Reports | October 15, 2009 1:40

Zatonskih clinches 2nd consecutive U.S. Women's Championship title

Zatonskih clinches 2nd US titleLast year she won her first title after a dramatic playoff with Irina Krush, but this time things went more smoothly for IM Anna Zatonskih, who yesterday clinched her second consecutive U.S. Women's Chess championship with a phenomenal score of 8.5/9. In a very combative tournament, WGM Camilla Baginskaite finished second, two points behind the winner. Info, games, photos and videos.

The U.S. Women's Chess championship took place October 4-13 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Missouri (USA). It was a 10-player round robin with IM Anna Zatonskih (2496), IM Irina Krush (2478), IM Rusudan Goletiani (2437), WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor (2390), WGM Camilla Baginskaite (2356), WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (2334), WIM Alisa Melekhina (2301), WIM Iryna Zenyuk (2281), WIM Battsetseg Tsagaan (2256) and NM Yun Fan (2201). The rate of play was 40 moves in 2 hours + 1 hour to finish the game, with 5 seconds increment from the start of the game.

[Update: on the official website Zatonskih, Krush and Goletiani have "IM & WGM" before their names. Since IM is a higher title, it doesn't make much sense, like women's titles don't make much sense in general. There's an article in the Wall Street Journal about this.]

Daily video reports by Jennifer Shahade & Macauley Peterson

Anna Zatonskih already secured the record $15,000 (€ 10,080) first prize with one round remaining when she acquired a near-perfect 7.5 out of 8 points. At that point no other woman had more than 5.5 points. In the last round, played yesterday, Zatonskih (Long Island, New York) finished off the tournament in style with a positional crush of Yun Fan, of Greencastle, Ind.

Zatonskih ended with eight wins and one draw in nine games, and her 8.5 points (performance rating: 2817!) were tied for the best result in the championship in more than 20 years. She said the championship was the best performance of her career. "I think it was the strongest U.S. Championship I ever played."

She scoffed at the idea of taking a short draw in yesterday's last round. "I had nothing to lose," she said. "I had such a good position out of the opening." She added that the superior quality of the tournament organization and conditions "made me feel like I was doing something important."


Anna Zatonskih concentrating before one of her victories with Black

The battle for second place, which began with three women mathematically eligible, crystallized when 42-year-old Camilla Baginskaite, the tournament's oldest participant, rebounded from a rough eight loss. Baginskaite, of Sioux Falls, S.D., finished with six wins and one draw after beating Sabina Foisor, of Baltimore, Md., in the longest game of the day to pull one point ahead of both Alisa Melekhina and Irina Krush.

Melekhina, of Philadelphia, Pa., found a late checkmate tactic to beat Battsetseg Tsagaan, of Ellicott City, Md., and briefly pulled into a tie with Baginskaite, whose game was still in progress. Krush, of Brooklyn, N.Y., failed to keep pace. She began the round on equal second with Baginskaite but could not stay tied, as she lost to Tatev Abrahamyan, of Glendale, Calif. Krush's loss ended her streak of three consecutive wins.


Camilla Baginskaite

With the win, Baginskaite won $12,000 and avoided a complicated tiebreaker system that would have left second place highly in doubt. This was especially important because the top two finishers in the tournament qualified for the next Women's World Chess Championship, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey. Krush may still qualify based on her high rating.

Baginskaite said she noticed that Krush lost and all she needed to do was draw her position to clinch second place. But judging that her game was better, she risked thousands of dollars in prize money and her world championship qualification to play for the win. "I couldn't see any way for (Foisor) to hold. Why should I play for a draw?" she said. "It's about self-respect. You have to win this position."

After more than 30 years of playing chess, Baginskaite also earned her first international master norm, a title she will acquire with two more norms. Melekhina, the youngest player in the event, finished in a tie for third place with Krush at 5.5 points. They will both take home $7,500.

All five games were decisive in the last round. The last draw was in round five, more than 20 games ago. In many men's events, more than half of the games end in draws. At this championship, fewer than a quarter ended peacefully.

U.S. Women Championship 2009 | Final Standings

US Women Ch 2009

All games for replay, annotated by Chris Bird & Ben Finegold

Game viewer by ChessTempo


Shared 9th-10th, with 2.5/9: Battsetseg Tsagaan

Yu Fan

Shared 9th-10th, with 2.5/9: Yun Fan


8th, with 3.0/9: Iryna Zenyuk


6th-7th, with 3.5/9: Sabina Foisor


6th-7th, with 3.5/9: Rusudan Goletiani


5th, with 4/9: Tatev Abrahamyan


Shared 3rd-4th, with 5.5/9: Alisa Melekhina


Shared 3rd-4th, with 5.5/9: Irina Krush


Second, with 6.5/9: Camilla Baginskaite


And the winner, with 8.5/9: Anna Zatonskih

Report thanks to the wonderful Official website | Photos by Betsy Dynako



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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Thomas's picture

@redpawn: I thought you were referring to the photos in this report, where BTW only Irina Krush seems to be very obviously posing for the camera. As far as the "other photo" of Zatonskih is concerned: it's only her business, and maybe Daniel Fridman's [her husband, slight hint to ceann :) ].

Concerning your daughters: I don't know how old they are now, and how beautiful ... but if they _voluntarily_ pose for such photos 10-15 years from now, there is little you could do about it.

It would become dubious only if they (or anyone else) are paid extra for such photo shots, or if refusing to "cooperate" in such a way negatively affects future invitations. For lack of evidence, this is at most speculation!?

CAL|Daniel's picture

I assume you mean phenomenal.

ceann's picture

Zatonskih would also win the 'birds you would do' followed closely by Melekhina....

Jan's picture

Yes, these eyes...she is a winner

redpawn's picture

They should all be playing along side men. There should not be a woman's ONLY event. That's seggregation.

This is a mental sport ! Not physical.
So I don't see why there is a division between men's chess and woman's chess.....

Judith Polgar paived this road a long time ago....why aren't more woman standing up and demanding to play in US Championships with men ?
so thatafterwards there would not be comments like : "well she is a great champion for Women's chess..... that's BS!

Anyway, Women have a HUGE psychological advantage playing against men...why not use it?

Coco Loco's picture

"Anyway, Women have a HUGE psychological advantage playing against men…why not use it?"

Because they're outrated by about 350 points.

CAL|Daniel's picture

because none of them could ever qualify for the US main event without the sexiest rule we saw last year that said (Top2 rated female players... qualify) made especially for Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih.

I'm sorry but there was enough awesome male players excluded from the men's championship last year by the sexiest rule... Yermolinsky? Kraii? Kudrin? Lenderman? Finegold? Gurevich?

Redpawn's picture


That's right! ABOLISH women's chess titles !

Why should there be a gender divide in a mental sport ?

The chess godess "Caissa" doesn't care if the player moving the pieces is male or female...the only thing that matters is quality of the moves in the game, which player's plan is stronger, faster etc....

Having "balls" is no advantage on the board - the game's the thing!

Redpawn's picture

So when are we having the US Chimpanzee's Championship ?

If there's going to be division by sex - why not a division by species?

This is not a physical sport like basketball, tennis volyball, soccer etc... where there is physical contact - and obvious problems exist (sensitive area's etc...)

There is NO physical contact in chess (other than the traditional hand shake before and after...) SO WHY the separation between the sexes ?

pete's picture

damn Anna Zatonskih is so beautiful. She should become a model :D

nick burrows's picture


It is a fact that there are physiological differences between men & women. Although there is no physical contact what is it that does the thinking? our (different) brains.

There is no physical contact in many sports, but still there are individual championships.

I say whatever the 'motif' of the tournament - the more the merrier. Why abolish this great opportunity for all these players to earn distinction for the sake of political correctness?

Lee's picture

Why not include MGM, MIM, MFM and even MCM titles as well as women's titles? To justify then, FIDE can lift all the rating requirements and PFR requirements for the open titles: GM can be three 2700+ performances with a FIDE rating of 2600, IM can be three 2550+ performances with a FIDE rating of 2500, and FM can be an automatic title for reaching 2400+ FIDE.

Just a suggestion, feel free to comment.

Mr X's picture

How many immigrants was that in the US Women's Championship? That aside, the abolishing of women's titles is a good idea.

Remco G's picture

@redpawn: (to: why aren’t more woman standing up and demanding to play in US Championships with men):

That isn't a men's championship you know. It's the _overall_ championship. And they can demand all they want, but they didn't qualify, and it seems that seeding them into the overall championship just because they're women is the opposite of what you want.

So this is just an extra; there are mixed tournaments, and women's tournaments. Nobody is forcing any women to compete in the latter, and they may help make chess seem more attractive to girls (since otherwise the fact that there are in fact women playing is almost invisible). So these tournaments hurt nobody.

CAL|Daniel's picture

@Mr X
all 10 women are immigrants.

redpawn's picture

@nick burrows - o.k fine. read the comments, look at the pictures they take - they concentrate on the woman's looks more than the substance of their games.
They don't do that when they report on men. you don't see men taking pictures in provokative poses etc....

that's besides the point.
If you'd like more separation, we can go down that road too....
how bout - US championships or Brunnets.....? then another US championship for
Or a US Chmpionship for woman who are US born. Then a separate one for all US woman who are from the eastern block....yet another US championship for canadian residence (that would be an easy championship for Irina Krush....might as well give her the check now...)
The possibilities for division are endless....

see my point ?

I just suggest - 1 US Championship based on chess qualification and the only other requirement is to be either a citizen or permanent resident (over 6 months) of the USA. And this would be regardless of gender, age, race, creed or color.

What would be wrong with that? I think it's only fair....

@Remco G
yes it does hurt - because when women win the tournament - people say she plays pretty good...for a woman.
And look at the pictures they are taking -(trying to make chess more sexy..etc...) That's demeaning to women and it takes the spot light away from the game itself.

redpawn's picture

@Mr X - I totaly agree with you.
This is the U.S CHAMPIONSHIPS after all - and so I think ALL contestants should be either US citizens, or show at least a minimum of 6 months permanent residency? Carry some kind of US green card - and pay US taxes.

Otherwise - you have tourists from all over the world competing - and if that's the case - it should not be called U.S. Championship, but rather some kind of OPEN Championship - that the venue happens to be in the US... but say next year could take place in Budapest?, Milan?, Hong Kong? etc....
call it "the International Open"

redpawn's picture

so , you've got Jennifer Shahade - with a book like "Chess Bitch"
But no male player has yet to publish a biographical book named something like" "Chess Prick or Chess Asshole"........
Is the book Chess bitch just smart marketing - to promote Woman's chess ?
I don't know ?? That would be a good question for say Susan Polgar.

She competes with top GM's... men or woman (makes no difference...)
Woman should take Susan Polgar as a true role model.
I doubt that Susan Polgar would publish a book named: "My best wins over men - by being a total bitch". I think she has too much self respect and honor for her father to do that......

Thomas's picture

@redpawn (referring to your comment yesterday 7:14PM):
"look at the pictures they take ..."
First of all, who exactly is "they"? Second, there are several steps involved: Women, at least some of them, like to pose for the camera. Photographers like to take such pictures. And some people enjoy such pictures - see comments by ceann, Jan and pete in this thread.

But it's not limited to women either: Photographers also like to take pictures of Ivanchuk - whether he likes this himself is another story. And at Corus this year, I witnessed IM Manuel Bosboom 'posing' for cameras for about five minutes before the start of the round. He seemed to enjoy the attention he got, probably a combination of three things:
1) his good results at the start of the tournament
2) his - what should I say? - interesting and flamboyant looks
3) the fact that - as far as I remember - he was the only one in all three GM groups arriving early for the start of the round

redpawn's picture

@Thomas Hey I'm a pretty liberal guy
But did you see the picture Zatonskih has with her leg over the giant check she recieved? (with the camera in a low angle......) very sexy....

What does an image like that do?

As a father of two daughter (who just started playing in tournaments...) it's not very inspiring.
I'll woudl be very proud of having their games published, analyzed and praised. But i would not want them taking such pictures.
It takes the focus away from their chess and puts it on their physical appearance.

If they want to be models - and have photo shoots that a different story....

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