Are Ben & Yasser Worthy?

Apr 13, 2011, 3:03 PM |

There has been much written on the internet concerning whether or not GMs Ben Finegold and Yasser Seirawan should be playing in the 2011 US Championship. There is an entry on the Boylston Chess Club weblog: Something Fishy at the 2011 US Chess Championships (
Rihel writes, "The ones I want to highlight are in bold. First up is GM Ben Finegold. According the most recent USCF top list, Ben is ranked 33rd in the US, yet he is given a wild card spot. One can only speculate that this is because he works for the Saint Louis Chess Club, which is hosting the Championship. I can think of many other players that deserved a slot. Instead, most of those players are now forced to duke it out in the qualifying tournament. Ben Finegold is a strong player, no doubt. He deserves a spot-- in the qualifying tournament with the other strong(er) players."
I could not disagree more!
Some years ago there was a lower class player who came to the House of Pain the years the University of Georgia beat the Georgia Institute of Technology in FOOTBALL. He did not care about basketball, baseball, or even chess. If the bulldogs lost the football game, we would not see him until the next year, only if UGA won. We called him 'Foghorn' for obvious reasons. His mantra was what the club needed was a Grandmaster in residence. If the Foghorn blew, chances were he was tooting his horn for a GM for the club. When the cost of having a GM around was mentioned, Foghorn would change the subject to, "How 'bout dem Dawgs!"
The St Louis Chess Club is fortunate enough to have a GM in residence. Although I have not had the pleasure of meeting GM Ben Finegold, one of the members of the Atlanta Chess Club, Larry Stanfield, from Michigan, spoke very highly of Mr Finegold. From what I've read on the SLCC website, he seems like a good fellow and a real positive addition to the St Louis chesscommunity.
Before writing this, I took time to go to the SLCC website and noticed that Ben had participated in a one-day event this past weekend, in lieu of spending his time preparing for the US Championship. Ben writes, "The CCSCSL has decided to run four one-day tournaments in 2011 held on a Sunday. The first such event was last Sunday, April 3, and twenty-six players participated. I was the highest rated (by quite a bit)..." (
He gives every game he played that day against much lower rated opposition. He had everything to lose, and not much to gain, yet he played at the club. I have never faced a Grandmaster in a rated game. I did, though, contest several games with an IM of GM ability, Boris Kogan. Upon reflection, I sure would have liked to have played at least one GM. The only way I would now have the opportunity would be if someone were to hold an open US Senior with decent playing conditions, time limits, etc., worth going to the trouble to attend. I expect to be dead if and when that should occur, unfortunately.
The GM played five opponents with an average rating of 1723. Those players are the kind of players a GM would expect to face in a simul. The next weekend he will be facing off with some of the best chess players in the country.I feel strongly that GM Finegold should be participating in the US Chess Championship "because he works for the Saint Louis Chess Club, which is hosting the Championship."
On the USCF website one finds this comment in Post: #211728 by BMcC on Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:47 am: "I am completely amazed at the thought of Yasser getting a wild card spot for this US Championship. From his USCF records, the last time he played in this country was 2003 in that year's US championship. At that time he was barely playing enough games to stay eligible for the US championship. I think there is plenty of room for immigrants in US chess, but cmon, this guy was born in Syria, has been living in Holland and someone thinks he deserves a valuable spot in the US championship??"
You can read this rest of what this fellow has to say, if interested, at
All I will say about the above is that one of the great things about our country is that everyone has the right to express his opinion, no matter how erroneous it may be.

According to Rihel, on the Boylston chess club weblog, GM Yasser Seirawan should not be playing because, "...according the USCF rules for the US Championship, Yasser does not seem to qualify." Rules are made to be broken! Bobby Fischer would never have become World Champion if this guy had his way. I have no idea how old this fellow is, but I cannot imagine that he was around in the 1980's. So many new people come into the chess world with memories extending back only to around the turn of the century, that they have lost sight of who Yasser Seirawan was and what he meant to US chess. As a fan of the Royal game, I'm here to tell you that I have been a fan of Yasser, and his king-walks, for decades. As a Senior, I look forward with great anticipation to learn how he will fare against the younger generation! I will be living and dying with every move he makes, and with my friend, Larry C as well. I just hope they do not have to face-off! I abhor the thought of pulling for a dreaded draw!