NO. 1 BEATS NO. 2 IN U.S. WOMEN'S CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP
ST. LOUIS, Oct. 6, 2009 -- The most anticipated encounter of the 2009 U.S. Women's Championship took place in round three, with the top two seeds facing off for the first time since their controversial finish to the 2008 Championship. This time, as last time, the top seed, Anna Zatonskih, took the victory at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
Zatonskih, of Long Island, N.Y., the top defending champion, took the black pieces against second-seeded Irina Krush, of Brooklyn, N.Y. The two had not faced each other since Zatonskih won a blitz tiebreaker in last year's tournament, causing Krush to object to her opponent's etiquette.
This time they played a regular-length match, but despite pundits predicting a six-hour battle, their game was the first to finish. Zatonskih found a brilliant defensive resource on her 22nd move, exploiting the exposed position of the enemy queen and catching the unsuspecting Krush without a reasonable reply.
Krush spent 20 minutes looking for a reprieve but could not find a way to untangle her army, which was bumping into each other like crowded passengers on a subway car. Zatonskih called it a "very unusual tactic." Grandmaster commentator Ben Finegold referred to the move as "shocking." The win leaves Zatonskih with three wins out of three games and a slim lead on her closest competition.
Trailing closely with two wins and one draw (2.5 points) is Sabina Foisor, of Baltimore, Md., who won a close ending against Iryna Zenyuk, of Pittsburgh, Pa. Looking ahead, Foisor and Zatonskih will not play until Monday's round eight, when Foisor will have the advantage of the white pieces.
The tournament's youngest player, 18-year-old Alisa Melekhina, of Philadelphia, also continued to impress. She drew her first two matches by playing gritty defense, something younger players are not usually known for, but in round three she broke through with her first win, against Tatev Abrahamyan, of Glendale, Calif. Melekhina is coming off a gold-medal performance at the World Team Chess Championships in China. She now has an unbeaten streak stretching more than 12 games. "I went undefeated in China and not losing [there] gave me a lot of confidence," she said.
The oldest player in the field, 42-year-old former champion Camilla Baginskaite, of Sioux Falls, S.D., can also count herself among the field of unbeaten women. She followed her round one win with draws Tuesday and today, though the round three tie against third-seeded Rusudan Goletiani, of Hartsdale, N.Y., was much more unbalanced than in round two. Baginskaite won the event in 2000 and many players are praising her for playing so well after a recent hiatus from chess.
In the final match, Battsetseg Tsagaan, of Ellicott City, Md., parted with her queen and entered an unbalanced theoretical ending against Yun Fan of Greencastle, Ind. Both women were seeking their first point of the match, and after more than six hours Tsagaan tasted victory.
All four undefeated women are paired in round four, including Zatonskih against Baginskaite and Foisor versus Melekhina.
For complete standings, go to www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Womens-Championship-2009/standings.
Round four games will begin Wednesday at 2 p.m. Games can be followed live at http://www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Womens-Championship-2009/Live-Cove....
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.