Scholastic Chess Gateway - The latest news about chess people, organizations and websites

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.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Entertainment blogs Top Blogs Photarium blog directory Blog Directory - photarium :: Defining Your Blogs Worth: TopSites: