It's ironic that, in the aftermath of Bobby Fischers historic victory over the legendary Soviet Chess machine, nowadays its the Russians who dominate the American game and with the big boost in the prize fund brought with the sponsorship of the AF4C to make the event one of the biggest annual prize funds in the game, many more are eagerly signing up to play under the Star Spangled Banner. This year's new edition to the field is second seed Alexander Goldin, a former Soviet Junior Champion. Already it looks as if next year Alexander Onischuk will be amongst the contestants.
Former Soviet Junior Champion Alexander Goldin
With many émigrés now living in America, many joke that the U.S. Championships could easily be mistaken for the USSR Championships. Half the field in the present U.S. Championships (29) belongs to the former Soviet Union, two of which at the top having contrasting passages to the West: Gregory Kaidanov and Boris Gulko.
Gulko, who is also one of the few players with a plus score against Garry Kasparov, spent most of his life in the former Soviet Union and is the only player to have won both the USSR and US titles (though Elena Donaldson has also won both the USSR and US Women's title). In 1977 he took joint first place along with Iosif Dorfman in one of the strongest tournaments of all time, the USSR championship.
In his early days he was regarded as a potential challenger for the world crown. However it was not to be due to political persecution that thwarted a promising career at its peak. During the late 70s, Boris and his wife, Anna (who after ending a protest fast was deprived of the 1982 USSR womens title due to a blatant official fraud), attempted to emigrate to the West and had to endured persecution and even imprisonment as "refusniks" in a Gulag. As further punishment both werent allowed by the Soviet authorities to compete in international competition until 1986 when, under intense international pressure, they were both granted exit visas and eventually settled in Fairlawn, New Jersey.
A two-time U.S. Champion in 1994 and 1999, Boris has also been a candidate for the World Championship title several times. He also has represented the U.S. team eight times at chess Olympiads and was a member of the team that won gold for the U.S. during the World Team Championships in Lucerne, 1993.
No such hardships however for the sole leader for the tournament, as No.1 seed Gregory Kaidanov, from Lexington, KY, emerges from the field of 58 to be the only player on a maximum score of 3/3. In 1990 Gregory and his wife visited the U.S. for the first time as tourists and it was an eventful experience (they were held up at gunpoint and lost all their money Welcome to America!) which led to an invitation to teach chess for a year in Kentucky. One year became many, and there have been no second thoughts. In 1992 Kaidanov was the undisputed leader of the Open tournament circuit in the US by virtue of winning the World Open, the National Open, the U.S. Open and the Novag Grand Prix. Gregory was a member of the U.S. winning team at the 1993 World Team Championship in Lucerne, Switzerland; bronze-medal winning team at the 1996 Chess Olympiad in Yerevan and the silver-medal winning team at the 1998 Chess Olympiad in Elista.
Kaidanov has won more than 25 international tournaments in his career. Among his latest victories is a first place at the 2002 Aeroflot Open in Moscow, considered to be one of the strongest open tournaments in the history of chess (82 out of 120 participants were grandmasters). In winning the tournament, Kaidanov took home $18,500. Then it was one of the biggest prizes of the chess year 2002 outwith an elite event featuring the likes of Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand & Co. Yet, despite all his success on the circuit, Kaidanov has never won the coveted US title, which this year has a record prize fund of $255,000, with $25,000 slotted for the winner. Now with a good start of 3/3, he has put himself in an ideal position to go on to capture his first US title -which would make him the first player from the Bluegrass State of Kentucky to win the title since Jackson Showalter in 1909. Gregory's website can be found at www.kaidanov.com.
Joining Gulko in the chasing pack just a half point behind Kaidanov is another four players from the former Soviet Union: Alexander Shabalov, Eugene Perelshteyn, and Varuzhan Akobian and Yury Lapshun, who for some reason played on a US Championship record-breaking 162 move game that could have easily have been drawn at move 80!
1 GM Gennadi Zaitshik 0-1 GM Gregory Kaidanov; 2 IM Varuzhan Akobian draw IM Yury Lapshun; 3 IM Jesse Kraai 0-1 GM Boris Gulko; 4 GM Alexander Shabalov 1-0 GM John Fedorowicz; 5 IM Hikaru Nakamura draw GM Nick De Firmian; 6 WGM Elena Donaldson 0-1 IM Boris Kreiman; 7 GM Alex Fishbein draw WGM Irina Krush; 8 GM Alexander Stripunsky draw GM Dmitry Gurevich; 9 GM Walter Browne draw GM Larry Christiansen; 10 GM Alex Yermolinsky draw FM Igor Foygel; 11 IM Eugene Perelshteyn 1-0 GM Sergey Kudrin; 12 GM Alexander Goldin draw GM Maurice Ashley; 13 GM Yasser Seirawan 1-0 IM Dean Ippolito; 14 FM Aaron Pixton 0-1 GM Joel Benjamin; 15 WGM Kamile Baginskaite 1-0 WFM Laura Ross; 16 IM Stanislav Kriventsov 0-1 IM Ben Finegold; 17 IM Ron Burnett 0-1 GM Alexander Ivanov; 18 GM Gregory Serper draw GM Anatoly Lein; 19 FM Stephen Muhammad 1-0 IM Michael Mulyar; 20 IM Justin Sarkar 1-0 IM Greg Shahade; 21 FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat draw WIM Jennifer Shahade; 22 IM William Paschall 1-0 Julia Shiber; 23 David Pruess 1-0 IM John Donaldson; 24 IM Larry Kaufman 1-0 WIM Elina Groberman; 25 FM Allan Bennett 0-1 IM John Watson; 26 FM Gregory Markzon 0-1 WIM Esther Epstein; 27 WIM Olga Sagalchik 1-0 Marc Esserman; 28 WIM Tsagaan Battsetseg 1-0 WIM Cindy Tsai; 29 Anna Levina 0-1 WIM Anna Hahn
Leader board: 1 GM G Kaidanov 3/3; 2-6 GM B Gulko, GM A Shabalov, IM V Akobian, GM Y Lapshun, IM E Perelshteyn 2.5; 7-25 GM Y Seirawan, GM J Benjamin, GM N De Firmian, GM A Stripunsky, GM L Christiansen, GM A Yermolinsky, IM B Finegold, GM A Ivanov, IM H Nakamura, GM G Zaitshik, IM B Kreiman, GM W Browne, GM D Gurevich, FM I Foygel, GM M Ashley, IM J Kraai, IM W Paschall, FM S Muhammad, IM J Sarkar 2; 26-38 GM A Goldin, GM G Serper, GM S Kudrin, GM J Fedorowicz, GM A Fishbein, FM T Enhbat, GM A Lein, IM L Kaufman, WGM K Baginskaite, WGM I Krush, IM J Watson, WIM J Shahade, D Pruess 1.5; 39-50 IM M Mulyar, IM G Shahade, FM A Pixton, IM S Kriventsov, IM D Ippolito, IM R Burnett, 45 WGM E Donaldson, WIM T Battsetseg, WIM A Hahn, WIM E Epstein, WIM O Sagalchik, J Shiber 1; 51-54 IM J Donaldson, FM A Bennett, WFM L Ross, WIM E Groberman 0.5; 55-58 FM G Markzon, M Esserman, WIM C Tsai, A Levina 0.
You can follow all 29 games live over the Internet at www.af4c.org.
John B Henderson