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On Chess: 2011 Year in Review

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 28, 2011 - And what a year it has been! 2011 started with St. Louis' own Hikaru Nakamura winning the 2011 Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Holland, against the world's best chess players. It was the biggest tournament victory for an American since Bobby Fischer, and his performance catapulted him to No. 7 in the world rankings. Although he has experienced some ups and downs this year, Hikaru is currently holding onto the No. 10 spot in the world and is looking forward to an exciting 2012.

World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen, who turned 21 in December, proved he is worthy of his top spot as he turned in solid performance after solid performance all year. He is steadily climbing toward Gary Kasparov's peak rating of 2851 and, for the first time ever, the world saw four players reach the magical 2800 status at the same time: Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik.

Anand, the reigning World Champion, had a bad year and finished 4th in the world rankings behind Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik. Many believe Anand was not playing his best the last few months of the year and is saving himself for his May 2012 World Championship match with Boris Gelfand.

With Hikaru skipping the 2011 U.S. Chess Championship, the door was left open for 2010 U.S. Champion Gata Kamsky to repeat, and he did so convincingly. Gata will look to three-peat in 2012, but his task will be difficult, as Hikaru is expected to play along with all of the top 10 U.S. players!

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center had two exciting new events in 2011, as the aforementioned Gelfand gave a well-attended lecture in July and a new event was held in September, The Kings versus Queens. The Kings were victorious as Hikaru scored an incredible 9.5 out of 10 and even I managed to score 7.5 points against the ladies. The event was very popular, as many of the world's elite women played on the same team for the first time, joining the top Americans Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih.

Hikaru finished the year much the way he started, coming in second at the super strong London Classic, behind world No. 3 Vladimir Kramnik (but ahead of Magnus!). Hikaru is currently playing in the Reggio Emilia super tournament in Italy, but this tournament will not end until the first week of January.

The staff at the Chess Club in the Central West End is working on tweaking some programming options for 2012, so there will be plenty of opportunities for players of all skill levels to enjoy classes and lessons as we enter the hopefully happy new year!{jcomments on}

To reach Ben Finegold, the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

Ben Finegold
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.

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