2015 U.S. Chess Championships Set to Start Wednesday

CCSCSL Founder Rex Sinquefield welcomes guests to Saint Louis at the opening ceremony of the 2015 U.S. Chess Championships. // Photo by Lennart Ootes

By FM Kostya Kavutskiy

One of the most highly anticipated events of the year is set to begin, as the 2015 U.S. Chess Championships kicked off with an elegant opening ceremony Tuesday night at the gorgeous Saint Louis Art Museum.

The natural highlight of the opening ceremony was the traditional “Drawing of Lots,” which determined the pairings for the next two weeks of U.S. Championship action.

2015 U.S. Chess Championship Round 1 Pairings - Wednesday, April 1

GM Ray Robson  -  GM Kayden Troff
GM Alex Onischuk  -  GM Timur Gareev
GM Conrad Holt  -  GM Hikaru Nakamura
GM Var Akobian  -  GM Sam Sevian
GM Gata Kamsky  -  GM Sam Shankland
GM Wesley So  -  GM Daniel Naroditsky

The championship section looks to be exceptionally difficult, with world top-10 players GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Wesley So eager to claim the status of being America's best player. Meanwhile, reigning U.S. Champion Gata Kamsky will aim to use a full career's experience to seek his sixth national title, while rising stars Sam Shankland, Ray Robson, Daniel Naroditsky, Kayden Troff and Sam Sevian are poised for several upsets during the event.

2015 U.S. Women's Chess Championship Round 1 Pairings - Wednesday, April 1

FM Alisa Melekhina  -  NM Apurva Virkud
WGM Tatev Abrahamyan  -  WIM Annie Wang
WFM Jennifer Yu  -  WGM Anna Sharevich
WGM Katerina Nemcova  -  IM Rusudan Goletiani
WGM Sabina Foisor  -  GM Irina Krush
WIM Viktorija Ni  -  IM Nazi Paikidze


The women's section seems less combative, as GM Irina Krush is a clear favorite to win the event following the absence of her main rival IM Anna Zatonskih. Still, Krush will have to overcome WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, who seems to get closer to the title every year, as well as newcomers IM Nazi Paikidze and WGM Anna Sharevich, who will also be looking to fight for the crown.

Tuesday night's opening ceremony was conducted by CCSCSL Executive Director Tony Rich, who kept things light-hearted, yet inspiring, and introduced several special guests -- starting with “the driving force behind American chess,” Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield. Rich’s words were not hyperbole: Without the Sinquefields, the U.S. Chess Championship and U.S. Women’s Chess Championship would not be able to take place under such amazing conditions.

Jeanne spoke briefly about her partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and establishing the chess merit badge, revealing that over 87,000 Boy Scouts had earned the chess badge since its creation in 2011. Rex then took the stage to expand upon the overall mission of the CCSCSL, which includes spreading the educational value of chess, supporting the community and city of Saint Louis, and working to have chess recognized as a sport.

Saint Louis Mayor Francis Slay also contributed some opening remarks, and even though this is the seventh time the city has hosted the U.S. Chess Championships, Slay was as grateful as ever for the positive image and community support the CCSCSL has been able to provide the city. Saint Louis is officially recognized as the chess capital of the United States, mainly due to the prestigious events run by the chess club and the continuously growing efforts to implement chess programming around hundreds of Saint Louis-area schools.

Following the Mayor’s inspiring words were hall of fame inductions, where Olga Rubtsova, Lyudmila Rudenko and Carl Schlechter each earned a place in the World Chess Hall of Fame. Additionally, four-time U.S. Champion GM Alexander Shabalov was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. Shabalov, only 47, was present to accept his induction, remarking that Boris Gulko won the 1999 U.S. Championship at the age of 52 -- prompting Shabalov to proclaim that he had no plans of retiring, but instead, he held ambitions of returning to Saint Louis soon to fight for the U.S. Championship title once again.

Last to speak was U.S. Chess Federation Executive Director Jean Hoffman, who expressed gratitude and amazement in the CCSCSL’s sensational events and continued commitment in spreading the educational value of chess.

The first round of the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship and  U.S. Women’s Chess Championship will begin Wednesday, April 1 at 1:00 p.m. Saint Louis time. Every round will be broadcast live on www.uschesschamps.com/live, featuring the world-class commentary team of GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley. Live commentary will also take place next door to the CCSCSL next-door at the brand-new Kingside Diner, featuring GM Alejandro Ramirez and GM Ben Finegold.

Lastly, make sure to check back in to www.uschesschamps.com for daily recaps of each round. We are under two weeks away from crowning a new U.S. Chess Champion!