Krush's Summer Tour, Part I: Berkeley

I recently had the chance to travel to the West Coast for two events a week apart. My first event (August 16-20) was an all-woman IM norm round robin in Berkeley, California organized by the Berkeley Chess School. If you are thinking that that sounds like an unusual event that would be difficult to organize, you are correct :) The Berkeley Chess School was founded in 1982 by Elizabeth Shaughnessy, an Irish Women's champion and member of the Irish Women's Olympiad team. It has grown to offer chess instruction in more than 135 schools and recreation centers reaching 7000+ children in the Bay Area. In the tournament hall, I enjoyed studying the map of the Bay Area which marked all the places where BCS ran programs. Elizabeth mentioned a fact about BCS to me of which she was particularly proud. It purchased the building in which it is housed, turned it into a chess center, and being a 501(c) (3) non-profit, it will remain a chess center for future generations of chess players to enjoy.
GM Krush with Berkeley Chess School founder Elizabeth Shaughnessy
I can absolutely see why that is so meaningful for Elizabeth and a kind of culmination of her life's work. Growing up in NY, I had the chance to play at two legendary clubs of the twentieth century: the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs. Unfortunately, only one of them owned their own building, and only one of them exists today. A permanent home is a crucial factor in the bid for longevity and long-lasting impact. Now here's the surprise: Elizabeth is 82 years old. I have to admit that I was shocked at learning that, as it's so hard to associate that number with the energy she has. She drives, she works, and she was the visionary behind this whole initiative of organizing an all-female norm tournament, because she wants to see women getting more opportunities and recognition in chess. It is really amazing to see her still have so much energy and desire to undertake these initiatives for the chess community! The hardest part about putting on the event was...getting the players. It is simply not that easy to find enough titled female players in the Western hemisphere. It also didn't help that the dates coincided with the North American Youth Championship in Canada, which took away a few potential invitees. Elizabeth was even told by a member of the Bay Area chess community that they wouldn't be able to pull it off! (I think she was happy to prove that prediction wrong). Elizabeth's right hand woman for the organization of the event was WGM Carla Heredia, who recently moved to the Bay Area. Carla used her contacts to invite the top female players from South America and Cuba. In the end, we had a very international field, representing Canada, Cuba, Argentina, Mongolia, and the United States.
2019 Berkeley players (photo Heredia)
While I was the top seed by a bit, I expected to get competition for first place from IM Carolina Lujan from Argentina, IM Lisandra Ordaz from Cuba, and our own rising star Annie Wang, who recently received her IM title by winning the Pan-American Under 20 Championship in Bolivia.  Ironically, Annie's victory in Bolivia made an IM norm performance less crucial for her, though she was really the most likely in the field to achieve it (and she did). As it turned out, neither Carolina nor Lisandra were in the most optimal shape and it turned into a two horse race between me and Annie. Our matchup in round five had all the drama of our game a few years ago in the US Women's Championship.
Annie Wang (photo Carla Heredia)

[Event "Berkeley Summer IM Norm Tournament"]
[Date "2019.08.18"]
[Round "5.4"]
[White "Krush, Irina"]
[Black "Wang, Annie"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D05"]
[WhiteElo "2417"]
[BlackElo "2321"]
[Annotator "Krush"]
[PlyCount "173"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 d5 4. Bd3 c5 5. b3 Nc6 6. O-O Bd6 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Bb2
O-O 9. a3 b6 10. b4 Be7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Qe2 Qc7 13. c4 Rad8 14. Rac1 Qb8 {
I realized an important thing about this position: Black's knight on c6 is the
source of all their problems. Therefore, this knight cannot be traded in any
variations. In a few moves, this will be more clear.} 15. h3 h6 16. Bb1 {
with the idea of building a battery with the queen.} Qa8 17. cxd5 Rxd5 18. Ne4
Nxe4 19. Bxe4 Rdd8 {Diagram [#] The good knight on f6 has been traded, while
the c6 knight is still there, blocking the queen and bishop. Now one simple
move remains:} 20. Bb1 $1 {At this point, I knew Black was in big trouble.
White's next move is Qc2 which will produce some fatal weaknesses in Black's
kingside.} Nb8 21. Rc7 (21. Qc2 f5 {was also possible but I thought the
infiltration with the rook was the more logical answer to the knight retreat.})
21... Bd6 22. Qc2 Be4 {the only defense} ({I didn't think it was likely she
would defend with} 22... g6 {which invites the queen sacrifice} 23. Qxg6+ $1
fxg6 24. Rg7+ Kh8 25. Rxg6+ e5 26. Nxe5 {Diagram [#] When I saw this simple
knight capture, I realized I could go for the queen sac. White threatens mate
in two.}) 23. Qc3 {Diagram [#]} f6 24. Bxe4 (24. Rxa7 $5 {I also considered
this exchange sac as a winning path:} Qxa7 25. Bxe4) 24... Qxe4 25. Rxa7 {
I went for this technical position up a pawn thinking it should be winning
(although it turned out to not be that easy).} Nc6 26. Ra6 Ne5 27. Nxe5 Bxe5
28. Qb3 Bxb2 29. Qxb2 {Diagram [#] White is not ever supposed to get close to
losing this, right?} Rd6 30. Rc1 Rfd8 31. Qc2 Qe5 32. Qe2 Rd2 33. Qf3 R8d6 34.
g3 Kh7 35. Ra7 Rd7 36. Rxd7 Rxd7 37. Kg2 Ra7 38. Rc6 Rxa3 39. Rxb6 Ra2 40. Rc6
f5 41. h4 Rb2 42. Rb6 Rb1 43. h5 Rb2 44. Rb7 Rb3 45. Rb6 Rb2 {Diagram [#]
Getting low on time, I finally break through with this move, which is actually
the only winning idea.} 46. g4 Rb1 47. gxf5 exf5 {Diagram [#]} 48. Rb7 $2 (48.
Qc6 {is winning with multiple threats.}) 48... Qf6 {Ok, I let her queen get
within reach of the g5 square...and I can't play Qg3 because of Qc6+. Not sure
what to do, I played the "improving" advance of the passed pawn.} 49. b5 $4 Rb4
$1 {I completely missed that now her rook can swing over to the kingside.
Suddenly Black's king is safe and my king is under attack.} 50. Rc7 $4 (50. Rd7
$1 {is still fine to hold the balance, since I can block a check on the first
rank with the rook.} Rg4+ 51. Kf1 Qa1+ $2 52. Rd1) 50... Rg4+ 51. Kf1 Qa1+ 52.
Ke2 Qb2+ 53. Kd3 Qxb5+ 54. Kd2 Qa5+ 55. Kd3 {I am lucky that she cannot my
rook, since Qxf5 wins the rook back.} Ra4 (55... Qb5+ 56. Kd2 Rg1 {was the way
to go; my king position is a permanent problem.}) 56. Qb7 Ra3+ 57. Ke2 {
I started to feel like I was escaping.} Qe5 58. Rf7 Ra2+ 59. Kf3 Ra1 60. Kg2
Ra4 61. Kf3 Rg4 62. Re7 Qf6 63. Rf7 Qg5 (63... Qh4 $1 {was winning again.}) 64.
Qd5 Rg1 $4 65. Qxf5+ Qxf5+ 66. Rxf5 g6 67. Rf7+ Kg8 68. hxg6 Rxg6 {I
definitely expected to win this endgame but it got very tricky.} 69. Ra7 Rf6+
70. Ke2 h5 71. f4 h4 72. Kf3 Rg6 73. f5 $2 {This natural move gives away the
win and it stays balanced from here on. White's connected pawns are not enough
to win.} (73. Ra5) 73... Rg3+ 74. Kf4 Rg2 75. e4 h3 {The h-pawn is a source of
counterplay.} 76. Ra3 h2 77. Rh3 Kg7 78. Ke5 Re2 79. f6+ Kf7 80. Rh7+ Kg6 81.
Rh8 Ra2 82. Rh3 Ra5+ 83. Ke6 Ra6+ 84. Ke7 Ra7+ 85. Ke6 Ra6+ 86. Ke7 Ra7+ 87.
Ke6 1/2-1/2

The game had been proceeding pretty smoothly for me; I had been nursing a pawn advantage in a queen and rook endgame, and a not particularly difficult winning move was available to me on move 48. But I was down to a few minutes, and I made a mistake, compounded with a really big mistake on the next move, and suddenly my advantage was gone and my king was falling under an attack! I still could have held it together with precise play, but with no time and the psychological shock, I kept playing badly and should have lost at that stage. So many things happened between moves 48 and 64, when Annie had a hallucination that allowed me to trade queens by force and go into a rook endgame up a pawn. But since this game was destined to be dramatic, my technique was not the best and I found a way not to win with two connected passed pawns. It was a long game and we were the last ones in the playing hall when it finished around 10 PM. I definitely learned something from this game: avoid time trouble at all costs. Even though I can't say I played slowly, and it is natural to get low on time deep in the endgame of a G/90 +30 increment time control (no second time control), it was a big reminder of the price of little time. I could have lost up a pawn in a queen and rook endgame. Overall good time management helped me pick up a number of points in this tournament.
Shaughnessy and Ordaz (photo Carla Heredia)
The next pivotal moment in the tournament for me was against Lisandra Ordaz in round eight. She had 1 point less than me and was playing White. However, I didn't feel like trying to “hold” as Black, and went again with 1.d4 d6 which I'd already tried against Thalia Cervantes earlier in the tournament. This approach worked out well as I had the initiative from the beginning and a knight sac out of the opening led Lisandra to accept a pawn down endgame which I managed to convert.

[Event "Berkeley Summer IM Norm Tournament"]
[Date "2019.08.20"]
[Round "8.3"]
[White "Ordaz Valdes, Lisandra Teresa"]
[Black "Krush, Irina"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A21"]
[WhiteElo "2393"]
[BlackElo "2417"]
[Annotator "Krush"]
[PlyCount "116"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. d4 d6 2. c4 e5 3. Nc3 exd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qd2 Nf6 6. b3 a5 7. Bb2 a4 8. Rd1
axb3 9. axb3 g6 10. g3 Bg7 11. Bg2 O-O 12. Nh3 Nd7 13. Ra1 Rxa1+ 14. Bxa1 Nc5
15. Qd1 {Diagram [#]} Na5 $5 {this move involves a piece sac (which didn't
come to the surface in the game).} 16. b4 Ncb3 17. Bb2 Nxc4 18. Qxb3 Nxb2 19.
Qxb2 Qf6 {Diagram [#]} 20. O-O {Now Black will just have an extra pawn and the
task is technical.} (20. Kd2 {White can try to keep the piece with this move,
but Black has very big compensation:} Bxh3 21. Bxh3 Qxf2 {I was looking at
something along these lines.}) 20... Qxc3 21. Qxc3 Bxc3 22. Rc1 Bxb4 23. Rxc7
Ba5 $1 {It's worthwhile to drive the rook away from her active square.} 24. Rc1
Bg4 25. Ra1 b6 26. e3 Rc8 27. Nf4 Kg7 28. Nd5 Rc5 29. e4 Be6 30. Bf3 Rc2 31.
Rb1 Bxd5 32. exd5 Kf6 33. Kf1 Bc3 34. Bd1 Rd2 35. Be2 Ba5 36. Bf3 Ra2 37. Rb3
Rd2 38. Rb1 Rc2 39. Bd1 Ra2 40. Bb3 Rd2 41. Bc4 Rd4 42. Bb3 Bb4 43. Rd1 Re4 44.
Bc2 Rc4 45. Bd3 Rc3 46. Ke2 Ra3 47. Rc1 Bc5 48. f4 h5 49. h3 b5 50. g4 h4 51.
g5+ Kg7 52. Bxb5 Rxh3 53. Rf1 Re3+ 54. Kd2 h3 55. f5 gxf5 56. Bd3 Rxd3+ 57.
Kxd3 h2 58. Rh1 Bg1 0-1

I was really happy with that game: the opening choice, the knight sac; it is always nice to take control of the game as Black and never even let White enjoy the advantage of the first move. But the tournament ended on a bit of a letdown, as I drew Agniezka Matras-Clement in the last round with the Black pieces.

[Event "Berkeley Summer IM Norm Tournament"]
[Date "2019.08.20"]
[Round "9.5"]
[White "Matras Clement, A."]
[Black "Krush, I."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B22"]
[WhiteElo "2260"]
[BlackElo "2417"]
[PlyCount "59"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. cxd4 d6 7. Bc4 Nb6 8. Bb5
dxe5 9. Nxe5 Bd7 10. Nxd7 Qxd7 11. O-O Rd8 12. Qf3 a6 13. Bxc6 Qxc6 14. Qxc6+
bxc6 15. Be3 e6 16. Nc3 Kd7 17. Rac1 Nd5 18. Ne4 Rb8 19. b3 Be7 20. Rfd1 f5 21.
Nc5+ Bxc5 22. Rxc5 Rb5 23. Rdc1 Rc8 24. Bd2 Rc7 25. f3 Rc8 26. Kf2 Rc7 27. R1c4
Rc8 28. Rc1 Rc7 29. R1c4 Rc8 30. Rc1 1/2-1/2

The result was not so much the issue, just I felt I could've played better to pose more problems, but instead misplayed it to such an extent that I felt I couldn't even play on (I certainly would've taken some risk to try to win the tournament outright if I felt it was possible). After the big encounter in the morning with Lisandra, the rather bloodless draw in the afternoon to finish the tournament left me feeling like something had been left undone. I had little doubt that Annie would win her final game against Tsogtsaikhan, who was in her usual time trouble. That had worked out in some of her games, but Annie tends to not let that kind of practical advantage slip away. She won and we both finished the tournament with 7 points. Neither of us had lost a game. I was surprised and happy to hear a proposal for a blitz play-off, as I just wanted a chance to shake off that last-round draw. We played two 3 min/2 sec increment games; I won the first as White and needed a draw as Black. It was an even position in the second game when Annie pointed out she'd lost on time. The day following the tournament was like a “rest day” except that there was an evening blitz tournament for the local community and the norm tournament participants. Our FIDE arbiter, Bryon Doyle, was kind enough to be my tour guide around Berkeley and we found the Berkeley Rose Garden somewhere in the Berkeley Hills. It's an exceptionally tranquil place with great views of Berkeley, a real hidden gem. Of course all the roses make it look pretty nice too :) Then we had a little time to explore Tilden Park, which is described at as “a sprawling 2,079-acre wonderland of forested hills that ring the San Francisco Bay’s eastern cusp” that is “just a few minutes from the city's downtown district.” Living as I do in Brooklyn, I'm not used to “forested wonderlands” being within easy reach, or hilltop views, or perfect weather with no humidity in the summer! Berkeley is a beautiful place I'd be happy to come back to anytime. Thank you to Elizabeth, Carla, Bryon, and the Berkeley Chess School for making the effort to organize this unique event, and to all the ladies for their fighting spirit on the board and camaraderie off the board. I have to mention one last detail. My hotel (La Quinta Inn) had the following sign at its entrance throughout my stay in Berkeley: “Tonight La Quinta. Tomorrow You Triumph.” I am sure this constant inspiration helped me win :)


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

another great article by GM Krush. She is probably the best chess writer on this site. Can't wait for more.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It's hard to be objective when writing about/evaluating oneself. Yet, one of the points I appreciate about Irina's writing is how objective she is. I always come away with valuable take-aways from her chess insights.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Congrats to Ms. Byambaa on an impressive performance that earned her a norm!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] in a playoff. Find articles on the event from Carla, with Frisco Del Rosario, as well as a story by GM Krush herself. Carla is also teaching for the BCS in a Title I school in the Bay area, as part of one of 11 grants […]

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Fun article. I enjoyed the fine writing and unfolding drama. Thank you.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] on tieberak. Find articles on the event from Carla, with Frisco Del Rosario, as well as a story by GM Krush herself. Carla is also teaching for the BCS in a Title I school in the Bay area, as part of one of 11 […]

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