U.S. Women’s Championship: Krush tops the standings

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/23/2020 – On the second day of action at the online U.S. Women’s Championship, Irina Krush scored 2½ out of 3 to take the sole lead of the event. Krush was not the only player to collect 2½ points on Thursday, as Dorsa Derakhshani and Carissa Yip achieved the same score to join the chasing pack a half point behind the leader. Meanwhile, Annie Wang, who was in the lead after day 1, lost three in a row and is now two full points behind Krush in the standings. | Photo: Austin Fuller / Saint Louis Chess Club

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A seven-time U.S. women’s champion

Early during the webcast of day 2, commentators Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade and Maurice Ashley were discussing whether playing online would end up favouring the younger participants or not. Seirawan considers that the youngsters are simply more used to the computer screen and can thus perform better under these circumstances, while Shahade and Ashley think that the older participants have learned to play online during the pandemic and have no trouble with this format.

At the end of the day, it was 36-year-old Irina Krush who ended up atop the standings. The seven-time U.S. women’s champion showcased her precise positional style to score 2½ out of 3 and is now sole leader a half point ahead of a three-player chasing pack formed by Dorsa Derakhshani, Emily Nguyen and Carissa Yip.

US Women's Championship 2020

Round 4

The fourth and sixth rounds finished with decisive results on all six boards. In the first round of the day, former leader Annie Wang lost with white against Yip, who launched an unstoppable attack on the queenside:


Black had managed to keep White’s initiative on the kingside at bay, and swiftly pushed her pawns on the queenside. The game continued 53...c3 54.bxc3 Nc4 55.cxb4 — grabbing a second pawn but allowing mate — Qc2+ 56.Ka1 Qb2#

This was the first of three consecutive losses for Wang. Meanwhile, Krush obtained a crucial victory over defending champion Jennifer Yu, and Derakshani impressed by defeating Anna Zatonskih with the white pieces:


The 22-year-old born in Tehran and now representing the United States had given up an exchange after Zatonskih uncharacteristically mishandled the opening. With all the positional trumps on her side, White went for 18.c4 here. Soon enough, Derakhshani doubled her heavy pieces on the b-file, eventually forcing Black to give back the exchange while her knight stood passive on h6.

White got to finish the game in style, with two good-looking pawn moves:


Black is holding on to dear life with her two “active” pieces, but the paper-thin defence was dismantled with 26.d5 exd5 27.e6 — the rook cannot leave the seventh rank undefended — c3 28.Qb8 and Black resigned. 


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Round 5

Krush had quickly grabbed the sole lead and kept things under control by drawing Martha Samadashvili with black in the next round. Derakhshani, who was already a half point behind the leader, also drew with black, while Nguyen and Yu joined the chasing pack by beating Thalia Cervantes and Wang respectively.

Nguyen found a nice tactical shot to finish off her opponent:


After 22.Bh7+ Black loses her queen by force due to 22...Kh8 23.Nxf7+. Cervantes grabbed two pieces in exchange for the queen, but Nguyen had no trouble converting her material advantage into a 30-move win.


Round 6

In another round with decisive results on all boards, sole leader Krush and the three players standing a half point behind won their games. An inspired Derakhshani did not hesitate to give up a piece early on against Yu’s Petroff Defence:


Either Yu was not very well prepared or she trusted she could deal with White’s attack after 7...g5 (a novelty) 8.Nxg5 hxg5 9.Bxg5. Derakhshani knew she needed to play actively and followed through with 10.h4, 11.h5 and 12.f4 soon after the sacrifice, creating a number of tactical problems for her opponent.

The attack prevailed, even after material balance was restored:


It is all about king safety in this position. White needed six more moves to force Black’s resignation.

Meanwhile, Krush obtained a strong positional edge in the middlegame against Cervantes, but, already in deep trouble, the latter missed a chance to turn the tables when her famed opponent blundered a simple knight fork:


Black has a massive spatial advantage, but her 56...Ra1 simply allowed 57.Nc2+, checking the king and attacking the rook. In a case of mutual blindness, Cervantes played 57.Kg2, and Krush continued to up the pressure until scoring her second win of the day.



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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