The U.S. Chess Championship is going on now at the St. Louis Chess Club.  The nationalities of the contestants say a lot about the United States.

Of the twelve men (well, eleven men and a boy) competing for the title, only one, GM Robert Hess, was born in the United States.  One other, the youngster GM Ray Robson, was born in Guam, so that’s close enough.  The other ten are immigrants.

Of the ten women in the competition, four were born in Ukraine.  None were born in the United States.

This nation attracts the Best and Brightest.  GM Gata Kamsky is #14 in the world, and GM Hikaru Nakamura is #7.  As Americans, they do not have to ask the government’s permission to go play a tournament in another country, and they get to keep all of their winnings.

At the same time, where are all the US-born players?

Those with such intellect and drive go into other fields here — business, architecture, engineering, etc.  In much of the world, those choices simply do not exist.  In the former USSR and the Eastern Block nations, if you were a good chess player, you played whether you wanted to do something else or not.  The same goes in China now.

I like it here.  What a country!