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National Chess Championship Kicks Off in St. Louis For Sixth Year In A Row

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.  

“But, I think everybody will be focusing on the defending U.S. Champion, Grand Master Gata Kamsky,” he said.  “He’s won the U.S. championship four times in the past and he’s played world championship matches against the best in the world so he’s the guy to watch.”

This is the sixth consecutive year St. Louis has hosted the national championship and the U.S. Women’s Championship.

On Monday, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution designating St. Louis as the nation’s chess capital.

To many chess experts, St. Louis’ rise as an international center for chess competition has been remarkable to watch.

“Historically, Manhattan had always been the seat of chess power: Bobby Fisher, Sammy Reshevsky, all of the great chess legends – Bill Lombardy – were all Manhattan based,” said International Chess Grand Master Yasser Seirawan, who is among those providing online play-by-play commentary of the matches this year.

“Today, the idea that here in the Midwest, in St. Louis you would have the seat, the capital, of chess is extraordinary.”

Spectators are encouraged to see the matches in person or watch them streaming live on the center’s website, said Rich.

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