Carissa Yip wins the US Women’s Championship at 18

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/19/2021 – With a remarkable 8½/11 score, Carissa Yip won the 2021 US Women’s Championship a bit over a month after turning 18 years old. The Bostonian is the highest-rated U20 woman player in the world and has now joined the top 50 in the live women’s ratings list. The youngster won the national title in style, securing first place with a round to spare and finishing the event 1½ points ahead of second-placed Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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The first of many?

Carissa Yip’s road to her first US Women’s Championship title has been full of records and surprising performances. Already at 10, she became the youngest female player to beat a grandmaster, when she took down Alexander Ivanov at the 2014 New England Open. Yip showed from an early age that she is not one to steer away from complications against higher-rated opponents.

Not fearing the pin along the b-file, Yip played 28...Qh4, and after 29.a4 she had prepared not 29...Qxh7 but 29...Nxe6 — there followed 30.Bxe6 Rd8 31.Qxd8 Qxd8+ 32.Bf8, and Ivanov resigned after 32...Rxa4. Not a bad performance for a 10-year-old facing a grandmaster! (Replay the full game).

Two years later, in 2016, Yip already participated in the US Women’s Championship for the first time. The youngster scored 4/11 and 4½/11 in her first two appearances at the national tournament, but she impressed by getting wins over perennial frontrunners Irina Krush (in 2016) and Anna Zatonskih (in 2017) while doing so.

The ascent continued, as Yip obtained back-to-back triumphs at the US Junior Girls’ Championships in 2018 and 2019. At the 2020 US Women’s Championship, which took place online with a rapid time control, she finished in sole second place, a half point behind Krush.

Carissa Yip

Carissa Yip at the 2019 US Junior Girls’ Championship | Photo: Austin Fuller

After becoming the youngest American woman in history to earn the title of International Master in February 2020, she was already considered one of the favourites to take the title at the 2021 national championship. She kicked off the event with a win and two draws, and then got a lucky victory over the defending champion.

21...Nb4 was a terrible blunder by Krush, since White can get a massive advantage by playing the most forceful line in the position — 22.Rxc8+ Rxc8 23.Rd4, grabbing a piece.

Beating the top seed that quickly certainly boosted Yip’s chances to win the title, but this is a long tournament — in fact, she lost her very next game, against eventual runner-up Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova.

Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova

Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova won the Uzbek Women’s Championship in 2018, and has finished in second place in her debut at the US national women’s tournament | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The round-5 loss left Yip sharing second place with three other players, a half point behind Katerina Nemcova. What followed, though, proved that she was the strongest player in the event, as she won five games in a row to secure first place with a round to spare!

Yip secured tournament victory by beating 2-time champion Nazi Paikidze with the black pieces in the penultimate round.

In this sharp struggle, in which Black has not castled and advanced her kingside pawns, opening up the position with 22.f4 was not a good idea by White. 

Ten moves later, Black had a far-advanced pawn mass on the e, f and g-files, plus a number of deadly threats around White’s king.

Paikidze had to resign shortly after, which gave Yip her first US women’s champion title. The youngster posted an original celebration on Twitter:

Nazi Paikidze, Carissa Yip

Nazi Paikidze resigns her game against the new US women’s champion | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Final standings

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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