Archive for October, 2009

Intense Action Marks End of US Women’s Chess Championship

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The 2009 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, already had a clear winner going into the final round, but there was heavy drama in the battle for money, place and qualification for other tournaments.

Defending U.S. Champion Anna Zatonskih, of Long Island, N.Y., finished off the tournament in style with a positional crush of Yun Fan, of Greencastle, Ind. She won the record $15,000 first place prize fund. Zatonskih ended with eight wins and one draw in nine games, and her 8.5 points were tied for the best result in the championship in more than 20 years. She said the championship was the best performance of her career.

“I think it was the strongest U.S. Championship I ever played,” Zatonskih said.

She scoffed at the idea of taking a short draw today.

“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “I had such a good position out of the opening.” She added that the superior quality of the tournament organization and conditions “made me feel like I was doing something important.”

The battle for second place, which began with three women mathematically eligible, crystallized when 42-year-old Camilla Baginskaite, the tournament’s oldest participant, rebounded from a rough eight loss. Baginskaite, of Sioux Falls, S.D., finished with six wins and one draw after beating Sabina Foisor, of Baltimore, Md., in the longest game of the day to pull one point ahead of both Alisa Melekhina and Irina Krush.

Melekhina, of Philadelphia, Pa., found a late checkmate tactic to beat Battsetseg Tsagaan, of Ellicott City, Md., and briefly pulled into a tie with Baginskaite, whose game was still in progress.

Krush, of Brooklyn, N.Y., failed to keep pace. She began the round on equal second with Baginskaite but could not stay tied, as she lost to Tatev Abrahamyan, of Glendale, Calif. Krush’s loss ended her streak of three consecutive wins.

With the win, Baginskaite won $12,000 and avoided a complicated tiebreaker system that would have left second place highly in doubt. This was especially important because the top two finishers in the tournament qualified for the next Women’s World Chess Championship, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey.

Zatonskih and Baginskaite are the only two American women to gain births so far to the 64-player knockout event. Krush may still qualify based on her high rating.

Baginskaite said she noticed that Krush lost and all she needed to do was draw her position to clinch second place. But judging that her game was better, she risked thousands of dollars in prize money and her world championship qualification to play for the win.

“I couldn’t see any way for (Foisor) to hold. Why should I play for a draw?” she said. “It’s about self-respect. You have to win this position.”

After more than 30 years of playing chess, Baginskaite also earned her first international master “norm,” a title she will acquire with two more norms.

Melekhina, the youngest player in the event, finished in a tie for third place with Krush at 5.5 points. They will both take home $7,500.

All five games were decisive in the last round. The last draw was in round five, more than 20 games ago. In many men’s events, more than half of the games end in draws. At this championship, fewer than a quarter ended peacefully.

For final standings, go to

October 2009
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Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis: Community Outreach during 2009 US Women’s Chess Championship

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Players in the US Women’s Chess Championship have kept busy during their rest day on October 9 giving back to the community.


Almost 80 students joined seven of the 10 competitors and Evelyn Moncayo, a WIM from Ecuador, for a massive simul at the Saint Louis Science Center. The event, Queens’ Chess Express, was just one of many events going on during Sci-Fest at the Saint Louis Science Center. Camilla Baginskaite and Battsetseg Tsagaan stayed behind at the CCSCSL to put on a simul with the chess club from Sperreng Middle School, and Alisa Melekhina could not attend Sci-Fest due to a test in Cognitive Psychology test she had scheduled through her university.

The event was informative and entertaining for tournament competitors, students and teachers alike. Check out the photos from this fun-filled community event!


The Chess for Life kick-off event featured the unveiling of five chess tables donated to the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. The program is designed to brighten the lives of cancer patients and their families by providing them intellectiual stimulation and a welcome distraction from the effects of their treatment.

To read more about the program and kick-off event, click here!


Twelve lucky students from the Sperreng Middle School Chess Club (a feeder school for Lindbergh High School) got the opportunity to compete against tournament competitors WIM Battsetseg Tsagaan and WGM Camilla Baginskaite.

Read the article about the event here!

October 2009
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