Choosing the best in the US

12/24/2003 – In December, 2004 the best chess players in the country will be heading to San Diego, for the US Championship. Last year’s winners, Alexander Shabalov and Anna Hahn may have some interesting challengers. Susan Grumer reports...

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From Uncertainty Comes Hope

Last January GM Alexander Shabalov and WGM Anna Hahn won the US Championship in the men's and women's sections respectively. The tournament was sponsored by the America's Foundation for Chess (AF4C), which is committed to the education of children. By making chess a larger part of America's cultural fabric AF4C hopes to elevate the profile of chess in America so that it will soon become a regular part of every child's classroom experience.

This year the AF4C has found a co-sponsor, San Diego's NTC Foundation's Promenade Centre, which becomes the new event home. The 2004 U.S. Chess Championships, scheduled for December 2004, will be held at the NTC Foundation's new arts and cultural venue in San Diego, Calif. The prize fund is expected to remain at its record-breaking $250,000 level.

So who might be the contenders at next year's event? Susan Grumer, a former US Virgin Islands women's team player, sent us some pictures and her impressions of her favorite participants.

FM Fabiano Caruana – adorable, curly haired, curious, never still for a moment, FIDE Master and just 11 years old. Watching him play is a delight. He seems to almost never look at the board, but moves his head in a slow circle, eyes glancing upward, as though he is waiting for heaven to give him the next move. But, you can almost hear his brain churning, and you just know he is seeing the position in his head.

When he makes his move, it is deliberate, with authority. And then he sits on his leg, takes a bite of his snack, a sip of his drink, and glances at a neighboring game while he waits for his opponent to make his next move. Fabiano is most likely thinking how it will feel when he is US Champion – or maybe even World Chess Champion one day.

WFM Anna Levina, just seventeen and surely the prettiest girl at most tournaments. She looks very serious and sits quietly at the chessboard. But, find her afterwards in the analysis room, and she never stops talking. When she talks, many come to listen. Anna came to the US from Russia as a young child. Her chess has flourished here. She played in the last US Championship. Now she is studying at Duke University and waiting for the chance to play again – and maybe win the big prize this time.

FM Matthew Hoekstra is also a student at Duke. He won the first place U.S. Chess Trust Scholarship award. Matthew is a gregarious, tall and handsome 19-year-old. He often has an elfish sparkle in his eyes. But he is very serious about his chess. He has been playing in rated tournaments since he was ten years old. He played in the 2002 US Championship, and has already qualified to play in 2004, with the hope that this will be his turn to be number one.

GM Anatoly Lein – not all the hopefuls are automatically young. Anatoly has been around quite a while. We hope he will be here for a long time to come. He has not reached the heights of another Anatoly, but is still grabbing for the brass ring. At the World Open held in Philadelphia last July, he told a photographer to please not take his picture the first day. He pleaded that his shirt was not fit for picture taking and he needed a shave. Sure enough, there he was the next day, clean shaven in fresh blue shirt. The resulting picture can be seen here.

Report and pictures by Susan Grumer

Following is the official press release for the U.S. Championship. The organizers, while certain that they will have a successful tournament, are looking for other sponsors to join them in the hopes that this will be the biggest US chess event ever. There are a multitude of chess players, young and old, with the same hope.


Press release

Sponsor for 2004 US Chess Championship found

SEATTLE, Wash. — (December 22, 2003) — America’s Foundation for Chess (AF4C) announces the NTC Foundation as its new partner for the annual U.S. Chess Championships scheduled for the first two weeks in December 2004. The NTC Foundation in San Diego, Calif., will host this historic national tournament at their new arts and cultural venue, Promenade Centre. The winner will represent the United States at the World Chess Championships.

This will be the fourth year that AF4C has hosted the annual tournament – one of the oldest and most prestigious national titles in the world – and its first year doing so with a co-sponsor. Expected to maintain its record-breaking $250,000 prize fund, the 2004 U.S. Chess Championships will be held over 11 days and will attract widespread media attention from around the world. Chessmaster will also return as a 2004 corporate sponsor.

Event Offers Something for Chess Fan and Non-Chess Players Alike

The 2004 tournament will highlight not only the elite chess competition, but also offer valuable educational activities sure to make chess more accessible to the general public. Promoting chess as a learning tool that is fun, engaging and available to people young and old, novice or master, is another reason AF4C is seeking the large public venue offered by NTC’s Promenade Center.
“We are proud to welcome this high-profile, national tournament as one of the Promenade Centre’s inaugural events,” said Murray Galinson, chairman of the NTC Foundation Board of Directors. “AF4C and the Foundation both understand the importance of bringing innovative learning and education to the public.”

“AF4C has been looking for a partner whose mission is aligned with ours: NTC supports creative education and believes in the value the U.S. Chess Championships can bring to the national expansion of the AF4C classroom chess curriculum,” said Erik J Anderson, president and co-founder of AF4C.

A community that embraces education and culture, San Diego is enthusiastic about AF4C’s relocation of the US Chess Championships.

President and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau Reint Reinders explains, “Relocating this national event to San Diego’s Promenade Centre will give more chess enthusiasts access to players and commentary. Those unfamiliar with the game will receive an introduction to the value of chess in America. We are excited that AF4C recognizes the potential that a co-sponsor such as the NTC Foundation can have in drawing more attention to this elite event. San Diego is thrilled to carry on the chess torch.”

About NTC Foundation

The NTC Foundation, a private 501(C)3 nonprofit corporation, is charged with the preservation and renovation of 26 historical buildings that are part of the historic core of the former Naval Training Center in San Diego, California. The Foundation is also responsible for the creation of a civic, arts and cultural center known as the Promenade Centre to occupy the renovated buildings. For information, visit www.promenadecentre.org.

About America’s Foundation for Chess

Founded on the hope of making chess a subject taught in every school in the United States, AF4C, www.af4c.org a nonprofit organization, is committed to making chess a larger part of America's cultural fabric — accessible in schools and in popular culture. By organizing events such as the U.S. Championships, AF4C hopes to elevate the profile of chess in America so that it will soon become a regular part of every child's classroom experience.


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