Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Showdown in Stillwater

America’s top female chess players battle for the championship

For the second time this year the epicenter of American chess is Stillwater, Oklahoma, where the top female chess players in the country are competing this week for the 2007 U.S. Women’s Championship.

After six rounds of the nine-round tournament, Katerina Rohonyan and top seed Irina Krush lead the field of ten players with 4.5/6 each. Right behind them is Tsagaan Battsetseg, with 4.0/6.0, followed by defending champ Anna Zatonskih and Camilla Baginskaite, each with 3.5/6.0.

Katerina Rohonyan, Irina Krush

The two-games-a-day round-robin match has been exciting and fast-paced and not without its surprises. Prognosticator Greg Shahade gave odds to Krush and Zatonskih, but Anna fell back following her fifth-round defeat to Katerina. If you’d like to follow the tournament while it’s in progress, now’s the time to do it because it will be over by Friday.

Since the executives at ESPN show little interest in women’s chess—or for that matter any event held at the Stillwater Quality Inn—it's a good thing the blogosphere has it covered. Former champion Jennifer Shahade is on the scene, writing for the U.S. Chess Federation, while Mig Greengard, The New York Times, and my old boss Paul Hoffman are reporting as well. One of the players in the tournament, Elizabeth Vicary, is blogging about the experience for the USCF. Steve Goldberg is watching things closely at Scholastic Chess Gateway. You can follow the games live through MonRoi technology.

And last but by no means least, don’t miss the excellent photos by Illinois’s very own Betsy Dynako, possibly the best chess photographer around. It’s hard to take good chess pictures—they can easily turn out all looking alike—but when they’re done well you get a strong sense of the game’s emotional intensity. Betsy’s photos achieve that, and along with Elizabeth’s blogging they convey the human drama of the event.

The match is sponsored by wealthy Oklahoma chess organizer Frank K. Berry. His brother Jim Berry is the tournament director. Thanks to them for supporting chess.

Rohonyan photo Copyright MonRoi