Battle of the Sexes: 1-0 for the women

11/25/2004 – The 2005 US Championship has started in San Diego, California. 64 players have qualified, 49 men and 15 women, who all play in the same group. In the first round reigning champion Alex Shabalov lost to WGM Anna Zatonskih for the first sensation of the championship.

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2005 US Chess Championship

November 23 – December 5, 2004
San Diego, California

The titles of 2005 US and Women's Chess Champion will be decided in an event which is taking place at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines hotel, 15 miles from the San Diego International Airport, is overlooking the championship Torrey Pines Golf Course.

The event is titled "2005" because, due to an awkward contractual conflict, the US Chess Federation held a 2004 Women's championship earlier this year. There will be no 2004 US championship.

All of the players, men and women, participate in the same Swiss event. The Women's champion is the woman who scores the greatest number of points.There are 64 players, 49 men and 15 women. Most players qualified automatically by rating or by winning a slot in one of the many qualifying tournaments. The highest rated players are:

 1 Gata Kamsky 2777   11 Alexander Yermolinsky  2642
 2 Gregory Kaidanov 2730   12 Alexander Stripunsky 2640
 3 Alexander Goldin 2705   13 Alexander Ivanov 2633
 4 Boris Gulko 2705   14 Nick De Firmian 2626
 5 Igor Novikov 2690   15 Ben Finegold 2621
 6 Alexander Shabalov  2689   16 Joel Benjamin 2620
 7 Alexander Onischuk 2680   17 Larry Christiansen 2611
 8 Hikaru Nakamura 2676   18 Sergey Kudrin 2607
 9 Ildar Ibraigimov 2671   19 Gregory Serper 2598
10 Varuzhan Akobian 2665   20 Aleks Wojtkiewicz 2590

The prize fund, provided by America's Foundation for Chess (AFC), is over $250,000. First prize is $25,000 overall and $12,500 for the Women's champion.

Games, results, reports and live coverage are available at the official site.


Round one shocker: Battle of the Sexes

THIRTY ONE years ago, the world was all aflutter as Billie Jean King took on Bobby Riggs in a tennis match that started the whole controversy over the so-called "Battle of the Sexes."

King's highly publicized remarks in 1973 that the contest raised important gender-related issues was an attempt to provide a fig leaf of societal respectability to what was an in-your-face commercial venture against an aging opponent with substantial spin-offs for both participants.

The argument reopened last year with the opposition to top woman golfer Annika Sorentam's playing in the lion's den of the PGA tour. Many commentators ventured to suggest that even in sports where speed, strength and endurance do not play a definitive part, women just do not have a prayer. Even at the top ranks of woman's snooker and shooting where they have exceptional talents such as Allison Fisher and Anjali Ved Pathak, they argued, the ladies wouldn't be able to compete with their male counterparts.

Not so in Chess. The one exception they all missed out on was Hungary's Judit Polgar, someone who on a regular basis consistently dents more than a few male egos, and particularly at the top echelons of the game. Currently ranked #9 in the world, at 15 Polgar broke a thirty-year-old record set by Bobby Fischer for becoming the world's youngest grandmaster. She is a regular in the elite top-ten club alongside superstars such as Garry Kasparov. Polgar is the only female player in history to beat the world's #1 player in competitive play.


Anna Zatonskih, 26, from Bowling Green, Ohio [Photo: Paul Truong]

Now, in one of the most sensational starts in its 159-year history, there was a major upset in the opening round of the 2005 U.S. Chessmaster Chess Championships at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, Calif. Defending champion Alexander Shabalov, the country's top money-winners and a favorite to retain his title, was defeated by woman player Anna Zatonskih.


Alexander Shabalov, defending US Champion [Photo: Pufichek]

Described by former world championship challenger Nigel Short as "one of the strongest women on American soil, " Anna, 26, from Bowling Green, Ohio, was one of the stars of the US women's Olympiad team that only last month won the silver medal in Spain. Originally from Mariupol, Ukraine, Anna, along with husband Volodymyr Melnykov moved to the USA in June of 2002.

That same year saw women's chess benefiting enormously by the decision of America's Foundation for Chess (AF4C) to integrate both sexes in the one competition for the first time in history, the result of which has seen a dramatic increase in the playing strength of several of the country's top female players.

"Before the game I was thinking I would be happy with a draw," commented an ecstatic Zatonskih after her first-ever victory over a top-100 player. "I had black and against a strong opponent. I had a slightly worse position out of the opening. Alexander was attacking and had about 20 minutes left when he blundered. I organized a counter-attack and got the advantage. Then he sacrificed pieces trying for a perpetual check draw. Maybe he could play the endgame a little better, I don't know." Here's the memorable game:

Shabalov,A (2608) - Zatonskih,A (2440)
2005 US Chessmaster Championship San Diego (1), 24.11.2005
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Ne7 8.0-0 Nbc6 9.Nxc6 Nxc6 10.Qe2 h6 11.b4 g6 12.Nd2 Bg7 13.Nf3 Qc7 14.Re1 Ne7 15.Be3 0-0 16.Qd2 Kh7 17.Bc5 Rfe8 18.h4 Qd8 19.h5 b6 20.Bxe7 Rxe7 21.Qf4 Be8 22.Nd4 Rc8 23.Re3 Kh8 24.hxg6 Rxc3 25.gxf7 Bxf7 26.b5 Rec7 27.Nc6 Qf8 28.Rf3 Qa3 29.Rd1.

Now Black has a deadly pin: 29....Bh5. Unfortunately 30.g4 doesn't work: 30...Rf7 31.Qg3 Rxf3 32.Qxf3 Bg6 wins the bishop on d3. 30.Rh3! Now if 30...Bxd1 31.Rxh6+ Bxh6 32.Qxh6+ White has a perpetual.

30...Rf7! The exclamation mark is for a move giving White the optimum chance to blunder, which is exactly what the reigning US champion does: 31.Qg3?? 31.Qd2 would have held the position, since once again 31...Bxd1 32.Rxh6+ Bxh6 33.Qxh6+ Kg8 34.Qg6+ Kf8 35.Qh6+ Kg8 (35...Ke8? 36.Qxe6+) 36.Qg6+ leads to a perpetual. After 31.Qg3 Anna can take the rook with impunity, since the white queen no longer attacks the square h6.

31...Bxd1 32.Nd8 Re7 33.Qg6 Rxd3 34.Rxh6+. Shabalov tries it this way 34...Bxh6 35.Qxh6+ Kg8.

Very nice, the king is going to escape perpetual check on h4! 36.Qg6+ Rg7 37.Qxe6+ Kh7 38.Qf5+ Rg6 39.Qf7+ Kh6 40.Qf4+ Kh5 41.Qf5+ Rg5 42.Qf7+ Kh4 43.Qf4+ Bg4. Shabalov worked it out and decided to go for a more convoluted line, giving his opponent an opportunity to let him off the hook: 36.Nxe6 Rxe6 37.Qxe6+ Kf8 38.Qf6+ Ke8 39.Qe6+ Kf8 40.Qf6+ Ke8 41.Qg6+ Kd8 42.Qg8+ Kd7 43.Qf7+ Qe7 44.Qf5+ Qe6 45.Qxd3 Bh5 46.Qh7+ Bf7 47.f4 Qg6 48.Qh3+ Be6 49.Qa3 Qb1+ 50.Kf2 Ke8 51.Qd6 Qc2+ 52.Kg3 Qf5 53.Qc6+ Kf7 54.Qb7+ Kg6 55.Qxa7 Qg4+ 56.Kh2 Qxf4+ 57.Kh1 Qh4+ and Anna Zatonskih has created the first sensation of this championship: 0-1.


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