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U.S. Women's Opens With Jazz, Hooping and Blindfold Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
October 4, 2009
Irina Krush, All photos by Betsy Dynako, official photographer of the '09 US Women's Championship
Two days of festivities to open the 2009 U.S. Women's Championship in St. Louis (Oct.3-13) featured a "Queens of Jazz" concert on Friday night with Denise Thimes and Ann Hampton-Callaway. Thimes, a Saint Louis native, raised everyone to their feet in a breathtaking performance. Hampton-Callaway also blew people away. She even created an improv song at the end of the evening using words called out from the audience including, "checkmate", "resignation" and "knight."   See a few photos below and more on the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis website.

Queens of Jazz Ann Hampton Callaway and Denise Thimes, Photo Betsy Dynako

Group shot: Sabina Foisor, Yun Fan, Iryna Zenyuk, Rusudan Goletiani, Camila Baginskaite, Anna Zatonskih, Tatev Abrahamyan, Back: Irina Krush, Tsagaan Batseetseg and Jennifer Shahade, Photo Betsy Dynako 

A blindfolded defending champ, Photo Betsy Dynako
On Saturday, October 3rd the fun continued at the Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis. A large crowd watched enthralled as Anna Zatonskih played a five-board blindfold simultaneous. Anna won all her games in just over two hours. The last man standing was Rex Sinquefield, founder of the CCSCSL.

Four players managed to win bounties in the 5-round "bounty blitz" tournament against the other nine players in the Championship.
A wide shot of the bounty blitz tournament, directed by Chris Bird. Photo Betsy Dynako

Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis club champ Richard Benjamin nicked Iryna Zenyuk to win a bounty. Photo Betsy Dynako

 In between the blitz rounds, players such as Rusudan Goletiani, Irina Krush and Tsagaan Battsetseg played came outdoors to play a little hula-chess.
Olympic medallist Rusudan Goletiani has a knack for hulachess, Photo Betsy Dynako

U.S. Women's Championship chair Jennifer Shahade teaches a STL area hooper how to play chess, Photo Betsy Dynako

Tsagaan Battsetseg, Photo Betsy Dynako

Blindfold motifs continued into the evening ceremony. To draw round robin-lots, Carol Jarecki called out each woman to choose from ten colorful scarves with numbers from one to ten stitched on to their corners.
The scarves were selected by the art & fashion guru on the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of STL board, Susan Barrett, Photo Betsy Dynako

The order of choosing was determined earlier by Assistant Arbiter Chris Bird with a random drawing. The players then sat on alternating colored chairs numbered one through ten and were blindfolded by Carol.
Chief Arbiter Carol Jarecki oversees the group blindfold game. Photo Betsy Dynako

Then a ceremonial group blindfold game began in which the women passed the mike to one another. The game, played at a rapidfire pace, was a Be2 Najdorf, but White lost a queen at some point.
Yun Fan makes a move in the group blindfold game, Photo Betsy Dynako

When White resigned, the crowd rose to give the women a standing ovation.

Jarecki announced the round 1 pairings (Fan-Foisor, Zenyuk-Zatonskih, Tsagaan-Goletiani, Krush-Melekhina, Baginskaite- Abrahamyan.) See the full schedule here.

Rex Sinquefield and Tony Rich
The evening wrapped up with CCSCSL executive Director Tony Rich presenting Jeanne & Rex Sinquefield with a copy of the 2009 book of the year, Blindfold Chess by Eliot Hearst & John Knott. The book was signed by Hearst and all the women in the tournament. Hearst told me that he'd never heard of a scheduled blindfold simul by a woman or a ceremonial group blindfold game. "an original idea...I have never heard or read of anything like that. I guess it's another way of popularizing BF chess and so I strongly approve of it."  

The theme of blindfold chess ran through the days events and played into the show on display,
For the blind man in the dark room
looking for the black cat that isn’t there

The show, which will travel to London, was curated by Anthony Huberman and supported by CCSCSL founders Jeanne & Rex Sinquefield. Also instrumental to putting on the event were Paul Ha and Jennifer Gaby from the Contemporary. The organizing commitee for the opening events consisted of me, Susan Barrett, Joy Bray, Lauren Stewart and Jane Higgins.

Watch the U.S. Women's Championship live on the official website, the Internet Chess Club or Monroi.com.


October - Chess Life Online 2009

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