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On Chess: Last chess classic of 2018 to bring exciting competition to the Saint Louis Chess Club

Ray Robson has competed in the last 10 U.S. Chess Championships.
Austin Fuller | Saint Louis Chess Club
Ray Robson has competed in the last 10 U.S. Chess Championships.

Talented chess players from all around the world will converge on St. Louis once again next week as the Saint Louis Chess Club concludes its fourth and final seasonal Chess Classic for the year.

The 2018 Winter Chess Classic will feature a strong field of 20 competitors including grandmasters and international masters from 11 different countries.

The Chess Classic series offers opportunities for promising junior players, as well as collegiate competitors from schools like Saint Louis University, to train against strong competition. It also offers opportunities for strong grandmasters who are not yet on the elite circuit of chess professionals by offering the possibility of training against other experienced GMs.

From Nov. 5 to 13, fans of chess will be able to watch live in the Saint Louis Chess Club as the players compete in two very strong round-robin tournaments with an A and B section. This event is one of the strongest Chess Classics yet with a combined average FIDE rating of 2648 in the A section and 2540 in the B section.

American contenders

The A group is headlined by St. Louis resident Ray Robson (rated 2682 FIDE) who has competed in the last 10 U.S. Chess Championships. He was also a member of the U.S. Chess Olympiad teams that earned the gold medal in 2016 and silver this year. Robson is near his peak rating and looking to bounce back from his muted performance in the Fall Classic this October.

The A section will also feature America’s two top junior players under the age of 21: GMs Jeffrey Xiong and Sam Sevian. Xiong has been playing phenomenal chess of late and has shot up to 69th in the world rankings after his strong performance in the the recent Isle of Man Open, where he scored an impressive victory against Richard Rapport (rated 2725 FIDE).

International contenders

In addition to the American competitors, there are six other federations represented in the top section. They include GMs Alex Shimanov and Alexander Motylev from Russia, Yuniesky Quesada from Cuba, Evgeny Miroshnichenko from Ukraine, Dariusz Swiercz from Poland, Hrant Melkumyan from Armenia and Krishnan Sasikiran from India.

The B section, despite being lower-rated than the upper group, has its fair share of exciting competitors, including three Americans with three totally different styles. Will GM Timur Gareev bring his typical aggressive style to this tournament? Will GM Joel Benjamin use any of the unusual openings, for which he is famous, to trick his opponents within the first few moves? And will GM Eugene Perelshyeyn come looking for sharp complications against this field?

All of these questions will be answered in the days to come.

Armenia is also well represented in the B section with GM Zaven Andriasian (rated 2603 FIDE) leading the field by rating. This will be Andriasian’s fourth tournament of the year, but he has been playing well this summer and has gained rating points in the last three tournaments in which he competed. He will be joined in this tournament by his fellow countryman GM Aram Hakobyan who received the grandmaster title in April. Hakobyan enters the tournament with a peak rating of 2565 and is looking to build on all of his recent success.

SLU represented

Also in the field are two members of the Saint Louis University chess team: GMs Cemil Can Ali Marandi from Turkey and Nikolas Theodorou from Greece. The SLU players will bring a lot of excitement to the tournament, and with direction from their  coach, GM Alejandro Ramirez, the team has qualified for the President’s Cup — the most prestigious collegiate chess tournament also known as the Final Four — in each of the last two years.

GM Lucas van Foreest and International Master Robby Kevlishvili from the Netherlands add a lot of excitement to the tournament, as well. The most recent FIDE congress awarded van Foreest the granmaster title in October, and Kevlishvili is hoping to earn his second GM norm in this month’s tournament.

Follow the games live on www.uschesschamps.com, or visit the Saint Louis Chess Club at 1:00 p.m. starting Monday. Commentary with GM Jesse Kraai and Ben Simon will be streamed each day at 3:30 p.m.

Jonathan Schrantz is the assistant manager at the Saint Louis Chess Club.

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