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US Championships 2003

Biggest ever national prize

John Henderson of Scotsman reporting from Seattle

SEATTLE -- For the third year running, hip Seattle plays host to the
cerebral challenge of the prestigious US Chess Championships, as 58 of
the country's top chess masters battle it out over nine rounds (9-18
January) for the biggest prize in chess history for a national title.

Since taking over the ailing historic championships in 2000, the
America's Foundation for Chess (AF4C) has now boosted the prize fund to
make the event the biggest annual prize in chess anywhere in the world.
With an increase this year of a further $50,000, the prize fund
increases to an unprecedented $250,000, with $25,000 slotted for the
winner - all a far cry from 1966 when Bobby Fischer, after winning his
record-breaking eighth US title, took home only $2,500.

Twenty top-rated players (12 men, 8 women) - including the 2002 U.S.
Champions Larry Christiansen and Jennifer Shahade, and the 2001 and 2002
U.S. Junior Champions, Hikaru Nakamura and Aaron Pixton - were
automatically seeded into the event. Also competing will be 36 players
(32 men, 4 women) who survived the qualifying events held at the U.S.
Masters, the National Open, Foxwoods Open, the Chicago Open, the World Open and the U.S. Open.

In our search to find the new Bobby Fischer, this new open-competition
format has allowed many young, non-titled players to compete for the
first time for a cherished spot in the national championship. And in
addition to the above field, the AF4C board, in furthering their mission
of promoting chess among young people, has allocated their two wildcard
entries to 16-year-old Laura Ross, as well as the winner of the
prestigious 2002 Samford Fellowship, 18-year-old Varuzhan Akobian.

The full playing field (including pictures and biographies) for the
championship and details of the AF4C can be found on our website at
www.af4c.org. The nine-round event, starting daily at 1.30 pm to close
of play at 7.30pm, will run from January 9-18 (rest day Tuesday, 14th
January) at the Seattle Center, home to Seattle's famous landmark, the
Space Needle (pictured right).



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