This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 13, 2011 - The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is hosting an event this week that has captured the interest of the chess community. Kings versus Queens: A Battle of the Sexes pits two teams against one another, one made up of five men, the other of five women. The total prize fund is more than $50,000 as players compete for individual prizes, and included in the prize fund is a special bonus for the winning team: $20,000!
This is no normal chess event. Not only are five of the world's top female players participating, but we are playing a unique variant of regular chess. Each day there are two games, one game of regular rapid chess (each side gets 25 minutes for the whole game) and also a chess variant called Chess960 (commonly called Fischer Random).
Chess960 is very similar to regular chess with the exception that the pieces on the back row are arranged differently than the normal starting position. This ensures a fresh start to each game where memorization of opening theory is rendered useless and the players are on their own when the game begins.
The King's team is led by St. Louis resident and world-ranked No. 8 Hikaru Nakamura. Also playing is one of the top American juniors Marc Arnold, University of Texas-Dallas graduate Jacek Stopa, local young master Kevin Cao and yours truly. With two grandmasters, two international masters, and a national master, the Kings are quite formidable.
The Queens are led by Ukrainian GM Kateryna Lahno; Russian GM (and Florida resident) Alexandra Kosteniuk; the top two American women, IMs Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush; and Ecuadorian IM Martha Fierro. The teams are about equal based on rating, so the matches will be tough.
Games are played at 3 and 5 p.m. each day at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in the Central West End. The tournament was kicked off with the grand opening of the new World Chess Hall of Fame and launch of the Chess Merit Badge in the Boy Scouts. The Hall of Fame is across the street from the Chess Club.
Spectators are welcome, free of charge, as GM Yasser Seirawan and WGM Jennifer Shahade will be analyzing the games live on the Internet and for the live audience each day.
After three days of play, the Kings are ahead 20-10, and the Queens will have to make a run soon to try to equalize the score. Round four begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Follow all the action live at www.saintlouischessclub.org where you can see games, analysis, results, video, and pictures of the event.
Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.