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On Chess: Chess in St. Louis – A never-ending story

Var Akobian, one of the highest-rated players competing in the Summer Chess Classic Group A.
Saint Louis Chess Club

It is no longer news that St. Louis is the capital of chess in the United States, yet it continues its reputation for bringing the finest chess players to compete in elite events throughout the year. 2018 marks the Saint Louis Chess Club’s 10th anniversary and 10th straight year hosting the U.S. Championships in St. Louis. After an exciting U.S. Championship cycle, where the top twelve male and top twelve female chess players competed for the crown of national champion, the staff of the Chess Club is continuing their inspiring journey, bringing another exciting event to St. Louis.

Between May 15 and May 23, fans will be able to follow the Summer Chess Classic, which is the second of four tournaments held seasonally at the Chess Club.  The Summer Chess Classic will consist of two strong round-robin tournaments, featuring top national and international U.S. chess players competing for more than $35,000 in prizes.

Having strong tournaments at the Chess Club throughout the year keeps talented juniors and Olympic U.S. team players in check by giving them the opportunity to battle against strong opposition from around the world as they test their tactical, endgame and opening skills for even stronger events. It also allows players just outside the elite, super-grandmaster circuit to compete against other talented players to improve their rating and experience. It's also another way to potentially earn norms.

The average rating in the A group will be around 2630 Fide, while the B group will have an average of 2530 Fide rating. The events will be round robin with the time control of 90 minutes, with 30 seconds per move (for the entire game), followed by an additional 30 minutes added after reaching move 40.

The A-Group will be featuring a number of local favorites and strong players. Several-time Olympic team member Varuzhan Akobian, who had an amazing start at the 2018 U.S. Championship, but ran out of steam, will certainly be looking for a strong comeback in this event. Grandmaster Yaroslav Zherebukh, who is known for his in-depth opening preparation, has just graduated from Saint Louis University and will certainly be ready to show some exciting chess.

The two other American players taking on the strong field are the young and talented stars, grandmasters Jeffery Xiong and Sam Sevian. Xiong is the defending champion of the Winter Chess Classic, and this will surely be the perfect strong opposition for his preparation for the Continental Championship starting next month in Uruguay. Samuel Sevian, another young and solid 2600 player, comes to the tournament with a lot of hope and preparation. He will be very tough for other players in this event thanks to his resourcefulness and tactical ability.

Two other local and collegiate chess players from Webster University will be joining the field. Vasif Durarbayli is from Azerbaijan. He has been an important member of its chess team since 2014, helping the team win three national collegiate titles. And Péter Prohászka from Hungary joined the team in 2017.

The rest of the field will be completed with strong grandmasters, multiple national champions and Olympic team members with many top tournament wins under their belt: Daniel Fridman from Germany, Rinat Jumabayev from Kazakhstan and Aleksandar Indjic from Serbia.

While the A group is composed of a very strong field, the B group is nothing short in terms of quality and excitement to watch — especially because many of the contenders are students in U.S. universities and their teams face each other yearly in the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship as well as the Final Four (also known as President’s Cup). We will certainly continue seeing competitiveness in this individual event as much as we see during the Collegiate Team competitions.

Saint Louis University’s own chess team coach, Alejandro Ramírez, will be showing his skills over the board after having had a break from playing as part of the Spanish commentating team during the 2018 U.S. Championships. He will have to face his player, Turkish grandmaster and SLU student, Cemil Can Ali Marandi.

The B Group will be completed by three members of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Kamil Dragun, Andrey Stukopin and Vladimir Belous all wrote history last month in New York when they won the Final Four of College Chess, ending Webster University’s streak of five consecutive years.

Another favorite and top finisher of one of the Classics is Sergei Matsenko, who has recently been awarded the grandmaster title and is currently studying at another university famous for its chess program – Texas Tech University.

We can’t forget about Josh Friedel, a frequent Chess Club grandmaster in residence and former U.S. Open Champion. Dinara Saduakassova from Kazakhstan is only 22 years old and already ranked 18 in the Women’s World Ranking List. Robert Aghasaryan currently resides in Encino, California, and is the coach at the American Chess Academy. Last but not least, Tatev Abrahamyan is another St. Louis invitational regular. She has had an amazing result in the Spring Invitational and just finished competing in the U.S. Women’s Championship.

Follow the games live on www.uschesschamps.com, or visit the Saint Louis Chess Club at 1:00 p.m. CST starting Tuesday, May 15. Once again, commentary will be provided after the games start each day, at 3:30 p.m.

Sabina Foisor has competed in every U.S. Women’s Chess Championship since it was first hosted at the Saint Louis Chess Club in 2009. In 2017, she finally secured a victory and the title of U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, which was a truly emotional experience. After Foisor finished competing in the 2018 U.S. Championships, she stayed in St. Louis as the resident grandmaster.

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