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America's Foundation for Chess (AF4C), which runs the US championship, is planning many more big changes for next year. First they changed the event to a large Swiss system and had the women play together with the men, both positive steps that have worked out well. Next they want to move the event from its home in Seattle, where the AF4C is based, possibly to Las Vegas. They also want to make competition fiercer by lowering the number of players who automatically qualify by rating, forcing the GMs to participate in what will be an increased number of qualifying events.

The latest news has the US Chess Federation (USCF) lowering the number of years of US residency required to play in the Championship from three to just one. The three-year rule was to discourage strong players from coming to the US just to pick up a paycheck in the US championship, which wasn't really much of a factor back when there wasn't much money in the event. Now with over a quarter-million dollars in prizes and a $25,000 first prize, coming to live in the US looks a lot more attractive to the many ex-Soviets who already spent much of their time here but hadn't bothered with formalizing their status.

The only points of dropping the three years to one is to increase the strength of the event and encourage/reward immigration, which will certainly happen. 2600+ players like Onischuk and Yudasin will be able to play next year. I don't imagine that this will have a positive impact on growing chess at a youth and grassroots level, ostensibly the mission of the AF4C, which is not directly related to the USCF. We await an official explanation for this decision, which may not even be final. But this looks like a potential conflict on the horizon between the USCF and the organization that has saved them and the US Championship, the AF4C.

I've never had much sympathy with American GMs who complain about strong GMs coming in to take the top prizes in the big US opens. You're a professional and hey, play better chess. But I don't think the US Championship should just become the World Open II. It can be a powerful tool to promote chess at many levels and if 80% of the participants have entered the US in the past two years it's not going to do much to promote the growth of US chess at the amateur and junior level. I have nothing at all against the foreign players and many of them are good friends of mine. But asking them to play regularly in US events and show they are going to stick around for a while isn't too much to ask.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 20, 2003 9:43 AM.

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