Jen on Saint Louis Highlights
By Jennifer Shahade   
May 20, 2013
Photo Daniel Meyrom
Since 2009, I have hosted live commentary and chaired the organizing committee of the US Chess Championship. We celebrated the fifth year anniversary of Championship chess in Saint Louis by bringing back the first edition's format, a 24-player Swiss. The larger format allowed young players like GM Conrad Holt, IM Kayden Troff and soon to be IM Sam Sevian to shine for the first time on the Championship stage.

This year's US Chess Championships featured one of the most intensive production schedules yet. In addition to Fox Midwest coverage, we switched from a two-person commentary booth to three commentators on two sets with GMs Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan.

Photo Daniel Meyrom

Check your listings for a Fox Midwest special recap airing on May 25 at 6 PM Central, while you can also replay the daily shows on and interview highlights at

Photo Daniel Meyrom

The contrasting styles of each commentator from Maurice’s energetic voice to Yasser’s soothing cadence created more dynamic programming than ever. I wrote for the Saint Louis Beacon on “unveiling the hidden beauty” and why I think commentary is so crucial for the popularization of chess.

Photo Daniel Meyrom

FM Mike Klein will write for Chess Life Magazine on two very deserving champs, IM Irina Krush and GM Gata Kamsky. I was also happy to see a friend of mine, Alejandro Ramirez, give Gata a run for top honors all the way to Armageddon playoff.
Photo Daniel Meyrom

Another highlight was visiting one of the schools that the Saint Louis Chess Club brings chess to, the Innovative Concept Academy. On the tournament rest day, I took the chess van with GMs Seirawan, Ashley and tournament participant Sarah Chiang for a special event co-hosted by the World Chess Hall of Fame and Adisa Banjoko, founder of the Hip Hop Chess Federation. Also attending were special guests in diverse fields, including videographer Mike Relm, professor Dr. James Peterson and a jiu jitsu competitor Alan “Gumby” Marques.

Sarah Chiang at the ICA event, Photo courtesy Daaim Shabazz

The ICA was founded by Judge Jimmie Edwards as a last chance school in lieu of juvenile detention center. Judge Edwards was featured as a People Magazine hero of the year in 2011 and gave a TED Talk on "encouraging the incorrigible." I've visited the ICA three times and am always impressed by the simultaneous enthusiasm and discipline of the kids. Daaim Shabazz of the chessdrum wrote about the visit. (Also see Daaim's US Championship wrap-up.)

GMs Ashley and Seirawan drawing a crowd at ICA, Photo courtesy Daaim Shabazz

The day's activities included a panel
discussion and a showcase of chess, martial arts and music. The kids came prepared- they had already produced a song "Do-Right Swag", with plenty of chess cameos:

The World Chess Hall of Fame hosted a number of other events during the Championship, including a reception for Jon Crumiler’s amazing collection of chess sets and the Sound of Art, a concert inspired by Bill Smith’s exhibition at the HOF. Next up for the WCHOF is the Queen Within, including a New York press opening. You don’t have to ask me twice to get dressed up!

More evidence on that is the picture below from the closing ceremony. On the rooftop of the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel, players relieved weeks of chess-stress with hours of dancing in suits and pretty dresses.

Iryna Zenyuk, Jen Shahade, Ed Gonsalves, "super chess fan" and Erica Kelly of the CCSCSL

Finally, some of the players and organizers enjoyed post-tourney countryside rest and relaxation, including Championship runner-up Alejandro Ramirez.
Photo Daniel Meyrom

GM Alejandro Ramirez with his girlfriend, Yi Wang Photo Daniel Meyrom

Stay tuned for news on more exciting events coming up in Saint Louis, including the US Junior Closed in June and the Queen Within at the World Chess Hall of Fame in the fall.