US Championship: how chess should be

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Ibragimov-KamskyAmong the 2009 U.S. Championship's 24 participants are the top dozen of the country, but event that is not enough to call it a top-notch event. The venue, prize fund and coverage comes close to what we, FIDE, ACP, GMs and fans, can normally only dream about. This is how chess should be.

The 2009 U.S. Chess Championship takes place May 7-17th at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The tournament is a 9-round event with 24 participants, using the Swiss system with one round per day and a rest day between rounds 5 and 6. The participants are Kamsky, Nakamura, Onischuk, Shulman, Akobian, Becerra, Ehlvest, Kaidanov, Christiansen, Ibragimov, Benjamin, Shabalov (currently America's top 12!), Gulko, Khachiyan, Friedel, Hess, Robson, Sevillano, Zatonskih, Krush, Shankland, Brooks, Lawton and Hughes.

Home towns

These 24 invited players include:

  • the top 12 American players by rating, using the April rating supplement;
  • the top two female players by rating, using the April rating supplement;
  • the 2008 U.S. Junior Closed Champion;
  • the 2008 U.S. Open Champion;
  • the 2009 U.S. State Champion of Champions;
  • seven wild card spots.

The prize fund is $130,000; the winner will receive $35,000, with additional cash prizes awarded to all participants, including $2,000 to the last-place entrant. Cash prizes will be divided equally among tied competitors.

Naturally the prize fund is the main reason that all of the best players in the country accepted their invitation. But none of them wil be disappointed about the conditions either, which can be compared to those of the best chess tournaments in the world. They stay in a 4-star hotel close to the venue, which is something special itself.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, which opened in July 2008, is one of best venues in the country. It was founded by retired investment fund manager Rex Sinquefield an already has nearly 500 members, surpassing its original goal of 300 for its first year of operation by 67 percent.


The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis inside...

Venue outside

...and outside

There we have it. It all starts with money, and in this case the United States Chess Federation is very lucky to have a patron like Mr Sinquefield who makes it all possible. There's even a $64,000 bonus for any player who scores a 9-0 sweepin, in memory of late chess champion Bobby Fischer who won all of his 11 games in the 1963-64 U.S. championship, and a jackpot bonus for a "clear" first-place winner.

The Fischer Memorial Prize won't be awarded, that's already clear, since after three rounds no player is left with a 100% score. Kamsky, Nakamura, Shulman and Friedel are sharing the lead with 2.5/3 while two-times champ Boris Gulko is still waiting for his first (half) point. He was upset by Tyler Hughes, Ray Robson and Irina Krush. Several other surprising results are included in the games selection.

Game selection rounds 1-3



The first round, with 2006 Champion Alexander Onischuk


2007 World Cup winner and 1991 (!) US Champ Gata Kamsky


2005 US Champ Hikaru Nakamura vs two-times winner Alex Shabalov

And what we didn't even mention yet: the absolutely brilliant tournament website. They offer a huge number of news items daily, including excellent photos and videos, all done very professionally. Next to the live games (via Monroi) there's the option to follow live commentary by WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Emil Sutovsky, courtesy of ICC Chess.FM.

Shahade and Sutovsky

Live coverage by WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Emil Sutovsky

Naturally ICC is also involved, and their multimedia and video specialist Macauley Peterson, a familiar name also here at ChessVibes, runs the the daily live coverage on ICC and the Chess.FM blog (which has interview clips with Peter Svidler and Ray Robson at the time of writing) and the daily video round reports, together with Jen Shahade:

Photos by Betsy Dynako, Official Event Photographer


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