Folks, there is something very special about the upcoming U.S. Chess Championships in St. Louis. People here are excited, they're smiling, and the media assault is beginning. Newspapers, radio stations and television stations have started to realize that a major event is happening here. And I heard a chess ad on the radio yesterday touting this tournament. I have NEVER heard a radio advertising spot featuring chess!
Of course, Chess Life Online is all over this - Jennifer Shahade has been in town for a few days already, and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has brought in photographer extraordinaire Betsy Dynako and Chess.FM media developer and 2008 Chess Journalist of the Year Macauley Peterson.
Here is the CLO article with commentary from Greg Shahade and links to his fantasy picks. And here is Jennifer's description of her exhausting simul last weekend, which she described as perhaps her most difficult ever. An earlier article profiled club founder and benefactor Rex Sinquefield. And here we have a short chat between St. Louis Chess Club executive director Tony Rich and Jennifer Shahade:
Tonight there was a well-done and well-attended panel discussion concerning the new book Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess, to which Jennifer Shahade contributed. A book signing followed. It was half chess, half art appreciation night. One of the panelists noted that there is a French saying that translates, "Stupid like a painter," and apparently Duchamp, with his world-class art and excellent chess play, set out to disprove this idiom, at least in his own life.
At one point in the discussion, Jennifer was discussing the fact that most decisive chess games end in resignation rather than checkmate, noting that checkmate is just about all the non-chess-playing world understands about chess. She then turned to local master Charles Lawton, one of the wildcard participants in the upcoming championship and asked him, "You'll play for checkmate, right?" The affable Lawton, who carries an enviable rating of 2358 but will be playing opponents much higher rated, replied, "I'll play for punishment!"
Macauley Peterson reminded me that Jennifer will be providing live coverage of tournament action, with GM Emil Sutovsky, and that Macauley and Jennifer will also be providing wrap-up coverage afterward. Be sure to watch for photographs from Betsy Dynako, who was deftly snapping photos all night long. Jennifer mentioned to me that she appreciates having a female photographer around - at one point someone's shoes caught Jennifer's attention and she asked Betsy if she could take a picture. Betsy responded that she had already done so! Turns out they were Pradas (guys, I don't know what they are, either).
Readers, if you are anywhere near St. Louis, or can manage to get here, this is a first-class operation not to be missed. A media area has been set aside for daily interviews with the players, and the online coverage of this event is likely to eclipse all past U.S. championships. The fact that players are here who have declined recent championships speaks volumes for the job done by the host Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis (which I have been inaccurately referring to as the "St. Louis Chess Club").
On Wednesday evening there will be the opening reception for the Marcel Duchamp exhibition at the nearby St. Louis University Museum of Art, an exhibition that will continue through August 16. Thursday evening is the tournament opening celebration and drawing of colors, and the games begin this Friday. I can't wait.