Between March 29 and April 10, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis hosted the 2017 U.S. Chess Championship and U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, two of the most exciting events in the American circuit. This year, the events were stronger than ever, with three players out of the world’s top 10 participating in the open section, making it the strongest national championship in the world.
Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. These are the three names on everybody’s lips during pre-tournament predictions. The big three have dominated the scene for such a long time that it would have been difficult to pick any of the others to win, despite the insurgence of young talent threatening the status quo.
Wesley So, the top seed, was the only one player of the big three who hadn’t won a championship title. Most experts tagged him to finally win the title. Since mid-2016, So has been on a tear, winning multiple top events, all while managing to maintain a 67-game, non-losing streak against elite competition. His run has been nothing short of legendary and it has helped him build an aura of invincibility around him that intimidates every opponent.
The U.S. Championship was not any different; So dominated the field and led the pack during the whole event. With eight draws and three wins, So allowed the veteran Alex Onischuk to catch him at the top and force the playoff. However, So was the man with better nerves during the playoff and he defeated Onischuk with the total score of 1.5-0.5, winning his first U.S. Championship.
U.S. Women’s Championship
The women’s division was a cutthroat affair between Nazi Paikidze (the reigning champion) and Sabina Foisor, an Olympic team member who has never managed to place in the top three in the national championship. Despite that, Foisor proved from the beginning that her place is at the top and quickly took the lead. Paikidze confidence and edgy chess style allowed her to keep pace with Foisor as they went into the final round with an equal score, seven points out of 10.
In the final round, Paikidze was facing Jennifer Yu, an upcoming young star, while Foisor was competing against another young prospect, Apurva Virkud. Paikidze came to the playing hall with great confidence and a wide smile on her face. No matter the results, she knew that her tournament had been a success; another title would have been a historic achievement. Unfortunately for her, Yu played an almost perfect game and forced Paikidze's resignation.
This result allowed Foisor to win the title after a flawless performance. Her game play was technical and precise, her expansion on the kingside was calculated and every single detail was taken into consideration before conducting the checkmate pattern. With that final win, Sabina Foisor was crowned the 2017 U.S. Women’s Champion.
The 2017 U.S. Championships were a historic event and great things are expected for the years to come. Not only was the event amazing, but the Chess Club and Scholastic Center received a $100,000 donation from St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay for the club’s scholastic chess programs.
GM Chirila is the current grandmaster in residence at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. GM Chirila was born in Romania and resides in the United States. Recently, GM Chirila won his section, U2550 at the 3rd annual Millionaire Chess tournament.