World Elite Battle in Saint Louis
By Ken West   
May 17, 2011
SAINT LOUIS, May 16, 2011 --  The first-ever international match at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis begins 3:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday.  

The marquis match-up features GM Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine against GM Hikaru Nakamura of Saint Louis. The Chess Club’s Resident GM Ben Finegold also will take on 16-year-old GM Ray Robson, of Florida. The matches take place May 17-25.

Ponomariov will have white for the first game in his 10-game match against Nakamura. Robson will begin with black against Finegold in the other match.  Each match will consist of six games played with a classical time control and four rapid games.

“These high-level matches will give some of the top young players in the U.S. match experience to play on the world stage,” said Mike Wilmering, the club’s communications specialist. 

After the drawing of the colors (determined by colored pens in a wooden box), the four grandmasters answered questions at a press conference to kick off the club’s inaugural international match. 
“It’s also believed this is a first attempt at a virtual (chess) press conference,” club Executive Director Tony Rich said Monday morning. Rich also will serve as arbiter of the matches. During the press conference, he fielded online questions from around the world, including several from Grandmaster Susan Polgar.

“What is your sense when you come into a match like this; do you prepare like a tournament or is it different?” Rich asked in his lead-off question.

“When you have just one opponent, you can concentrate on him,” Ponomariov said.

Robson pointed out he did not have much time to prepare for Finegold as the teen was a late replacement last week for legendary GM Viktor Korchnoi. Robson also said he has not often played under a match setup and said he remembered playing Finegold only once.

Showing the wit for which he is known, Finegold pointed out the ages of the other three people at the table did not add up to that of Korchnoi, his original opponent. He also said his second game against Robson must not have been memorable. The change also affected his preparation. Again showing his humor, Finegold said he “looked at a database of all 73 years of Korchnoi’s games, including those games against Steinitz.”

“I was preparing, but not general openings,” Finegold said.  “I was looking at positions I could get. As long as Ray plays like Korchnoi.”

Nakamura answered a question Polgar submitted online. She asked what was key for his rise to the top 10 in the world. Nakamura currently is ranked number seven.

“I feel I always had the talent,” the 2009 U.S. Champion said. “In the past I played more on the Internet than classical chess.”

Nakamura said good things happen when a person studies “instead of playing stupid blitz games.”
Players would not hold back on any “novelties” during match play, Nakamura said in response to another question from Polgar. He said with research and computer engines, a player has to use a novelty when given the chance. Ponomariov said he would play his normal openings “and not hold back.”

To follow the games live, visit Live commentary by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade can be found at Rounds and commentary are open to club members, and memberships start at just $5/month for students or $12/month for adults.