121st U.S. Open Canceled

US Chess announces that the 2020 U.S. Open has been canceled due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic. It will not be rescheduled. The 121st edition of our longest-running event was scheduled to take place from August 8-16 in Saint Charles, Missouri, which is in the Saint Louis area.

US Chess did not take this step lightly. The decision is based on Missouri state guidelines on social distancing as well as federal guidance through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House.

The U.S. Open embraces other events that are held in conjunction with it, including the premier invitational events* and the Delegates’ Meeting.  More information about these events will be forthcoming.

US Chess looks forward to the 2021 U.S. Open:

2021 U.S. Open Championship July 31-August 8
Crown Plaza Philadelphia-Cherry Hill
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
(888) 233-9527
HR: $119

*Invitational Events at U.S. Open

36th Annual GM Arnold Denker National Tournament of High School State Champions

10th Annual Dewain Barber National Tournament of Middle School State Champions

1st Annual John D. Rockefeller III National Tournament of Elementary School State Champions

8th Annual WIM Ruth Haring National Tournament of Girls State Champions

3rd Annual National Tournament of Senior State Champions


  1. Bad decision. Could have had the tournament with sanitizing the pieces, clocks and boards before every round. Those who are afraid of the “virus” do not have to play.

    • Just have people sign a waiver, people who want to play, can play those who don’t, didn’t have to. Add in some reasonable measures.(if in compliance with the law)

      • USCF thanks you for your donation to cover any expenses related to lawsuits or PR damage control that might result from anyone contracting the virus at its flagship national event. Your generosity is a shining example for us all.

    • Those who aren’t scared of the “virus” wouldn’t see a need to sanitize the playing equipment each round. Or to follow CDC guidance on social distancing. In the meantime, while I’m thanking USCF leadership for not endangering its members, feel free to organize a tournament yourself.

  2. Unfortunately, it was indeed the only way to proceed. The risk and liabilities are just overwhelming. Don’t take it as the end of the World. Let’s focus on the future and get ready for running the tournaments next year. Meanwhile, building online playing capabilities are way overdue. We have to improve what we have control over!

  3. Canceling another US Open in St. Louis just really stinks and kind of agree in a way with Mr. Hibbs, but it was a necessary move. I just wish there could be something done about possibly sliding St. Louis into the next couple of years, like moving the Cherry Hill, NJ event to a future year since Cherry Hill hosted the event in 2002 and 2007, or another possibility is to move St. Louis to 2024 since Norfolk, VA hosted the US Open in 2017. St. Louis last hosted the US Open in 1960, so it looks like 2025 would be the next opportunity. Perhaps, the 3rd time will be a charm, but it was the most prudent decision that could be made at this time, and I had already made the decision not to go to St. Louis back in April. For those that don’t know, I was a St. Louis area resident for 9 years off and on, between 1991 – 2004 and was really looking forward to “Coming Home”. That trip will once again have to wait.

    • According to statista.com, US hotel occupancy rates in March 2019 were close to 70% nationwide. The same rates for March 2020 are below 40%. I can’t even imagine what April/May 2020 rates will look like.

      In other words, there’s just about zero chance that the US Open sites for 2021-2024 would be willing to give up their current contracts, especially when factoring in the instability in the hospitality market at present.

      • Very good point, Bob! It would cost a lot of money to break a contract, as that probably would not be the right thing to do with US Chess, but if the pandemic is prevalent throughout 2021, and it is deemed that Cherry Hill would be less safe than St. Louis, then maybe. I think anybody would agree that given that St. Louis lost out in 2014 and again this year, that some sort of accommodation should be made to St. Louis. Realistically speaking, I could see Norfolk, VA in 2024 being pushed back a year with an even higher contract for 2025, and slide St. Louis into 2024.

        In speaking with some of the St. Louis players through Facebook and other means, they too are wondering if they will ever see a US Open in our lifetimes given these 2 really bad breaks. I also think that anybody would agree that they would love to see The Club there in the Central West End, along with the Hall of Fame Museums as those buildings were not there when I moved away from St. Louis in 2004.

        • USCF can’t just snap its fingers and move an event that’s already under contract without both parties agreeing. As stated above, that’s almost certainly not going to happen. St. Louis is likely SOL until at least 2025.

          St. Louis did catch bad breaks in 2014 and 2020. Those were not at all the responsibility of USCF – and USCF certainly incurred losses in both years. USCF even violated its own bylaws to schedule the 2020 event there. (The US Open is supposed to end by August 15.)

          I was looking around on cvent.com for possible sites. St. Louis is actually a pretty lousy town for holding large chess tournaments. No convention hotels to speak of, really.

          • I agree that St. Louis is not a great convention town to speak of with the required square footage to hold a US Open. Really the only site that could accommodate such a large crowd was the St. Charles Convention Center area, and the problem has always been the Missouri State Troopers Association scheduling their annual convention at the same venue during the first week of August, thus the reason for having the 2020 event go to August 16th, which of course, is not happening. I don’t know if you were aware of that scheduling, Bob, and that is why a vote needed to be approved to allow this US Open to go past August 15th.

            I am just trying to think in any which way, how to give St. Louis that chance it so deserves of hosting the US Open, as it could very well be that St. Louis is SOL until 2025, because, like one of my St. Louis friends recently stated, “We are not getting any younger”.

            Yes, it is difficult, if not impossible to cancel contracts if both parties agree to it. I don’t believe in moving the 2022 and 2023 events to St. Louis since Rancho Mirage, CA and Grand Rapids, MI never hosted the US Open, to my knowledge.

          • One last note for David Cole: I’m a Delegate. I know that there was not a vote of the Delegates to approve the bylaws violation made by scheduling the US Open to end August 16. That decision was made by the national office, I believe in discussion with the Executive Board. I was okay with it, because it was only 1 day after the bylaws mandate, and it was for St. Louis.

  4. Painful but health concerns come first.
    A sad day but we will recover and be stonger.

  5. Probly a wise decision, given MO’s unwillingness to take intelligent informed steps to control the spread. It makes no sense to take a risk with people’s lives or health, and that is really what is at stake.
    Just curious, thugh, how it will go into the books–will the next one held be the 122nd, with notation that 12st was cxl’d due to pandemic? Or will the next one be listed as the 121st, with none held in 2020?

    • Interesting question! I figured the US Open might have been canceled during the Great Depression, WW1 or WW2, but not according to Wikipedia.

      I would think 2020 would just be skipped, and the 2021 edition would be the 121st. It doesn’t seem logical to count editions that weren’t played. The Masters golf tournament took off 1943-1945 due to WW2, and they just resumed counting with the 1946 edition.

  6. The Denker legacy has been a part of the US Open for the last 35 years. Now we have additions to that invitational event that include children as young as 8 years-old who would have competed in the Rockefeller. In total their would have been 4 scholastic invitational events (Denker, Barber, Haring & Rockefeller) as well as the Invitational Senior (Us Chess Elders). There is no way I would risk the lives of over 250 of these people.

  7. My son Eli would have been the nominee from South Carolina for the second year running in this year’s Barber Tourney. All the hard work Eli puts into chess seems lost as appearing and competing at a National invitational tournament is always his ultimate goal.

    That being said, the dangers associated with holding this tournament can not be denied. I still have to ask myself: Is there some other way?

    For a smaller field like the Denker, Barber, Hairing, it seems that allowing the children to compete via zoom or other video platform might be viable. Rules may need to be changed along with the format, but I’m convinced that such a method could be developed and perfected in time to allow these deserving kids to compete in the Invitationals to which they have been nominated to compete.

    Would it be perfect? Likely not. But, during such difficult times, I believe that innovation is in order. I challenge the USCF and organizers to take the lead toward implementing a means to make these tournaments a reality, even if they must be conducted remotely.

    It can be done. Flexibility is key.

    • It would have been great if the smaller invitational events were rescheduled and not canceled.

      Maybe close to the end of the year. Possibly in a different location/state if needed. Even separating the events if it helps (around 50 players may not be as stressful).

      Obviously not ideal, requires additional logistics efforts from the organizers and probably some format changes (e.g. complete over a weekend by reducing number of rounds or shortening time control), but better than none, in my opinion. For some players (like my son, nominated to represent Illinois in the Denker), it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

      Like the previous comment says – flexibility is key.

      • The reason those events are scheduled at the US Open is that USCF has already paid for the meeting space. That’s also why the rounds for these events are scheduled during the day, so they don’t conflict with the US Open itself. USCF also has TDs on site already for the US Open, so it doesn’t cost much extra.

        Your proposal would mean USCF would have to find a hotel, contract for rooms, pay staff, and pay prizes – for a combined tournament with maybe 250 players that has NO ENTRY FEE (so no $ coming in). Oh, and USCF membership revenue is way down, so there’s no extra money going around right now. Look at the video with the current and past USCF Presidents telling us just how tough the financial situation is right now, thanks to COVID-19.

        Now, if someone wants to donate the total cost of rescheduling the invitationals (meeting space rental, hotel rooms, directing staff, prizes, and awards), I’m sure USCF would be glad to hold them.

  8. We really wish the smaller invitationals would be rescheduled. Our son was so excited to be representing Florida at the First Rockefeller tournament. All of these kids work so hard for this and they deserve some recognition for their efforts. We hope that US Chess decides to organize the invitationals.

  9. My son got selected for Denker this year. He is very eager to participate in the prestigious Tournament. It would be great if the tournament is scheduled without cancellation by following social distancing like wearing Mask.

    • Social distancing involves two components – space and time. Two chess players, sitting across a table that’s less than three feet deep, for several hours at a time, cannot comply with social distancing, even with masks.

  10. I understand that you can’t wait until a couple weeks before the event to make a decision but isn’t this something where a few more weeks could have been taken to see where things were headed with the Covid-19 situation? Maybe a decision at the end of June?

    • This comment betrays a lack of understanding about hotel/meeting contracts. Most such contracts have escalating penalties if one party cancels within x days (where x is usually something like 30, 60, 90, 180, etc.) of the start of the event.

      This announcement was made May 8. The tournament was scheduled to start August 8 – 92 days later. USCF probably had to make a decision before that x window, or risk a big fee. Based on the timing of the announcement, that window would be 90 days.

      • I agree with Bob that the penalty to cancel out under the 90 days would have been much larger, and could understand Mr. Becker’s thinking to see if the virus would have become a lot less with the hot Summer months being upon us to see if conditions would have changed for the better. It was definitely prudent to act this way, as a much larger penalty would have been levied, and it was the right thing to do.

        With regards to the bylaws breech that Bob pointed out to me, I thought there was some sort of vote taken by the Delegates, and it may not have been during the regular Delegates meetings. I am a former delegate to both, Missouri and Georgia, as I represented Missouri at the 2002 Delegates meetings in Cherry Hill, NJ. I could also see “Force Majeure” clause to go along Mr. Becker’s point, to see if the cancellation fee would have been the same if you were 60 days from the start of the US Open and wait a month for the decision. Regardless, Social Distancing could not be adhered to at any chess tournament as typically the opponents are 3 feet apart and even closer, when one has to reach all the way across the board to your opponents’ first or second ranks.

  11. A pleasant surprise to see a reasonable, troll-free discussion here, on this very freighted topic. Two corollary thoughts:

    1. This is clearly not Facebook (thank God!)

    2. This is clearly not the US Chess Forums (thank God!)

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