ACC in St. Louis

Hi, Keith Denning here, ACC’s Tournament Director. I’ve been having a lot of fun over the past six months learning the ropes for my TD position. Based on my experience directing tournaments for both Annex Chess Club and Chess Institute of Canada, I was recently accredited as a licensed National Arbiter (NA) for Canada by both CFC and FIDE.

ACC recently sent me to St. Louis, Missouri to attend a three-day seminar and earn a FIDE Arbiter (FA) norm. I’m very grateful to ACC for this wonderful opportunity and decided to write about my experience.

St. Louis is one of the most important cities in the world for chess. Five games of the 1896 World Chess Championship between Steinitz and Zukertort were played in St. Louis, but in recent years St. Louis was put on the map for chess by Rex Sinquefield, whose ongoing support has made the St. Louis Chess Club, the World Chess Hall of Fame, and various important chess tournaments possible.

This was my first trip to St. Louis, and I wasn’t prepared for the chess adventure that awaited me! On the day of my arrival, the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament concluded. After checking in at my B&B, I decided to familiarize myself with the neighbourhood, and as I was walking towards the St. Louis Chess Club, Fabiano Caruana passed me on the street!

I checked out the beautiful St. Louis Chess Club and, after watching a few games played on the chess tables outside, I looked across the street to the World Chess Hall of Fame only to see Alireza Firouzja being photographed in front of the world’s largest chess piece, hoisting his trophy for having won the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz. The World Chess Hall of Fame was entirely dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of the legendary Fischer-Spassky World Championship Match of 1972.

To put your minds at ease, this wasn’t just a sightseeing trip. The seminar and exam involved three eight-hour days of work. I also took in two evening classes at STLCC, one with GM Elshan Moradiabadi, who did a simul at ACC in 2013.

The seminar was conducted by Aris Marghetis, a Canadian International Arbiter (IA) and FIDE Lecturer. Among the other attendees were IAs David Hater and Chris Bird. All three had recently been in Chennai as part of the huge arbiter team for the 2022 Chess Olympiad. Chris would go on to have a very interesting time as the Chief Arbiter of the Sinquefield Cup. The seminar was incredibly enlightening. We had breakfast each morning at the Kingside Diner across the street from the club, and our seminar and exam were conducted in a meeting room in a nearby hotel.

After our Thursday session, we were all invited to attend the opening ceremonies of the Sinquefield Cup, held on the beautiful grounds that hosted the 1904 World’s Fair, Forest Park. As the Sinquefield Cup is one of the strongest chess tournaments in the world, it attracted many strong players, each of whom participated in a simul. Perhaps the most notable game in the simul was a matchup between Canadian IM Eric Rosen and Magnus Carlsen. The other participants in the tournament were Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Alireza Firouzja, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Lenier Dominguez, Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Legrave and last-minute addition Hans Niemann, who replaced Hungarian GM Richard Rapport when COVID restrictions made it impossible for Rapport to travel.

Some of our long-standing club members may remember when Wesley So played at the Toronto International (hosted by ACC) back in 2012, winning with 6.0/7.

It was quite wonderful to watch all of these top GMs playing in the simul. Other luminaries at the opening ceremonies were Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Sereiwan and Peter Svidler, as well as Rex Sinquefield himself. Jennifer visited ACC and did a lecture in 2017.

Ultimately, Alireza Firouzja won the Sinquefield Cup, which is the last event in the Grand Chess Tour. Firouzja also won the tour overall.

And, for those of you who were wondering, yes, I passed my exam, and now I’m working towards earning my other FIDE Arbiter norms.

Here’s a photo collage of my trip to St. Louis.

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