Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Nakamura, Stripunsky, and Goletiani Win US Chess Championships

I have a date tonight with a big pile of final exams and a red pen, so perhaps you'll indulge me in a quick chess post.

The U.S. Chess Championships concluded this weekend. After the dust had settled, grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Stripunsky scored an amazing seven points out of nine to tie for first. Nakamura won the two game playoff to claim the title of U.S. Champion.

The title was well earned. Nakamura is only sixteen, and if he continues to improve as rapidly as he has over the last two years there's no telling how far he might go. He got a bit lucky to win from a lost position in the last round, but he also beat several strong players without apparent effort.

Nakamura's stepfather is the well-known chess coach Sunil Weeramantry. As a little kid chessplayer I attended Sunil's summer chess camp. (Yes, I went to chess camp. You got a problem with that?) To this day Sunil says hi to me when he sees me at tournaments.

Cool. Two degrees of separation from the champ.

And Stripunsky? Well, prior to tying for first in this tournament his most notable achievement, in my opinion anyway, was his convincing win over your humble blogger in the 1997 U. S. Amateur Team Championship in Parsippany, NJ. As I recall, Stripunsky arrived forty-five minutes late for the game as a result of some mix-up with his hotel reservation. After fifteen moves, he had used an additional five minutes, while I had used up over an hour. Very little of that time was spent thinking about actual moves, of course. Mostly I was wondering how I had managed to get into such a mess after so few moves. Those grandmasters really know how to play this game!

The women's title was won by Rusa Goletiani, so congratulations to her as well. For more information than you could possibly want about the tournament, go visit the official website.


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