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More on what will likely be an ongoing story for a while, the reduction to one year of the three-year residency requirement to play in the US Championship and the US Olympiad teams. Since they are somewhat related I'll bundle in the matter of whether or not the US Champions should automatically qualify for the Olympiad.

Several American GMs I have spoken with are angry about the cut in the residency period. There were earlier negotiations with the USCF, which wanted to cut it to two years. One year was never even on the table. The drop to one year was apparently the initiative of GM Susan Polgar, related to her return to the game and desire to have the strongest possible team behind her in 2004. Anna Zatonskih is a 2400 from Ukraine who has been in the US for around six months and would be third board after Polgar and Krush.

The biggest surprise in all this is that the USCF made this decision without consulting or even telling the AF4C! This change will have a huge impact on the US Championship, especially in how it may attract many more foreign players to the ever-expanding prize fund the AF4C has created. Not consulting with them was ridiculous and may have dire consequences. The AF4C has considerable weight to throw around and they have made it clear their priority is using the Championship to build grassroots chess in the USA, not just make it the strongest possible event by Elo.

US women's champion Anna Hahn tells me that she wasn't even told about the meeting of top women that took place at the USCF offices last week. ChessBase software was handed out and further sponsorship and training are forthcoming, so who exactly formed this team and what were the criteria? There are several players higher on the rating list than several in this "Training Squad." And discarding the 2003 champion, who won a playoff for the title over two of those who were invited, is bizarre. Are they so desperate for medals that they will invalidate their own titles?

The actual team won't be selected until mid-2004 before the Menorca Olympiad. Plenty of time to recruit a few more internationals and perhaps bump Jennifer Shahade off the team. Joel Benjamin pointed out that she is probably the strongest native-born American woman player in history. As with what happened with Akobian and the Samford scholarship last year, it is hard to encourage American talents to focus on chess when they know that at any moment they could be supplanted by someone from a more mature chess culture.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 23, 2003 9:38 AM.

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