[imagefield_assist|fid=12307|preset=fullsize|lightbox=true|title=The Queens field is, from left, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih, Martha Fierro and Kateryna Lahno.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=700|height=467]
By Aviv Friedman
After running three consecutive U.S. Championships that featured record-breaking prize funds and unparalleled conditions, a new brainchild of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis was christened tonight.
The Kings vs. Queens tournament opening ceremony took place at the freshly opened World Chess Hall of Fame to a full house of dignitaries, guests and chess fans. After a short welcome from the club’s omnipresent executive director Tony Rich and the club’s founder Rex Sinquefield, the microphone was passed to Rex’s wife Jeanne.
Combining her passion for the Boy Scouts with her husband’s chess enthusiasm, Jeanne was instrumental in getting the Boy Scouts organization to approve a merit badge for chess. She informed the crowd about the launch of the first-ever Chess Merit Badge for the Boy Scouts of America, which was unveiled in Saint Louis on Saturday.
Afterwards, Jeanne invited a special guest to say a few words. The guest was none other than astronaut Greg Chamitoff, famous not only for his work at the space station, but also for his match ‘against the world’ from space! An Eagle Scout himself, Greg presented the club with a collage of photos from his space-versus-earth match.
Now it was time to draw the lots for colors for tomorrow’s first round of the event, and former women’s world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk was invited to the stage. She had to pick and open one box from two groups of five boxes each. Every box contained a number, representing the player’s respective seed number, and a stylish black or silver pen, which symbolized the color for the first round.
The Kings’ top seed, GM Hikaru Nakamura, followed suit repeating the process as did the rest of the teams’ members until five pairs of players were standing next to one another to represent the first-round pairings.
After a short reception at the Chess Club, players and other invitees walked a short distance to a local restaurant for a nice meal and a relaxing “meet and greet.” On the advice of Jeanne, everyone was advised to sit next to people they don’t usually see, so that all could meet new friends. With the evening winding down, the players left to prepare a little for their opponents (for the rapid obviously!).
With a fast time control, and the first game in every mini-match to be a Fischer Random game (Chess 960), we are sure to see plenty of action and excitement! Stay tuned for continuous coverage!