In Part II of the article, I want to focus on the US Junior Girls Championship. It is encouraging to see a strong tournament with so many young, high rated girls and the list didn’t include the defending champion Akshita Gorti and Annie Wang. I can say without exaggeration that I cannot imagine such a tournament being organized 10-15 years ago due to the lack of girls playing chess. Carissa Yip dominated the tournament with 7/9 and was a full point ahead of closest rival, Jennifer Yu, going into the last round. With a comfortable draw in the final round against Jennifer herself, Carissa secured her tournament win and an invite to next year’s US Women’s Championship.
Lesson 1: know your openings. Not just the theory and the long lines, but the main ideas behind them. This moment in the game between the 12 year old Rochelle Wu and Carissa Yip clearly demonstrates Rochelle’s lack of experience, which is a funny notion considering that her opponent was 14 at the time. White’s last move was 13.Bd3. Try to figure out why this normal looking developing move was a crucial mistake.
13… c5! threatening c4. White has to react somehow 14. Qa3 (14. Bb5 c4 15.
Qb2 Nf6 allowing this looks ugly for White, but better than the alternative (
14. bxc5 Nxc5 15. dxc5 d4 White’s position is falling apart}16. Qa3 (16. Qc2
dxe3 17. O-O Rxc5 18. Ra3 Qa5) 16… dxc3 17. Rd1 Qe7 Black will have an
extra pawn and two bishops) 14… cxd4 15. Nxd4 Bxd4 16. exd4 Qg5! oops!
There is no good way to defend the pawn 17. g3 (17. O-O Bh3) 17… Bh3 18. Ne2 Rfe8 19. Qb2 Qg4 20. Rg1 Re7 21. Rd1 Rce8 22. Rd2 Nb6 23. Qb3 Qf3 24. a5 Rxe2+ 0-1
Carissa was leading with 4.5/5 but had a hiccup in round 6 after the day off. She was white against lower rated Sophie Morris-Suzuki who had 0/5. On paper, Carissa was the clear favorite and was set to score another point. What tactical shot did Sophie play in this position to score her first victory?
33… Rxd4!! note that all of White’s pieces are on dark squares 34. Qxd4
Rd8 35. Qf4 (35. Qe3 Rd3 36. Qf4 Bxc3 isn’t much better) 35… Nd3 36. Qh6
Bf8 (36… Nxe1 Black can start collecting White’s pieces but perhaps Sophie
saw a ghost 37. Nce4 Qxe5 38. Ng5 Rxd2) 37. Nce4 now White actually has some threats Nh5 38. Qg5 (38. Qe3 would have made Black’s task more difficult Nhf4 39. Nf3) 38… h6 (38… Nhf4 threatening the queen 39. Nf6+ Kh8 40. Qh4 h6 White has no threats and everything hangs 41. Nb3 Nxe1 42. Rxe1 Qa8 43. Qg3 Ne2+ 44. Rxe2 Rd1+) 39. Qh4 (39. Qe3 the queen needs to go home to defend her army) 39… Nhf4 40. Nf6+ Kh8 we already saw a similar position in the analysis 41. Nb3 Nxe1 42. Rxe1 g5 43. Qg3 Rd3 44. Re3 Rxb3 45. Qf3 Qxe5 46. Rxb3 Qa1+ 47. Kh2 Bd6 48. Rb1 Ng6+ 0-1 You can replay the game here
In the post-game interview, Sophie explained that she treats every round like a new tournament and returned to the board rejuvenated after the day off. She went on to score 3/4 in the second half of the tournament.
Sophie also played one of the most creative games against another youngster and a math genius Nastassja Matus. A lot of crazy things happened in this game so I will feature several diagrams. First, find a winning idea for Black in the following position:
39… Re8 Sophie did not find the winning idea but the position remains balanced (39… Rd6!! blocking the h2-b8 diagonal and threatening gf5 40. b7 Qe5+ 41. Kg1 Qxa1+ 42. Kh2 Qe5+ 43. Kg1 Rd1+) 40. Rc1 gxf5 41. b7 Qd2 precise move threatening a perpetual 42. Rc3 (42. b8=Q Qh6+ 43. Kg3 Qe3+ 44. Kh2 Qh6+ 45. Kg1 Qe3+) 42… Kg7 43. Rb3 (43. b8=Q Rxb8 44. Qxb8 Qxc3) 43… Re6 44. b8=Q Rh6+ 45. Kg3 Qe1+ 46. Kf4 Qxe4+ 47. Kg3 Qe1+ 48. Kf4 Qe4+ 49. Kg3 Qe1+ 50. Kf4 the game should end in a draw but Black decides to go for adventures Qf2+ How should White proceed in the position below?
51. Rf3 (51. Ke5!! this is very scary to play over the board but Black runs out of checks Re6+ 52. Kd5 Qd2+ 53. Kc5 Qf2+ 54. Kb4 Qd4+ 55. Ka5) 51… Qd2+ 52. Kg3 Qe1+ 53. Kf4 Qe4+ 54. Kg3 Rh3+ 55. Kf2 Qd4+?? a big blunder and a heartbreak for Sophie (55… Rxf3+ 56. gxf3 Qxf3+ 57. Kg1) 56. Ke2 Bxf3+ 57. gxf3 the h2 square is covered and the queen has ran out of checks Qg1 58. Qe5+ Kh6 59. Qf8+ Kh5 60. Qxf7+ Kh4 61. Qf4+ Qg4 62. Qxh7# 1-0 Feel free to play through the craziness here
I couldn’t talk about this tournament without mentioning the game between Emily Nguyen and Maggie Feng in round 7. Robert and I were fascinated by this game well because…
Who doesn’t like a king in the middle of the board in the middlegame? 14…
g6 threatening mate. Guess what is the best move in the position? 15. h4 (15.
Kf4!! Robert’s idea and objectively the best move. I don’t know how Emily resisted the temptation. How often do we get the chance to play such moves? Bh6+ 16. Kg3 Bxc1 17. Qxc1 Nc6 18. Qd2 the king is perfectly safe ong3. Black’s structure is busted due to the dark square weaknesses on the king side and light square weaknesses on the queen side}) 15… Bh6+ 16. Ng5 Nc6 17. f4 Ne7 18. g4 f6 19. exf6 Nxf6 20. Bd3 Qc6 21. Kf3 O-O 22. Qe2 Bxg5 23. hxg5 Ne4 24. Bxe4 dxe4+ 25. Qxe4 and white went on to win the game.
Since I am partial to the French, I really liked the turn of events in the game between Sanjana Vittal and Maggie Feng.
37. h4 White is up a pawn but I feel like she starts losing the thread of the
game with this move g5 38. hxg5 hxg5 39. fxg5 Kg6 now Black has clear
counterplay and doesn’t have to just sit 40. Be3? the bishop needs to stay
on b6 to keep the d7 pawn push as a threat (40. h4 Rh7the difference is that
the pawn doesn’t hang with a check, thus not hanging at all since d7 would win
the game 41. Rb1 Rch8 42. Rf1 shielding the king. These moves are really
hard to find if you don’t have an engine! Rxh4 43. d7 Rh2+ 44. Ke1) 40… Rh8
41. Kg3? one of the hardest things to do in chess is adjusting to the changes
in the position and switch gears. Sanjana didn’t sense the danger (41. Rxc4
Rxh2+ 42. Kf1 Rdh7 43. Rc8 Rg2 44. Rg8+ Kf7 45. g6+ again, some crazy
computer lines but we see a theme: White’s king is in trouble! Even in an
endgame opposite color bishops allow for mating patterns) 41… Rdh7 42. Bg1
Bd5 43. Rb1 Kxg5 44. Kf2 Kf4 Black won the game after her King collected all the central pawns
Last but not last the game between best friends Jennifer Yu and Emily Nguyen was highly instructional. I won’t provide a lot of analysis but play through the game and note how quickly Jennifer’s bishop pair dominated the position. I would suggest going through the game in solitaire chess format where you try to guess Jennifer’s moves here or check out her play below:
At first glance, the position looks completely normal and even equal. Check
out how Jennifer activates her bishops} 15. g4! grabbing some space Nc4 16.
Qe2 Ne4 17. Be1! transferring the bishop and threatening the piece Ned6 18.
b3 Nb6 19. f3 Nd7 20. Rxc8 Qxc8 21. Bg3 the transfer is complete. White is now completely dominating Qc3 22. Ra2 e5 23. Qc2! exchanging her opponent’s only active piece. The endgame is completely winning Qxc2 24. Rxc2 e4 25. Bxe4 Nxe4 26. fxe4 dxe4 27. Rc7 Nb6 28. Rxb7 Nd5 29. Bf2 a6 30. Ra7 h5 31. Rxa6 hxg4 32. hxg4 Rc8 33. Ra5 Nf6 34. Rc5 Ra8 35. g5 Nd7 36. Rd5 Nf8 37. a4 Rb8 38. Bg3 Ra8 39. Re5 Ne6 40. d5 Nc5 41. d6 1-0