Reports | July 13, 2010 10:28

U.S. Women's and Junior Champs after three rounds

Anna Zatonskih
The streak has been broken.

After an amazing run of thirty(!) straight decisive games in U.S. Women’s Championship play, which began during round six of the 2009 Championship, spectators finally witnessed a draw in third round action between the two early favorites, IM Anna Zatonskih (pictured) and IM Irina Krush.

By Mike Wilmering and Katie Baldetti

The U.S. Women's Championship and U.S. Junior Closed Championship are being held concurrently, from July 9-20, at the spacious Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

In round three, an aggressive yet calculated gamble by Krush was countered by Zatonskih’s solid defense, and the rivalry that has been stewing for years will be placed on the back burner pending a possible playoff to decide the championship.

With Black, Krush chose to play the Benoni, an uncharacteristic decision designed to surprise her opponent.

“I thought it was a good decision, a fighting opening,” Krush said.

Krush only has played the Benoni two other times five years ago, games even she had forgotten about, but she said she thought there was no way Zatonskih could have expected her prep.

Zatonskih, the defending Champion, fell into time trouble and said she is still not playing to her true form, which she put on display at last year’s U.S. Women’s Championship, in which she scored a blistering 8.5/9.

“I just didn’t calculate clearly,” Zatonskih said. “There were probably too many [missed] opportunities for me.”

Today, Krush was clearly going for the win.

“Of my own volition, I wound up in this sort of dubious line, and I went for not such a principled move [9...]Qc7,”
she said, adding that Black has to be careful not to get dominated in this line without any counter play.

“I feel like I got away with a slightly provocative play in this game” Krush said. “I kind of got lucky to get out of this opening like this.”

After losses by WIM Alisa Melekhina and WIM Iryna Zenyuk, Krush and Zatonskih sit atop the leaderboard, each with scores of 2.5/3.

***

The U.S. Junior Closed Championship has an unlikely early leader after three rounds. FM Warren Harper won his game today with White against NM Tyler Hughes, which puts Harper at 3/3 atop the heap.

“[14...]f5 was I think the main point where [Hughes] went wrong,” Harper said.  Around move 8…c6 Harper said he liked his position much better, and also said he thought Hughes could have played defensively better later on in the game.

Hughes said he isn’t going to let Harper’s win upset him.  “You try your best to destroy each other on the board even though you’re friendly off,” Hughes said, “It’s what makes the tournament more enjoyable.”

Harper’s perfect score puts him above the highest-rated player and tournament favorite GM Ray Robson. Robson, who gave up a first round draw to 2209-rated qualifier Eric Rosen, shrugged of FM Steven Zierk 3.Bb5 anti-Sicilian in round three, and said he felt he had winning chances as early as the 14th move.

“After [14...]Qd4, I just thought I’d have a really comfortable game,” Robson said. “I didn’t think I played so well in the games leading up to this one, but I think I played decently this one, so I was happy about that.”

IM Sam Shankland, the number two seed by a wide margin, has struggled thus far and was 0-2 coming into today's round but was able to score a come-from-behind victory against FM John Bryant to earn his first point of the tournament.

For all of the scores and pairings, and to watch live coverage of round four, visit www.uschesschmps.com.

On-demand replays of the full live broadcast are available on www.uschesschamps.com/video.

Chess.com

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