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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chess On the Big and Small Screens

ChessBase brings us multiple compilations of music-enhanced presentations of chess in movies and on television. Here is "Chess Rhapsody #1:" (watch for the clip with Woody Allen!)

There are three other similar clips as well. To see them all, go to ChessBase.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"I Lost My Fear of Losing" - Hikaru Nakamura

That's how Nakamura explains his fighting spirit. Here's the short video from Chess.FM:


Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Sunday, May 17 (Part 2)

2009 U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura
Photo: Betsy Dynako, Official Event Photographer

After nine grueling rounds, Hikaru Nakamura stands atop the leaderboard at the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship. With a score of 7/9, he pockets the $40,000 first prize. Half a point behind were sensation Robert Hess and Alexander Onischuk. The full standings and prize list is here.

Congratulations to all the competitors, to the organizers, to Jennifer Shahade, Emil Sutovsky, Macauley Peterson, and to all the other staff and personnel who made this an absolutely tremendous championship! After the fireworks were all over, I saw players milling around and walking to and from nearby shops, surely exhausted but smiling. They competed tenaciously, but were gracious with one another and with the live audience present at the club. For some, their performance was less than what they would have hoped for, but I think they all enjoyed their surroundings and I'm sure they will have gained valuable lessons from the past week and a half.

I haven't yet heard what's on tap for the championship next year, but in the meantime, the U.S. Women's Championship comes to town this coming October. Can't wait!

To download all the games of the 2009 U.S. Championship, click here.


2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Sunday, May 17 (Part 1)

Well, this is it! Final day of the 2009 U.S. Chess Championships, and the best U.S. championship in years, many would agree.

Hikaru Nakamura and Robert Hess share the lead going into this final round, with Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk and Varuzhan Akobian all half a point back. A playoff, if necessary, will take place about 6:00 PM Central time today.

Jennifer Shahade and Macauley Peterson have been putting together excellent wrap-ups following each round, and here is their Round 8 version:

And here's a nice presentation of the scholastic chess side of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis:


Saturday, May 16, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Saturday, May 16

Doug Eckert

In one of today's 8th round games, it was Doug Eckert, rated 2278, with the black pieces up against GM Melikset Khachiyan, rated 2632. It seems to me that the GM simply miscalculated with 24.Nxd6. Here's the game:

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the tournament has been the outstanding play of 17-year-old Robert Hess, who heads into the final round in a tie for first place with Hikaru Nakamura. Here is Hess' 8th round victory over Yury Shulman, defending U.S. Champion:

Robert Hess; Photo: Betsy Dynako, Official Event Photographer

Hikaru Nakamura; Photo: Betsy Dynako


Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Friday, May 15

After seven of the nine rounds of the 2009 U.S. Championship, there is an amazing four-way tie for first, among Gata Kamsky, Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Onischuk (no surprise for these three), and 17-year-old Robert Hess, who has been having a phenomenal year.

In my mind, though, the surprise of the tournament thus far is Missouri IM Michael Brooks, who apparently didn't even own a computer (or at least a laptop) prior to the tournament! Although he is a strong player with a rating of 2419, he remains far below most of the field, yet finds himself with an admirable score of 4/7 on this off day for the tournament. He lost to Jaan Ehlvest and Josh Friedel, but has defeated Alexander Shabalov, Julio Becerra and young phenom Ray Robson, and drew with Enrico Sevillano and Joel Benjamin. Tomorrow, though, he will face his toughest opponent to date - Hikaru Nakamura.

IM Michael Brooks; Photo: Betsy Dynako, official event photographer

No. Name St Rate Score

1. GM Kamsky, Gata (1)........ NY 2798 5.0
2. GM Nakamura, Hikaru (2).... NY 2757 5.0
3. GM Onischuk, Alexander (3). VA 2736 5.0
4. IM Hess, Robert (17)....... NY 2545 5.0

5. GM Shulman, Yury (4)....... IL 2697 4.5
6. GM Akobian, Varuzhan (7)... CA 2664 4.5

7. GM Benjamin, Joel (9)...... NJ 2650 4.0
8. GM Ehlvest, Jaan (10)...... NY 2649 4.0
9. GM Friedel, Joshua (15).... NH 2568 4.0
10. IM Sevillano, Enrico (16).. CA 2549 4.0
11. IM Brooks, Michael (22).... MO 2419 4.0

12. GM Kaidanov, Gregory (8)... KY 2662 3.5
13. GM Ibragimov, Ildar (13)... CT 2628 3.5
14. IM Robson, Ray (18)........ FL 2542 3.5

15. GM Christiansen, Larry (5). MA 2681 3.0
16. GM Becerra, Julio (6)...... FL 2672 3.0
17. GM Gulko, Boris (12)....... NJ 2631 3.0
18. GM Shabalov, Alexander (14) PA 2620 3.0
19. IM Krush, Irina (20)....... NY 2496 3.0
20. Hughes, Tyler (24)......... CO 2293 3.0

21. GM Khachiyan, Melikset (11) CA 2632 2.5
22. IM Shankland, Samuel (21).. CA 2464 2.5

23. FM Eckert, Doug D (25)..... IL 2278 1.0

24. IM Zatonskih, Anna (19).... NY 2503 0.5

25. Lawton, Charles (23)....... MO 2350 0.0

Take a look at this seventh round game between Michael Brooks and Ray Robson. I had to cut away from following the game after 52.b5, when I thought Ray was winning (and I thought I heard commentator Emil Sutovsky echo the same thought), yet Brooks pulled out the win. Here's the game:

By the way, here are the Round 7 photos from Betsy Dynako. And here is the link to download all games so far.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Thursday, May 14

I arrived last night, near the end of round 6, at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis to see Robert Hess reviewing his draw with Gata Kamsky in the media room with Jennifer Shahade and Emil Sutovsky. He was quite happy with his performance, as well he should. After holding a draw against the top-rated player in the U.S. Championship, Robert finds himself in a logjam with five other players just half a point behind tournament leaders Yury Shulman and Varuzhan Akobian.

Jennifer Shahade and Emil Sutovsky listen to Robert Hess

Next Hikaru Nakamura popped in and spent a good amount of time analyzing his draw with Alexander Onischuk. He said he wasn't really happy with his choice of opening but the game did lead to some interesting developments.

Then a smiling and energetic Irina Krush sat down and spent a solid twenty minutes reviewing her victory over Julio Becerra. At one point Irina noted that someone had previously sent her a file reviewing the opening that this game used, and her review of that file had helped her at least with some ideas for the positions reached. Emil Sutovsky then remarked that it must be nice to be an attractive female so that people send such game files. It drew laughter from the live audience, but Irina noted that it wasn't her femininity that allowed her to acquire the opening file; it was cold, hard cash.

Next it was Ray Robson's turn. He had a wild game with Larry Christensen which he was able to convert to a win, giving Ray 3.5 points after 6 rounds. He said he wanted to finish with at least an even score in the tournament, perhaps 4.5 or 5 points. So far, Ray has three wins, one draw and one loss, all against 2600+ rated grandmasters.

Ray with his father, Gary

Doug Eckert watches the proceedings

Here is the round 6 wrap-up by Jennifer Shahade and Macauley Peterson:


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship Series - Tuesday, May 12 (Part 3)

Round 5 photos from Betsy Dynako can be viewed here.

Here a few selections:


Swedish Chess TV

World Chess News is a half-hour weekly TV program produced in Sweden. Here is their most recent episode, opening with an interview with Macauley Peterson and a discussion of the ongoing U.S. Championship:


SuperNationals IV: K-3 and K-6 Section Winners

Garry Kasparov with Daniel Gurevich at SuperNationals IV

In my Scholastic Chess column this month at ChessCafe, we hear from Cameron Wheeler, who won the K-3 section of the recent SuperNationals, and from Daniel Gurevich, winner of the K-6 section. Each has an interesting story to tell and they both contributed an annotated game for our readers.


2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Tuesday, May 12 (Part 2)

I haven't had a chance to check out all the games yet, but I enjoyed the game that probably attracted the least attention - Eckert-Lawton. Doug Eckert reached an endgame with knight and bishop against two bishops, yet the two bishops were tied up by pawns and Doug ended up with advanced connected passed pawns to seal the victory:

"Probably the best chess club in the world" is the way GM Varuzhan Akobian described the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, in the following video:

And here is a great interview with GM Joel Benjamin:


2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Tuesday, May 12 (Part 1)

It's not up as of this writing at the official site, but Jennifer has the Round 4 wrap-up posted at Chess Life Online. Here it is:


Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Monday, May 11

By the time I arrived at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, six of the twelve games had been completed. It felt like more - the playing area seemed so empty.

I then went downstairs to the commentary room, where Jennifer Shahade and Emil Sutovsky handle their analysis while most games are in progress. Except for Jennifer, Macauley Peterson and club founder Rex Sinquefield, the room was empty. Jennifer told me that she and Emil had already wrapped up their daily commentary.

So back up to the street level floor, where a flat screen monitor displayed the six remaining games. Jennifer and Rex and his wife scanned the games, as did Doug Eckert, Jim Voelker and a couple others I didn't recognize. Doug is the alternate who is now filling in for Anna Zatonskih, who had to withdraw from the tournament due to an ailment that has her at St. Louis University Hospital. Jennifer Shahade tells me, though, that she appears to be doing well. Susan Polgar on her blog reports that Anna's husband, GM Daniel Fridman, will be coming to St. Louis to join her.

Boris Gulko, left, with Doug Eckert

Doug is a master from St. Louis now living in Illinois. I recall when I was in high school and beyond, Doug was a powerhouse in the St. Louis chess world. Tonight he graciously spent time analyzing with us those remaining games, when he could have sequestered himself preparing for tomorrow's game. He's a good natured fellow with an easy smile. He's been relatively inactive in USCF events in recent years, and his 2278 rating is lower than all of his opponents in the U.S. Championship, in some cases hundreds of points lower. But I suspect he'll have a good time regardless, and may surprise one or more of the other competitors.

Jim Voelker is another fixture in the St. Louis area, a longtime master now playing in the 2100+ range. He also helped in the informal analysis of tonight's games, and serves on the board of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. It was quite a treat discussing the ongoing games with these talented players. Jennifer added her thoughts when she was around as well.

Eventually only one game remained - Shulman-Nakamura. I ventured upstairs to the playing hall and watched as the two hammered out the final moves in what turned out to be their drawn game. Nakamura pushed a pawn, put out his hand and Shulman shook it to finalize the draw. They spent a few minutes in a friendly post-mortem and I ventured back to the main floor to gather my things and head out.

As I left the club, I saw Larry Christensen being interviewed by a local TV crew, with Joel Benjamin nearby. I had a brief chat with Joel, who is a bit taller than I would have guessed. I'm about 5'11 and he appeared to be at least a couple inches taller.

Joel Benjamin

Walking down the block to my car, I saw the threesome of Robert Hess, Sam Shankland and Josh Friedel coming back toward the club. I stopped to ask them their impressions thus far, and they seem quite impressed with the work the organizers have done. Hess is now a GM-elect, and I asked him when he can expect to receive formal notification of his grandmaster title. He was pretty non-chalant, responding that he didn't know, but he wasn't particularly concerned since he knows he's GM material. I'm impressed how friendly and approachable most of these players are.

But be careful around Irina Krush's board. Once as I quietly strolled around the playing area and came close to her board, she glanced up with piercing eyes as if to say, "GO AWAY!" She is certainly intense, as strong a competitor as any of these players. Away from the board, she is also as pleasant as any of them.

Irina Krush
All photos here are courtesy of Betsy Dynako, Official Event Photographer

The Round 4 wrap-up with Jennifer Shahade and Macauley Peterson should be available tomorrow morning. The Round 3 summary is here:

Round 4 games can be downloaded here.


2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Sunday, May 10 (Part 2)

You can easily replay each game at MonRoi, and download one game at a time there, but here you can download all the games in a given round:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3


Sunday, May 10, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Sunday, May 10 (Part 1)

Well, I guess some glitches were inevitable. It has been frustrating trying to follow the course of the current U.S. championship online. First there was a problem with the game transmission, and I thought perhaps the live commentary was going to be in a video format, but all I have found so far is audio commentary. Still interesting, but it's difficult to follow when the excellent commentators Jennifer Shahade and Emil Sutovsky are discussing game variations and you don't have a board to follow.

Mind you, onsite it's absolutely wonderful. The playing venue is clean, large and bright, and on the lower level of the club, spectators can sit in on live commentary, followed by the appearance of some of the players. In this makeshift studio, a large monitor is on the wall behind Jennifer and Emil, with relevant games displayed as the two discusss them.

Updates on the club website have been much slower than I would have liked, but it seems there have been a number of unforeseen technical problems. I've seen plenty of techno types around, so I don't think there's a shortage of personnel, I think it's just a matter of working out the kinks. I know there were backup plans in place for various potential problems; I'm guessing by the end of the tournament most of these glitches will be resolved. The Internet Chess Club is providing some content on their website as well, free to both members and non-members, but I've also found this to be problematic to access. It seems I have to click through several pages to finally get to their content. On the positive side, photography from Betsy Dynako has been dynamite.

I'll be interested to hear from the players toward the end of the event what their thoughts are. My prediction: "Let's come back in 2010!" The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has put an incredible amount of work into this event, so I'm willing to be patient while these kinks are worked out. In the meantime, if you're also a bit frustrated following the games/commentary online, hop on a plane and see it all in person. You won't want to leave.

We're still waiting to see the Round 3 commentary from Jennifer and Macauley, but here's the wrap-up from Round 2:

And here's the wrap-up after Round 1:


Friday, May 08, 2009

Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

In case you missed these items earlier, here are a few videos giving you a peak inside the beautiful chess club in St. Louis, site of the 2009 U.S. Chess Championships:

Club website:


2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Thursday, May 7 (Part 4)

And now for some real photography, courtesy of Paul Truong:

From the Marcel Duchamp exhibit

Opening Ceremonies

That's me with Susan Polgar!

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Thursday, May 7 (Part 3)

As the opening remarks began, I found an open seat directly behind Boris Gulko, Gregory Kaidanov and Yury Shulman - a nicer trio of gentlemen would be hard to find.

After opening introductions, St. Louis Chess Club founder Rex Sinquefield got up to speak.

Rex Sinquefield

Sinquefield spoke eloquently, but at one point stumbled when mentioning one of the participant's names. A couple of the Russians couldn't contain their amusement at the difficulties their names cause native English speakers, but they were not impolite.

Francis Slay, mayor of St. Louis, then spoke to the crowd, followed by the Missouri Lieutenant Governor, Peter Kinder. Afterwards, each player was called to an area in front as colors were selected. Each player took either a glass of white wine or red wine, depending on whether they were chosen as white or black. An interesting moment arose when 14-year-old Ray Robson approached the wine table. He put out a hand as if to take a glass of wine, but quickly withdrew it. He still has a few years to go before he can legally drink it!

Ray Robson


Thursday, May 07, 2009

2009 U.S. Chess Championship - Thursday, May 7 (Part 2)

The weather could not have been nicer for the outdoor opening ceremonies. It took place on an open field behind the Museum of Art, with servers offering an assortment of delicacies.

After exiting the Marcel Duchamp exhibit inside the building, I walked around to where the gathering was taking place and I immediately felt like a young boy in the midst of his favorite baseball team.

My eyes darted around the open area, searching for familiar faces. Understand that although I have been in communication with most of the chess stars here, this communication has nearly always been via e-mail or phone. So I was about to meet face to face a couple dozen people I had never met in person before.

First I spotted Paul Truong and Susan Polgar, standing beside a small table. Paul was waving - somehow he recognized me before I recognized him.

I wish I could take better pictures.

Then, all of a sudden, a number of players began walking in. Robert Hess, Sam Shankland, Tyler Hughes, Joel Benjamin. They began taking their places in the front row of the seating set up for the opening event. A moment later I saw Larry Christensen, Alexander Shabalov, Hikaru Nakamura, Josh Friedel, Gregory Kaidanov and Boris Gulko (Gulko saw my yarmulke and smiled).

Before long, they were all there - all 24 contestants for the 2009 U.S. Championship. Gata Kamsky looked regal, Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih were stunning in their outfits.

Again, forgive my photography, but here are some shots:


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