mix. A lot of people have wished me luck over the past two weeks regarding my upcoming "tournament." They are referring to my upcoming match with America's youngest-ever grandmaster, 16-year-old Ray Robson. While tournaments have from eight to hundreds of participants, matches pit two players against one another through a series of games. For the first time in my life I will play a slow-rated match, mano-a-mano.

The headliner to my match with Robson is St. Louis resident and the No. 1 player in the United States, Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, who will face Ukranian super-GM and former FIDE World Champion, Ruslan Ponomariov. Nakamura can become the highest-rated American player in history if he scores at least 4.5 points in his first six games. If he achieves this score, he will surpass Bobby Fischer's famous record!

Both matches will take place May 17-25 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Live commentary will be available onsite with International Master John Donaldson and Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade.

The most interesting match in May so far has been in Kazan, Russia. My readers will remember the great victory by American champion Gata Kamsky over former World Champion Veselin Topalov. This time Kamsky was paired with Israeli No. 1 Boris Gelfand. After four draws in the standard slow games, the match went to a rapid chess playoff. It looked like Kamsky was in the driver's seat, winning the third rapid game (with the black pieces, no less) and that he only needed to draw with white to ensure a spot in the finals. However, disaster struck and Gelfand won with the black pieces to force a blitz overtime match, which he eventually won.

The surprise final match will be between Gelfand and the Russian Alexander Grischuk, who has already upset two of the favorites, Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian. The winner faces Viswanathan Anand in 2012 for the World Championship. Nakamura, who commented on the matches at a press conference at the Chess Club, said the happiest person must surely be Anand. Anand clearly was expecting to play one of three favorites (Aronian, Kramnik or Topalov) and is now a big favorite to defend his title of World Champion.

Normally I like to show a nice recent game played by a strong grandmaster, but all of the above made me nostalgic for the days when I was beating Boris Gelfand. Boris castled queenside in a typical hedgehog formation (black pawns at a6, b6, d6, and e6) and although it created exciting complications, it was a bit more suicidal than he expected. I whipped up a quick attack and won in nice style when Gelfand could not get anything going against my safe king.

Hopefully I will fare as well against young Robson. Wish me luck as I take on one of the true rising stars of American chess!{jcomments on}

Grandmaster Ben Finegold, 41, has been playing chess since he was 5 years old. In 2009, he attained the coveted title of international grandmaster and, in January 2010, accepted a position as the Resident Grandmaster at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Ben has been a professional chess teacher for more than 20 years, and his engaging personality, passion for chess and extensive experience make him one of the most sought-after instructors in the nation.

This chess blog will appear from time to time.

Ben Finegold
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.