Superbowl of Chess in St. Louis

| 0 | Amazing Games

The top 24 chess players in the country begin competing this hour in the 2009 U.S. Championship. Also known as "The Super Bowl of Chess" (it's the same as the gridiron version, but without the cheerleaders, testosterone, or multimillion dollar commercial breaks) the competition will be held at The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis in the Central West End.

Favorites to take home the $200,000 top prize include the defending champion, grandmaster Yury Shulman, and the "Big Three of American Chess" grandmasters Gata Kamsky, Hikaru Nakamura, and Alexander Onischuk.

Also competing is St. Louis native Charles Lawton. A certified chess master, Lawton is a two-time winner of both the St. Louis District Championship and the Missouri State Championship. The 56 year-old Wash U alum is also the only African-American in the field.
With a rating of 2358 (compared to Kamsky's 2800), Lawton was a "wildcard" invite to the competition. In other words, he's no Bobby Fischer but he's still pretty damn good.

He's highly regarded for his skill at "blitz," the ten-minute speed version of the game and you can tell just from talking to him that he has a brilliant mind. He currently works as an electrical engineer at a local company that "builds equipment to detect and diagnose bacterial infections." After graduating from SLU High School, he joined the navy, where it was his job to run a submarine's nuclear reactor. He starts stories with lines like, "The first time I beat a grandmaster..."

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