If you’ve missed the US Chess Championships until now there’s still time to catch the final round. Well worth watching not only for the chess but for the engaging commentary team of Jennifer Shahade, Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan.
If their observations seem more entertaining and instructive than usual, that might be because the chess has not been of the highest quality. Seirawan, that most composed and polite of observers, can scarcely contain his exasperation at some of the play. Even so, ‘that was unprofessional’ is about as harsh as his rebukes get, and they’re usually reserved for bad opening preparation or poor time management. Here are a couple of examples.
Krush v Zatonskih
US Women’s Ch 2014
Black to play
After 20 minutes’ thought in this familiar Catalan position Zatonskih played 10…Bxc6, which Seirawan put down to weak preparation given that 10…Qxd1+ 11 Qxd1 Bxc6 is known to be Black’s most resilient defence. He cited Kasparov’s endorsement of the line after getting nowhere in Kasparov-Andersson (Niksic 1983).
After 10…Bxc6 11 Qxc6+ bxc6 12 Rxd4 Krush used her superior pawn structure to grind out a win in 75 moves.
Krush v Melekhina
US Women’s Ch 2014
White to play
Having drifted from a promising position Alisa Melekhina had been reduced to a forlorn fishing expedition on the kingside. Meanwhile her opponent was consuming a lot of time, setting the stage for an exciting finish.
37 Qxc5! wins after 37…Nxf3+ 38 Kh1! because the queen on c5 guards g1.
37… Be7 38 Qb6+ Kg7
White’s clock ran down to one second.
39 Kh1! Nxf3 40 Bxf3 Qg3 41 Qd4+ wins.
39… Nxf3+ 40 Bxf3
40… Rxh3+! 41 gxh3 Qg3+ 42 Kh1 Qxf3+ 43 Kg1
Now 43…Qe3+ 44 Qxe3 fxe3 45 Kf1 Bh4 looks very promising:
How can White stop the connected passed pawns?
Quick as a flash, Seirawan spotted 46 Re1! and after 46…e2+ 47 Rxe2 dxe2+48 Kxe2 White can draw by moving her king to h1.
Relieved to have survived, Melekhina took the perpetual with 43…Qg3+.