I love the US Championship-- I like watching chess when I know some of the people playing, plus the fantasy contests are awesome and I can't wait for Greg's video coverage. Every year, I get my students to enter the fantasy contest, and then for the week or so when the games are played, we watch the games live in chess club. They aren't interested in watching the games for 1.5 hours, of course, so we play a blitz tournament everyday and take a break every 2 rounds to see updates and make predictions in the 3-4 games we're following. Entering the fantasy contest gives them some reason to care. Also, because there are so many of them, I figure the kids have a decent chance to win a prize.
Want to hear my picks?
GM Gata Kamsky (2798, 2720) GM Hikaru Nakamura (2757, 2701)
I'm not so sure, but I'm going with Kamsky because Nakamura had some not so great recent results (Foxwoods, Toronto), and I think Kamsky is more of a professional. Also, he's significantly higher rated and has been playing super-strong opposition lately. certainty: 4
GM Alex Onischuk (2736, 2684) GM Yury Shulman (2697, 2632)
Who knows? I have them tied, but ranked it 1.
GM Varuzhan Akobian (2664, 2612) GM Julio Becerra (2672, 2609)
I think it's a big mistake to underestimate Becerra; he is strong, fearless, and tricky. On the other hand, he does seem to underperform in big tournaments. Also, Akobian had a great match result against Shulman recently, so he's in good form and confident. certainty= 5
GM Larry Christiansen (2681, 2588) GM Alex Shabalov (2620, 2569)
I'm picking Christiansen here because of Shabalov's poor recent results (Foxwoods, Toronto). certainty =7
GM Joel Benjamin (2650, 2583) Gregory Kaidanov (2662, 2595)
I'm choosing Kaidanov because a) I want to root for him and b) Joel is inactive. certainty = 10
GM Jaan Ehlvest (2649, 2606) GM Ildar Ibragimov (2628, 2586)
Didn't Ibragimov quit chess to become a travel agent? Or was that Novikov? Or both? Regardless, he's lower rated and inactive, so I'm going with Jaan, and I'm relatively confident (11).
GM Boris Gulko (2631, 2561) GM Melikset Khachiyan (2632, 2546)
I called this a tie, I have no real idea, but I think ties are a good idea because you'll have much better chances to win the early book prizes. After all, most people of similar rating will be tied after rounds 1 and 2, right? (confidence: 3)
GM Josh Friedel (2568, 2516) GM-elect Robert Hess (2545, 2485)
Yeah, ok, Robert is coming off some great results, but winning Supernationals isn't quite the same thing as winning the US Championship. Foxwoods and the Spice Cup are more comparable, but Friedel won Toronto, has more experience, and is higher rated. certainty= 8
IM Irina Krush (2496, 2452) IM Anna Zatonskih (2503, 2461)
I called this a tie (again, I want the book prize!). The only logical thought I could come up with was that they both will want to beat each other pretty badly, so let's say someone is half a point behind going into the last round. The person trailing will have an easier pairing and also a huge motivation to try to catch the leader. I think that will propell the underdog to superhuman feats. I know this doesn't make sense. I just want to win a book. certainty 2
IM Ray Robson (2542, 2465) IM Sam Shankland (2464, 2446)
Robson is a lot higher rated, and I'm assuming he's been doing nothing but preparing for this tournament for the last few months. Shankland has (presumably) been going to school. Still, Sam is talented and motivated, so I gave this a moderately low certainty of 6.
IM Michael Brooks (2419, 2463) IM Enrico Sevillano (2549, 2520)
I argued with Greg here about the amount of the handicap. My theory was that half a point is ridiculous; a point or point and a half would be fair. Why? 130 points. can't argue with numbers. Plus my personal sense is that Sevillano is very strong, plus Brooks has silly time pressure habits. I played Brooks a few years ago and he had something like 10 minutes left after 15 moves in a theoretical Sveshnikov that I'm sure he knew. I asked him afterwards what he was thinking about, doing that, and he said "I like to make sure I didn't miss anything." This reasoning is too weird for me. (of course he won our game) certainty =12
NM Tyler Hughes (2293, 2230) NM Charles Lawton (2350, None)
Being the US Junior Champion is a better qualification for playing the US Championship than living in St. Louis, don't you think? certainty= 9
I have selected GM Gata Kamsky to be the 2009 U.S. Champion. I'm not saying it won't be a tie, but this seems like the obvious pick, especially because I know everyone is taking Nakamura, and less popular but reasonable selections should help your chances, right?