U.S. Chess Championships Begin In St. Louis
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U.S. Chess Championships Begin In St. Louis

| 39 | Chess Event Coverage

The U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship both return to St. Louis tonight through April 30. The events are being hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club, now for the 10th straight year. The opening ceremony is tonight, and round-one games start tomorrow.

Much is new, yet so much is the same.

The club has a new name (gone is the clunky "Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis"). After a few experimental and creative organizational efforts in the early years, the format is now fairly static: two simple, 12-player round robins, with one rest day.

The $64,000 Fischer Prize is back for anyone able to score a perfect 11-0, but no one has gotten even more than halfway there, so Rex Sinquefield's money seems safe.

For the first time in this decade-long run, GM Gata Kamsky declined his invitation (with no reason given to the club). The world-record-setting chess piece outside the club has grown though.

And the big stars keep showing up. Returning this year will be America's "big three"—GM Fabiano Caruana, GM Hikaru Nakamura, and GM Wesley So, themselves the last three winners of the event.

Caruana is also going for a "big three" of his own, having just come off tournament wins at the Candidates' and at Grenke. So has not played a classical event since Berlin, while for Nakamura you have to go all the way back to February at the Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Before another preview this writer penned about the U.S. Championship, a poll was conducted asking fans: In a bet, would they prefer the three highest-rated GMs, or the "field" if given the collective choice of those nine players to win the title. A lopsided 87 percent would take the big three.

Think you know who will do well? Enter the U.S. Championship Sweepstakes here with a chance to earn free premium memberships.

Here's the full field. Note that players are invited based on USCF rating but we've posted their FIDE rating below.

2018 U.S. Championship (Open) | Participants

No. U.S. Fed Name Rating B-Year
1 1 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2804 1992
2 2 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 1987
3 3 GM So, Wesley 2786 1993
4 4 GM Onischuk, Alexander 2672 1975
5 5 GM Shankland, Samuel 2671 1991
6 7 GM Xiong, Jeffery 2665 2000
7 8 GM Robson, Ray 2660 1994
8 9 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 2647 1983
9 10 GM Zherebukh, Yaroslav 2640 1993
10 13 GM Lenderman, Aleksandr 2599 1989
11 13 GM Izoria, Zviad 2599 1984
12 23 GM Liang, Awonder 2552 2003

For the field, So qualifies as the returning champion. The rest qualify based on rating, except for GM Alex Lenderman, who got the automatic spot from the 2017 U.S. Open, and GM Yaroslav Zherebukh, the lone wildcard, and GM Awonder Liang, the 2017 U.S. Junior Champion.

There's another subplot to the event: qualification for the Olympiad team, which will be trying to defend its gold medal in Batumi, Georgia in September. Traditionally the winner of the U.S. championship in an Olympiad year earns an automatic spot. If one of the big three wins, that will be a moot point since he would qualify by rating anyway.

Outside of the automatic berth, this is the last event usually counted for rating qualification. Nakamura, So, and Caruana are of course safe. But several others are in a tight battle:

On the ladies' side, the "big two" return: GM Irina Krush and IM Anna Zatonskih, although they haven't protected their hegemony like the men have. After combining to win nine straight titles from 2007-2015, in the last two years a few newcomers have pushed them aside (IM Nazi Paikidze in 2016 and WGM Sabina Foisor in 2017).

Krush is still stuck on seven. She needs three more to set the all-time record for most U.S. women's championships.

A similar poll was conducted on Twitter asking if fans would prefer to take Krush+Zatonskih or the 10-player field. This time, a reversal, as about two-thirds wanted the masses.

Identifying a third leading lady is not so easy since there are several contenders. Paikidze has one title under her belt and has never had a bad U.S. championship. Foisor is the returning champion of course, while WGM Tatev Abrahamyan is more overdue than your car for an oil change.

FM Jennifer Yu leads the crop of young stars; she's actually third highest-rated in FIDE. With GM Larry Christiansen as her coach (himself a three-time winner of the U.S. championship), all Yu did was go 3-0 against Krush, Zatonskih and Paikidze last year, who were the three previous winners of the event.

2018 U.S. Women's Championship | Participants

No. U.S. Fed Name Rating B-Year
1 1 IM Zatonskih, Anna 2444 1978
2 2 GM Krush, Irina 2422 1983
3 3 FM Yu, Jennifer 2367 2002
4 4 WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev 2366 1988
5 5 IM Paikidze, Nazi 2352 1993
6 6 FM Wang, Annie 2321 2002
7 8 WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca 2308 1989
8 9 IM Derakhshani, Dorsa 2306 1998
9 9 IM Goletiani, Rusudan 2306 1980
10 12 WGM Sharevich, Anna 2281 1985
11 13 FM Gorti, Akshita 2252 2002
12 14 FM Feng, Maggie 2243 2000

You can follow all the action at the official website, on, or at Games will be daily at 1 p.m. Central Time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. UTC) from April 18-30, with April 24 the lone rest day. is on site and will be bringing you daily reports and video interviews.

The stalwart commentary team of GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade, and GM Maurice Ashley, returns. If you look closely at the picture, it seems a mystery guest from Poland might even be joining the team!

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