US Women's Championship: jazz, blindfold and hula chess

10/17/2009 – The opening festivities at the 2009 US Women's Chess Championship lasted two days and included a jazz concert, a bounty blitz tournament and a five-board simultaneous blindfold exhibition by Anna Zatonskih. There was also a demonstration of hula-chess, a new variant of the game that made it to the Francis M. Naumann gallery in New York and Fox news. Pictures and videos.

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The opening festivities at the 2009 US Women's Chess Championship were two days long and included a phenomenal jazz concert, a bounty blitz tournament and a five-board simultaneous blindfold exhibition by Anna Zatonskih. There was also a hula-chess booth, which we will visit at the end of this report.


At the opening ceremony: Sabina Foisor, Iryna Zenyuk, Rusudan Goletiani, Camila Baginskaite, Anna Zatonskih, Tatev Abrahamyan, Standing: Yun Fan, Irina Krush, Tsagaan Batseetseg and Jennifer Shahade.

To draw round robin-lots, Arbiter Carol Jarecki called out each woman to choose from ten colorful scarves with numbers from one to ten stitched on to their corners. The players then sat on alternating colored chairs numbered one through ten and were blindfolded by Carol.

Then a ceremonial group blindfold game began in which the women passed the mike to one another. In the above picture Yun Fan announces her move as Iryna Zenyuk and Battsetseg Tsagaan await. Jennifer Shahade, chair of the organising committee, looks on from behind.


Iryna Zenyuk, Battsetseg Tsagaan and Irina Krush share a laugh during the blindfold game


Serious stuff: a five-board simultaneous blindfold exhibition by Anna Zatonskih

The last man standing in the Zatonskih simul was the founder of the chess club, Rex Sinquefield, who receives a copy of the book Blindfold Chess, signed by author Eliot Hearst and all the women in the tournament.

The two days of festivities to open the 2009 U.S. Women's Championship in St. Louis (Oct.3-13) featured a "Queens of Jazz" concert on Friday night with Denise Thimes (click on the link to listen to her – really!) and Ann Hampton-Callaway (same as previous parenthesis).


Thimes, a Saint Louis native, raised everyone to their feet in a breathtaking performance


Hampton-Callaway also blew people away. She even created an improv song at the end of the evening using words called out from the audience including, "checkmate", "resignation" and "knight."


A ballet performance by IM Irina Krush

Hula chess

Jennifer Shahade and Dim Mak films created hulachess (they also produce together, the US Chess Scoops for Chess Life Online) as the female answer to chessboxing. And you thought you couldn't get your cardio and Sicilian practice in simultaneously. Before we come to the motion sequences, here are some still shots.


Jennifer Shahade (left) showcases her hula-hoop skills. In the back: Irina Krush and Michelle Schaeffer


Michelle Schaeffer of the St. Louis Hoop Club and Jennifer Shahade play a game


Rusudan Goletiani shows great form at this new variant of chess


Battsetseg Tsagaan playing hula chess

Hulachess is also a video installation by Daniel Meirom of DimMak Films and Jennifer Shahade. See the full version at the Francis M. Naumann Gallery in New York (24 West 57th St.) from September 10-October 30. Competing against Shahade in the first ever hulachess match is professional dancer and choreographer Gabrielle Revlock. The moves are based on analysis by Shahade from Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess.


Hulachess excerpt from DIM mak films on Vimeo.

Also installed in the Francis M. Naumann "Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess" show is a gallery of work by contemporary artists including Yoko Ono and Sophie Matisse. For more info, see Jennifer's Blog post on Chess Life Online.

Hulachess got another big plug on a morning show, where on a promotional plug for the US Women's Championship, Jennifer Shahade attempted to teach chess and hooping to the anchors.

Pictures by Betsy Dynako of Inspiring Art

Previous ChessBase reports

Photo impressions of the 2009 US Women's Championship
15.10.2009 – It was won, as you know, by Anna Zatonskih, who scored a remarkable 8.5/9, leaving the next best player two points behind. The tournament featured the highest ever prize fund in US Women's Championship history – over US $64,000, of which Anna picked up a cool $15,000. And a pair of glamorous Susan's Costume Shoes. Big pictorial by Betsy Dynako.

Anna Zatonskih wins second consecutive US Women's Championship
14.10.2009 – Remember the very dramatic final playoff game between Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush? The former won the title with milliseconds on the clock. This year it was calmer sailing for Anna, who won the event one round before it finished. In the end she had a very impressive score of 8.5/9, with Camilla Baginskaite trailing two full points behind. Big illustrated report with pictures by Betsy Dynako.


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