GM Christiansen takes U.S. Championship in Seattle!

Since its inception, the U.S. Championship had been made up of a select handful of the top players. Over the past decade, there has been an annoyance with what seems to be the same cadre of players competing every year. In perhaps one the most innovative attempts to revitalize interest, the Seattle Chess Foundation (with the blessings of the U.S.C.F) has implemented a new system of qualification for 56 spots. Despite many of the same faces (many European immigrants and American-born GMs), the tournament has been intriguing due to the combining the men's and women's championships.

U.S. Championship Home Page

For the crown of U.S. Champion, GM Larry Christiansen defeated GM Nick deFirmian in a playoff featuring two American-born players with fierce attacking styles. After playing equal in four playoff games, it all came down to a penultimate tiebreak with black getting "draw odds." White would receive 6:5 time odds, but had to win to take the crown. In a Modern Benoni, Christiansen crashed through in an exciting queen ending, and with the win he became the new U.S. Champion! While the women fared poorly, WIM Jennifer Shahade (2352) was the story of the tournament with her solid performance against a tough field which included six GMs! Her 5-4 result earned her norms for both the WGM and the IM titles and the U.S. Women's title! WFM Cindy Tsai (2179) had her "five minutes of fame" when she upset 6-time U.S. Champion GM Walter Browne (2524) in the first round.

The tournament had many interesting games, but one of the wildest games has been the
Shabalov-Fishbein game of round 3. This is certainly one that you must see! In addition, we saw another Q+R ending in Pixton-Schneider, but unlike GM Peter Svidler (who drew in this position against Gelfand), Schneider finished the game in snappy fashion by using a "pinwheel" method and finally snaring the rook. In round 7's  Ariel-Altounian encounter, FM Donny Ariel put on a brilliant display against FM Levon Altounian by a barrage of sacrifices!! A running joke was zipping around the Net about the number of short draws, but most of the games were hard-fought battles.

The tournament coverage was powered by a superb web presence as the Seattle Chess Foundation hosted a first rate event. All participants played on beautiful wooden boards with hand crafted pieces and the top boards  feature the board sensors which allows the games to be followed on the TV monitor. Most of the men played in either a suit or a jacket conveying a sense of professionalism not normally seen in U.S. chess events. The website featured a live web cam (see picture on left) that gave a refreshed view of  the tournament hall every 30 seconds. The site has thorough coverage and with the smart TASC game viewer the games were posted in a timely fashion and the site was very well-maintained. It seems like online tournament coverage has been brought to a new level! For next year… watch out for names like Ashley, Tate, Morrison and Muhammad! They're sharpening their swords at this very moment!

Members of the U.S. Championship staff.

Members of the
U.S. Championship staff

Final Standings (Women are color coded in red)
1-2. Christiansen, de Firmian 6.5
3-8. Kreiman, Benjamin, Yermolinsky, Shabolov, Stripunsky, A. Ivanov 6.0
9-15. Kaidanov, Gulko, Kudrin, Seirawan, Browne, I. Ivanov, Schneider 5.5
Shahade, Serper, Khmelnitsky, Fishbein, Fedorowicz, Ariel, Rey, Kraai, Mulyar, Foygel, Perelshteyn, Strugatsky 5.0
Baginskaite, Paschall, Lapshun, Vucic, Altounian, Ambartsoumian, Pixton 4.5
E. Donaldson, Battsetseg, Kaufman, Gurevich, Kriventsov, Mikhailuk Kalikshteyn, G. Sagalchik 4.0
Epstein, O. Sagalchik, Hoekstra, J. Donaldson, Saidy, Lipman 3.5
Groberman, Airapetian, Friedman, Zlotnikov 3.0
Hahn, Tsai, Levina 2.5
Itkis 0.5

U.S. Championship website (webcam coverage, live games, up-to-date results, cross charts)

See John Fernandez's excellent coverage and round-by-round commentary on TWIC!!

All Games (PGN format)

Read  articles about U.S. Championship in Seattle Times and the Seattle P.I.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 14 January 2002