Ruiyang Yan Upsets Alice Lee to Win Girls Invitational

FM Ruiyang Yan defeated FM Alice Lee in a playoff to win the 20th annual Susan Polgar Foundation (SPF) Girls Invitational hosted by Webster University in St Louis, MO. Yan and Lee were the two highest rated players in the event by far, and their 5½/6 scores (drawing their encounter in round five) was not surprising, but Yan’s playoff victory was.

The sixteen-year-old Yan entered the event exactly 100 rating points behind her thirteen-year-old rival, making the victory something of an upset. It was not the first time these two have clashed, and with the 2023 U.S. Girls Championship right around the corner, it will not be the last. Here’s Yan’s playoff win:



As the last remaining undefeated players in the tournament, the classical encounter lived up to expectations as well. Yan elected to repeat the first 16 moves against Lee’s Sveshnikov Sicilian that she previously essayed against GM Irina Krush last year.


Lee (L) was unable to break through with her killer Sveshnikov (photo courtesy of the organizers)
Image Caption
Lee (L) was unable to break through with her killer Sveshnikov (photo courtesy of the organizers)


As in that game, Yan was unable to get anything out of the opening, but Black was unable to break through.



After the draw, both Yan and Lee had to play experts several hundred points below them, but the games took very different courses. First, Yan let her opponent try to attack her king, only to return the favor tenfold immediately after it stalled.



Lee had no such breakthrough in her final game. A small advantage started to blossom, but one decision to keep the board closed left her opponent with a promising chance at pulling off an upset draw. But Lee showed her class, posing difficult problems for her opponent, Jasmine Su, until Su eventually jumped at an opportunity to enter a pure opposite-colored bishop ending. Unfortunately, as she soon realized, this particular endgame proved to be an exception to the "all opposite-colored bishop endings are drawn" rule. 



From there, the playoffs were set, and the rest was history. With several players rated over 2000 in the event, WCM Elena Zhang’s clear third-place finish was quite impressive for the 1826-rated 14-year-old. Her last-round comeback against Kelsey Liu (rated almost 400 points higher) was a thing of chaotic beauty all the way to the end:



 Clearly, the participants were ready for more chess as soon as the tournament was over:


all comers

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