By Jack Naudi   
Jack Naudi, 636-751-4965 or [email protected]
ST. LOUIS, Sept. 2, 2009 - The 10-player field for the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship was set on Wednesday, and it's one of the strongest in championship history.

The tournament, which takes place Oct. 3-13 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis , has 10 of the top 12 ranked women players in the country, including the top 6. The group includes four previous winners. This is the second major chess championship held at the Chess Club in 2009, with a third scheduled for next year.

"We think we have assembled the finest collection of players ever for the U.S. Women's Chess Championship," said Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club. "I can't wait to get the championship started. I'm sure we're all going to witness some memorable, high-caliber chess matches."

Topping the list at the U.S. Women's Chess Championship are defending champion and No. 1 ranked Anna Zatonskih, of Long Island, N.Y., and her chief rival, No. 2 ranked Irina Krush, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Both are two-time champions.

The players will compete for the largest purse in championship history, $64,000, with $15,000 going to the winner.

Also in the tournament are Rusadan Goletiani, of Hartsdale, N.Y., the No. 3 ranked player in the United States, who won in 2005, and Camilla Baginskaite , of Sioux Falls, S.D., a co-champion in 2000, who is ranked fifth nationally.

Rounding out the field are Sabina-Francesca Foisor, of Baltimore, Md., the No. 4 player; Tatev Abrahamyan, of Glendale, Calif., No. 6; Alisa Melekhina, of Philadelphia, Pa., No. 8; Iryna Zenyuk, of Pittsburgh, Pa., No. 9; Battsetseg Tsaagan, of Ellicott City, Md., No. 11; and Yun Fan, of Greencastle, Ind., No. 12.

The tournament is sanctioned by the U.S. Chess Federation . The field is not just strong, but young, with seven players under age 28. The youngest, Melekhina, is 18.

"This championship features the largest prize fund in the history of U.S. Women's chess," said Jennifer Shahade, chair of the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship. "In the fight for the $15,000 grand prize, the players will prepare hard, and come with plenty of surprises. In fact, I expect the most exciting American women's chess tournament ever."

Last year's championship was won by Zatonskih in a thrilling and somewhat controversial tiebreaker with Krush.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis hosted the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship in May, which was won by Hikaru Nakamura. Zatonskih and Krush were among the 25 players in that field. The Chess Club also will host the 2010 U.S. Chess Championship from April 23 to May 6.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization that opened in July 2008. Founded by retired investment fund manager Rex Sinquefield, it has more than 500 members. The club offers free classes for beginners, discounted tournament entry fees and discounted merchandise for club members. For more information, please visit www.saintlouischessclub.org or call 314-361-CHESS.

The United States Chess Federation is the official U.S. membership organization for chess players and chess supporters of all ages and strengths, from beginners to grand masters. It has more than 80,000 members and nearly 1,200 affiliated chess clubs and organizations. For more information, visit www.uschess.org.