Shaba takes Seattle

1/19/2003 – Some have problems with a good night's sleep there, but Alexander Shabalov, 35, came, saw and took the $25,000 prize fund as US Champion 2003. The 1992 émigré from Riga, Latvia, was tied with seven other players for a Showdown in Seattle. In a nerve-wracking final the "street fighter" overcame a bad position to win and take the title. Here is John Henderson's final report.

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2003 AF4C US Chess Championships, 9-18 January Northwest Rooms, Seattle.

Alexander Shabalov wins
2003 AF4C US Chess Championships

In a dramatic finale to the AF4C US Chess Championships in Seattle, No.6 seed Alexander Shabalov won the top prize of $25,000 and the 2003 national title after a nerve-wracking final round of play.

With eight players tied for first on 5.5/8 going into the final round, a mass playoff for the title looked almost inevitable as six of the games ended in draws. However the playoff scenario for the overall title was avoided as Shabalov, regarding on the playing circuit as a chess 'street fighter', overcame a bad position against 18 year old Varuzhan Akobian to fittingly win the last game left to be played in the tournament hall.

The win gives Shabalov his first outright US title. In 1993 he shared the title with Alexander Yermolinsky, and in 2000 he shared a three-way tie with Yasser Seirawan and Joel Benjamin.

Akobian resigns against Shabalov in Seattle

Shabalov, 35, from Pittsburgh, PA, was born in Riga, Latvia. As a youngster he was identified as a promising talent by winning the highly competitive Under 16 Championship of the Soviet Union in 1982. In 1988 he chose the career of being a professional player and became a grandmaster in 1991. Among his chess teachers were the late Mikhail Tal and Vladimir Bagirov. Because of political turmoil, Alex decided to move to America in 1992 and ended up in Pittsburgh where his wife obtained a medical residency.

Final standings

1 Alexander Shabalov 6.5/9;
2-8 Gregory Kaidanov, Alexander Goldin, Boris Gulko, Joel Benjamin, Alexander Ivanov, Alexander Stripunsky, John Fedorowicz 6.0/9

AF4C US Women's Championship goes to playoff

Jennifer Shahade

Irina Krush

Despite one playoff being avoided in the overall championships, the three leading women players have to come back tomorrow to contest a playoff for the title and the $12,500 first prize. In the final round, defending champion Jennifer Shahade lost to IM Ben Finegold to finish on a score of 4.5/9. This allowed the 1998 champion Irina Krush, who drew her last round game against IM Eugene Perelshteyn, to catch up with her rival. And, with Anna Hahn beating Elina Groberman, she will now also join the two top US ladies for a three-way playoff for the title.

Anna Hahn

The playoff for the women's title will start at 1.30pm in the Northwest Rooms at the Seattle Centre, with free entry to spectators. Fans can also watch the excitement of the three-way playoff live over the internet at

John Henderson


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