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2009 US Championship in St. Louis

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Brace yourself for all the Judy Garland references because everybody is headed to St. Louis, Missouri for a new chapter in the long history of the US chess championship. Round one is Friday the 8th at 2pm local time (CDT), 3pm EDT. Official site's live link. The only rest day is May 15.

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis,
Meet me at the fair,
Don't tell me the lights are shining
any place but there;
We will dance the Hoochee Koochee,
I will be your tootsie wootsie,
If you will meet in St. Louis, Louis,
Meet me at the fair.

I've been deluged with materials from at least four sources and haven't had time to take more than a glance at any of them, I'm afraid. I guess I won't be anyone's tootsie wootsie. It's been that sort of week, with La Miglette's virus of the month added on top. (Not of the H1N1, or even the 1e4, variety.) It should be a great event. The new organizers at the fabulous St. Louis Chess Club have pulled out all the stops. Big prize fund, all the top players, beautiful venue -- it's enough to bring back pleasant memories of the AF$C days, when crazy rich people enlightened paragons of industry sunk millions into elite American chess.

The entire US Olympiad team is there: Kamsky, Nakamura, Onischuk, reigning champ Shulman, and Akobian, who just beat Shulman in a rapid/blitz match. Shabalov must also be mentioned among the favorites. The format is a bit weird, a nine-round swiss with just 24 players. Here's a list of them all, on a map of the US. Or a tidier list with how each player qualified. But first, a word from the sponsor...

*Chess Talk with IM John Watson*

That's the latest edition of the ICC Chess.FM show Chess Talk with IM John Watson. In it, he talks with Rex Sinquefield & Tony Rich, the aforementioned enlightened paragon -- and founder and president of the St. Louis Club -- and the Club's executive director. The ICC has oodles of other stuff going on during the championship, from video coverage by Mac Daddy P to radio broadcasts with Jennifer Shahade and Emil Sutovsky. There are also trivia competitions and more. Chess Life Online is hosting a fantasy chess competition, which has nothing to do with pictures of your favorite participants naked.

The prize fund is $130,000, though I can't find the complete distribution. If there are details like that, time control, and other chessy things on the official site I can't find them. The media kit (PDF) comes closest, saying the first prize is $35,000 (plus a bonus of $5000 for the champion that isn't split if there's a playoff) and $2000 for last place. Time control is 40/2+5", g/1+5". There is a $64,000 jackpot for anyone who can duplicate Bobby Fischer's famous clean score (11/11, 1964) by running the table with 9/9. Of course even 4/4 is pretty unlikely in this tough field, but it's a fun thing to have out there. The tiebreak is a playoff of armageddon rapid on the 17th.

Apart from the favorites and recent champions, there is also a Hall of Fame contingent with my ICC Chess.FM compadres Joel Benjamin and aforementioned aquatic enthusiast Larry Christiansen returning to the field after skipping Oklahoma. Then there are the juniors, Shankland and Hess at 17 and Robson at 14. Scalps will be taken! Local hero Charles Lawton is four times older than Robson, the only African-American participant, and the only competitor to have played Captain Bligh opposite Clark Gable. The top two female players in the US, Zatonskih and Krush, are also there. They get to double dip since I assume they will both be back in St. Louis for the women's championship in October.

Please post more coverage links and info below since I'm sure I've skipped a ton. I'll try to bail out my inbox tonight.


Hi Mig - Outstanding post, I'm psyched about the possible media coverage this year. Just one question. I was excited to see the media bar, but I can't get it to play? Probably just me not working it right. Best Wishes - Mark W.

Wow-o. I can't wait.

Oh no he didn't! SnaP!

So 2000$ prize money for the last place, then what in the hell they didn't invite me?!

I'm very good at finishing in last place and normally I get nothing for it, so imagine how well I could do it for $2000!

I tried to finih in last place once, but there was already someone there.

I had last place all but clinched heading into the final round of a round-robin. I was a full point away from the field, and was facing the event's highest-rated player. But Larry C. decided to be a spoiler: losing to me, he forced me to settle for a last-place tie.

As a former St. Louis-er, let me be the first to warn everyone against venturing into East St. Louis.

My take on the U.S. Championship field :
Shulman - continues to be in good form, no reason he should not repeat his result from last year, prediction-1st
Onischuk - also in top form, recently winning the tough Moscow Open, prediction 2nd
Nakamura - out of form in both Foxwoods and Toronto, more likely to withdraw from than win the Championship, prediction 3rd
Kamsky - the strongest player in the field but will yield too many draws w/ black, prediction 4th
Shabalov - the opposite of Kamsky, likely to be the player w/ most wins as black, offset by too many losses w/ white, prediction 5th
Ehlvest - veteran combatant poised for strong showing, prediction 6th
Akobian - tendancy to lose to lower rated players, prediction 7th
Robson - remember the name, will do well if games don't go beyond his bedtime, prediction 8th
Kaidanov - playing too much poker recently, won't be able to bluff the stronger players, prediction 9th
Christiansen - would have been the favorite, 2 decades ago, prediction 10th
Hess - showed he can play with the big boys at Foxwoods, prediction 11th
Becerra - over 2600 (FIDE) in 2008, back under in 2009, prediction 12th
Ibragimov - a spoiler at some point, prediction 13th
Friedel - will beat Nakamura and lose to one of the women, prediction 14th
Benjamin - he still plays?, prediction 15th

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 6, 2009 6:45 PM.

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