Favorites lead at U.S. Chess Championships
We’re just past the halfway point in the two most prestigious chess events in the country, and the pre-tournament favorites have represented well thus far in both events.
After seven rounds, hometown hero Hikaru Nakamura and reigning U.S. Champion Gata Kamsky are tied for the lead of the U.S. Championship. The two heavy hitters are slated for a head-to-head clash in round 10 of the tournament, which is scheduled for Friday, May 18.
In the U.S. Women’s Championship, the pre-tournament favorites, Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih, are also deadlocked atop the leaderboard after six rounds. The two have dominated the U.S. Women’s Championship since 2006: Zatonskih won in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011, and Krush captured the title in 2007, 2010.
The tournaments are both all-play-all round robin events this year, and the key matchup in the U.S. Women’s Championship takes place today, May 16, as Zatonskih will have the white pieces against Krush.
Woman's Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade and I are providing live commentary at the Chess Club in the Central West End each day from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and chess fans from all over the world are watching the action, videos, pics, standings and anything else U.S. Championship related at www.uschesschamps.com.
There have been a few surprises in the event, such as the oldest and lowest-rated participant Gregory Kaidanov beating Kamsky, the two-time reigning U.S. Champion. Also surprising is that the super-solid four-time U.S. Champion Yasser Seirawan has no draws! Yasser has two wins and four losses thus far, and clearly would like to improve his standing in the second half. Alexander Stripunsky started by losing in just 11 moves in round one (!!) and lost in round two as well, but has fought back to a 50 percent score of 3-3 after six rounds, a nice recovery.
The tournament will end this weekend, and two new champions will be crowned. With more than a quarter million dollars in prizes, it is easy to see why St. Louis is known as the chess capital of the United States!
Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.