On Saturday, March 21, Botez Live and US Chess Women hosted the Isolated Queens Swiss, a blitz tournament on chess.com open to female players of all ages. 85 players participated including over 30 streamers, who gave running commentary on their twitch channels. Women and girls from six continents played, many practicing social isolation to stymie the scourge of COVID-19.
One of our most beloved American players, Grandmaster Irina Krush played in quarantine while recovering from coronavirus. On Friday night, March 20, the seven-time US Women’s Champion revealed to her many fans and friends that she had been diagnosed with COVID-19. That post is public, and can be read here. Feeling somewhat better the next morning, Irina jumped into the stacked blitz event.
I was tired of laying around unproductively for a week…was it hard to play? It was fine…I mean, of course I wasn’t being super evocative in my twitch stream, since I had to conserve my breath, and I probably would’ve had a stronger reaction to my bad moves under other circumstances 🙂
This was Irina’s very first time streaming. “I felt I should have gotten a prize just for figuring out how to stream. It was definitely my biggest creative achievement of the tournament, and maybe top ten of my life :)”
Irina did end up getting 7.5/10 for joint 2nd, and perhaps more vitally, an afternoon of absorption. On March 26th, after this article was posted, Irina wrote another heartfelt update on Facebook about her health. “The virus has not been an easy opponent, but I am hopeful that this wave will recede too.”
The multi-stream event was anchored by myself with one of the most popular chess streamers in the World, WFM Alexandra Botez, as we provided educational content of key games. Botez said,
I cannot explain how excited I am that so many ladies decided to participate! I’m already seeing many new streamers who want to continue to stream. This is huge because I think as chess grows on Twitch, it will attract more eyeballs and get more people and funds into the game – a big win for chess fans and professionals everywhere.
One of the most exciting games in the whole event saw two of America’s top female players face off in a sharp King’s Indian Defense.
Yip told CLO that this was her favorite win of the event, pinpointing moves like 15. a4 and 22. Qc3 as too slow on Irina’s part, allowing Yip a classic KID crush, punctuated by the devastating 26…Bxh3!
Being up tempi in the KID is really important, and she was just too slow to counterattack on my queenside.
Irina graciously said it was the best game she saw all event too, even if against her. “It was a nice game by black, very thematic for the KID.”
This was a key win on the way to Carissa’s scorching 7-0 start, which also included a win against the other GM in the tournament, eventual champion Alexandra Kosteniuk.
Yip’s appearance in Isolated Queens was only her second time streaming at https://www.twitch.tv/carissayip, but she already has a strong following.
Her fans would have to settle for second place this time, as she faltered in the last three games, starting with a loss to talented Georgian player WFM Lile Koridze.
You can find Carissa’s entire stream from Isolated Queens here.
Former Women’s World Champion, Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk, aka “Chess Queen” scored 8/10 to take clear first and a $700 prize. Kosteniuk archived the entire show on her twitch channel, and finished with a victory over IM Karina Ambartsumova.
It’s fitting that Kosteniuk won this innovative event, as she has always been ahead of the curve, from her website to her branding to starting a podcast over a decade ago.
Saint Louis WIM Thalia Cervantes was also among the players tied for second, with Lile Koridze of Georgia, Nastya Rakhmangulova of Ukraine and Carolyn Gaug of North Carolina.
Congrats to NC's Carolyn Gaug who tied for 2nd in a field of GMs IMs & FMs in the Isolated Queens Swiss blitz event sponsored by @USChessWomen and @alexandravbotez! Carolyn finished only 0.5 points behind @chessqueen. It was on @chesscom and streamed on https://t.co/rpB6bTd7jx pic.twitter.com/m5jjDOg6jp
— Indermaur Chess Foundation (@IndermaurChess) March 21, 2020
US Women’s Champion Jennifer Yu, and WGMs Tatev Abrahamyan, Sabina Foisor and Katerina Nemcova were also playing in the event, and many of them were streaming for their very first time, or returning to twitch after a busy year.
Okay I wish I didn’t hang my queen in the last round but it was fun to play in the #IsolatedQueens tournament. Thanks everyone for watching, I’ll start streaming more!
— Tatev Abrahamyan (@Tatev__A) March 21, 2020
But the event was not only about our highest rated stars.
One of the most brilliant people in the event was a high school senior from the Philadelphia area, Sofiya Lysenko, who founded Girls Code Chess. Sofiya has been internationally recognized by Intel ISEF, Google, and software engineering communities for her research and projects in medicine, machine learning, and computing.
The Science Fair Champion pointed out that both chess and STEM fields teach critical skills in strategy and leadership.
Computer science and data science, especially, allow anyone with the ability to code to contribute to quickly to the solving of internationally scaled challenges.
Sofiya highlighted the community oriented feel of Isolated Queens:
There were people coming to my stream being very supportive and then passing onto others, collectively creating a community that transcended just even the network of women players, but also spectators, parents, coaches, and many other girls for which the event was uplifting, inspiring, and exciting.
Young women from our US Chess Women programs also played, including Laurel Aronian, whose mom Dr. Karen Aronian was recently interviewed on Dan Lucas’s One Move at a Time. Laurel told CLO the event inspired her:
Playing in the tournament made me realize that I definitely needed some fresh openings and that there were many other options that I could use if I wanted to see different positions.
Another participant and Girls Club Room regular was 7-year-old Zoey Moore. Zoey’s mom Dawn said:
Zoey has really been improving her game. She made the top 10 girls and top 100 boys and girls for her age! She hasn’t played too much online so being able to play with such an esteemed group was a real joy for her.
Rapidly improving chess streamer Gold Dust Tori at twitch.tv/golddusttori also had a blast at the event, while defeating her first titled player in a blitz tournament.
Went 5/10 in the Isolated Queen's Tournament today hosted by @USChessWomen @alexandravbotez and @JenShahade !! Had the absolute honor to play so many amazing players including GM Irina Krush. I was even able to win my last game against a WCM in 16 moves! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/5Uyl0GIjuu
— 𝕿𝖔𝖗𝖎 (@golddusttori) March 21, 2020
Another emerging streamer, Naycir, echoed Tori’s enthusiasm.
I played the AMAZING "Isolated Queens Swiss" hosted by @alexandravbotez & @JenShahade & @USChessWomen and could score only 3/10. Earlier in this game, I decided to commit to a kingside attack by taking the pawn on h7 but I didn't believe it would work and IT WORKED! 🤯🎉😅 pic.twitter.com/9BOz8K0kXe
— Nigarhan (@nigarhan) March 22, 2020
It was only after Kosteniuk took the crown that I realized the essence of the event: we were all feeding off each other’s energy, from our homes. Isolated Queens, but as connected as pawns.
Had a blast doing commentary with @alexandravbotez for #IsolatedQueens @USChessWomen. The multi-channel event featured 33+ female streamers detailing the action, many of whom were new to twitch. Here's a little montage!
— Jennifer Shahade (@JenShahade) March 22, 2020
Isolated Queens was made possible thanks to the generous donations of Ian “Maprail” Silverstone, Open Field Media, Kevin Wong as well as the moderators and donors to Botez Live throughout our US Chess Women Saturday series.
On Saturday, March 28th we’ll break from our regular US Chess Women programming for a very special event: Femme Batale 2, a team match to raise money for coronovirus relief. Tune in at 3 ET and find full details here.
Chessqueen’s replay (Russian)