Brian Jerauld

Brian Jerauld is a chess instructor to area students, including his own children, and a student of the game himself through the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. He is also a Mizzou journalist with a decade of experience writing about boats, sports and other odds and ends. This column is a weekly look around St. Louis, the U.S. Capital of Chess.

The new chess pocket park
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

St. Louis owns and manages approximately 10,000 vacant lots of land that have come into its possession through tax foreclosure. Concentrations of these lots create barren wastelands of pavement, driving down property values while driving up social and environmental impacts.

Maintenance alone on these acquiesced estates — the overwhelming majority of which do not even contain a structure — encourages slow economic leak, altogether suggesting a need to embrace alternative approaches to urban land use.

Sounds like a job for chess.

GM Maurice Ashley is the promoter of the Millionaire Chess Open, the upcoming tournament with the largest prize fund ever.
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

This is the busy season of chess, with lots going on in the scene. Scattered thoughts, like pawns, need attending:

Maurice Ashley is in town, looking for millionaires.

Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield presented Magnus Carlsen with the 2013 Sinquefield Cup.
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Just announced was the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, the encore to last year's megalith international competition that delivered four of the world's most-elite chess players to the Central West End.

World Chess Hall of Fame

Bobby Fischer was the youngest-ever American Grandmaster, a title that took him 15 years, 6 months and 1 day to collect. That is, until Hikaru Nakamura came along, besting Bobby by three months and earning the title as the new youngest-ever American GM.

That is, until Ray Robson came along, notching his elite title two weeks before he turned 15.

Susan Polgar and Wesley So
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

It’s a great time to be a St. Louis girl in chess, I think. Just look at what surrounds them: Webster University coach Susan Polgar is adding something new to her resume. Right there at the bottom of page 11.

Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Our local boy is making national noise.

Matt Larson, a tall and lanky 17-year-old who attends Crossroads College Prep in St. Louis, is one of 10 competitors in the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, being held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in the Central West End. He most likely will not win the national title for players under the age of 21, but the crown wasn’t even necessarily a goal in the first place.

Larson just needed to represent.

Left to Right. Jeffrey Xiong, Kayden Troff, Sam Sevian and Ashritha Eswaran, with Garry Kasparov.
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Thursday night marks the opening ceremony of the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, the national title event for the top players under 21. The tournament is the third installment of America’s Championships annually hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, a parallel to the U.S. Championship and Women’s event, which took place simultaneously last month.

Wesley So
Courtesy of Susan Polgar

They say good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately, that’s shaping up to be true.

Wesley So, the 15th highest-rated chess player in the world with a FIDE rating of 2744, recently announced his intentions to switch to the U.S. Chess Federation (from the Philippines’ federation) for reasons rather obvious: He’s already here -- and he seems to like it.

Circus Flora

The word circus conjures several interpretations, a different idea according to every one’s experience. Many of those definitions, as Circus Flora teaches us, can brilliantly oppose each other in both harmony and balance – and that the chess player can appreciate.

International Master Priyadharshan Kannappan is seeking his second GM norm.
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The words “watch your back” have never rung so clear.

The 2014 national championships are less than two weeks old, but as America’s heavyweights retreat to their corners, the class of tomorrow has already hopped into the ring.

Aleksandr Lenderman will be playing for his first U.S. Championship.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

UPDATE 4:36 p.m.: Irina Krush is the U.S. Women's Chess Champion after winning the playoff against Tatev Abrahamyan 1-1/2 to 1/2. 

UPDATE 4:32 p.m.: Gata Kamsky is the U.S. Chess Champion after winning the playoff against Varuzhan Akobian 1-1/2 to 1/2. The women's match continues.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: In the first of two rapid matches for the U.S. Championship, Varuzhan Akobian drew the white pieces but fell into time trouble against Gata Kamsky. Akobian managed to hold off the reigning champion for a draw.

Wikipedia

Perhaps no school can better attest to the benefits of living in the U.S. capital of chess than one that sits right in its epicenter.

file photo | St. Louis Beacon

The link between the creation of history and the preservation of heritage is about as streamlined as it gets these days: Just send it across the street.

Gata Kamsky seeks to defend his title at the 2014 U.S. Championship.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

In chess, conquering the center is a strategy nearly as old as the game itself.

It is a building block, a foundation, with centuries of theory backing the blueprint. American legend Bobby Fischer opened all but one of his myriad games by instantly striking into the center with 1. e4, famously referring to the first move as “best, by test.”

Varuzhan Akobian playing chess
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

For six years, St. Louis has been steadily pumping its proverbial chess muscle.

There is, perhaps, no better way to gauge the strength of the city than to count the number of tough guys around here. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center opened in 2008 as a hopeful magnet to the game, and a year later GM Ben Finegold rode into town as the city’s very first Grandmaster. Today, backed by the murderer’s row of the Webster University collegiate team - including 2014 U.S. Championship-hopeful GM Ray Robson - St. Louis is home to 11 Grandmasters.

Maurice Ashley (left) interviews Gata Kamsky at the 2013 US Championship.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Maurice Ashley is sleeping just fine these days.

The International Grandmaster is about to put a million dollars down in Las Vegas -- and he might have the best odds in the house.

Ashritha Eswaran
Provided by her family

Apparently, the U.S. “Women’s” Chess Championship is a description that gets more liberal by the year.

Susan Polgar and Wesley So
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Update April 8: The Webster University Chess Team has repeated as winners of the President's Cup.

Got just another one of a billion busted brackets? Here’s a tip for next year: Put more confidence in the coach.

File photo | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Poker is making a play on one of our queens.

I admit this may be a paranoid reaction, and I won’t apologize for defending the well-being of such an important chess piece. But I couldn’t shake this preposterous idea of Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade - a two-time women’s national chess champion, the editor for Chess Life online, and an author of two chess books - referring to herself as a simple gamesplayer, instead of the pure chess celebrity she has become.

photo of Sam Sevian
Courtesy Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Sam Sevian should be earning a spot as one of your instantly recallable names: The 12 year old from Corning, N.Y.,  is the reigning world champion for his age and the youngest ever to play in the U.S. Championship, which he did this past summer here in St. Louis.

He has been under the chess microscope for years, having already served as the fastest American to both Expert and National Master status, and I believe it is safe to assume he has become a fixture in chess’ future. Go ahead and commit that brain wrinkle.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon - It has begun: The battle between two kings who will fight in one culminating epoch for the world’s throne.

The one match to rule them all started over the weekend, with the first games of the 12-round FIDE World Championship kicking off in Chennai, India. Defending is current World Champion Viswanathan Anand of India, undisputed since 2007 and, though likely witnessing the twilight of an illustrious career, now on the cusp of attaining, perhaps, his crown jewel.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - The “slow season” has hit the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis – that is, no more national championships to host, no world-class tournaments to display, no super-elite grandmasters to pamper – at least until next year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Beyond the St. Louis Chess Club and the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End, another important contributor to St. Louis’ thriving chess scene is the presence of GM Susan Polgar, one of the most recognizable women in the game and the coach of Webster University’s national championship team.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon:

It’s a great time to be a woman in chess. I think.

To be sure, I should ask GM-elect Irina Krush, who is in town for the month as the resident grandmaster at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in the Central West End. Krush is the reigning U.S. Women’s Champion, a five-time winner of the event, and the 16th highest rated woman in the world. She will handle the club’s weekly programming while she is here, undoubtedly providing a boost to the Thursday night ladies’ class.

Provided GM Hikaru Nakamura has achieved a career-best rating and is now less than three points from the No. 2 spot in the world.
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: If baseball is the thinking man’s game, chess is the best game to play with a bat.

Chess players get playoff fever, too. It’s just harder to gauge because we don’t get sweaty; we don’t often douse ourselves in alcohol after we win, and the chase of a chess World Championship moves even slower than America’s pastime.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I wonder if World Champion Viswanathan Anand is nervous.

The idea sounds a bit oxymoronic, as the Indian grandmaster has remained undisputed in his reign since 2007, but I find it hard to believe he wasn’t watching the next challenger to his throne at the Sinquefield Cup. And I wonder if what he watched made him uncomfortable.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Norwegian super Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen is in town for a few games, and his alone time must be at an absolute premium.

The world’s No. 1-rated player is in the Central West End for the Sinquefield Cup, fine-tuning his game against the world’s No. 2 Levon Aronian, as well as America’s top-two players, Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky. It is Carlsen’s first chess-related visit to the U.S. and, after the tournament wraps up on Sunday, the 22 year old will disappear from the public. He’ll go into hiding to prepare for the impending world championship match against reigning king Viswanathan Anand in November.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In less than two weeks, St. Louis will be the center of the world’s attention.

Granted, only the chess world will be watching, but how often does our city draw the spotlight of any worldwide audience? Plus, St. Louis gets to be named in sensational headlines that feature global conflict and war – in a positive light. Let’s see you pull that off, Washington.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: What is it about a bracket that brings such fervor?

Chess could admit that its tournament systems can get a bit impotent and confusing at times – from round robin to Swiss systems, half points to full – but the good, old-fashioned bracket has the ability to transcend all forms of competition with its familiar emotional frenzy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Three St. Louis kids represented Missouri on the national stage this week as they competed in elite, invitational scholastic events as part of the U.S. Open in Madison, Wisc.

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