Greengard's ChessNinja.com

US Championship Updates

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Been updating the site. Another set of qualifiers that include a Dirt hand, IM Jesse Kraai. (Collective Dirt reader karma is directed toward all players who post in the comments or send me stuff.) After some initial confusion caused by a whiskey overload in the Seattle area (guessing), Mean Dean Ippolito became the narrow winner of the qualifier grand prix. Kudos. (When I see him I'll try to get the correct score of his game against Becerra at the HB Challenge, which has mystified me for a while.) If anyone has photos of qualifiers Batchimeg Tuvshintugs or Alan Stein, or can contact them to request a pic, I'd appreciate it. [Thanks to John Fernandez and Michael Aigner]

The qualifiers are over and there are just five spots left in the field. Two are the usual wildcards, one is a special scholastic spot. Then there are two "leftover" spots created when women's qualifying spots went unclaimed. There are many good arguments about how best to distribute those last two spots. The initially obvious logic of giving them to other women players by some formula doesn't sound as logical when you consider it was apathy on the part of women players that led to these extra spots in the first place. They needed to show up and score 50% and in most cases they (the strong women) didn't bother to show up. We wouldn't want to contradict of the entire point of the qualifiers. (That this may form an argument against the women's qualifying formula itself is another matter.)

That argument also has its flaws. It's hard to say it's better to give a spot to someone who didn't try to qualify than to someone who tried (repeatedly) and failed. But it would be nice to see some formula applied to these spots. I'd vote for them going to the next two finishers on the grand prix point list, Sarkar and Kleiman. They both played in six (!) of the eight qualifiers and both came close to qualifying directly.

There's also a new brilliancy prize, women-only. Joyce Jillson, who knew? If I sponsor a $500 ChessNinja prize, what should it be for? Best chicken factor? Worst dressed?


Best chicken factor, clearly.

Yes, but there's already the Larsen Fighting Chess Prize, which encourages along similar lines.

Just sent you a link, Mig, I have a Stein pic on the NYM site.

Obviously Sarkar and Kleiman make good candidates. I'd also suggest Igor Schneider (just got pipped after an amazing tournament in Philly) and Sal Bercys.

It's still a bit weird that a rule applied to some potential qualifiers (West) but not others (Kelly C-F). Better to just have a rule for next year, not change horses in midstream.

And whatever happened to the cheating accusations?

Thanks for pic, much appreciated. Need a photo credit?

The rule change was needed to patch an exploit, if you will. You couldn't have people qualifying by just showing up and paying the fee. As has been semi-joked about, you could end up with a six-year-old girl who doesn't know how all the pieces move. And 50% isn't asking all that much, to be honest. I have no idea how West ended up with two byes, but something has to be done to protect the integrity of the event. It was unfortunate to add the 50% rule after the horse had left the barn already (no offense, Kelly!), but it was better than the alternative of doing nothing. Two or three mistakes in the name of even-handedness would still be two or three mistakes.

I haven't heard any more about the cheating stuff. I suppose I'll have to write everyone to ask if they are planning to make statements and/or take any action. If not I'll just post a chronology based on the email I have received. But most people have insisted on anonymity so it's not terribly useful. Nobody wants to rock the boat, as usual.

>>Best chicken factor? Worst dressed?>>

Most prolific blogger .

Nah, no photo credit needed.

And yes, that's a fair point. Although it has been amazing to see the HUGE amount of women who never even tried to qualify. My gut feeling tells me the whole Olympiad thing cost us a lot of interest from the top players.

That being said, if you guys desperately need a player in San Diego, I'm sure I have some vacation days :)

I agree with giving the wildcard spots to those next in line on the GP list. Those who have tried hardest to qualify should be rewarded for their efforts IMO, as opposed to those who have played in only a handful of events or less.

Plus, they each shelled out $300 extra trying to qualify, unless they played in a qualifier without paying the $75 fee, which I doubt. I'm pretty sure you have to pay the fee to get the GP points, though I'm not sure that was checked.

If I get the funding for it I'd like to set up a real blog system for the championship this time around. (Last time I had two days.) Let the players blog as much as they like from their own computers and allow people to comment on the entries, like here. But I wouldn't want it to become a distraction for the players.

Although I'm in general opposed to gender-specific invitations, I agree with JF--changing the rules after some events have already taken place does seem a little too drastic a response. Better to just complete the cycle as originally announced and announce the change for the next cycle.

So given that, I think the first thing I'd do is look and see if there are any women who did pay the qualifying fee who were eliminated by the midcycle rule change because they didn't make 50%. If so,those would be the first ones I'd consider for the open spots.

After all, it could as easily be argued that the spots stayed open because of the change in the rules, yes? They might not have been filled with candidates of the caliber the organizers had hoped for, but thats an entirely different issue.

Again, my own preference would be to do away with the gender-specific spots altogether, but having all qualifiers qualify under the same set of rules does seem to me worthwhile in itself.


So you would give the spot to an unrated woman who scored, say, 1/7 but paid the fee? If something is broken that badly you have to fix it. It wasn't unfair to anyone. The rules simply didn't exist at first because the problem wasn't envisioned. That doesn't mean others were punished unduly by the rules being created. They were aware of the change well before participating, which is more relevant. No one was retroactively eliminated.

Vanessa West qualifies for your description. At the North American Open she scored 3/7. And two of her points (!) were full-point byes. That event was the only one with a spot that stayed open because of the change. In the other no one showed up at all. Meanwhile Kelly Cotrell is in with 2/6 at the National Open (the other spot there was uncontested, which is what led to the rule creation), Natasha Christiansen is in with 3/9 at the World Open, and Epstein with 3.5/9 at Foxwoods.

Had 2/3 of West's points not come from byes I could see a decent case being made to stretch the rule because of those precedents. It was an emergency measure implemented to prevent amateurs from getting in simply by showing up and paying the fee, not to keep out players who don't make good scores. The fee itself would be enough to dissuade casual players if enough showed up. But when spots are simply left open, something had to be done.

Well, I would get rid of all the gender-restricted spots. But not mid cycle.

So, yes, I'd stick with the original rules for this cycle. Then change the rules for the next. Because I think process predictability is an essential for players, fans, and sponsors.

But what do I know? :)

warm regards,

>>Best chicken factor? Worst dressed?>>

How about best whisky drinker with a Scotch accent in the press room in San Diego?

Why has't Joyce Jillson qualified or for that matter won the whole thing. If she is as claimed -what an advantage

Ms. Jillson passed away in 2005. The prize is a memorial given by her estate.

If you are referring to psychic abilities, Ms. Jillson was a highly successful woman in several fields (she had the lead in a Broadway play, appeared in over 100 episodes of a hit television soap, wrote a book that was a New York Times bestseller for half a year, etc).

She was also a very wellknown astrologer, having contracts with, among other places, the Dodgers, Fox pictures, and Nancy Reagan. It was the latter contact that caused her to be dubbed "the White House psychic," but astrologer would be a more accurate description. She would never have considered it possible to predict move by move the real time plays in a chess game, which I think is what you were asking.


>>Best chicken factor? Worst dressed?>>

How about best whisky drinker with a Scotch accent in the press room in San Diego?

Sounds like a winner to me. (Don't forget my 10%)

I think the problem with the 50% rule is that it can mean very very different things in different tournaments and even to different players in the same tournament. To take myself as an example, I qualified at the US Open, where it isn't too hard to make 50% because the whole tournament is one big section. Big relief, because I only scored 3 at the North American Open, (choking in the last two rounds) although I had a performance rating of 2350.

Why not have the standard be a performance rating? Maybe 2200 or 2300? This seems like a much fairer standard, since it corrects for the anomalies of Swiss pairings. The only problem I can see is that you might have someone qualify with a performance rating of 2300 and a score of 3/7, over another woman who scored 3.5/7 and performed at 2100.

In defense of Vanessa West, I would like to point out the following observations.

Her first free point came in round 1 due to an opponent who failed to show up. The free point was unfortunate, but had the effect of making her face unusually difficult opposition for the next few rounds. For example, she faced GM Wojtkiewicz in round 2.

Her second free point came in round 6 (morning of the last day). I won't speculate on the reason that her opponent did not show up, but I will point out the opponent's rating: 1650. Would the US Championship committee be happier with a candidate who proved she could beat B players?

All five of Vanessa West's actual opponents were rated over 2250 USCF, including a GM and two 2300s. Moreover, in order to get to 3.0/7, she had to defeat a 2300 in the final round.

I understand that the committee is unhappy with a performance of 1.0/5. But would the committee be more impressed with the tough field Vanessa West faced, or if instead she had beaten a few A and B players after losing her first two or three rounds?

I humbly submit to you that being awarded forfeit wins was not Vanessa West's fault and, in fact, made her potential qualification *much* more difficult. Conversely, how many other US Championship qualifiers (women's spots) defeated anyone rated over 2300 in the tournament that they qualified in?

Michael Aigner

You don't change the rules halfway through the qualification process. I don't care about the special considerations, you just don't do it. Otherwise you end up looking like FIDE, need I say more?

If a ludicrous result ( and I'm not saying the West qualification is ludicrous ) causes the people who make the rules to give more than 30 seconds' thought to drafting those for next year, that would be good. But they won't, because they know that if the rules don't seem to be getting the results they want they can just change them.

The following may sound sexist and if it does, please note that I am trying to speak realistically rather than offend anyone. If we are trying to speak honestly then there are not enough women out there who can with any sort of consistency make 50% in these events(There are quite a few, but probably not enough). Moreover as was pointed out, open tournaments have this problem that final score doesn't always correspond to perfomance. This is not necessarily so true for men---if you win the tournament then you most likely have played well. A -1 score can easily represent quite a solid performance but an even score can represent a not very good one. Everyone understands this and Vanessa West's performance highlights the absurdity. I agree that she could In fact, were I a 2100 woman trying to qualify, I would definitely take two half point byes, probably at the end of the tournament. Of course, going by performance is not really plausible either(A quick start and withdrawal would allow someone to cheat the system). Because of all of this, I feel that the enitre concept of trying to qualify women into the championship using the same method as men just has too many holes to patch up using a minimum score or performance or whatever else one might come up with.

Allow me to second the motion recommending Igor Schneider for one of the open slots. Not only was he leading the tournament into the last round before losing to Ibragimov (one of the top-rated men in the country), but in an earlier year he posted a qualifying score--without having paid the qualifying fee beforehand. He oughta be a contender
BTW, I have always thought that it was cheesy to require that people pay for the chance to qualify. What quality does the willingness to pay purport to measure? Grit? Derring-do? The makings of Greatness? Or just wealth?

No, you don't allow someone who barely knows the rules into a national championship for the sake of consistency. This is what could have happened and indeed someone might have done it just to emphasize the absurdity of the situation. No one imagined that the strong female US players would simply not show up to the events last year.

The 50% rule was an attempt to patch the flaw in a way that would apply to the broadest number of cases, not to provide an opportunity to review each case individually. Analyzing each player in turn is beside the point. It is the nature of swiss events that opposition strength and number of points scored don't always go together. Score is just as close as we can get to a measure that can be applied across the board, tournament to tournament. Performance rating can leave you victimized by the pairings. You shouldn't be punished for being paired with a lower-rated player and beating him, for example. There is a reason points are used to decide the winners of tournaments and not TPR. With the middle of swiss events being a mess it wasn't going to be pretty, but the point was mainly to prevent absurdities.

The qualification fee goes to help support the championship. It's not meant as a barrier, but as a fundraiser. It's quite possible that with adequate sponsorship it will be lifted next time.

I can say that Zenyuk played solidly at Foxwoods to get her spot and the same of Laura Ross in the World Open(although they just made it in by the 50% rule). I guess the point is that the good majority of very strong women get in by rating and don't feel the need to play qualifiers. Perhaps limiting it to just one woman's only spot per tournament and deciding the rest by other methods is a reasonable idea?

The problem shared by most, and explained by Jen Shahade, is that these tournaments are expensive and a brutal grind and a 2200-2450 has almost no chance of a tournament prize. So the women are playing almost solely for the championship spot and, apparently, it's not enough of an incentive on its own for most of the top players. And there are so few of them that giving rating spots is indeed an issue. Major changes definitely needed.

I vote for Dmitry Zilberstein to get a wildcard spot. In the COFC Playoffs, he was winning the final game vs Andrei Florean on the board and on position only to leave his rook en prise in a horrific moment of blindness. Take a look at that game (via ICC) and feel sorry for Dmitry, a player could not come closer to qualifying.

Mark, it wasn't even a horrific moment of blindness. Just a trivial mouseslip. That's a sad reality of the Internet chess.

Yes always remember the written rule to becoming a US Chess Champion is that you must be rich. There is absolutely no fairness to charging $75 as a gambling chip to qualify as a good chess player.

Today in USA if you dont have $75 bills to burn, then no matter how good a chess player you are you are not allowed to compete in the US Championship.

Read the rules. it says if you do not pay $75 then you are not a good chess player.

Well the exact wording is a little different. but that is what it really says.

But everyone in the USA has $75 to throw away. George Bush learned that when he went into New Orleans and found the last surviving poor people and declared he was going to fix that. I am sure there are no more poor people in New Orleans any more. so we are back to no more poor people in the entire USA.

by the way. I have to go try to find my $75. I need it to buy some food. Maybe next year I will not buy any food and will gamble it on the US Championship qualifier.


Tommy--there are many different paths to the US Championship. One can qualify simply by rating. There are also wildcard spots. And of course the $75 fee would be the perfect place for an individual sponsor to contribute, for chessplayers interested in pursuing individual sponsorship.

Most individual competitive activities are expensive to pursue, from bridge to golf. Although charging the $75 as an option is a bit unusual relative to other competitive activities, one of the reasons for this is that the US doesn't have a sequence of qualifying events run by the USCF itself.

If you want to see something really expensive, take a look at Q school fees for the PGA tour!


No, I like Tommy's angle here. Someone should also pay for all books and coaching for all chessplayers because that stuff certainly costs more than $75. And tournament entry fees should be eliminated. And someone should pay for all transportation and hotel costs, and of course food, for all chessplayers to go to any tournament in the world. That $75 is clearly designed to punish those players who are capable of paying for training, travel, food, hotel, and entry fees but not that last bit to be eligible for the US Championship.

The fee is a way to help fund the Championship. If there is a poor supertalent out there without $75 (or the thousands needed for the aforementioned things) he can qualify by rating. If we went back to a boring closed round-robin with ten players all qualified by rating I'm sure there wouldn't be a fee. Or much interest.

As I've said before, if more sponsorship comes in the fee will likely be eliminated. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go sell my $20,000 worth of chess books on Ebay to pay for food and heating oil.

Mig, Instead, go on a diet and move to a place that's insulated. Then you'll probably only have to sell about $10,000 worth. BTW, if you have a 1st Edition Hastings 1895 in excellent condition, I'm interested.


By the way, I haven't mentioned it since you did the last set of updates, but I continue to be really impressed with the site. The newest news is easy to find, the important details are there when you look. (The only thing missing is bios.) A better blog as you suggest would be nice, but the one you had last year was great as it was. So, as usual, really good work!

Back to the topic of the gender-restricted invitations...

Maybe it's time to back up and look again at the original reasons for having any gender-restricted invitations, in order to help make sense of what to do with the ones left at this point.

Obviously it wasn't just to get some women into the event, as invitations by rating would have done that.

I suspect the notion grew out of the old tradition of inviting the winner of the US Open. This was to leave open the possibility of a "Cinderella story," someone who wasn't on the list of usual suspects. Perhaps someone who wasn't even a top 25 player. The vagaries of big swisses were part of the uniqueness of that invitation, something that set it apart from the other ways of qualifying. And, of course, it was a tie-in to a big event, to encourage both top players to play and others to follow it.

The real question seems to be whether the organizers intended there to be a single unified event that crowned the top woman finisher as the gender-restricted woman's champion, or whether they were simply interleaving two events.

Although there was astonishment when Kelly qualified, the fact is that she IS a top 200 US woman player. (Vanessa West, by the way, is in the top 40.) And at 1660, she is only 40 rating points out of the top 100 women, the same distance from the top as a 2400 player is from the overall 100.

Now that DOESN'T mean a woman 1600 player is the same as a man 2400 player. A 1600 player is a 1600 player. But it does mean that in the US in 2005 when you're inviting from a pool of players at the top and you apply a gender restriction, it should be no more surprising that a 1600 woman qualifies than that a 2400 player (man or woman qualifies). (Since less than 5% of US players are women, the top 100 covers a much wider rating range.)

The problem comes when we have an event that mixes the two top 100 lists. Because then we have a list that stops at 2440 mixed with a list that stops at 1700. So we start mixing 2600 players with 1700 players. It obviously complicates the competition for both titles, because any of the 2600 players who is paired with one of the below 1900 players may get an unfair advantage relative to the other 2600 players.

But all of those issues existed once the event was set up to offer separate gender-restricted invitations. Because it was set up to invite players from two different pools.

So...was Kelly's qualification an aberration, or absurd? No. It had no more impact on the pool for which she qualified than the qualification of, say, IM Blas Lugo or IM Mark Ginsburg had on the pool for which they qualified. They are all the same distance from the top of the list.

I think everyone knows my own preferred format by this time: a single event, with a single set of qualifying rules. An occasional 2300 player and several 2400 players will qualify, and that will be fun. The gender of the participants should not affect either the invitation process or the titles they compete for.

But as soon as you create a two-tiered set of invitations, for any reason, your lowest qualifiers will be from the lowest tier. So there was no great crisis that required a drastic solution. When you have open qualifiers, you may get participants from the top 200 instead of the top 50.


Thanks, Duif. We'll be populating the site with content in a few weeks, after the field is complete.

All good stuff about the gender issues, but note that it's not as simple as comparing the rating range. It's performance range. A 2400 (male) isn't going to get in by always playing like a 2400. The qualification system rewards great performances and a 2400 playing like a 2600 in one event is normal fluctuation. (Figuring out which qualifier had the worst performance rating would be interesting. I doubt there was one under 2500.)

What happened with Kelly was that her performance was rendered irrelevant by the rules. Technically, she would have qualified had she scored zero points. That is absurd. Of course the same could happen with the open spots if there were fewer players paying the fee than there were spots available. This was never considered and so changes were made to prevent it happening again. The 50% rules wasn't a rule for women, but for all qualifiers. You don't establish rules based on the best-case scenario.

I always thought it absurd that the ambitious 2200-2400s have the burden of helping to support the US Championship, but the silly $75 fee does make it a lot easier for me to qualify. As one wag was heard to quip, "is this money going to the Carol Jarecki retirement fund?"

I believe that in previous years at least three women had to play in order for any woman to be eligible to qualify. What happened to that rule and why was it scrapped? Surely it would have prevented the National Open "problem" this year.

There was no such rule, Elizabeth.

The qualifying rules are largly based on the good efforts in the past of Yasser & Yvette Seirawan - I don't think for a single moment they envisaged a situation where there would be no competition for a spot for the US Championship.

ChessNinja prize should go to the best blogger or since the site needs bios, how about the best bio submitted by a participant?

Errr...make that best autobiography, I guess. Must...find...more...caffeine...

I visited this page first time to get info on people search and found it Very Good Job of acknowledgment and a marvelous source of info.........Thanks Admin! http://www.reverse-phone-look-up.net

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