2003 US Chess Championship


Women's Tiebreak Playoff

As mentioned above, J. Shahade, Krush and Hahn participated in a playoff after all three were deadlocked at 4 points. The playoff consisted of a single round robin (each player plays the other two) with 15 minutes per game. An additional five second increment would be added per move. The secondary tiebreaker would be a five minute blitz game and if the score is still tied, a "shoot-out" game.

It was very interesting to see the huge crowd viewing the games. It was especially strange to see such strong players watching instead of playing. The packed room was buzzing with electricity as the women took their places on the stage. All monitors were focused on the game in progress so that the games could be displayed from any part of the room.

Hahn-Krush. This battle arose out of an ultra-sharp line  in Meran variation of the Slav. This game turned into a battle of minor pieces as the evaluation of the game went back and forth. Toward the end, Hahn began to push her passed pawns, and instead of defending, Krush decided to attack. She then blundered a piece after 53Nf3+ 54.g2 Nfg5?? (54Nfd4 or 54Bd1=) 55.Rc8+ and was forced to resign.

Krush-J. Shahade. This was a highly-anticipated matchup between two of the strongest (and youngest) players in women's chess. This game appeared to be headed toward a Modern Benoni, but Krush played some strange moves in the opening and soon got into trouble. Shahade could've countered earlier with 11b5! but instead played the speculative sacrifice 12Bxg4!? (also 12b5! again) 13.fxg4 Nxg4. Despite the correct idea, Shahade was unable to get her pieces coordinated and was brutally punished after 29.Qg6! Qd7 30.Bxe3 Rxe3 31.Nf5+- .

Game start 5 back 1 back 1 forward 5 forward Game end flip board autoplay


J. Shahade - Hahn. This the was last chance for Shahade to defend her title by sending the playoff into another round with a win.  This game went into a Sicilian Rauzer Attack and the crowd anticipated a game full of action. The game began to heat up after 18.Nf4 Ne5 19.fxe6 Nxd3 20.cxd3 Qc2+ 21.Ka1 Bh6. White continued her mobilization and appeared to have a good position after 24.Nfxe6 Bd7?! (24Bf7!) 25.Rf5 Be3 26.Ra5 Qxd1+ 27.Qxd1 Rc1+ 28.Qxc1 Bxc1 29.Rf5. White went into the endgame a pawn up, but her knights were limited by the scope of the bishop pair. When black won the critical h2 pawn, white sought desperation by sacking a piece, but to no avail. After Shahade extended her hand in resignation, a generous applause was granted and Anna Hahn had just dethroned the defending women's champion to take the crown!

WIM Jennifer Shahade vs. WIM Anna Hahn in tiebreak battle.

WIM Jennifer Shahade vs. WIM Anna Hahn (Tiebreak)
(Photo by Daaim Shabazz)

Anna and the King!

WIM Anna Hahn has been on the U.S. chess scene for a solid decade and is noted for her refined manner and demure persona. She also has a rich chess heritage. Anna was born in Riga, Latvia which is the home of many great players including former World Champion Mikhail "Misha" Tal.  In recent history, GM Alexey Shirov is the most famous player to come from the former Soviet republic, but of course, Latvia is also the home of new U.S. Champion,  GM Alexander Shabalov.

It may be befitting that both Hahn and Shabalov have been declared the national champions in the same year. Both competed for the Latvian Olympiad team in same year, arrived in the U.S. at around the same times and  burst onto the chess scene with the same energy. In the recently ended U.S. Chess Championship, Shabalov clearly emerged as the toughest player. While others were willing to take easy draws and go into a "lucky" blitz playoff, Shabalov showed the grit and determination worthy to be a champion and bested
IM Varuzhan Akobian in a thrilling final.

Hahn won her last round game over
WIM Elina Groberman to force a playoff. While many were stating that she played a weaker field than both WIM Jennifer Shahade and IM Irina Krush, she showed incredible poise in the tiebreak playoff and reversed the order of the  pre-playoff predictions. In beating both Shahade and Krush she won the $12,500 prize while Shabalov took home a cool $25,000. Both players also received commemorative gold watches at the closing ceremony.

Erik Henderson awarding WIM Anna Hahn and GM Alexander Shabalov their prizes.

WIM Anna Hahn & GM Alexander Shabalov
receiving prizes from Erik Henderson
(photo by Daaim Shabazz)

Same Time Next Year

At the closing ceremonies American Foundation for Chess' President Erik Henderson stated that the championship will be held in Seattle in 2004. There is already talk around the country about qualifying events as the format has breathed new life into a dying tournament. In this tournament, we saw the top players compete as well as unsung heroes such as GM Anatoly Lein, popular chess icons such as  GM Maurice Ashley and young upstarts such as 14-year old WFM Laura Ross participating.  This format has provided a variety of players of different backgrounds both chess wise and socially. Who knows what next year's stories will bring?

The press room was always buzzing with energy and the ever-animated
Mig Greengard shot more than a handful of humorous barbs accented with his own brand of chess commentary. The Chief Press Officer was the tireless John Henderson, the Scottish journalist who seems to be everywhere. Other press room regulars were photographer extraordinaire Jerry Bibuld, and a team from the World Chess Network including President Patrick Connoy and IM Pascal Carbonneau.

The tournament atmosphere could be considered electric as hundreds of people swarmed the playing site over the two-week period. It was amazing! Saturday the 18th was a madhouse as horde of children assembled on the last weekend to partake in the Dr. Martin Luther King tournament and to catch the animated commentary of
IM Jeremy Silman. Besides the tournament, Seattle (the home of Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones) offers a host of visitor attractions such as the famous Space Needle, the Experience Music Project museum (interesting!) and the Pike Street Farmer's Market (wonderful!).  Next year the championship hopes to be  even better!!

Seattle's Space Needle

One last look at Seattle's Space Needle
(Photo by Daaim Shabazz)

Information Center (Final Report)

Selected Games (Round #9)

GM Alexander Shabalov - IM Varuzhan Akobian, 1-0
FM Stephen Muhammad - IM Boris Kreiman, -
IM Hikaru Nakamura - IM Gregory Shahade, 1-0
IM John Donaldson - GM Gennadi Zaitshik, 0-1

Women's Tiebreak

WIM Anna Hahn - IM Irina Krush, 1-0
IM Irina Krush - WIM Jennifer Shahade, 1-0
WIM Jennifer Shahade - WIM Anna Hahn, 0-1

Brilliancy Prizes

GM Joel Benjamin - GM Alexander Shabalov, 1-0 (1st)
IM John Donaldson - GM Sergey Kudrin, 1-0 (2nd)
GM Gregory Serper - IM Dean Ippolito, 1-0 (3rd, tie)
GM Yasser Seirawan - IM Yuri Lapshun, 1-0  (3rd, tie)

Title Norms

FM Stephen Muhammad (3rd IM norm and IM title)
FM Igor Foygel (3rd norm and IM title)
WIM Jennifer Shahade (2nd IM norm and 2nd WGM norm)

PGN download (Games from all rounds)

Standings after Round 9