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Archive for the ‘Chess News’ Category

U.S. Chess Championships – A History

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

In December 1845, Charles Henry Stanley (1819-1901) beat Eugene Rousseau (1810-1870) in a match in what was considered the first unofficial U.S. chess championship. It was played at the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans. The match was played for a stake of $1,000, winner-take-all. That would be worth over $23,000 in today’s currency. The winner would be the first to win 15 games, draws not counting. There was no time limit. The chess match was the first organized chess event in the country. Stanley won with 15 wins, 8 losses, and 8 draws. 8-year-old Paul Morphy was a spectator at the event.

In February 1850, Stanley defended his title and defeated John H. Turner in a match in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. championship. At the time, it was called the “Great Match.” The match was played for a stake of $1,000 to the first who won 11 games. Stanley won 11 games, lost 5, and drew 1. The whole match of 17 games was played in four days.

In 1857, Paul Morphy (1837-1884) won the first American Chess Congress and was considered the U.S. champion. No one challenged Morphy in his lifetime. Some consider him the U.S. champion from 1857 to his death in 1884.

In 1866, George Mackenzie (1837-1891) defeated Gustavus Reichhelm in a match, held in Philadelphia. The British Chess Magazine wrote that the match was for the U.S. title.

In December 1871, George Mackenzie won the 2nd American Chess Congress, held at the Kennard Hotel in Cleveland and was considered the U.S. champion. He won $100 (equivalent to $1,700 in today’s currency) for 1st prize. Mackenzie finished two points ahead of his next rival.

In 1874, Mackenzie won the 3rd American Chess Congress in Chicago and retained his U.S. champion title. He won 8 games, drew 1, and lost 1. Time control was 15 moves an hour.

In 1876, the 4th American Chess Congress was held in Philadelphia. James Mason won the event, but he was not a U.S. citizen. The tournament was designed to attract foreign players and was never intended to be for any U.S. championship title. Mackenzie did not play in this event.

In 1880, Mackenzie won the 5th American Chess Congress in New York after winning a two-game playoff against James Grundy, who also tied for 1st place.

In 1881, Mackenzie defeated Max Judd in Saint Louis in a match for the U.S. championship. He won 7, lost 5, and drew 1.

In 1886, Mackenzie beat Samuel (Solomon) Lipschuetz in a match for the U.S. championship, played in New York.

In 1887, Max Judd defeated Albert Hodges in a match and claimed the U.S. chess champion title.

In 1889, Samuel Lipschuetz (1863-1905) was the top scoring American (6th place, with 5 foreigners ahead of him) at the 6th American Chess Congress (New York International) in New York and was regarded as the de facto U.S. champion. Mackenzie did not play, was ill, and may have retired from chess.

In 1890, Jackson Whipps Showalter (1860-1935) defeated Lipschuetz in a match in Louisville. Showalter claimed the U.S. championship title.

In 1890, Max Judd (1851-1906) defeated Jackson Showalter in a match in Saint Louis (+7 -2 =2), but did not claim the US championship title.

In 1891-92, Showalter defeated Max Judd in a match.

In 1892, Lipschuetz defeated Showalter in a match. Lipshuetz then retired from chess and moved to California, The U.S. title reverted back to Showalter.

In 1893-94, Showalter defended his title against Jacob Halpern (1845-1924) in a match in New York.

In 1894, Showalter defeated Albert Hodges (1861-1944) in a match, scoring 8-6. Hodges demanded a rematch, then beat Showalter in a return match, and then retired. He said that his ambitions in chess had been fulfilled, and that he was retiring to pursue a career in business. The title reverted back to Showalter.

In early 1895, Lipschuetz returned from California and claimed he never relinquished the title.

In 1895, Showalter defeated Lipschuetz in a match, with a 7-4 score.

In 1896, Showalter defeated Emil Kemeny (1860-1925) in a match held in Philadelphia. The match was clearly defined as a match for the U.S. title.

In 1896, Showalter beat John Finan Barry (1873-1940) in a U.S. championship match.

In 1897, Harry Pillsbury (1872-1906) beat Showalter in a match. The stakes were for $1,000. Pillsbury won with 10 wins, 8 losses, and 3 draws.

In February 1898, Pillsbury defended his title and defeated Showalter. Pillsbury won with 7 wins, 3 losses, and 2 draws.

In 1904, Frank Marshall won the 7th American Chess Congress in St. Louis. The tournament announcements said that the top American finisher in the event would be U.S. champion. But by the time of the tournament, the organizers just said that this event was only the “American Chess Tourney Championship.” Marshall acknowledged that Pillsbury was still the U.S. chess champion.

On June 17, 1906, Pillsbury died and the title revered to Showalter, who was now a 5-time U.S. champion.

In early 1909, Capablanca defeated Marshall in a match, 8-1. The organizers called said it was for the U.S. championship title. After Marshall lost, he complained that it was not for the U.S. championship because Capablanca was not a U.S. citizen. However, at the time, Cuba was a U.S. territory. Furthermore, Capablanca had been living in the USA for the past three years and planned to take out citizenship papers as soon as he turned 21 in a few months.

In November 1909, Frank Marshall (1877-1944) defeated Showalter in a match, held in Lexington, Kentucky. The prize was $500 a side. Marshall was now officially the U.S. chess champion.

In 1923, Marshall defended his title against Edward Lasker (1885-1981) and won. The match was played in 9 different cities over two months. Marshal won 9.5 to 8.5.

In 1936, Frank Marshall gave up his title and declined to play in the U.S. invitational tournament. He was U.S. champion for a record 27 years, but only defended his title once.

In 1936, Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992) became U.S. champion after winning the first U.S. championship tournament, held in New York.

The first women’s U.S. chess championship was held in 1937.

In 1938, Reshevsky won the U.S. championship.

In 1940, Reshevsky won the U.S. championship.

In 1941, Reshevsky defeated I.A. Horowitz in a U.S. championship match.

In 1942, Reshevsky and Isaac Kashdan tied for 1st in the U.S. championship. Reshevsky later won the playoff match. Reshevsky was awarded a win by tournament director Walter Stephens who forfeited Denker on time. The game should have been a draw, but Stephens flipped over the chess clock and called the wrong player for the time forefeit.

In 1944, Arnold Denker (1914-2005) won the U.S. championship.

In 1946, Denker defeated Herman Steiner (1905-1955) in a U.S. championship match.

In 1946, Reshevsky won the U.S. championship.

In 1948, Herman Steiner won the U.S. championship.

In 1951, Larry Evans (1932-2010), age 19, won the U.S. championship.

In 1952, Evans defeated Herman Steiner in a U.S. championship match.

In 1954, Arthur Bisguier (1929- ), age 23, won the U.S. championship.

In 1957, Reshevsky beat Bisguier in a match.

In 1957/58, Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) won the U.S. championship at the age of 14, the youngest ever.

In 1958/59, Fischer won the U.S. championship.

In 1959/60, Fischer won the U.S. championship. His 1st place prize was $1,000.

In 1960/61, Fischer won the U.S. championship.

In 1961/62, Evans won the U.S. championship. Fischer did not play.

In 1962/63, Fischer won the US. championship.

In 1963/64, Fischer won the U.S. championship with a perfect 11-0 score. He was 3.5 points ahead of his nearest rival. He made 415 moves total.

In 1965/66, Fischer won the U.S. championship.

In 1966/67, Fischer won his 8th U.S. chess championship.

In 1968, Larry Evans won the U.S. championship.

In 1969, Reshevsky won the U.S. championship.

In 1972, Robert Byrne (1928- ) won the U.S. championship after a playoff with Reshevsky and Lubomir Kavalek. It was Reshevsky’s 8th U.S. championship first or tied for first place. Reshevsky competed in a record 21 U.S. championships. He was among the top 3 in 15 U.S. championships, played the most games in U.S. championships (269) and won the most games (127).

In 1973, Kavalek and John Grefe tied for 1st in the U.S. championship, held in El Paso.

In 1974, Walter Browne won the U.S. championship, held in Chicago.

In 1975, Walter Browne won the U.S. championship, held at Oberlin College in Ohio.

In 1977, Walter Browne won the U.S. championship, held in Mentor, Ohio.

In 1978, Kavalek won the U.S. championship, held in Pasadena, California. Tournament favorite Walter Browne withdrew from the event.

In 1980, Browne, Evans, and Larry Christiansen tied for 1st in the U.S. championship, held in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

In 1981, Browne and Yasser Seirawan tied for 1st in the U.S. championship, held in South Bend, Indiana.

In 1983, Browne, Christiansen, and Roman Dzindzichashvili tied for 1st in the U.S. championship, held in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

In 1984, Lev Alburt won the U.S. championship, held in Berkeley.

In 1985, Lev Alburt won the U.S. championship, held in Estes Park, Colorado.

In 1986, Seirwan won the U.S. championship, held in Estes Park.

In 1987, Joel Benjamin and Nick de Firmian won the U.S. championship, held in Estes Park.

In 1988, Michael Wilder won the U.S. championship, held in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.

In 1989, Dzindzichashvile, Seirawan, and Stuart Rachels tied for 1st in the U.S. championship, held in Long Beach, California.

In 1990, Lev Alburt won the U.S. championship knockout tournament, held in Jacksonville, Florida.

In 1991, Gata Kamsky won the U.S. championship knockout tournament, held in Los Angeles.

In 1992, Patrick Wolff won the U.S. championship, held in Durango, Colorado.

In 1993, Alexander Shabalov and Alex Yermolinsky tied for 1st in the U.S. championship, held in Long Beach.

In 1994, former Soviet champion Boris Gulko won the U.S. championship, held in Key West, Florida.

In 1995, de Firmian, Wolff, and Alexander Ivanov won the U.S. championship, held in Modesto, California.

In 1995, Irina Krush, age 11, played in the U.S. Women’s championship, the youngest ever.
In 1996, Yermollinsky won the U.S. championship, held in Parsippany, New Jersey.

In 1997, Joel Benjamin won the U.S. championship, held in Chandler, Arizona.

In 1998, Nick de Firmian won the U.S. championship, held in Denver, Colorado.

In 1999, Gulko won the U.S. championship, held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 2000, Benjamin, Seirawan, and Shabalov tied for 1st in the U.S. championship, held in Seattle.

In 2002, Larry Christiansen won the U.S. championship. He would be the last person born in the United States to win the U.S. championship, held in Seattle.

In 2003, Alexander Shabalov won the U.S. championship, held in Seattle.

In 2004, Hikaru Nakamura, age 16, won the 2005 U.S. championship, held in San Diego. He is the youngest player since Fischer to win the U.S. championship.

In 2006, Alexander Onischuk won the U.S. championship, held in San Diego.

In 2007, Shabalov won the U.S. championship, held in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

In 2008, Yury Shulman won the U.S. championship, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In 2009, Gata Kamsky won the U.S. championship after an Armageddon tie-break against Shulman. The event was held in Saint Louis.

In 2010, Gata Kamsky won the U.S. championship, held in Saint Louis.

In 2011, Gata Kamsky won the U.S. championship, held in Saint Louis.

In 2012, Hikaru Nakamura won the U.S. championship. For the fourth consecutive year, the tournament was held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL). The prize fund was $160,000. The average USCF rating was 2714, making it the strongest U.S. championship ever.

Irina Krush won two playoff games against Anna Zatonskih to win the 2012 U.S. women’s championship.

Fischer won the US championship a record 8 times in 8 appearances.

Gisela Gresser (1906-2000) won the women’s U.S. championship a record 9 times.

–Bill Wall

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