They sat for five hours, stoically, staring down one another.
The country’s 22 best chess players – 12 men, 10 women – settled at 11 tables and slugged it out on a rain-swept Tuesday here at the U.S. Chess Championship.
For the sixth straight year, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis hosted the two-week event through May 20, conveniently across the street from the World Chess Hall of Fame. Some $172,000 in prize money is up for grabs for the men — $45,000 for the winner. The women vie for $72,000 ($20,000 for winner.)
While defending, 4-time U.S. champion Gata Kamsky mulled his next move against Alexander Onischuk, defending, 5-time U.S. women’s champion Irina Krush got up and strolled past her opponent, Tatev Abrahamyan, after quickly moving her piece. Abrahamyan folded her fingers under her chin, contemplating a response.
Several signs implored silence in a deathly quiet playing area, and discouraged flash photography. Grandmasters played with head in hands, arms folded, fingers pressed into foreheads. Some got up and wandered the hall, eating snacks, to relieve the tension.
“The typical chess dream is of something that happens to your position – it is ruins,” says Krush, 30, who learned the game from her father as a grade school. It’s several hours after her match ended in a draw, but the diminutive Brooklyn resident is in “post-mortem” mode reviewing her 5-hour match while carving into scallops.
Sure, thousands of chess gurus are closely following the action here. But organizers have a more ambitious goal: Spice up the event with live streaming commentary from four-time U.S. champion Yasser Seirawan, host Jennifer Shahade — a two-time U.S. women’s chess champion — and voluble grand master Maurice Ashley
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