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Krush on the Congress: From Worst to First Print E-mail
By IM Irina Krush   
December 7, 2009
IrinaCongress.jpg
IM Irina Krush at the National Chess Congress
Even days after the National Chess Congress (November 27-29), I still feel happy. Nothing can quite erase the memory that for three days I gave myself to chess for ten hours a day and that in the end it all paid off.

For me, my story is not so much about victory as about redemption. I started the tournament with a loss to an adolescent kid rated about three hundred points lower than me, and my subsequent string of four victories was me earning, game by game, a chance to redeem myself. Everything came down to the last round. If I won, I’d be winning so much that I value…I’d be the kind of person who could win against a strong player when winning is the only result that counts. Anything but a win…and I wouldn’t be that person.

Six hours after the start of the final round, with the tournament room emptied but for the handful of spectators who watched us blitz out our final moves, I won my redemption.

How did I manage to turn such an inauspicious start into a share of first place?

Shouldn’t I have slunk away in shame, leaving people who know how to play chess to fight it out for the top spots? Someone even told me, midway through the tournament, that they were surprised I hadn’t dropped out after the first round!



I guess I just couldn’t find the TD in time. :)
   
Instead, I went for lunch/dinner/my only meal of the day with my friend and roommate, Iryna. We talked a bit about my game, about the reason for my loss (I left myself one minute and eighteen seconds for the nine moves before the time control). I told Iryna that with so little time, I’m like a deer in headlights. She laughed. I eventually overcame the huge piece of salmon on my plate, and it was time for round two.

In round two, I faced an old adversary…someone I had played in my first ever-international tournament, the girls under ten world championship in 1991! I was seven years old back then. Her name was familiar to me, and I told Iryna I felt like I remembered her from the World Youths, but it’s only now, writing this article, that I looked up her games in the database, and confirmed that, yes, not only did we play in the same tournament, but we actually played each other! I was White, and it was an English opening (wow, I can’t believe I played such openings when I was seven). This time I was White, and it was a Benko.

After this average length game (it finished right as we made the time control), I found Iryna and we went for a glass of wine at the bar. That was our nightly ritual, and it was a very pleasant one; it contained the only (waking) moments of relaxation of the entire day.

The next morning, the alarm woke us at 9:30, and to my total astonishment, Iryna was out of bed within a couple of minutes, chirping about how well she’d slept and how rested she felt. I still couldn’t open my eyes, but it started to occur to me that all her energy might make my getting up a little more palatable. “So you feel good?” I asked. “I feel great!” she replied. “Then maybe you could make me some tea,” I suggested, with a discernible note of pleading in my voice. “Sure!” A couple of minutes later, we repeated this dialogue, with an as yet unpeeled grapefruit standing in for the tea. At that point, she caught on and started laughing…and I was awake.

I played a sweet kid that morning, who put up a good fight until I confused him with a paradoxical knight move backwards which gave up a pawn.

Krush,I - Huang,Winston [D41]

(3), 28.11.2009

IKrushHuang.jpg
Okay, guys, look for a move that loses a pawn and gets your knight pinned.
27.Nd2 !??
Trust me, it wasn't the first move that came to mind. But somehow I didn't see how to break through after the natural 27.Re1 Qf7!, so I started exploring the less natural options. During the game, I was actually really proud of 27.Nd2 (it's so rare that you can get away with such a bad move!), which I thought presented Black with some new problems to solve. [27.Re1 was my original idea, but then I thought 27...Qf7 defended everything. I didn't see  28.Re6! Rxe6 29.dxe6 Qe7 30.Qb8+ Nd8 31.h6 and white has a dominating position]
27...Rxd5
Black pretty much has to take this pawn.
28.Re1
This is the point; I sacrificed the d-pawn in order to open the h2-b8 diagonal for my queen, and also to target the f6 pawn.
28...Re5?
I had seen that this move could be refuted. Black had a good defense in 28...Nd6! after which he's in the game. Even 28...Rd8 was playable.
29.Ne4
Now Black loses because the f6 pawn can't be held.
29...Re7
29...f5 30.Nf6++-; 29...Re6 30.Qb8+ Qf8 31.Nxf6+ Rxf6 32.Re8+-
30.h6 Qf8 31.Nxf6+ Kh8 32.Rxe7 Qxe7 33.Qd4
AFter33.Qd4.jpg
An unhappy situation for the black king.
33...Qf7 34.a4! a5 35.Qxb6 Qc4 36.Qb2 Qf7 37.Qd4 g5 38.g4 1–0


After our customary meal at Asia on the Parkway, it was back to the board, where my opponent was a young man who had an interesting technique of “sliding” his pieces to their intended squares. In this manner, a couple of his pawns skidded off the board, and I converted the rook endgame.
Parkway.jpg
The Parkway in Philadelphia, a few blocks from the tournament site, the Sheraton


You know what came next, right? Of course, I joined Iryna at the bar, where she had been doing math homework (such discipline!), and we borrowed a little relaxation time against our sleep…since the round times kept getting pushed up, we’d have to get up even earlier the next morning. Before going to sleep, I took a quick look at my likely opponent, Rodion Rubenchik. Iryna pointed out that he was probably named in honor of the main character in Crime and Punishment. A Slav or Nimzo seemed likely, but there was no use in further preparation, so we went to sleep.

Sometime around seven in the morning, the most dreadful noise began projecting from the loudspeaker. A man’s voice kept repeating something about an emergency, and instructed us not to take the elevator. I hoped that my earplugs would shield me from the torture, but no…this noise was meant to awaken the dead. It continued for about half an hour. Now here comes the funny part.

At some point later that morning, I hear Iryna ask me to turn off “that sound.” I was in a deep sleep, and not very inclined to move, but I really wanted to be nice to Iryna, so I picked up the room’s alarm clock and tried to get it to stop producing whatever sound it was making. For about a minute, I blindly pressed all its buttons, turned it upside down, etc. Finally I set it down and mumbled, “I can’t figure this stupid thing out,” and went back to sleep.

At 9:30, my mom called my cell for no particular reason. 9:30!! The round was at ten, and we had over slept the alarm by an hour. Not only did we have to shower and eat, but also we had to pack our stuff and get checked out of the room before the game started. And it dawned on me…that annoying sound that Iryna had asked me to turn off…had been the alarm on my cell phone!! In my stupor, I had tackled the wrong device, and it amused me to no end to recall the earnestness with which I’d done it.

Knowing my morning pace, I didn’t see how it’d be possible for us to get to the round on time. Thankfully, I had a much faster relay partner. Iryna was almost done packing her two suitcases by the time I got out of bed. The tea and coffee were made, the grapefruit was sitting pretty on the table, and she was ready to go and get us checked out of the room while I showered and packed the remainder of my stuff. Then she came back to help me carry all the very useful things I brought with me, such as the yoga mat, down to the car. We were less than ten minutes late. It was a miracle. I bow to Iryna’s efficiency!!

Now, I promised Iryna I’d let the world know about her brilliance, even though she humbly protested that she wasn’t all that brilliant. So listen to this story and judge for yourself.

On our way to Philadelphia, I picked up Iryna and her friend Mikhail Sher (GM Miron Sher’s son) on Brighton Beach (after insisting that we leave at 8:45 AM sharp, I was the one running late. When Iryna called to ask about my whereabouts, I feigned surprise and said “I forgot I was supposed to pick you guys up! I’m at the Verrazano bridge now, let me come back for you” and she said “Haha. I know you’re kidding, Irina.”) Iryna sat in front with me, and I informed her that one of her tasks on this drive would be to put the GPS back in place when it fell. The bottom of the GPS thingie just wasn’t that sticky anymore. Before long, it fell, and Iryna got to witness the problem firsthand.

She asked if we had any water, and we found a water bottle for her. She dabbled a few drops onto the base of the GPS holder, before placing the GPS back on. Do you think it held? It held like it was glued. When I asked her about the science behind this little solution, she explained something about friction, gravity, and air bubbles. Well, maybe if your friends are scientists you get to see this all the time, but I was amazed at how she solved my intractable problem with a few drops of water.

Back to my forte, literature.



Krush,I - Rubenchik,R [E32]

(5), 29.11.2009
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0–0 5.e4 d5 6.e5 Ne4 7.Bd3 c5 8.Nge2 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Nd7 10.Bf4 Ndc5 11.0–0 Nxd3 12.Qxd3 Bxc3 13.bxc3 Qa5
After13...Qa5.jpg
All theory, up to this point. 13...Qa5 was a new move to me, but I immediately appreciated its logic. Black forces White to make a decision about the c3 pawn.
14.Rfc1 Qa6!
 the other point behind the queen sortie.
15.Nb5 dxc4 16.Qxc4 Bd7!
I underestimated the strength of this move. Somehow, I thought that a4 would be useful for White, but now I realized that this pawn advance actually weakens the b3 square and makes a target of itself.
17.a4 Qc6 18.Qe2 a6
after18...a6.jpg

Here I had a think. Of course, 19.Nd4 is very natural, 19.Nd6 out of the question, and the "creative" 19.c4 easily refutable. But what to do after 19.Nd4 Qd5? I decided to figure that out...so I'd be able to play instantly and put more pressure on my opponent in his time trouble.
19.Nd4 Qd5 20.Qe3!
Usually a nice square for the queen in this line. In this case, it eliminates the ...Nxc3 "removing the guard" tactic, protects the Nd4, and threatens to win a piece with c4.
20...Nc5 21.c4!
Forcing the queen trade
21...Qe4 22.Qxe4 Nxe4 23.c5

after23.c5.jpg

The position I was aiming for. The one reason it is playable for White is that they have time for c5, not allowing Black to establish his knight on that square himself. Suddenly, the Black knight finds himself in trouble. Back on my think on move 19, I had been evaluating the endgame after something like 23...f6 24.f3 fxe5 25.Bxe5 Ng5 and decided that it was in White's favor. But my opponent hadn't had time to acquaint himself with the subtleties of this position, and played the natural 23...Ra-c8.
23...Rac8 24.c6!
To be honest, I only saw this move once my opponent had played ...Rac8. From far back, all I had seen was that 24.Nb3 was possible here.
24...Bxc6

24...bxc6 25.f3 c5 26.Ne2+-
25.f3
White wins the knight and it becomes purely technical.
25...Bxa4 26.fxe4 b5 27.Bg5 h6 28.Be7 Rfe8 29.Bb4 Kh7 30.Kf2 f6 31.exf6 gxf6 32.Ke3 Kg6 33.Nc6 Kf7 34.Rc5 e5 35.Rac1 Ke6 36.Rd5 Kf7 37.Rd7+ Kg6 38.Rc3 Ra8 1–0

Rodion’s crime was that he wasn’t very familiar, to say the least, with the line in the Nimzo I picked out, even though I’d played it several times in the past. He played normal moves; the problem was how long he took on them. By the time he played something new to me, on move thirteen, he had less than twenty minutes to make the time control, while most of my time was still intact. I won the game by trapping his knight in the center of the board. That was sweet.

While I waited for Iryna, I decided to try to figure out who I’d be playing that evening. I had to make a few educated guesses about the games that were still in progress, but fortunately that wasn’t too hard: I was confident that Kudrin would convert his extra exchange against Hungaski and that Treger would hold his fortress together against Bartell. Robert Hess, as the highest rated in our score group, would get paired up to Bryan Smith, so that would leave seven players left. I was ranked fourth, so normally I should play one (Kudrin), with the bottom ranked getting paired down to the next score group. The problem was that both Kudrin and I were due Black, as were most of the people in our group! I wasn’t sure what happened when colors didn’t work, so I approached TD Steve Immitt for his insight.

Why Steve? Well, not only does Steve have a reputation as one of the most capable TD’s around, but I’ve been playing in his tournaments since I was a little girl. In fact, all through my childhood, whenever I’d play in a tournament he was running, he’d add his own little touch to the pairing sheet: my name would appear as “KRUSH!!!” I’m sure that intimidated at least a couple of people. :)

After going through myriad scenarios (Steve had no idea who we were talking about; it was all numbers and colors), I got the idea that in all likelihood I’d be playing Kudrin with White, since as the higher rated player he’d have to balance colors. So off I went to brush up on the Grunfeld.

Fortunately, I’d already done some “brushing up” on the Grunfeld right before the start of the tournament. I had checked out the advance entries list on the chesstour website , and noticed that it featured in several people’s repertoires. Of course, the likelihood that I’d face these people at all, not to mention with the exact color I’d prepared for, was tiny, but…if you have time, why not give yourself any small advantage you can?

Iryna spoiled a winning position against the tournament sensation, Alexander Katz (1968), who wound up defeating another ‘hot’ player, Yefim Treger, to split u-2400 honors. Iryna was understandably disconsolate after that game, and as we passed a man sitting with a puppy, I said “I think you should hug that puppy” to which she replied “I should hug a crocodile!” But alas, we were in Philadelphia, not Florida.

AlexLBryanParkway.jpg
GM-elect Alex Lenderman and IM Bryan Smith, Photo Irina Krush
It was a lovely walk over to Asia on the Parkway. Unlike the previous two days, Sunday was sunny and warm, and I drank in the fresh air and my fifteen minutes of daylight. I could say I felt happy, but that’s so vague…I felt light, open to the world. We ran into Alex Lenderman and Bryan Smith as they were leaving the restaurant. I asked Bryan to pose for a few pictures (I was thinking ahead to how I would illustrate this article!) and while he didn’t seem all that comfortable in front of the camera, he perked up when I explained that this picture taking bode well for him, as I only wanted pictures of the winner of the tournament!

Another bout with the salmon (it was adjourned: I took him back with me), a little more preparation, and it was off to face Sergey.

Irina Krush at the National Chess Congress from DIM mak films on Vimeo.


My preparation wasn’t wasted. I didn’t win this game in the opening, but I do think that the opening stage was critical to the result of the game. Basically, the line that I chose was rich and unexplored enough that an interesting middle game was almost guaranteed. And in fact, I did come up with an interesting plan early on in the game, seizing an initiative that eventually won me an exchange. My realization technique in a close to winning position was suboptimal, which explained why the game went on for so long…I had to sweat it out, but I pushed, probed, and maneuvered around until Black was induced to create some weaknesses that I could eventually take advantage of.



Krush,I - Kudrin,S [D91]

(6), 29.11.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bg5

My first time with this system.
4...Ne4 5.Bh4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 dxc4 7.e3 Be6 8.Nf3 Bg7 9.Qb1 b6 10.Be2 c6!?

A new move to me. it's like a mix of two plans (c6/b5 but black has started with Bg7).
11.a4!? a6
Black confirms that he really wants to play ...b5.
12.Ng5!? Bd5 13.e4 h6 14.Nh3!
after14.nh3kudkrush.jpg

Otherwise my concept makes no sense. The knight is rerouted to f4, to further harass the light squared bishop. 
14...g5
This move was a surprise. I had seen it, but didn't think it was the most "problematic." Most of my calculations involved 14...Be6 15.Nf4 Bc8 (15...Qc8 16.Qxb6 now we see the drawback of 11.a4 a6 for Black!) 16.Bxc4 g5 17.Nh5 Bxd4 (17...Bf8 18.Bg3 (18.Qa2! Rybka 18...Rh7 (18...gxh4? 19.Bxf7+ Kd7 20.Qe6+ Kc7 21.Qe5+ Kb7 22.Qxh8+-) 19.Bg3 is an improvement over what i saw.) 18...Bg4 19.Be2! I saw that I wasn't losing the piece! and it still looked promising to me.) 18.cxd4 (18.Qb3!! a great idea by Rybka- it will just transpose the game into what I wanted to get, and not give black the option of the intermediate ...Qxd4. ) 18...gxh4 (18...Qxd4! I didn't see this move right away, but once I saw it, it scared me...I wasn't sure how to solve the problem. 19.0–0 Qxc4 20.Bg3) 19.Qb3 I thought I should be better here. I am still down a pawn, but with such weaknesses in black's camp, I should have great compensation.
 15.exd5 gxh4
15...Qxd5 16.0–0  (I also looked at 16.Nf4 gxf4 17.0–0 Nd7 thought this was good compensation for White.) 16...gxh4 17.Qxb6 White can't complain....
16.dxc6

I didn't want to develop his pieces for him, but what could I do? I can't just let him have all my pawns! At this point, I saw 17...Nxd4 coming, but evaluated that 18.0–0 would give me at least an okay game.
16...Nxc6
after16...nxc6.jpg

White can be very pleased with the results of the opening. Here I'll share something I learned today. In the game, I played 17.Bxc4, regaining the pawn and activating the bishop. This move allows the tactic 17...Nxd4. Well, maybe I can refute that move outright, and if so, 17.Bxc4 is not bad...but on positional grounds, why should I even take that pawn? It's just a dead pawn, and if Black wants to keep it they'll have to tie down a whole piece to it (...Na5). So White has two good moves based on the understanding that the c4 pawn is not vital to them: 17.Qe4 or 17.0–0, following up with Nf4-h5, etc.
17.Bxc4 Nxd4
18.0–0 was my first intention, and I saw nothing wrong with it, but then I noticed 18.Qa2!?
18.0–0?!
This move probably lets Black off too easy. 18.Qa2! Ne6, the only move (18...Nf3+? 19.gxf3 Bxc3+ 20.Ke2 Bxa1 21.Bxf7+ Kf8 22.Bg6+-) 19.0–0 0–0 probably best (19...Qc8 i thought this was not bad for Black, but I should have looked further: 20.Rae1! Nd8 (20...0–0?? 21.Rxe6) 21.Nf4 and here's a sample line: 21...e6 22.Nxe6! fxe6 23.Bxe6 Nxe6 24.Rxe6+ Kf8 25.Qd5 Qd8 26.Qf5+ Kg8 27.Rfe1 Qd7 28.Qg6 Kf8 29.Qe4 Rd8 30.Re7 Qd6 31.Re8+ Kf7 32.Qf5+ Bf6 33.R8e6+-) 20.Bxe6 fxe6 21.Qxe6+ Kh8 White's better, although there is plenty of play left.
18...Nc6
18...Nf3+? 19.gxf3 Qc8 20.Qe4+-
19.Qe4 Qc7?!
I was expecting 19...Ne5 and then the game could continue 20.Rad1 Qc8 21.Ba2! 0–0 22.Nf4
20.Nf4 0–0
This was his only move, I thought.
21.Ng6
after21.ng6.jpg

This move wins an exchange by force, although 21.Bd3 was also an attractive option. 21.Bd3!? Rfd8 (21...Rfc8 Rybka suggests this, to defend the Nc6 22.Rae1!‚) 22.Qh7+ (22.Nh5! Rybka; I didn't see this move, which is much stronger than the immediate Qh7+ since the queen is pinned down to Nc6.) 22...Kf8 23.Ng6+ (23.Nh5 Qe5 this looked like an adequate defense for Black, since the Nh5 is hanging.) 23...fxg6 24.Bc4 e6 25.Bxe6 Ne7–+; 21.Nh5 I also looked at this briefly, but it just didn't seem like I was attacking the right squares... 21...Ne5 (21...Qe5 22.Qxh4 Qg5) 22.Ba2 Rad8; 21.Nd5 I was so busy with 21.Ng6 and 21.Bd3 that I just didn't bother with this move. Somehow I didn't think the b6 pawn was worth so much.
21...Ne5
This move was a complete shock to me. My first feeling was that I had blundered that after I take on f8, black can take on c4, and my knight is trapped, so Black will get two pieces for the rook. I even started looking at 22.Nxe5. But then I came back to 22.Nxf8 and realized that the rook on a8 was hanging! So it just wins an exchange. I thought Kudrin forgot that the rook on a8 was hanging....but actually, he said that he thought he had compensation after the exchange sac. Well, I thought Black's position was so bad after Nxf8 that there was no way anyone would purposefully go for it, but ok....Black was kind of short on options after 21.Ng6. I was expecting 21...Rfe8 where I saw that 22.Bd5 Rac8 23.Bxc6 Qxc6 24.Nxe7+ Rxe7 25.Qxe7 wins an exchange 25...h3 26.gxh3 Black shouldn't have enough compensation here. I calculated 21...Rfd8 22.Qxc6 Qxc6 23.Nxe7+ Kf8 24.Nxc6 Rdc8 25.Bd5+-; and 21...Rfc8 22.Qxc6 Qxc6 23.Nxe7+ Kf8 24.Nxc6 Rxc6 25.Bd5+-
22.Nxf8 Rxf8 23.Bxa6 h3
after23...h3.jpg

This is where my technique gets shaky.
24.gxh3?!
I had some dreams of using the g-file with my rooks. 24.g3! I also liked this move during the game....keeping my structure intact, with the idea of coming back to f1 with the bishop and winning the h3 pawn for example.
24...Qxc3 25.Kh1 Qxh3 26.Qg2
The "safe" move. I realized the endgame without queens would still be a significant technical challenge, but I thought it was winning in the long run, and at least it would be simpler for me to play until move 40. If he doesn't trade queens, then I play Rg1, and he doesn't get an outpost for his knight on g4. I was planning 26.f4 Ng4 27.Ra2 but then I realized its not so simple, Black can support his knight on g4 with ...h5 or ...f5, and I can still blunder and lose in the coming time pressure.
26...Qxg2+ 27.Kxg2
after17kg2.jpg
The starting position for the final part of the game. It was still a long road to victory...
27...Nd7 28.Rad1 Nc5 29.Bb5 Ra8 30.Rd2 Bc3 31.Rc2 Be5 32.Re2 Bd6 33.Rb1 Kh8 34.Bc6 Ra6
I was more concerned about 34...Rg8+ 35.Kh1 (35.Kf3 Ne6) 35...Rg4 36.f3 Rd4 37.Ra2 this is as far as I looked 37...Ne6 38.Rxb6 Rd1+ 39.Kg2 Nf4+ 40.Kf2 Bc5+ 41.Kg3 Bxb6 42.Kxf4
 35.Ra2 Kg7 36.h3 Kf6 37.Kf3 e6
I was happy to see this move...I thought the more the pawns moved, the more my chances increased.
38.Rd1 Be7 39.Ke2 Ra7 40.Rb1 Ra6
OK, time to find a plan...I decided to bring the king over to c4/b5.
41.Kd2 Ke5 42.Kc3 Kd6 43.Be8!
after43.be8.jpg
43...f5
After provoking this weakness, I thought it was time for the king to come back...I decided he wasn't so safe on the queenside.
44.Kd2 Ke5 45.Bc6 Kd6 46.Bb5 Ra8 47.Ke3 Ne4?
 Black wants to play Ke5 and Bc5+, but this move gives me a big opportunity.
48.Rd1+!
I started out looking at 48.Rc2 with the idea 48...Ke5 49.Bc6 Bc5+ 50.Rxc5++- but he can still correct his mistake with 48...Nc5!
48...Ke5 49.f4+ Kf6 50.Bc6
At this point, I was happy enough to be trading a pair of rooks, which I thought eased my task considerably. I should have been even more ambitious! 
50...Bc5+ 51.Kf3 Nc3
afternc3.jpg

52.Bxa8??

I completely missed 52.Rc2! Nxd1 (52...Rc8 53.Rxc3 Rxc6 54.a5+-) 53.Bxa8 and the knight is basically trapped...so this is like a hundred times better than what I got in the game. 53...Ne3 54.Rxc5+-
 52...Nxa2 53.Bc6 Nb4 54.Bb5 Nc2 55.Rd8 Nd4+ 56.Kg3 Nxb5?

The final mistake. Sergey was hoping to set up a fortress in the R vs. B endgame, but that turns out to be undoable. I was expecting 56...e5, after which it's still tricky. Good for White, but tricky.
57.axb5 Be3 58.h4 Bc5
58...h5 59.Rg8 and Rg5
59.h5 Bb4 60.Rd7 e5 61.fxe5+ Kxe5 62.Kf3 Kf6 63.Kf4 Ba3 64.Rb7 Bd6+

64...Bc5 65.Rd7 Ba3 66.Rd3 Bc1+ (66...Bc5 67.Rd5+-; 66...Bb4 67.Rd5+-) 67.Kf3 Ke5 68.Rd8+-
 65.Kf3 Bc5 66.Rc7 Bd4 67.Rc4!
after67rc4.jpg

The bishop is out of squares.
67...Be5
67...Bg1 68.Rc6+ Kg5 69.Rg6++-; 67...Bc5 68.Rxc5 bxc5 69.b6+-
68.Rc6+ Kg5 69.Rxb6 Kxh5 70.Re6 Bh2 71.b6 Kg5 72.b7 h5 73.Re8 1–0

NCCWinnersphotoCB.jpg
The winners circle, GM-elect Alex Lenderman, IM Irina Krush, IM Bryan Smith and inset of GM Alex Stripunsky, Photo Chris Bird


I’d say that there were four reasons for my success at the NCC, and none of those reasons was born overnight.

The first one is that I managed not to “drop out”, in reality or in my mind. I didn’t let the first round loss shackle me for the rest of the tournament, and that’s not something I’ve always been able to do. I used to take losses pretty hard, and didn’t deal with them very constructively. So inevitably they wound up affecting my subsequent games. But in the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to redress that problem. I don’t drop out of tournaments, no matter how badly they’re going, no matter if there’s “nothing left to play for”. Finishing the tournament is something to play for. Finishing what you start is something to play for. And I don’t mentally beat myself into a pulp no matter how badly I play, because I need that strength to keep going…

The second reason is that I’ve simply been working on chess more, and chess is a fair game. It repays what you put into it. In the month and a half since the Women’s Championship, I’ve been busy studying…learning this line, that line…all that work made me hungry to play! I’m still hungry!!

And thirdly...in these two-round-a-day tournaments, you really need some stamina. Not only are you playing long hours, but also you’re not eating as much, not sleeping as much. Some years ago at the World Open, I had a tough morning round against Nakamura…that game was fine, but during the evening round, to my consternation, I realized my brain had turned to mush and couldn’t calculate anything. For some reason, that wasn’t an issue for me at the NCC. I could eat an apple and grapefruit for breakfast and still not be fainting from hunger by the late afternoon. Towards the end of my six-hour games, I wasn’t all that tired. Maybe it’s the regular yoga practice, or being used to not needing a lot of food, or the tiring analysis sessions…but the physical component, just being able to survive the grueling schedule with your brain still working on your behalf, was key.

IrinaIRyna.jpg
Irina Krush and Iryna Zenyuk
Last but not least…can you guys guess this? Well, I had an amazing companion throughout the tournament, and that is no small thing. Iryna is the kind of person who’s upbeat…even when she’s sad. And she’s a very supportive friend. When I’m with her, it’s like the limit of how bad I can feel automatically contracts.

I’d like to thank the Samford Fellowship Committee, for making it possible for me to realize my potential. I hope to make them proud with future good results.

Till next time, guys!

For more information on the National Chess Congress, see the official website, and the US Chess Scoop video interviews, Part I and Part II . Irina Krush's next tournaments are the Marshall Chess Club Championship (held over two weekends, Dec.11-13 and Dec.19-20)and the Gibtelecom Chess Festival.
 
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