Jennifer Yu is 2022 Women’s Champion after Dramatic Playoff

It was drama tailor-made for television… or in this case, YouTube and Twitch.


Jennifer Yu
Image Caption
courtesy SLCC / Lennart Ootes


WGM Jennifer Yu defeated GM Irina Krush in a wild three-game playoff to become the 2022 U.S. Women’s Champion. At several points appearing to be down for the count, including the blunder of a bishop on the ninth move of the Armageddon game, Yu showed the heart of a champion and bounced back each time.

In Tuesday’s penultimate round, Krush had seized the lead with a head-to-head win against Yu, but a win for Yu over FM Thalia Cervantes Landeiro, coupled with a hard-fought draw between Krush and IM Anna Zatonskih, left the two tied after thirteen rounds.

To break that tie, we went to Thursday’s playoff. A two-game quick (G/10+2) match was up first, and in the case that match was drawn, an Armageddon game would settle things. White gets five minutes, while Black gets four minutes and draw odds, and a two second increment kicks in after 60 moves.



Beginning the quick games with the black pieces, Krush repeated the Benoni she used to good effect against Yu in round 12, but added a new wrinkle by going for the Czech system, a less-common choice that leads to a closed, maneuvering game. With the quick time control, the game soon opened up into a tense middlegame where both sides had chances. In the end, it was Yu who seized control with an exchange sacrifice, and after a further inaccuracy by Krush, Yu darted in with her remaining pieces to deliver mate and take the first game.



Needing a win to force the Armageddon game, Krush met Yu’s Slav with the Exchange variation. This might seem a dry choice given the situation, but Yu revealed in the post-game interview that she felt Krush had the edge in “boring” positions.


Krush versus  Yu
Image Caption
courtesy SLCC / Lennart Ootes


The strategy seemed to work. Krush got an edge in the middlegame when her knight incursion prompted an exchange that created a protected passed pawn. Still, the position remained complex, and Yu even had a chance to seize the advantage, but after moving the wrong knight in a key position, her king fell under an unstoppable attack, allowing Krush to even the score.



So after thirteen rounds and more than two weeks of chess, it all came down to a single Armageddon game.

Yu won the coin toss and chose to play Black. Krush led with a King’s Indian Attack and both sides started developing normally, but on move nine, disaster struck for Yu.



She moved her bishop to g4, where it could be taken by Krush’s queen, and let go. Instantly realizing the mistake, she reached back for the bishop, but it was too late. In a casual blitz game you might be able to take a move back, but the U.S. Championship is “touch move,” which means once you let go of the piece, the move is final. After glancing at the arbiter to confirm, Yu acknowledged the move and pressed her clock.

Grandmasters aren’t supposed to have any trouble converting piece-up positions, and for a while it looked like Krush would do just that. But rather than trading down into a winning endgame, she pushed a pawn exposing her own king. This allowed Yu a discovered attack to snare Krush’s queen. Objectively Krush still had a winning position as she could get more than enough pieces for the queen, but things had suddenly got very complicated, and the clock kept ticking.

After the dust settled, Krush had two bishops and a rook for the queen. She was still winning, but now she had another problem: the complications cost her precious time on the clock and she had to win before running out of time — recall that the increment didn’t kick in until move 61.



Yu stayed afloat with a series of desperate queen checks. Finally, with two seconds on her clock, Krush made an illegal move, which resulted in two minutes being added to Yu’s clock. But it didn’t matter. A few moves later her clock fell, making Yu the 2022 U.S. Women’s Champion.



Through all the twists and turns, the one constant was Yu’s resilience. She absorbed three setbacks that would have floored most players: first losing to Krush on a blunder in a winning position in their classical game; then dropping the second game in the tiebreaker when she needed only a draw to prevail; and finally losing her bishop in the opening of the Armageddon game. But each time she bounced back even stronger and finally outlasted Krush to claim an incredibly gritty and memorable championship.


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Congrats to WGM Jennifer Yu for winning an epic battle! I do wonder why a tiebreak can't consist of first some rapid games and then pairs of bitz games until a winner emerges. Is Armageddon necessary because this has been tried before and it took too long?

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