Krush Wins 8th U.S. Women’s Championship

It has been a year unlike any in American history, but sometimes the old truism still rings true: the more things change, the more things stay the same.

 

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Krush wins 2020 U.S. Women's Championship
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courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

 

After contracting COVID-19 earlier this year, and while still suffering some of its effects as a ‘long-hauler,’ GM Irina Krush had a virtuous performance in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Championship, taking her eighth championship title by half a point over her heir apparent, IM Carissa Yip. Krush finished with 8½ points, followed by Junior Girls Champ Yip with 8. IM Dorsa Derakhshani was the surprise third place finisher with 7½ points.

 

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2020 Women's Championship final standings
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courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

 

Krush entered Saturday’s fourth and final day of play with a half-point lead over Yip and Derakhshani after nine rounds. Her ninth-round tactical demolition of WGM Tatev Abrahamyan surely gave her reason for optimism with two rounds to go.

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Krush-Tatev
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courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

 

[pgn][Event "ch-USA Women rapid"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.23"] [Round "9.5"] [White "Krush, Irina"] [Black "Abrahamyan, Tatev"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E35"] [WhiteElo "2478"] [BlackElo "2421"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bf4 c5 7. dxc5 O-O 8. e3 Nc6 9. Nf3 Bxc5 10. Be2 d4 11. Rd1 Nd5 {[#]} 12. Ng5 g6 13. Nxd5 Qxd5 14. O-O Be7 15. Bc4 Qa5 (15... Qf5 16. Qxf5 Bxf5 17. exd4 Bf6 18. d5 $1) 16. h4 $1 dxe3 17. Bxe3 Ne5 18. Bb3 Bf5 19. Qe2 h6 $2 20. Rd5 $1 Qc7 21. Rc1 Nc6 22. Rxf5 hxg5 (22... gxf5 23. Nxf7 Rxf7 24. Qh5 Bf6 25. Qg6+ Bg7 26. Bxh6 $18) 23. hxg5 (23. Rf3 $5) 23... gxf5 24. Qh5 Qe5 25. g6 Qg7 26. Bh6 (26. Rxc6 bxc6 27. Bd4 { is another way to finish Black off.}) 26... Qf6 (26... Qxg6 $2 27. Qxg6+ { [%cal Rb3g8]}) 27. Bd2 Qg7 28. Bc3 1-0 [/pgn]

Perhaps some of that confidence was shaken early in round 10, when WGM and 2018 Champ Sabina Foisor tried to play spoiler by sacrificing a piece for the attack against Krush.

 

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Foisor-Krush
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courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

 

Krush’s king was not to be trapped by the White pieces, shuffling to safety on the queenside. She took the full point in 49 moves.

[pgn][Event "ch-USA Women rapid"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.24"] [Round "10.3"] [White "Foisor, Sabina"] [Black "Krush, Irina"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A48"] [WhiteElo "2312"] [BlackElo "2478"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "98"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. Nbd2 d6 5. e4 h6 6. Bh4 g5 7. Bg3 Nh5 8. c3 c5 9. dxc5 Nxg3 10. hxg3 dxc5 11. Bc4 Nc6 {[#]} 12. Nxg5 $5 hxg5 13. Rxh8+ Bxh8 14. Qh5 Bf6 15. Qxf7+ $6 (15. O-O-O $1 $44) 15... Kd7 16. O-O-O Kc7 17. Nb3 Ne5 18. Qh5 (18. Rxd8 Nxf7 19. Rxc8+ Rxc8 20. Bxf7 $17) 18... Qh8 19. Qe2 b6 20. Bd5 Rb8 21. Kb1 e6 22. Bc4 Qe8 23. f4 Nxc4 24. Qxc4 Bb7 25. e5 Rd8 26. Rxd8 Bxd8 27. Nd4 Bd5 28. Nb5+ Kb8 29. Qa4 Qd7 30. c4 Be4+ 31. Kc1 Bxg2 32. Qa3 gxf4 33. gxf4 Bc6 34. Nc3 Qd3 35. Qb3 Qe3+ 36. Kb1 Qxf4 37. Qd1 Bc7 38. Qe2 Qxe5 39. Qd2 Kb7 40. a3 Qd4 41. Qe2 e5 42. Kc2 e4 43. a4 e3 44. b3 Bf4 45. Qd3 Qxd3+ 46. Kxd3 Bh6 47. Nd1 Bf3 48. Nxe3 Bxe3 49. Kxe3 Bd1 0-1 [/pgn]

Trailing by half a point with two rounds to play, Yip had to ride her luck against IM Anna Zatonskih, declining a perpetual in a tricky position that got worse and worse. Still, showing intense fighting spirit, Yip managed to conjure a win in the inevitable time scramble to stay within striking distance of the leader.

[pgn][Event "ch-USA Women rapid"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.24"] [Round "10.6"] [White "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Black "Yip, Carissa"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A49"] [WhiteElo "2458"] [BlackElo "2493"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 c5 4. c3 b6 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. Qb3 Qc8 7. O-O Bg7 8. dxc5 Qxc5 9. Be3 Qc8 10. a4 Nc6 11. Na3 O-O 12. Rfd1 Na5 13. Qa2 e6 14. Rac1 d5 15. b4 Nc6 16. b5 Na5 17. c4 dxc4 18. Nxc4 Nxc4 19. Rxc4 Qe8 20. Qa3 Nd5 21. Bd4 e5 22. Bb2 Rd8 23. Qa1 Qe6 24. Ng5 Qe7 25. h4 Rfe8 26. e4 Nf6 27. Rxd8 Qxd8 28. Bxe5 Rxe5 29. Qxe5 h6 30. Qc7 Qd1+ 31. Bf1 hxg5 32. Qxb7 gxh4 {[#]} 33. Rc8+ $2 (33. e5 Ng4 34. Qc8+ Kh7 35. Rxg4) 33... Kh7 34. Qxf7 hxg3 $132 35. fxg3 (35. Rc7 gxf2+ 36. Kg2 Qg4+ 37. Kxf2 Qf4+ 38. Ke1 Qxe4+ $11) 35... Qd4+ 36. Kg2 Qxe4+ 37. Kg1 Qe3+ 38. Kg2 Qd2+ 39. Kg1 Ng4 40. Bg2 $2 (40. Bc4 $8) 40... Qe1+ 41. Qf1 $2 (41. Bf1 Qxg3+ $19) 41... Qe3+ 42. Kh1 Qh6+ $2 (42... Qxg3 $1 { is mate in four}) 43. Bh3 Ne3 44. Qf3 $4 Qxh3+ 45. Kg1 Ng4 $2 (45... Qxc8 $1 $19) 46. Rc2 $2 (46. Rc7) 46... Bd4+ (46... Bd4+ 47. Rf2 Bxf2+ $19) 0-1 [/pgn]

 

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Derakhshani interview, Day 3
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SLCC / YouTube

 

Meanwhile Derakhshani could only draw against WIM Thalia Cervantes, which left her a full point behind Krush.

[pgn][Event "ch-USA Women rapid"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.24"] [Round "10.1"] [White "Cervantes, Thalia"] [Black "Derakhshani, Dorsa"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E17"] [WhiteElo "2342"] [BlackElo "2259"] [PlyCount "130"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Re1 d5 8. Ne5 Nbd7 9. Nc3 Ne4 10. Bf4 Nxe5 11. Bxe5 Bf6 12. Bf4 Re8 13. Nb5 e5 14. dxe5 Bxe5 15. Bxe4 dxe4 16. Bxe5 Rxe5 17. Qxd8+ Rxd8 18. Rad1 Rf8 19. Rd4 Re7 20. Red1 a6 21. Nc3 f5 22. e3 Kf7 23. h4 g6 24. Ne2 h6 25. Kg2 g5 26. Rh1 Kg6 27. hxg5 hxg5 28. Rhd1 Bc6 29. Rd8 Ree8 30. R8d2 Re7 31. Nd4 Bb7 32. Nb3 f4 33. gxf4 gxf4 34. Rd7 f3+ 35. Kg3 Rff7 36. Rxe7 Rxe7 37. Nd4 Rh7 38. Rg1 Kg5 39. Ne6+ Kf5 40. Nd4+ Kg5 41. Rd1 Bc8 42. Nxf3+ exf3 43. Rd5+ Bf5 44. Kxf3 Kf6 45. e4 Be6 46. Rd4 Rd7 47. Ke3 c5 48. Rxd7 Bxd7 49. f4 Be6 50. b3 b5 51. cxb5 axb5 52. f5 Bf7 53. Kf4 Bh5 54. e5+ Ke7 55. Ke4 Be2 56. Kd5 c4 57. bxc4 Bxc4+ 58. Kc5 Bxa2 59. Kxb5 Bb1 60. f6+ Ke6 61. Kc5 Bg6 62. Kd4 Bh7 63. Kc5 Bg6 64. Kd4 Bh7 65. Kc5 Bg6 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Taking White against WIM Emily Nguyen in the 11th and final round, Krush knew that with a win she would take the title outright. But she had to be careful not to overpress, knowing that a draw would force Yip (playing White against Cervantes) to win to keep pace and send the players into a playoff situation.

Krush sought to keep a firm grip on the position, essaying the Exchange Variation against Nguyen’s Slav. But she soon took a more activist approach with 14. g4, quickly saddling Black with multiple weaknesses.

 

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Carissa Yip, Day 2
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SLCC / YouTube

 

Yip, for her part, set the board aflame against Cervantes, blowing holes in the Black defenses and winning in 35 moves to put all the pressure on Krush.

[pgn][Event "ch-USA Women rapid"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.24"] [Round "11.1"] [White "Yip, Carissa"] [Black "Cervantes, Thalia"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B96"] [WhiteElo "2493"] [BlackElo "2342"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 h6 8. Bh4 Qb6 9. a3 Be7 10. Bf2 Qc7 11. Qf3 Nbd7 12. g4 b5 13. h4 h5 (13... Nc5 14. Bg2 Bb7 15. Qe2 d5 16. e5 Nfe4 17. Rh3 Nxf2 18. Qxf2 Nd7 19. O-O-O Bc5 20. Kb1 Nb6 21. g5 Nc4 22. Nce2 Qe7 23. Qg3 O-O-O 24. g6 f5 25. h5 Kb8 26. Nb3 Bb6 27. Ned4 {1/2-1/2 (27) Ivanov,B (2401)-Tsygankov,E (2429) ICCF email 2014}) 14. g5 Ng4 15. g6 Nxf2 16. gxf7+ Kxf7 17. Qxf2 Nf6 18. Bh3 Qc5 19. Rg1 $6 Ng4 $6 (19... e5 $1 20. Nf5 Qxf2+ 21. Kxf2 Bf8 {maybe an edge for Black}) 20. Bxg4 hxg4 21. O-O-O $5 Rxh4 22. e5 d5 $6 (22... Bb7) 23. Qg2 (23. Rh1 {right away looks strong}) 23... g6 24. Rh1 Bd7 25. Rxh4 Bxh4 26. Qxg4 Bf2 27. Nf3 $1 Qe7 28. Rh1 Rg8 29. Rh7+ Rg7 30. Ng5+ Kg8 31. Rh1 Bc6 32. Qh3 (32. Nxe6 Bd7 33. f5 gxf5 34. Qxg7+ Qxg7 35. Nxg7 Kxg7 36. Nxd5 $18) 32... Kf8 33. Nxe6+ Ke8 34. Nxg7+ Qxg7 35. Qc8+ 1-0 [/pgn]

But Krush was up to the challenge, avoiding all the tricks (29. Kf3!) and delivering a lovely final checkmate.

[pgn][Event "ch-USA Women rapid"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.24"] [Round "11.4"] [White "Krush, Irina"] [Black "Nguyen, Emily"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D10"] [WhiteElo "2478"] [BlackElo "2348"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Bf4 Nf6 5. e3 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bf5 7. Nf3 a6 8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. O-O e6 10. Nbd2 Qb6 11. Nb3 Be7 12. Rc1 O-O 13. Ne5 Rfc8 {[#]} 14. g4 $1 Be4 15. f3 Bg6 16. h4 h6 17. Nxg6 fxg6 {[%csl Gc6,Ge6,Gg6]} 18. Qc2 Kf7 19. Kh2 a5 20. Rg1 g5 21. hxg5 hxg5 22. Bxg5 Rh8+ 23. Kg2 Nxg4 $6 24. fxg4 Bxg5 25. Rgf1+ Ke7 26. Qg6 Bf6 27. g5 Rag8 28. Rh1 Qb5 29. Kf3 $1 Rxh1 30. Rxh1 Rf8 31. Kg3 Qe2 32. gxf6+ Rxf6 $2 (32... Kd8 $1 {and White still has practical problems converting this.}) 33. Qxg7+ Rf7 34. Qg5+ Kd7 35. Nc5+ Kc7 36. Qe5+ Kb6 37. Qb8+ 1-0 [/pgn]

Her joy at taking her first title in four years was immediate and palpable.

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With this win Krush claimed the U.S. Women’s title for the eighth time, taking home $25,000 for her efforts. She made sure to thank her supporters in the postgame interview, and noted that she felt that GM Joel Benjamin’s victory in the Senior Championship was a sign that she might have some luck in this event. Both she and Benjamin suffered from COVID-19, although her case (as noted above) was much more severe.

Sunday is an off-day in Saint Louis (and across the country) for the U.S. Championships, but the final event kicks off Monday with the 2020 U.S. Championship. Live coverage begins at 1pm Central at uschesschamps.com, and we will have daily updates here at uschess.org.


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