U.S. Chess Champ begins tomorrow

by Alejandro Ramirez
3/31/2015 – The United States Chess Championship is one of the strongest tournaments in the world. In terms of national championships it is only below Russia's in strength. Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So will be the favorites this year in the open section, but the fight will clearly be wild in the women's as well. We bring you a preview as well as a report from the opening ceremony.

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The 2015 U.S. Championship is an elite national championship event, featuring 12 of the strongest chess players in America. Over the course of eleven rounds, these competitors will battle for $175,000 in prize money, qualification into the World Championship cycle, and the coveted title of 2015 U.S. Champion.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is honored to have hosted the U.S. Championship, U.S. Women's Championship and U.S. Junior Championship since 2009. This "Triple Crown" of chess represents America's most elite events, and the nation's strongest competitors battle each year for the coveted title of U.S. Champion, U.S. Women's Champion and U.S. Junior Champion. The club has crowned many champions over the last seven years, including:

2009 Hikaru Nakamura Anna Zatonskih N/A
2010 Gata Kamsky Irina Krush Sam Shankland
2011 Gata Kamsky Anna Zatonskih Gregory Young
2012 Hikaru Nakamura Irina Krush Marc Arnold
2013 Gata Kamsky Irina Krush Daniel Naroditsky
2014 Gata Kamsky Irina Krush Kayden Troff

The club is also proud to have given over 1.5 million dollars in prize money to competitors in the championships since 2009. The message is clear: talented young chess players can win fame and fortune in United States chess. The breakdown of the prize funds by year is as follows:

2009 $102,300 $64,500 N/A
2010 $173,100 $65,000 $10,300
2011 $171,000 $60,000 $10,300
2012 $166,000 $64,000 $18,000
2013 $180,000 $64,000 $10,300
2014 $172,000 $72,000 $10,300
2015 $175,000 $75,000 $20,000
Total $1,139,400 $464,500 $79,200
Total Prize Money Awarded: $1.7 Million

2015 U.S. Chess Championship

The 2015 edition of the U.S. Chess Championship is the strongest and youngest championship in history. The club was able to attract the top players from the country, including Hikaru Nakamura, who had skipped the last couple of editions. Also joining the fray is the powerhouse and recently transferred player Wesley So.


Name Age Rating
Nakamura, Hikaru 27 2798
So, Wesley 21 2788
Kamsky,Gata 40 2680
Onischuk,Aleaxnder 39 2665
Shankland,Samuel 23 2661
Robson,Ray 20 2656
Naroditsky,Daniel 19 2640
Akobian, Varuzhan 31 2622
Gareev, Timur 26 2599
Sevian,Samuel 14 2548
Troff, Kayden 16 2544
Holt, Conrad 21 2525

2644 average rating with an average age of 24.75 years.

The top two seeds are by far the tournament favorites, but they will have to prove themselves against a field that is far from easy. Hikaru Nakamura is the World's new number three player, right behind Carlsen and Caruana, after spectacular tournaments in Gibraltar and Zurich. However right on his heels is Wesley So, at 2788 he is the World's number eight.

The veterans of the tournament, Kamsky and Onischuk, are extremely solid players that are used to playing with the elite. As if that wasn't hard enough, right behind them come three of the best prospects of American chess: Shankland, who hasn't lost a FIDE rated game in his last 65 games, collecting a gold medal at the Olympiad while doing so, Robson who is training in the Webster SPICE program, and Naroditsky who also comes from strong performances.

Akobian and Gareev are strong grandmasters with different styles completely. Akobian is a very solid player who usually hovers around 2620-2640, while Gareev is a wild player who has been as far high as 2680 and has finally dropped just below 2600.

The the three final participants round off the young and talented list. The kids, Sevian and Troff, will be playing in their second U.S. Championship after their participation in the 2013 edition. Meanwhile Holt earned his spot in the tournament by being the U.S. Open champion from last year.

2015 U.S. Women's Championship

The U.S. Women's tournament will be a big slugfest. Some of the usual favorites will be playing, but they are now joined by a couple of recent transfers and a squad of teenagers looking for the top place.


Name Age Rating
Krush,Irina 31 2477
Paikidze,Nazi 21 2333
Abrahamyan,Tatev 27 2322
Goletiani,Rusudan 34 2311
Nemcova,Katerina 24 2279
Sharevich,Anna 29 2267
Foisor,Sabina 25 2235
Melekhina,Alisa 23 2235
Ni,Viktorija 23 2188
Yu,Jennifer 13 2180
Virkud,Apurva 16 2132
Wang,Annie 12 1901

2238 average rating, 23 year average rating

The favorite without a doubt will be Irina Krush. Anna Zatonskih, America's #1-2 player (she is exactly the same rating as Krush), is taking care of her newborn. The tournament is really wide open to Tatev Abrahamyan, who has come close to winning the tournament twice, the newcomer Nazi Paikidze who was exceedingly strong a couple of years ago, or the veteran Rusa Goletiani who comes back to the championship after two years of not playing.

Opening Ceremony

Samuel Sevian, right, is 14 and has grown to a strapping 5'10 (1.77 m), with a rating to match it

A gorgeous view outside of the Saint Louis Art Museum,
host of the opening ceremony to the 2015 U.S. Championships

Katerina Nemcova and Nazi Paikidze from the U.S. Women's

Irina Krush and Alexander Onischuk engaging in conversation

Nazi Paikidze is the new recruit to the U.S. Chess team. Tatev Abrahamyan is almost due for a national title as she has come unbelievably close to it twice, while Rusa Goletiani is coming back from a two year hiatus.

Ben Finegold is one of the live audience commentators this year

Tatev Abrahamyan enjoying an art exhibition of Max Beckmann

Tatev Abrahamyan and Nazi Paikidze next to Beckmann's work

Many chess players were extremely social

Others (Kamsky in the picture) not so much

Your reporter enjoying some time with Tatev Abrahamyan and statistician Aviv Friedman

Darcy Allred and Erica Kelly work for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. 

Familiar faces: Hikaru Nakamura and his second Kris Littlejohn

The young musketeers! Annie Wang, Jennifer Yu and Apurva Virkud

Timur Gareev had little issue with the microphone volume. He spoke up.

Rex Sinquefield is the reason that the U.S. Championship is such a success.

Alexander Shabalov, despite being an active player, was inducted to the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. A player of unbelievable caliber, of exceptional creativity, several times U.S. Champion, it was no doubt that he deserved the induction - it is simply that many people thought it would come at least many years from now.

The action starts tomorrow at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time. We will bring you, as usual, live coverage on www.playchess.com, but also feel free to watch the live commentary with WGM Jennifer Shahade and GMs Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan from the official website, which is linked just below.


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.



Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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