Hall of Famers Inducted; Pairings Set at U.S. Champs Opening

GM Irina Krush, the reigning U.S. Women's Champion, is interviewed by a local news crew.

By Brian Jerauld

Grandmasters Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush: Please return your crowns.

Time expired on both champions’ reign over the nation Wednesday night in St. Louis, with the opening ceremonies of the 2014 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship ringing the bell for a new round of challengers to the national title.

To earn his crown back - and the lion’s share of $172,000 in prizes - Kamsky will need to beat out 11 of America’s top grandmasters, including U.S. Open winner Josh Friedel and wildcard Mackenzie Molner; while Krush will be up against nine of the nation’s best females, including 13-year-old Ashritha Eswaran, for the U.S Women’s Championship. Rounds begin daily at 1 p.m. local time through May 20, with full coverage of the event on www.uschesschamps.com.

Wednesday’s opening ceremonies were held at the World Chess Hall of Fame, which sits directly across the street from the venue for the tournaments, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The event featured the drawing of lots to determine pairings and colors for both round-robin tournaments. Here are the pairings for Wednesday’s first round, highlighted by an instant clash between top-seeded Kamsky and two-seed Timur Gareev.

In the U.S. Women’s Championship, the reigning champion Krush takes on WGM Katerina Nemcova, a University of Texas - Brownsville student who is a newcomer to the U.S. Women’s Championship.

The 2014 opening ceremonies also featured the induction of two new selections into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, as well as two selections into the World Chess Hall of Fame, which are both housed in the same building. The U.S. Chess Trust added Abraham Kupchik, the 13-time winner of the Manhattan Chess Club Championship; as well as Jacqueline Piatigorsky, initiator of the U.S. Junior Closed Championships and organizer of two of the strongest American tournaments in history, the Piatigorsky Cups.

Added to the World hall was Maya Chiburdanidze, women’s world chess champion from 1978-1991 and only the second woman to earn the grandmaster title. Also honored was Paul Keres, the “crown prince of chess” who was seven times a World Championship candidate, yet never a winner.

The ceremonies also received remarks from International Arbiter Carol Jarecki, CCSCSL Executive Director Tony Rich, Jeff Rainford (Chief of Staff to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay), as well as U.S. Championship sponsors Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield. Much attention and applause was spent on St. Louis’ recent designation by Congress as the U.S. capital of chess.

The 2014 U.S. Championship will offer a $64,000 “Fischer prize” to any player in the U.S. Championship who runs the table with all victories. The prize honors the 50th anniversary of the American legend accomplishing such a feat with a 11-0 score in the 1963-64 U.S. Championship. It has never been repeated.

Both tournaments begin Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m., with every move broadcast live and discussed by the powerful commentary team of GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade on www.uschesschamps.com.

Local viewers may enjoy live commentary by GMs Ben Finegold and Robert Hess. Entry to the event is free for annual members of the Chess Club but costs just $10 per day for non-members.