Chess

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

This Saturday, Oct. 11 is National Chess Day -- though only unofficially, because nobody cares.

That’s not from a lack of continued effort on the part of chess players, however, as plenty have cared about such a recognized holiday dating all the way back to its inception in 1976.

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

The Central West End has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods in America by the American Planning Association, for reasons that won’t surprise anyone from around here.

Ashritha Eswaran playing chess
Provided by the family

Local Grandmaster Ben Finegold is in Durban, South Africa, this week representing Team USA as part of the 2014 World Youth Chess Championship. The international competition separates its field into six categories, from under-8 to under-18 in both girls-only and open sections, and crowns 12 World Champions annually.

Magnus Carlsen in St. Louis earlier this month
Lennart Ootes| Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St.Louis

It’s not often that the World Champion of Chess gets his thunder stolen but, while here in St. Louis, GM Magnus Carlsen's moment away from the spotlight allowed him to tackle a serious decision.

Rex Sinquefield prepares to make a move as Grandmasters look on. Behind, from left, are commentator Maurice Ashley, Garry Kasparov, Yasser Seirawan and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

It is a question commonly posed to Grandmasters -- business-suit wearing giants with perennially furrowed brows, constantly wrinkled above troubled looks of genuine stress -- can you still have fun?

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

When you’re claiming a page of history, you just never know who might write on it.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, left, and Magnus Carlsen played to a draw in their first game in the Sinquefield Cup.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

This year’s Sinquefield Cup chess championship is underway here in St. Louis and it’s billed as the strongest chess tournament in the history of the sport. The tournament features six of the top nine players in the world and takes place at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. The compete for a first place prize of $100,000. Before the end of the tournament, each player will play every other player twice.

Lennart Ootes | CCSCSL

Make no mistake, we want him back.

In for his first visit to the U.S. Capital of Chess is Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, one of only three players in the world with a chess rating that has surpassed the 2800 watermark. He’s here to pick a fight with the other two, Armenian GM Levon Aronian and World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen, as part of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup -- billed as the strongest chess tournament ever, for obvious reasons.

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.

Bobby Fischer competes in the Piatigorsky Cup matches in 1966.
Provided by the World Chess Hall of Fame

The name Bobby Fischer is synonymous with outstanding intellect, intimidating competitiveness and intense focus.  His is a uniquely American success story that nearly everyone has heard - even if they can’t tell a rook from a bishop.

So what makes Fischer so captivating?

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.

Kayden Troff with Tony Rich,
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The Triple Crown of chess is complete, in more ways than one.

Just this past week, Grandmaster Kayden Troff, 16, snagged the U.S. Junior Closed Championship crown after nine rounds of fierce competition against the top players under 21 in the nation. Troff finished the event in style, winning his final four games to finish a point and a half ahead of the rest of the field.

The newly anointed grandmaster took home the $3,000 first-place prize but, more important, earned a ticket to compete in the 2015 U.S. Championship, which will be held in St. Louis next year.

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.

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.  

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.”

Wesley So and Susan Polgar
Provided by Susan Polgar

The vibrancy of chess in the St. Louis area continues to grow. For example the U.S. Championships return to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis on May 8.

But one of the bright spots – the strength of the university programs here – recently received close scrutiny. While Lindenwood and others are building strong teams, Webster University brought in the chess world’s version of John Calipari or Coach K: Susan Polgar and her team of grandmasters left Texas Tech University for the St. Louis suburbs in 2012.

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.

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.

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