OT: US Chess Championships Day 1

Submitted by Caesar on April 17th, 2018 at 9:24 AM

There was quite a bit of interest in the last chess-related thread, so I thought to post another one during OT season.

The Tournament

Briefly, this is a 12 player round robin tournament taking place at the St. Louis Chess Club. The total prize money is 194k, with 50k going to 1st place. 

The Field

For folks who don't follow chess, let me set the board for you. The top three seeds are very strong--all are ranked in the world's top 10. Fabiano Caruana just won the Candidates Tournament for the right to play Magnus Carlsen in the World Championships later this year. What's nuts, however, is that he then won the Grenke Chess Classic--a very competitive tournament in its own right--over Carlsen just a few days later (their only head-to-head matchup, it should be noted, ended in a very tense draw). He's in top form, and even though he has only had a week to rest before the US Championships, he could very well win the US title.

Wesley So was also in the Candidates Tournament, though he had a very disappointing showing. I think he'll be very motivated to make things happen this year. He's known as a counter-attacker, though other top-minds in the game tend to critique him for not yet having a definitive style.

Hikaru Nakamura is one of my favorite chess players because of his attacking play. He just missed out on this year's Candidates Tournament, In general, his weakness is taking losses with black at elite tournaments. As a younger player, he used openings like the Dutch, which really doesn't work at top levels, so I think he is trying to nail down a system with black that keeps him competitive. Let's see if he has that figured iout.

Akobian and Onischuk (World Rank 69) have been near the top of the US Chess scene for a while. I don't expect any fireworks from the old guard, but they're all pretty solid dudes. I was surprised not to see 5-time US Champion Gata Kamsky join the tournament. 

Robson (World Rank 89) and Shankland (70) are young dudes who I remember as chess prodigies. It usually takes some time for guys to mature into contenders, but maybe this is where they break through.

One player to keep an eye on is 17-year-old Jeffery Xiong from Texas. He's already ranked 78th in the world, and I'm interested to see how his game compares to some of the world's top players in this tournament. 

The last several elite tournaments have been very exciting, so I'm looking forward to seeing what this tournament has to offer. 


Mr Miggle

April 17th, 2018 at 10:00 AM ^

It will be a valuable tournament for him as it was for Xiong last year. He's played well lately, but has never faced a field like this one. They aren't likely to crack the top 3, but they each have a chance to move up a level. They could be true rivals to the top 3 before long.

Lenderman will be interestiing to watch too. He's upped his play a lot in the last year. At 28, he needs to keep that going. It's tough to pass those younger players.

To me, who wins among the top 3 isn't really that interesting. Caruana is on a roll, but he's playing a lot lately and this isn't that important to him. Any of the top 3 could easily win. It's probably decided by how big a score they run up against the weaker players.

Mr Miggle

April 17th, 2018 at 11:15 AM ^

He's the lowest rated player by some margin. He earned the GM title last year, one of the youngest ever, and has advanced since then. He has had good results against players around his rating, time to see what he can do playing up every round. That's very tough. I spent some time talking to his father when Awonder was 9. I could tell he was a hard worker and very talented. He just needed serious coaching and experience.


April 17th, 2018 at 12:10 PM ^

Especially at a young age, this can make a huge difference. I forget the name of the guy Magnus Carlsen was coached by, but before he met that coach, everyone had Karjakin pegged as the next big deal.

Very cool story that you met him. Did you play in any big tournaments? 


April 17th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

I've never watched a match live, though I'm sure there must be a way to do so. I would, however, recommend checking out ChessNetwork on YouTube. He usually picks a couple interesting games from major tournaments and analyzes them -- it's quite educational and, in my opinion, wildly entertaining. He broke down a lot of games from last month's Candidates Tournament that I bet you'd enjoy.


April 17th, 2018 at 12:08 PM ^

St. Louis Chess Club is going to stream the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gLqK2olqb8

I'm not sure if they're covering the US Championships, but Chess Brah's is usually pretty entertaining. You can find them on twitch. https://www.twitch.tv/chessbrah

Chess24 did a great job of covering Grenke and Candidates, and it looks like they'll cover the US Championships. GM Gustafsson is hilarious. https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/us-championship-2018. Also search for their YouTube live commentary. 


April 17th, 2018 at 2:00 PM ^

To give you an idea of how hard it is to get ready for a tournament, it's like studying for a bar exam. They need to have a working knowledge of a ton of information.

A week is very difficult. You need to rest, but after that, you need to make sure your bar exam prep is again up to snuff.