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AND THEN THERE WERE 3 UNDEFEATED PLAYERS AT U.S. WOMEN'S CHESS TOURNEY
ST. LOUIS, Oct. 7, 2009 -- The quartet of undefeated women was reduced by one in Wednesday's round four of the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship, held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. All four women played each other today, with 18-year-old Alisa Melekhina making a dramatic comeback against Sabina Foisor to remain unbeaten, while top-seeded defending champion Anna Zatonskih drew with 2000 champion Camilla Baginskaite.
Zatonskih, of Long Island, N.Y., now has three wins and one draw for 3.5 points, while Melekhina, of Philadelphia, Pa., the tournament's youngest player, is in clear second with two wins and two draws for three points. Looking ahead, Zatonskih and Melekhina, who have the best chance to win the record $15,000 first prize, will play in round six of the nine-round championship on Saturday. Baginskaite, of Sioux Falls, S.D., remains unbeaten as her one win and three draws gives her 2.5 points, the same number as Foisor, of Baltimore, Md.
Foisor and Melekhina played the exact same first 12 moves as in Foisor's round two game. Melekhina then steered the game differently and Foisor found a very strong novelty, a move that has never been played before in tournament play. The unorthodox bishop strike surprised grandmaster commentator Ben Finegold, but he eventually warmed to its subtle charms.
"I'm just barely hanging on," Melekhina said after Foisor's bishop repost. But as has been her temperament this tournament, she remained calm in the face of a difficult position, and eventually engineered a blistering counterattack that netted an extra piece and the game. "I wasn't expecting such a good start," Melekina said about her standing in the tournament.
The other news of round four is the continued struggles of second-seeded Irina Krush. She drew in round four despite being heavily favored against 10th-seeded Yun Fan, who had lost her first three matches. "I didn't make a lot of mistakes," said Fan, of Greencastle, Ind. She called it her best game of the tournament. Prior to the beginning of the event, the chess public made Krush, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a slight favorite to win. Today's result, coupled with a draw in round one and a loss in round three, now makes her a longshot.
"My play hasn't really been inspired," Krush said. "It has been very disappointing."
In other round four matches, good friends Tatev Abrahamyan and Rusudan Goletiani battled to a five-hour draw. They had spent the better part of the last day together, sharing dinner Tuesday night and a pre-game lunch today. Iryna Zenyuk also played to a draw with Battsetset Tsagaan.
For complete standings, go to www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Womens-Championship-2009/standings.
Several hundred people are tuning in to the daily live broadcasts by Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade and Grandmaster Ben Finegold. Thursday's broadcast and round five matches will start at 2 p.m. Central time. All 10 players will be looking for a positive result heading into the tournament's only rest day on Friday.
Games can be followed live at http://www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Womens-Championship-2009/Live-Cove... and the broadcast can be heard at www.chessclub.com/chessfm.
For a complete listing of all events surrounding the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship, go to www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Womens-Championship-2009.
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization that opened in July 2008. Founded by retired investment fund manager Rex Sinquefield, it has more than 500 members. The club offers free classes, discounted tournament entry fees and discounted merchandise for club members. For more information, please visit www.saintlouischessclub.org, or call 314-361-CHESS.