Strongest Ever? Print E-mail
By Joel Benjamin   
May 12, 2007
Dear Joel,

What was the strongest U.S. Championship in history?

I have no good way to judge U.S. Championships before my time, so I will confine my analysis to ones I played in - that still gives me 23 tournaments to compare! One can argue that last year's championship, led by powerhouses like Onischuk, Kamsky, and Nakamura, was the strongest in terms of potent grandmasters in the field. I measure "strength" by the totality of the field; a Championship with no "easy" games is extremely difficult to play. So I would disqualify any Swiss system event.

The 1993 Championship held in Long Beach, CA has to be a serious contender. The Zonal tournament of the previous year had a number of juniors and some marginal players (Boris Men, with no FIDE rating, and Kamran Shirazi, who nearly lost every game). 1993 was shortened to twelve players and had no dead weight. Kaidanov and Shabalov (co-winner with Yermolinsky) joined the field for the first time, while Kamsky returned for his second Championship and Yermo his third. Seirawan sat out and de Firmian was working in finance, but otherwise the field was at full strength. U.S. Championship habitues Browne and Kudrin couldn't even qualify, and I couldn't manage an even score. Tail-enders included 1992 Champion Patrick Wolff and 1994 Champ Boris Gulko.

But I give a slight nod to Seattle 2000, the last of the round robins. Kamsky was on extended hiatus, but homegrown talents deFirmian and Seirawan compensated. Only 2 points separated first (Benjamin, Seirawan, and Shabalov at 6.5-4.5) and last (Fedorowicz, Serper, Yermolinsky, and Gulko).

Joel Benjamin