Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two New U.S. Chess Champions, Two Diverging Paths

From Gambit, The New York Time's chess blog by Dylan Loeb McClain
Published: July 24, 2010

The two newest United States champions have very different future plans.

On Monday [July 19], Irina Krush, 26, won the women’s championship for the third time, earning $16,000, her biggest payday. Krush said of her prospects of earning a living as a professional player, “I am actually at the stage where I am going to get into it more than ever.”

Samuel Shankland, 18, who won the junior championship in a playoff on Tuesday [July 20], plans to quit playing professionally for the time being, and perhaps for good. He is beginning studies at Brandeis University in Boston in the fall. “I’m going to go down the other road and see where it goes,” he said.

Krush, who also won in 1998 and 2007, finished a half-point ahead of Anna Zatonskih, the 2006, 2008 and 2009 champion, and Tatev Abrahamyan. The rivalry between Krush and Zatonskih has become quite intense, partly because of the playoff between the two that decided the 2008 title. Krush said of the rivalry, “There is nothing too friendly about it.” But she added that they were on speaking terms. “It is important to me that things are cordial,” she said.

Krush said that she had worked hard over the last 18 months with her coach, Giorgi Kacheishvili, and that the work was bearing fruit. “I am trying to play more dynamic chess,” she said. Krush, an international master, said her immediate goal was to become a grandmaster — she already has one of the three norms needed for the title.

For Shankland, who is also an international master, the obstacles to becoming a grandmaster are one reason he is quitting. He has two norms, but said he had two other tournament performances that would have been norms, except for technical issues. He said of becoming a grandmaster, “Everybody says it is not supposed to be easy, which is fine by me. But it is supposed to be fair.”

Not being a grandmaster has hurt him financially. Shankland estimated that he has earned one-third less than he would have if he had the higher title.

Though Shankland’s victory qualifies him for the world junior championship, which begins Aug. 2 in Poland, he said he was not going. “I’m not turning my life upside down on such short notice,” he said.

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