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On Chess: 2012 U.S. Women's Champ. preview

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 29, 2012 - The 2012 U.S. Women's Chess Championship will be held May 8-20 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. This will mark the fourth year our fair city has hosted this prestigious event; and similar to last year, it will be held concurrently with the 2012 U.S. Championship. The U.S. Women’s Championship pits the top 10 American female players in a round-robin (all-play-all) format, and if this year’s tournament is anything like those in years past, it is sure to feature plenty of fighting chess.

The two perennial favorites are International Masters Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih, and this year is no different. These two women have played boards one and two on the U.S. Women’s Olympiad team for many years, and they also have had many exciting battles against one another throughout the years.

Here is one of my favorite games from three years ago, which ensured Anna would go on to victory in the 2009 U.S. Women's Championship.

Anna played the quiet Lasker variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. The game was approximately equal the first 20 moves, and it seemed a draw was the most likely outcome. However, Anna suddenly played the unexpected 22...b5!!, and Irina's queen was in terrible danger. Irina likely thought 22.Bxf5 would lead to a boring position and played 22.Bf1? in the hopes of gaining an edge. Anna finished precisely with 25...c5 and the game was soon over, as Irina could not avoid heavy material loss.

Players, kibitzers and commentators alike talked about the move 22...b5 for days to come. It was to be Anna's event, as she scored a scintillating 8.5 points of 9 games and easily took first place.

This year's event will be extremely tough as all of the top players accepted their invitations, and no game will be easy.

The field, listed from highest-rated to lowest, includes the following:

  • IM Anna Zatonskih 2563

  • IM Irina Krush 2500

  • WGM Camilla Baginskaite 2419

  • WGM Sabina Foisor 2413

  • WGM Tatev Abrahamyan 2350

  • WIM Viktorija Ni 2349

  • IM Rusudan Goletiani 2337

  • FM Alisa Melekhina 2321

  • WIM Iryna Zenyuk 2298

  • NM Alena Kats 2233

For more info on the round times, player bios, pictures and more, visit the new event website: www.uschesschamps.com.

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