US Women's Championship Preview

US Women's Championship Preview‎

WIM energia
32 | Middlegame

In this article I would like to give my thoughts on an important subject matter, but I warn you in advance there are no chess positions; I took a so- called chess break. I hope the reader will forgive me…  

Today, I woke up in the middle of the night and could not fall asleep; I have no need for my usual 6:30 AM alarm, at least for now. I know something big is approaching… Well no, I know that fashion week in NY is over and the Super Bowl is not yet here-- I am talking about an event that is really BIG and important.  The signs of it are: reporters call you to schedule interviews and photo sessions, your professor (who is your boss if you are in academia) instead of a normal “oh Iryna, how are the streaming potential measurements going?” asks  “how is your chess prep?”, when suddenly it turns out you have at least five coaches or seconds, who load you with last minute opening corrections and when you know that the next ten days of your life will be lived through 64 squares where the joy of winning or the misery of losing will be the only two feelings  you can experience.

As you probably guessed I am talking about the 2009 US Women's Chess Championship, where the top ten women in the nation will compete in a round robin system for a title and purse of 64,000$, the highest prize fund ever in the history of the championships. It is not just the prize fund that is the biggest in the history of women’s chess in US, it is also the professionalism with which the organizing committee treats it. The event is hosted in the best chess club in the US – St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center. The players get to live in Chase Plaza Hotel during the event. There are concerts and VIP receptions for the players. The commentators for the event are as amazing and entertaining as it can get: the newest GM in the U.S. Ben (Benito) Finegold and the well-known Jenn Shahade, author of “Chess Bitch.” It is going to be as upscale and fun as it has never been before!

So, who are these lucky women who get to be treated like queens? I am one of them but about the rest you can read on the official website: What do these ten women have in common? Love for chess is definitely one of the similarities. There were many others that came and left the chess world, who played US Championships as we do now but who at some point in their life could not find time for it. I understand them…I might be the next one; at some point it is too hard to combine chess and career or chess and family or chess, career and family. Only the most dedicated stay in the chess world, those who truly are in love with the game, who are addicted to the thrill of winning, who prefer to spend two hours at the board than at a shopping mall.

The above picture was taking at the 2005 US Chess Championship, on it you can see me, Ruzudan (Ruza) Goletiani, Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan. There were plenty of opportunities and reasons to quit chess: for Ruza and Anna becoming mothers, for me and Tatev a heavy college work load. But four and a half years later we are ready to play our next championship again. This leads me to the other thing that is common to the ten players: multitasking. Let’s do a little statistics here. There are only two women in the Championship who are professional chess players (and happen to be the top rated in the event, a coincidence??): Irina Krush and Anna. By professional players I mean those who play regularly and make a living by playing chess. Ruza’s profession is also chess-related but it is more teaching than playing. There are five college students: me, Tatev, Yun Fan, Alisa and Sabina. There are also four women who have young children to take care for. Most of us have to know how to manage our schedules well- weeks of missed school,  of children left with relatives just to participate in a chess event.. a high price? a stressful life? Yes, maybe we have to wake up at 6:30am every day, just to have two hours of chess practice before our work day at 9 starts; maybe we could spend time with our loved ones instead of being lonely in a hotel room with a computer, preparing for the next game; but it is all not so bad when we have something to look forward to. What I mean is when preparing for a very important event, such as this championship, where the prize fund is big and the title at stake is high, then the preparation is enjoyable and all the sacrifices are bearable in view of the future reward. Ok, there will be only one winner, sure.. but we all have hope, we all go to the Championship and hope to bring home the coveted title. We can sacrifice a lot for chess because we love the game, and I just hope this event will serve as a paragon of what women’s chess tournaments should be like.

This photo was taken from the 2008 US Championship after the closing ceremony. We were all happy and joyful because the event was over, but deep inside emotionally drained… US Championships take tons of energy, you have to believe me at my word. But on the picture we are young, strong, good looking, social, we bear the modern chess image – no more nerdy looking, weird antisocial people but rather outgoing and over-accomplished, successful people.

What do I predict for the tournament? It is obvious that there will be no short draws. Last year, it was a two horse race between Anna and Irina, but I think this year it will be at least four people competing for the first place because the field is much tighter in strength than the previous year. This tournament will be a debuting Championship for Yun Fan and Sabina Foisor, while all the other players have played in it at least once.  I also think there is a high chance of a playoff and that the last round will determine who becomes champion. Since it is a nerve-wracking event, I would expect high-quality games and top-notch preparation combined with horrible blunders, especially at the end of the games. The games will be uneven, hard-fought, dynamic and sharp, in other words fun to watch! So, take some time off from your work and watch the games online on the official website, or Monroi or ICC (I believe all three of them will show the games).  The rounds start at 2pm local time, October 4-8 and at 12pm October 10-12, the last round will be October 13 at 10am. Also, check out the reports on and the official website:

I hope to give you an update on the event in the next article. Wish me good luck, I will need it!

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