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On Chess: 2012 U.S. chess championships preview

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 7, 2012 - The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is hosting the U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship for the fourth consecutive year. These events, the two most prestigious chess tournaments in the country, will be held concurrently May 7-20, with the first round of play to take place on May 8. The festivities will kick off with a beautiful opening ceremony at the Missouri Botanical Garden on May 7.

This year’s U.S. championship will be the highest rated in history, with an average U.S. Chess Federation rating over 2700! The two big favorites are back-to-back reigning champion Gata Kamsky and world–ranked No. 6 Hikaru Nakamura. But young players like Robert Hess and Ray Robson, and veterans like Yasser Seirawan and Alexander Onischuk, all are capable of capturing the crown.

Ray is going to be one of the new recruits of Webster University starting in the fall; and at 17, he is the youngest competitor in the field. The only newcomer to the event is Alejandro Ramirez, but Alejandro is no stranger to the Chess Club. He has played in a number of our tournaments over the past few years, and  even served as my temporary replacement as the GM in residence at the Chess Club when I was out of the country last summer.

The U.S. championship field in USCF rating order is as follows:

  1. GM Hikaru Nakamura (2848)
  2. GM Gata Kamsky (2804)
  3. GM Alexander Onischuk (2736)
  4. GM Yasser Seirawan (2723)
  5. GM Robert Hess (2717)
  6. GM Varuzhan Akobian (2709)
  7. GM Alexander Stripunsky (2700)
  8. GM Ray Robson (2674)
  9. GM Alejandro Ramirez (2668)
  10. GM Yury Shulman (2666)
  11. GM Aleksandr Lenderman (2665)
  12. GM Gregory Kaidanov (2658)

The Women’s Championship also will be very strong, with the two usual favorites Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush likely battling it out for first place. Irina and Anna have won every U.S. Women’s Championship since 2006 and have developed an exciting rivalry. The last woman to capture the title other than Irina or Anna was Rusa Goletiani in 2005! Here is the women’s field in USCF rating order:

  1. IM Anna Zatonskih (2563)
  2. IM Irina Krush (2500)
  3. WGM Camilla Baginskaite (2419)
  4. WGM Sabina Foisor (2413)
  5. WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (2350)
  6. WIM Viktorija Ni (2349)
  7. IM Rusudan Goletiani (2337)
  8. FM Alisa Melekhina (2321)
  9. WIM Iryna Zenyuk (2298)
  10. NM Alena Kats (2233)

The formats of the tournaments are similar as both are round-robin events, which is a fancy term for all-play-all. The tournaments will take place on the top level of the Chess Club with live commentary provided downstairs by WGM Jennifer Shahade and yours truly. The games normally last three to five hours each, and the general public is encouraged to come to the Chess Club to watch the action and commentary live. Members of the chess club (just $30 a year for students or $80 a year for adults) get full access to the two-week-long event, or individual round-by-round tickets are also available for $10.