|Krush and Zatonskih Tied in Women; Zhao Creeps Closer to Robson in Juniors|
|By Katie Baldetti and Mike Wilmering|
|July 19, 2010|
SAINT LOUIS, July 18, 2010--Heading into the final round of the 2010 U.S. Junior Closed Championship, FM Parker Zhao is just a half point behind tourney favorite and defending champion GM Ray Robson, who has a score of 6/8.
In the U.S. Women’s Championship, IM Irina Krush scored a crushing victory over WIM Irina Zenyuk, and a long, hard-fought draw between WFM Tatev Abrahamyan and IM Anna Zatonskih created a two-way-tie for first between Krush and Zatonskih, each with 7/8.
Robson reached into his bag of tricks once again in round eight. After playing the King’s Indian for the first time in more than five years in round seven, Robson started with d4 against FM Darwin Yang, an opening he rarely employs.
“I spent the morning preparing for e4 and these complicated French Winawer lines, and I go to the board, and then: d4,” Yang said.
Yang said when he saw Robson’s first move, his mind went blank.
“We were just as confused as you were, Darwin; we actually thought we had the wrong board for a second,” joked championship commentator WGM Jennifer Shahade.
The 13-year-old Yang started the day a full point behind Robson and needed the win to have any shot at capturing this year’s title. After Robson established a solid position, Yang defended well, but Robson managed to control the diagonals with bishops on b2 and c2. The game had potential for fireworks, but ultimately petered out to a perpetual draw after 20.Bxg7 20...Kxg7 21.Qg5+ 21...Kh8.
“I felt perfectly optimistic about my plan,” Yang said. “I was even entertaining some winning chances.”
Robson said he thinks he’s had luck on his side throughout this tournament, and that he’s still not playing to his full potential.
“I’m probably playing a little better, but I’m still definitely not playing as well as I could, so I’ll just try to keep improving,” he said.
Robson’s draw today opened the door for Zhao to make a run at the Junior Closed Championship title. Zhao has Black against FM John Bryant, who has scored three points in his past four games.
IM Sam Shankland’s game against FM Steven Zierk ended in perpetual check, the draw ending Shankland’s chances after a solid recovery from a shaky start. Robson can clinch a repeat Junior Closed title if he can win with Black against FM Warren Harper.
Zhao overcame a late scare by Harper in round eight to keep his championship hopes alive. Zhao entered the tournament second lowest by rating, and his surprise run this year has created an exciting round nine finale in the Junior Closed event.
In the Women’s Championship, WFM Tatev Abrahamyan entered round eight tied with IM Irina Krush for second place and just a half point behind IM Anna Zatonskih, her round eight opponent. Abrahamyan appeared to have a slight advantage out of the opening, but Zatonskih quickly equalized.
“Anna is good at extricating herself from positions that we think are worse,” said championship commentator GM Ben Finegold.
Zatonskih’s 13...Qb6 deviated from the main line of the Caro Kann (13...Qc7), but Abrahamyan appeared unfazed as she responded quickly to Zatonskih’s advances. Zatonskih maintained a solid position, but was unable to generate enough counter play to derail Abrahamyan.
Zatonskih has played a number of long complicated endgames this tournament, often taking more than 60 moves to slowly grind down her opponents.
“I am upset with this game ... because I still had some chances at the end,” Zatonskih said.
At one point, Abrahamyan tried to force winning chances with 47.Qd3, abandoning the defense of her pawns on g4 and c4 in an effort to play Qd8 or Qh7. After Zatonskih captured on g4 (47.Qxg4), Abrahamyan tried to find an advantage with 48.Qh7+, but the tense bishop-and-queen endgame ended in perpetual check.
Zatonskih has White tomorrow against WGM Sabina Foisior, who has a score of just 2.5/8, but brings a reputation as a difficult opponent. IM Irina Krush will have White against WFM Abby Marshall, who has had a disappointing tournament but can play the spoiler tomorrow with a strong performance.
Krush opened her round eight game against close friend, Iryna Zenyuk. In the 2009 U.S. Women’s Championship, Krush and Zenyuk had an exciting draw. Today, however, there was much more at stake.
Krush used the Blumenfeld Counter Gambit to gain a strong center with pawns on d4, d5 and c5. Although Krush has never played or studied the Blumenfeld before, she said she opted for that particular opening choice at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night after struggling to make a decision.
“There’s no way Iryna would be able to prepare for this,” Krush said.
The Blumenfeld Counter Gambit was featured recently in the 2010 U.S. Championship game between GM Yury Shulman and GM Hikaru Nakamura.
“I had some ideas on how to improve on Hikaru’s play,” Krush said.
She said she feels she has given her all at this year’s event.
“I don’t feel like I need to root against anybody, because I’ve done everything I could here and I’ll try my best tomorrow,” Krush said. “I’m pretty happy with what I’ve shown and the level of my play.”
Round nine begins on Monday at 2 p.m. CDT. Barring a tie, two U.S. champions will be crowned tomorrow in Saint Louis. In the event of a tie in either tournament, an Armageddon playoff tiebreak on Tuesday July 20 at 10 AM Central, will determine the champion. Tune into www.uschesschamps.com for live coverage and a complete list of scores and standings.