SAINT LOUIS (April 2, 2019)– 24 of America’s best chess players gathered in Saint Louis, America’s Chess Capital, at the Saint Louis Chess Club for the 2019 U.S. & U.S. Women’s Chess Championships held from March 18–April 1, 2019. 17-year-old Jennifer Yu was crowned 2019 U.S. Women’s Champion with a round to spare, finishing with an incredible 10/11 score. Hikaru Nakamura claimed the 2019 U.S. Chess Championship, his fifth national title, with a victory in the final round to finish a half point ahead of super Grandmasters Fabiano Caruana and Leinier Dominguez.
The U.S. Championship field proved to be a stiff test for Nakamura, with five of the twelve players rated above 2700. Nakamura led for the duration of the tournament, but Caruana and Dominguez caught up in the second half, making the final round tense with excitement. Caruana’s game ended first with a draw against the 2018 U.S. Champion Sam Shankland; Dominguez, though dominating throughout the game, was only able to draw against Timur Gareev, while Nakamura won in fine style against Jeffery Xiong to clinch his fifth title and the $50,000 first place prize. The U.S. Championship win is Nakamura’s first since 2015.
“I think this [U.S. Championship] was really difficult because I had so many games that I felt were must-wins, and I found a way to win every single one of them,” said Nakamura after his win. “I was trying to be freer and enjoy it instead of worrying about what could go wrong.”
In the women’s section, the battle for second and third place exchanged hands throughout the tournament, and Tatev Abrahamyan and Anna Zatonskih ended the tournament tied for second and earned $15,500 each for their efforts. Tatev inched Zatonskih out on tiebreaks, earning the second of two qualifier invitations to the Women’s World Championship knockout.
The sensational story from the event was teenage champion Jennifer Yu, who dominated with an impressive 10 out of 11 points, beating top players like 4-time U.S. Women’s Champion Anna Zatonskih in the penultimate round to seal the victory. Yu claimed the $25,000 first place prize and nearly won an additional $64,000 thanks to the Bobby Fischer bonus prize, an elusive award for players who win all 11 rounds.
“I never imagined I would win this,” said a smiling Jennifer Yu in her post-victory interview. “The best part of winning [the U.S. Women’s Championship] is knowing that I can. Hopefully, I still have more to come.”
The competitors also received a special visit during the final weekend from Tani Adewumi, the eight-year-old Nigerian refugee who won his age group at the New York State Chess Championship in March. Tani, whose story captivated the country and led to a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $250,000, arrived in Saint Louis with his family and coaches on Friday night. He spent Saturday making the ceremonial first move in the matchup between Nakamura and Dominguez, sitting down for an interview with Maurice Ashley during the tenth round and joining Grandmaster Cristian Chirila for a Count’s Corner segment. Moving forward, proceeds from the GoFundMe will benefit the Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation, which will help other refugees working to immigrate to the U.S.
Next up on the slate of national championships, the Saint Louis Chess Club will host the U.S. Junior Championship and U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in Saint Louis this July. The field will feature several of the competitors seen at the 2019 U.S. Championships. Additionally, the U.S. Senior Championships will run simultaneously at the Saint Louis Chess Club for the first-time ever.
For more information on the 2019 U.S. Championships or upcoming championship events, visit www.uschesschamps.com.
About the Saint Louis Chess Club
The Saint Louis Chess Club is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that is committed to making chess an important part of our community. In addition to providing a forum for the community to play tournaments and casual games, the club also offers chess improvement classes, beginner lessons and special lectures.
Recognizing the cognitive and behavioral benefits of chess, the Saint Louis Chess Club is committed to supporting those chess programs that already exist in area schools while encouraging the development of new in-school and after-school programs. For more information, visit www.saintlouischessclub.org.