Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

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.

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.

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio

Grand Master chess players from across the country have assembled in St. Louis’ Central West End for the 2014 U.S. Chess Championship.

Round 1 of the two-week tournament kicked off Thursday afternoon at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

A local favorite to follow this year is Grand Master Ray Robson, 19, who is a member of Webster University's chess team that won the 2013 national collegiate chess championship, said CCSCSL Executive Director Tony Rich.  

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.

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.

On Chess: Nakamura Declines U.S. Championship Invite

Mar 19, 2014
Gata Kamsky is seeking his fifth U.S. Championship title this year.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Twelve of the top chess players in the U.S. just got fantastic news: Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura will not be fighting for the title of 2014 U.S. Champion.

Nakamura, currently ranked No. 8 in the world, declined his invitation citing his decision to prepare for, and compete against, only the world’s elite.

This isn’t surprising, really. A number of the world’s best players forgo their national championship for similar reasons. The last time World No. 2 Levon Aronian won the Armenian National Championship was 2002. Viswanathan Anand hasn’t claimed India’s title since 1988.

On Chess: Hall Of Fame Brings Chess To New Audiences

Mar 12, 2014
Provided by the World Chess Hall of Fame

On Tuesday, USA Today published a story that outlined everything “hip and happening” in St. Louis. 

Not surprisingly, the World Chess Hall of Fame got a nod.  Wait. What? Not surprising, you say?

If the idea that chess is hip and happening is foreign to you, then I assume you still have the antiquated stereotype of the pocket protector-wearing übergeek ingrained in your mind.

But times they are a-changin’ my friends.

Jim Davies (right) is the first-ever inductee into the Missouri Chess Hall of Fame.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Obviously the most recent developments at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center and the World Chess Hall of Fame have firmly planted St. Louis as a major player in the chess world, but countless organizers and enthusiasts have helped maintain the interest in St. Louis over the years.

World's Fair and Wolbrecht

Hikaru Nakamura last battled Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. Levon Aronian observes.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

He came close this time. The great white whale was in his sights. His elbow was cocked, and in his hand the harpoon was ready to deliver the fatal blow. And then it all disappeared.

Georg Meier
Provided by Susan Polgar

Webster University’s Georg Meier etched his name in the St. Louis record books over the weekend by winning the 6th annual Club Championship, held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis (CCSCSL).

Meier, 26, is a world-class grandmaster who ranks No. 2 in Germany and No. 141 in the world.

Wesley So and Susan Polgar
Provided by Susan Polgar

The prestigious Tata Steel chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, started last week, and for once, super-GM Hikaru Nakamura is not the only St. Louis representative competing against the world’s best.

Nakamura, the U.S. No. 1, is no stranger to top-level tourneys. But for GM Wesley So, a Webster University sophomore, Tata Steel is his first-ever super-elite event.

On Chess: Championships Return To St. Louis

Jan 16, 2014
photo of Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush
Courtesy of the Chess Club and Scholastic of St. Louis

It’s going to be another year of checkmates and championships in St. Louis.

On Wednesday, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis announced that the United States Chess Federation had accepted its bid to host the 2014 U.S. Championship, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Championship and the 2014 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, the three top invitational chess tournaments in the nation.

That’s right. The Trifecta. The Triple Crown. The Royal Three.

Malcolm Pein presents Hikaru Nakamura his first-place trophy for winning the London Chess Classic.
Photo courtesy Ray Morris-Hill.

If St. Louis is etching its name on the list of emerging chess capitals of the world, then London is already firmly established. And the letters are in bold print.

The 5th annual London Chess Classic concluded this past week, and the marquee event featured a 16-player rapid tournament showcasing the world’s elite.

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.

courtesy Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

2011 has been a banner year for Chess in the city of Saint Louis.

The United States Chess Federation named Saint Louis “Chess City of the Year” in 2011 for all of the hard work we’ve put in to promote the game of chess both locally and nationally.

(via Flickr/Ian Sane)

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay will travel to the Sunshine State (that's Florida) this weekend to accept the United States Chess Federation's "Chess City of the Year" award for our own Mound City.

This is the second time St. Louis has received the designation - the city also won the award in 2009.

The award, according to the the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, "recognizes the U.S. city that has done the most to promote and further the game of chess, both locally and nationally."

(photo courtesy of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis)

 A Japanese native who relocated to St. Louis from Seattle last year to take advantage of the city's growing chess infrastructure will go after one of the sport's top American records this week.