U.S. Women’s Chess Chamionship Sees Thrilling Second Round
Defending U.S. women’s chess champion WGM Anna Zatonskih is using her versatility to keep her opponents off balance at the 2009 championship at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis . After two games, she was the only player to move to 2-0, reflecting two victories. Zatonskih played a solid opening variation that she seldom uses to frustrate the aggressive style of Battsetseg Tsagaan. “I’m expecting Zatonskih to surprise us in many games,” said Grandmaster-elect Ben Finegold, who provided live commentary.
The top-seeded Zatonskih, of Long Island, N.Y., avoided the trap of overlooking Tsagaan, of Ellicott City, Md., the seven-time Mongolian women’s champion. Zatonskih insisted she was not placing undue emphasis on her upcoming encounter with second-seeded IM Irina Krush, with whom she shared an infamous incident at last year’s championship.
In 2008, the pair played a controversial championship playoff. After the pair were tied following nine rounds of regular play, the two women played an “Armageddon” blitz match to decide the winner. Both women had their time dip below 5 seconds, so Zatonskih made several random moves quickly, and Krush overstepped the time limit. Zatonskih had one second remaining and claimed victory. Krush, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was nonplussed by the strategy and claimed Zatonskih began making her moves before she was legally allowed. Video replays were inconclusive and the accusations flew faster than the pieces. Since then, the two have competed as American teammates, but have not had a chance to face off over the board. They meet in round three on Tuesday.
In other round two action, Krush make a remarkable comeback from a horrible opening position to defeat third-seeded Rusudan Goletiani, of Hartsdale, N.Y. “It was a complete opening disaster,” Krush said.
The youngest competitor, 18-year-old Alisa Melekhina, of Philadelphia, battled the oldest player, 42-year-old Camilla Baginskaite, of Sioux Falls, S.D. Like the first round, Melekhina faced a tough defense, but again she was able to hold the balance and score one-half point for the drawn game.
Round three will begin Tuesday at 2 p.m. Games can be followed live at http://www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Womens-Championship-2009/Live-Coverage.
For a complete listing of all events surrounding the 2009 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, go to http://www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Womens-Championship-2009.
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization that opened in July 2008. Founded by retired investment fund manager Rex Sinquefield, it has more than 500 members. The club offers free classes, discounted tournament entry fees and discounted merchandise for club members. For more information, please visit www.saintlouischessclub.org, or call 314-361-CHESS.
Anna Zatonskih (left) and Irina Krush, No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the United States. Photo credit Betsy Dynako.