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Krush takes the Accoona trophy

9/18/2004 – After two hard-fought rapid games, American Irina Krush used the home-field advantage to beat Almira Skripchenko for the Accoona French-American championship. It was quite an event with the Russian Samovar restaurant filled with chess VIPs and fans. We have an onsite report, game analysis, and plenty of entertaining photos.
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Krush tops Skripchenko in New York

Accoona Women's French-American Championship
September 16, 2004. Russian Samovar, New York, USA • 25'+10"
 
Game 1
Game 2
Total
Krush, Irina - USA (2459)
 1
½
 1½
Skripchenko, Almira - France (2453)
 0
½
½

America's Irina Krush defeated Almira Skripchenko of France in their rapid match held in the Russian Samovar restaurant in New York City. Krush moves on to face 2001 FIDE women's world champion Zhu Chen in a December 7 match with the same format and also in New York.

Game 1: White started what should have been a winning attack with 28.Nh6+!

It's hard to say it about this match, but it wasn't pretty. The match was decided in the wild first game. Skripchenko put together a winning sacrificial attack against Black's king only to have it slip away against a combination of mutual time trouble and resourceful defense by Krush. It's not really fair to analyze rapid games too deeply, especially when it's a blitz finish in a very sharp position with mating positions for both sides.

The rapid-fire exchange of blunders was only apparent to those watching with computers. When the smoke cleared Krush had an extra piece and she finished things off to take game one. By then the players were going so fast that we couldn't relay the moves to Playchess.com! We kept up till move 49 when Krush was already clearly winning.

There was some off the board excitement during the first game as well. Downstairs in the restaurant there was an altercation between a delivery guy and one of the restaurant employees. The shouted word "invoice!" carried upstairs over and over right after Skripchenko sacrificed her knight on h6. Krush was down to a few minutes and she turned to arbiter John Fernandez (who was performing admirable double-duty helping Mig Greengard relay the moves online).


Parlez-vous? French and Canadian champs Joel Lautier and Pascal Charbonneau providing commentary for the large crowd on the ground floor of the Russian Samovar.

John had already had to go down to quiet the rowdy crowd a few times as they enjoyed the commentary provided by Canadian champ Pascal Charbonneau and Paul Hoffman, as well as various guest stars like French champion Joel Lautier and American champion Alexander Shabalov.


Irina Krush receives the beautiful trophy from Accoona honcho Jonathan McCann

The second game had its tension but it was largely anti-climactic after the craziness of the first. The players followed an exchange line of the Nimzo-Indian and followed a 1989 Kasparov game for 14 moves. Although Kozul's abrupt loss in 21 moves that game wasn't warranted, the plan with 12.b4 isn't a good one and eventually Krush lost a queenside pawn.

Would Skripchenko be able to convert the rook and knight endgame or would Krush hold on to win the match? Our two VIP visitors at Playchess.com, Nigel Short and Susan Polgar, were both betting on the match going to tiebreaks. On move 29 Skripchenko decided to jettison her extra pawn to keep the knights on the board. On move 32 she passed up a chance at a pawn-up rook endgame and the best of her chances were in the past.

Krush coordinated a permanent attack on Black's f7 pawn and there really wasn't much Skripchenko could do after that. With nothing to lose Black threw the kitchen sink and as usually happens got the worse of things before accepting the courtesy draw that gave Krush the trophy.

If you enjoy the photos below you'll love the video. We have player interviews and great clips from the games ready for a future issue of ChessBase Magazine on CD-ROM.


L to r: NY Sports Commissioner Kenneth Podziba, Jonathan McCann, ACP President Joel Lautier, Deputy Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy Olivier Boasson

The action after the games was just as exciting and the festivities moved downstairs to the main room of the beautiful Russian Samovar restaurant. Traditional Russian food and every flavor of vodka you can imagine (and a few you can't. Horseradish?!) were aplenty. French GM Eloi Relange (left) arrived with Almira and was so cheerful that we had to tell him to look depressed for this photo after she lost the match.

Much of the who's who of the local chess scene was there, including new US women's champion Jennifer Shahade, recent arrival from Ecuador Martha Fierro, three-time US champ Lev Alburt (with a pile of his new books), and current US champ Alexander Shabalov.

More of a surprise was Estonian chess politician and supermodel Carmen Kass, who arrived with American-born German GM Eric Lobron. Giving hope to chessplayers everywhere, the two are apparently an item, having met when in Mainz where Kass was a guest of honor. Stranger things have happened, but we can't think of them.


Eric Lobron looks as surprised as we are. L to r: Jonathan McCann, Irina Krush, Jennifer Shahade, Eric Lobron, Carmen Kass, Almira Skripchenko


Ecuadorian WGM Martha Fierro recently moved to NY. Joel Lautier is welcoming.


Absolutely unbiased match commentator Pascal Charbonneau with Irina Krush


Almira is consoled after game one by her friend Anna Hahn, 2003 US women's champion

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