Look Ma, I Did It: My 2019 US Chess Champs

Entering the 2019 US Women’s Chess Championship, I had zero expectations. After the 2018 Olympiad in October, I spent a few months away from the chess board to catch up on school work and prepare for various tests like the SATs. My hiatus from chess ended in a tournament in January of 2019 with a mediocre result, which I was fine with considering my lack of practice.

Before I knew it, it was March and I was at the High School Nationals. I had struggled with managing my time and work ethic in the two months since January, but I felt like I put more work in prior to the US Championships compared to previous years. Around two weeks before the High School Nationals, I created a guideline for myself where I would attempt to finish my homework early and leave at least two hours a day to practice chess. Call it my own Murphy’s law, but procrastination, getting distracted, and tests ate away at my precious chess time. Subtracting the days I skipped my routine for last-minute test cramming and good-old fashioned laziness, my chess time dwindled to about an hour a day. Although more limited than I had hoped, I felt like my practice time was much more productive than it had been previously because I started using a physical chess board to play out moves and calculate positions. Although it seems blatantly obvious to use a chess board to study, for most of my life I had either visualized positions or used a digital board on Chessbase. To be honest, I never used an actual board because it doesn’t fit on my desk and I was too lazy to sit on the floor and set up the positions. Although many people have recommended using an actual board, I always found it redundant but I decided to try it once and immediately found out I was much more focused. So if you don’t use a physical chess board when practicing chess, I highly recommend it!

Returning back to the High School Nationals, just like the US Championships, I had no expectations for myself. The main reason that propelled me to play my first nationals in years was to warm up for the US Championships, because what better way to get the brain juices flowing than a 7 round tournament in 3 days that ends the week of the US Champs? As 11th seed I had realistic chances for playing for first, but I never considered it because I knew I wasn’t in my best form and scholastics are absolutely brutal. On top of all of that, the five second delay and nonexistent second time control weren’t to my forte.

The result was more or less what I had internally expected: 4 draws against lower rateds put me at 5/7. I wasn’t elated at my result but I wasn’t disappointed either, because the tournament was exactly what I needed to slap me awake before the US Championships. The short time control without increment was sobering because I found myself playing on the delay in several games. It had been a while since I had played anything other than 30 second increment or 10 second delay, so a 5 second delay did not pair well with my heavy time usage. On several games I relied on the delay to simply not flag, which I knew would make the 30 second increment at the US Championships seem like a luxury. Moreover, I found myself in slightly worse positions out of the opening in quite an alarming amount of games, simply because I couldn’t remember any openings. I had made it a priority to do opening preparations for the US Championships in my chess routine, but losing some time here and there resulted in that just not happening. I was extremely upset at myself for skipping what I had considered the most important part of my US Championships prep, and I thought the quality of my games at High School Nationals reflected that. I only felt reassured that there would be plenty of time to prepare during the one round a day US Championships, quite in contrast with the three-round day at nationals.

Holding my 24th (!) place trophy with WGM Jennifer Shahade. Although the High School Nationals wasn’t my finest result, it was an invaluable experience before the US Champs.
Photo: US Chess

My strategy for the US Championships was, in essence, to have no strategy at all. In previous years, I had always frowned upon draws and gone all out for wins which sounds good, but really means losing perfectly fine positions by taking unnecessary risks. This basically sums up my 2018 US Junior Girls where I was so adamant against draws that I would rather go into an unsound and probably worse position if it meant I could have a chance of winning. Instead, that just led to several disastrous upsets and losing around 30 rating points. This acknowledgement of draws didn’t mean I would be happy with draws this entire tournament either, but my open mentality of accepting draws if the position calls for it led to a calmer approach to the game. It’s ironic because most of my games were unpredictable, fighting chess but I did feel like my “play what I get non-strategy” had a significant impact.

The first few rounds of the US Championship were fairly smooth sailing. I took an early lead with 4/4 but didn’t think too much of it. It was only a small lead as Anna Zatonskih trailed behind me by half a point for most of the tournament, and in round robins, early leads don’t signify much. I was fairly certain that I would get knocked down at some point and wasn’t hoping for too much. I just tried to focus on each coming game and ignore the tournament situation. In several games, I had extremely close calls where it could’ve gone the other way easily such as my games against Maggie Feng (round 6) and Sabina Foisor (round 7). These games made it easy for me to not get carried away by my lead since it was evident I had done something very wrong in both games but managed to survive only by a few practical choices, opponents’ mistakes, and sheer luck.

Pictured on the rest day with my good friends Annie Wang, Emily Nguyen, and Carissa Yip. (left to right)
Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

In the crucial 10th round, I was due to play IM Anna Zatonskih, my closest competitor point-wise who was playing brilliantly throughout the tournament. I had a half a point lead with 8/9 points versus her 7.5/9 so if I won, I would clinch the title on the spot with a round to spare. I never considered winning because in previous encounters I have always been initially worse and I was playing with black. Moreover, I didn’t know what opening to expect since she has a wide repertoire, so I decided to just give up on prepping something new altogether and stick with what I knew. My main goal going into the game was to treat it just like any other game and forget about the tournament situation. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel any pressure because needless to say, it was the most important game in my life. I wasn’t too worried because previously I have performed well under pressure. Also reassuring was knowing that she had more pressure on her side of the table because she was in a must-win situation. If we drew, she would have to risk me winning in the last round and winning the title without a chance of a play-off.

In our game, she repeated the same slav line against me as my earlier game against Annie Wang in round 5. For a brief minute, I considered diverging from my earlier lines in order to avoid whatever preparation she had in store but quickly rejected that idea since I had faith in my original prep against Annie and it was an unnecessary risk. She diverged from Annie’s line and began to quickly eat up time after a few moves. I was confused because I had no idea where her prep ended and at that point I was confident that she was on her own.

We reached this position:

The immediate move that jumped out at me was 17…Nc5! I had seen the game Shankland,S -Alonso,S Praia da Pipa 2014 where a similar Nc5 idea was made in a slightly different situation. Although it looks like it hangs material, all the lines work out into Black’s favor. I had to make sure I wasn’t making a huge mistake and spent around 20 minutes calculating complications. This was definitely my favorite move in this game because it changed the nature of the position, declaring that I wasn’t going to passively defend by immediately challenging the center. It also enters a position where it’s possible for White to make mistakes, essentially making Black completely equalized. This actually happened in the game after 18. Rxd8 Qxd8 19.Nxc5 Bxc5 20. Nxe5?! Bxf2+!

The bishop is immune because if 21. Kxf2 results in 21… fxe5 where the pin on the f-file will allow me to recapture the piece with a huge positional advantage. She had to decline the inbetween move bishop sacrifice and I was extremely happy with my position. I knew it was more than equalized at this point and I was probably better, but I somehow forgot about the possibility that I could win. That is the danger of restricting your expectations because it took awhile for me to realize that my assumption of a draw being the best result no longer held true. When I woke up from the belief that I would be worse this game, I attempted to restrict her play as much as possible and take advantage of her dwindling time. After a few passive moves by her that I didn’t anticipate, we entered the following position where she made the fatal blunder 30. Qe1??

I had seen this variation a few moves earlier and felt my heart pounding because I knew I had the game in the bag. I still took a few minutes to confirm my calculations because now was not the time to get hasty. But after 30…Bf2! 31. Qd2 Bxg3+!! the game was essentially over.

She had to take the bishop because if 32. Kg1 Qxh4 and mate on h2 will soon follow. After 32. Kxg3 Qc7+ 33. Kg4 (33.Kh3 Be6#) Be6+ she resigned because 34. Kh5 Qf7+ would lead to mate and 34. Kg5 Qg3+ would lead to mate.

I was in absolute disbelief after the game and it took me a long time to realize that I had actually become the US Women’s Chess Champion. This had always been the goal every time I had played this tournament but it was always a pipe dream that I never considered would happen. But, I’m sure glad it did! However, I still had one game remaining in the tournament and I wanted to take it seriously. It might sound a little bit funny, but I felt like I had more pressure going into the last round after I had already won the tournament than before the pivotal 10th round. I felt like I had something to prove, and after a rocky middlegame, I won an interesting endgame and ended with 10/11.

I am really proud of my result in this tournament, but it also has to be noted that I was incredibly lucky in several games. I made some inexcusable mistakes that should’ve been punished, but it managed to work out for the best. Looking forward, I’m going to work on improving my weaknesses even more as I strive for future aspirations. Winning the US Championships proved to myself that I can do it and it opens a door for all the possibilities that I never considered. I’m currently working on securing my IM title, because I only have the 2400 rating requirement left, and you can bet I’ll get started on the GM title hunt right after.

Words can’t describe my gratitude towards everyone who supported me along my chess journey because I could not have become US Champion by myself. To my family, coaches, friends, competitors, and supporters — thank you. However, this is not where my journey ends, and I hope to make y’all proud in the future.

Congratulations to GM Hikaru Nakamura for winning the 2019 US Chess Championships!

2019 US Chess Champions
Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

The Endgame Challenge: Rook and Bishop vs Rook

Recently, I’ve personally seen the infamous rook and bishop versus rook endgame in play several times. A few things struck me oddly. First of all, the number of times I’ve seen it arise is quite considerable even though it is considered a fairly rare endgame. Secondly, even though the games I’ve seen were played by strong players, there were major errors made by both sides. That is definitely quite understandable, as many players probably forgot or never learned the correct defense or winning method. I also forgot how to win this position too, but after seeing the endgame in the exciting Paikidze-Zatonskih at the US Women’s Champs, I made it my duty to refresh my memory! It would be a shame to lose a half or whole point because of forgotten endgame theory. This is why I want to make a quick article that goes over the most important ideas in this endgame.

Most people know that this endgame should be a draw if no blunders arise, the defender’s king isn’t pushed to the edge of the board, and correct play is involved.

Note: In certain cases, the game could still be a draw even if the defender’s king is on the edge.

However, even if the attacker does manage to successfully drive the defender’s king to the edge of the board into the Philidor position, an extremely accurate and difficult series of moves will be needed to get the full point. For simplicity’s sake, we would discuss how to win the position if it arises in the central files.

The Philidor Position


This is the starting point of the Philidor Position. If this were Black to move, this position would be a draw because of the only move Re7+, and the white king will have to retreat. That also means that if Black were unable to play this check, he will be lost even if it was his move. Anyways, White’s first moves are simple. 1. Rc8+ Rd8 2. Rc7. White takes control of the seventh rank.


Here, the immediate threat by White is 3. Rh7, with unstoppable mate. If Black keeps his rook along the 8th rank like with 2…Ra8, he looses immediately to 3. Rh7. That means he either has to move 2… Kf8, or take his rook off of the 8th rank. After 2… Kf8, White has a straightforward win with 3. Rh7, still threatening mate. After 3…Re8+ 4. Kf6 Kg8 5. Rg7+ Kh8 6. Rg5 Kh7 7. Rh5+ Kg8 8. Kg6 and mate will come soon. Well that wasn’t so bad!

But if your opponent wants to give you a hard time to get that win, they will move the rook to either d3, d2, or d1. I will tell you right now that 2…Rd2 is the most tenacious defense for Black, and you will see in a second why 2…Rd3 or 2…Rd1 loses more quickly.

2…Rd2. Now, White plays a clever waiting move, 3. Ra7. The point is that Black must move his rook off of the second rank because any king moves loses. 3… Rd1

3… Rd3 looses quicker and is less intuitive. First, White wins time with 4. Re7+ Kd8 (4…Kf8 5. Rh7 Black can’t stop the  mate with Rg3 because of the bishop.) 5. Rh7! Swinging to the other side. (5. Ra7?! would not work because of the simple 5…Ke8) 5… Kc8 6. Rc7+. Another maneuver to win time. 6… Kd8 (6…Kb8 walks into the discovered attack) And now, the amazing 7. Rc4!


White is threatening 7. Bf6+. Black must play 6…Ke8. Now, 7. Bd4! There is no way Black can stop the mate without losing his rook.

4. Rg7. The rook zips to the other wing.


Although 4. Rh7 looks prettier, since it gives more space between the Black king and White rook, the rook should go to the g-file for a reason you will see soon. 4… Rf1

4…Kf8 5. Rh7 Rg1 6. Ra7 Kg8 7. Ra8+ Kh7 8. Rh8+ Kg6 9. Rg8+. And Black loses his rook.

5. Bg3!! What a brilliant and stunning move!


This is why the rook had to be on the first rank. The e1 square is controlled by the White bishop so the king is protected from annoying checks. The bishop also controls the f2 square, so if the rook were to move, it’d have to go to the third rank. 5… Rf3

5…Kf8 does not work. 6. Rg4 (and this is why the rook should go to g7, not h7.) 6… Ke8 7. Ra4. Switch sides! 7… Rd1 (7… Kf8 8. Be5 Kg8 9. Rh4 and mate) 8. Bh4!! My favorite move in the ending!


This is the kind of move that would be impossible to find over the board if the White player didn’t know it beforehand. The bishop is an octopus, guarding the vital e1 square, and now threatening mate because the rook can no longer go to d8. Black is toast. 8…Kf8 9. Rg4 with imminent mate.

After 4… Rf3 5. Bd6 creats a mate threat. 6… Re3+ 7.Be5


This position is similar to the one we started with, but with one vital difference. Because of the mate threat, the black rook cannot return to the second or first file and will find itself on the deadly third rank.

7…Rf3. Now the win is almost the exact same as after 3…Rd3. 8. Re7+ Kf8 9. Ra7 Kg8 10. Rg7+ Kf8 11. Rg4 Ke8 12. Bf4 +-


We did it!

Note: It is important to note that the Philidor Position is also winning on the bishop files, however, some new defensive variations may come about. Unfortunately, the Philidor is not winning on the knight’s file. Good news though, is that the Philidor Position is surprisingly winning on the rook’s file! 

There is often a lax of attention on the Rook and Bishop vs Rook ending. It is beneficial to refresh your memory on this ending every once in a while. You never know when your knowledge will come to fruit!

I hope this article have helped you all in some way… Next time you enter this endgame, be prepared to play out this grueling but fun maneuver!

The 2017 US Women’s Chess Championship- A Player’s View

Hi everyone! I had recently just finished playing in the US Women’s Chess Championship held in St. Louis during March 27-April 10. For those of you who follow chess news, you may know that this tournament, held with the US Chess Championship, is highly publicized. Therefore, many of you have probably already read recaps about them on Chess.com or on US Chess. That is why I feel it would be redundant to simply go over popular tactics, blunders, or shocking opening moves from both tournaments as numerous articles about them have been published already. Instead, I want to share with you all a different perspective of the championships from a player’s point of view.

Before I start, I would like to congratulate both GM Wesley So and WGM Sabina Foisor, the 2017 US Chess Champion and 2017 US Women’s Chess Champion!

This is the most unique chess tournament I have ever participated in, in my life. I have never played in tournaments with as much coverage as this tournament before. There is live coverage, online commentary, live commentary, media stories, and so much more. It doesn’t seem like it may be that much, from the spectator’s view, but for me it was overwhelming. With only 12 players in each tournament, there isn’t a wide range of people to be focused on. There are only six games each round. And in each game, each move would be picked apart, analyzed, scorned, admired. This year was my third time participating in this event. And every year, it gets slightly easier for me to play from the gained experience I had from the year before. But I, personally, still felt the nerves and pressure from playing in such a major tournament. I know what most people say and would think about this: Don’t worry about all that… Focus on the chess! Trust me, I get that, but it is much easier said than done.

Let’s start with the first year I went (After I finished writing this article I realized I went kind of off topic but now you get the ‘whole’ story). In the 2015 US Women’s Chess Championship, I was a wildcard competitor. I was fresh out of winning my World Youth gold medal and had high expectations. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what led me to inevitably have one of the worst tournaments of my life. Well, to be honest there are a multitude of other variables, like the fact that I was definitely not prepared up to my full potential, but what I said before made up a healthy amount. See, this was my thought process. I was a newbie. I can play good chess (sometimes). I have potential. Plus… I was a FREAKING WORLD CHAMPION! You see, I thought that this tournament was my chance to make a dramatic entrance. It could have been like one of those classic sports movies everyone loves where the underdog beats the champions. I mean, dream big right? I’m guessing, now, that some of you must be thinking that I got cocky and overconfident. That I wasn’t careful. But, in fact, the opposite arised. I got too careful. It was because the nerves got to me.

The first game was a strange wake up call that never actually woke me up. I was paired with White against WGM Anna Sharevich. It started off okay and I managed to get a winning position after a few misjudged sacrifices from my opponent. Unfortunately, later on I succumbed to time pressure and lost. And… that was that. WRONG! See what happened was on every single move I could literally hear my heart pounding. On every single move I looked at every single variation I could possibly physically see and then looked over every variation over and over and over and over again until I simply ran out of time. It’s funny to me now, that the real reason I lost the game was because I was so terrified to make a mistake. But I knew then that people were watching, and what they could be saying. And for the rest of the tournament, I boarded a one-way train to blunderville. I ended up tying for last place and scoring 2.5/11. However, I did learn valuable cliches like confidence (but don’t be too confident), hardwork (preparation), etc.

Anyways, the 2016 Championships went a lot more smoothly mentally. There were definitely some major mistakes I made during the tournament, but overall, it was much better than my disastrous 2015 Championships.

And that brings us back to 2017! I definitely improved my game skill-wise over the last two years and I had no pressure. Before the tournament, I was placed by rating somewhere in the bottom half of the pack. All I had to do was go ahead and play normal games. Well… normal, yeah, that totally didn’t happen. Observe my statement above, that I didn’t have any pressure, well that was pretty much a blatant lie. I wasn’t supposed to have any, but it is incredibly hard to forget about the outside world and only on the game when there is a camera two feet away from the board. And because my mind was on that camera half the time, I made some VERY strange choices in my games.

Here is a position in my round 8 game against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan. I was black in this position and had maybe a minute or so left. White had just moved 51. Re1. Take note that black was previously completely lost before the game suddenly turned around.

Black to move. How would you play?


The correct move here is 51… b2! Yes, I know that that is the most obvious move here, but it is the bold considering that black is ignoring the dangerous threat the white rooks made. After 52. Rhxe6+ Kd8 53. Re8+ Kc7 54. R1e7+ ( 54. R8e7+ Kb6 55. R7e6+ Rc6! and black promotes one of the pawns the next move) Kb6 55. Rb8+ Kc6! This is the critical move. It disrupts the coordination beteween the white pieces (Over the board, my brief analysis ignored this strange move because it walks into a skewer and instead looked at the king hiding along the a-file. That would not work because black will end up losing since the king will end up getting checkmated by checks on the e-file followed by a bishop check.) If 56. Bf3+ Kd6 and white suddenly has no checks left. If 56. Bf3+ Kd6 and white again, doesn’t have any checks left. If 56. Rc8+ Kd6 and one of the pawns will promote. Therefore 51…b2! is winning.

In the game, I played 51… c1?. I knew that after this move the game will end up in a draw. However, I was not entirely confident about the position after 51… b2!. If I had five minutes I would have played it for sure, but my opponent and I were both out of time and I decided not to risk it. It was an incredibly hard decision to make and I think how I played the tournament so far affected my decision. I decided that I needed every point I could get and therefore went for the safe decision. I guess that my logic here was correct but also flawed at the exact same time. Oh well…



In this game, I was black against 7 time US Women’s Chess Champion GM Irina Krush. She had just moved 38. g3 and we were both in a time scramble to get to time control. I decided to do a simple repeat to gain time. 38…Bh3 39. Kd3 Bf1+ 40. Ke3 Bh3 41. Kd3. Yes! Time! Here, I knew I was winning in this position. The question is how to?


Black to play

The main line I looked at was 41… Bf5+ 42. Kc4 (42. Be4 Be6 and the a2 pawn is lost) 42…Bb1 43. Bxc5 bxc5 44. Kxc5


At first, I dismissed this because black simply loses a pawn. Then I saw, 44…Bxa2. Now, the bishop is invincible because if it is captured, b3 and a3 will make sure at least one pawn promotes. But it’s not over yet! I was ready to play this when I realized that white didn’t have to take my bishop. What if she just moves it away like 45. Be4, ? Now, my b-pawn is attacked and I’m forced to move 45… b3. Well now it seems like I’m pretty much winning! All I need to do is push the b- pawn WAIT, WAIT what if I can’t move the b-pawn? What if 46. Bd5!


I remember that when I reached this position in my calculation, I did a mental face-palm and thought how grateful I was that I didn’t actually move 41…Bf5. All of a sudden, white can even play for a win now! The b-pawn is frozen because if it moves, the bishop will be lost. The a-pawn is dead now, and the b-pawn will soon fall. Therefore, this line and the valuable time I spent on it is complete trash. I took a major backpedal to the starting position. I guess I have to start from scratch.


Here, I decided that I should just simply move 41… Bf1+ Then, I have a simple plan of h5, bringing the king up, putting the bishop on e6, and that should suffice for the win.

Now here is a moment that I wanted to clarify. Many of the viewers and commentators thought that I was going to take a draw with this move since unknown to me AND to my opponent, we have a reached a position 3-times. I’m sure all of you now know that that wasn’t my plan, as I saw a straightforward win afterwards. I simply didn’t see the repetition [insert crying tears of laughter emoji]. The tricky part was, the moves didn’t repeat three times, the position did. The first time was after 38.g3, the second time was 40. Ke3, and if my opponent were to call the arbiter, she could have claimed the draw because 42. Ke3 would have been the third time the position repeated. Luckily for me, we both missed this trippy repetition. After 42… h5, I went on to win.

I definitely did not have a lack of interesting games this tournament (I also didn’t have a lack of interesting mistakes either ;D ). If I were to include all of the moments from this tournament I want to share with you all, I fear that would be way too long and probably bore you all out of your skulls. Anyways, I just have a few more words, so I’ll get along with it.

The 2017 US Women’s Chess Championship is one of the strangest tournaments I have played yet. If you don’t believe me, a brief look through my games should convince you. I have made the simplest of mistakes, but also have seen some beautiful ideas that I am quite proud of. I ended up with a great +1 result (6/11) with a very uneven performance. What I mean by that statement is that I scored 4.5/6 against the top 6 seeds (Zatonskih, Krush, Paikidze, Abrahamyan, Nemcova, and Foisor) while only scoring 1.5/5 against the lower 5 seeds (Sharevich, Virkud, Feng, Nguyen, and Yip). Oh, the irony in that! And I found out so many things… I learned that I am not too far off from the strongest American female players. I think I handled this tournament very well mentally, which was a challenge before. I also learned that, I , am a swindler??? (I never considered myself a swindler in chess before, but for some reasons I keep finding weird ways to swindle people in this tournament [insert thoughtful emoji].)

But most importantly, I had fun, and that’s all that really counts.

Thank you for staying with me and reading through this entire article… Until next time!

An Interesting Game at the Southwest Class

There were multiple tournaments held over President’s Day Weekend. I decided to go to the Southwest Class tournament in Dallas, Texas. This tournament had a very strong field with players coming from all over the country. Overall, I am very happy with the way I played there, even though I lost some unnecessary points. I have had many compelling games arise. I picked out one game that I thought had many interesting moments to share with you guys.


In this game, I was white against a NM. After a fairly normal opening, I played 12. d4 kicking the knight out of the centralized c5 square. Here, 12…Ne6 would have led to a playable game for both sides. However, the moves leading to this position led me to believe my opponent will play the interesting 12…f4?! which he quickly did. Consequently, an interesting exchange will ensue. 13. dxc5 f3. Now, I have two main ideas. I can either go for a position where I will be up by a pawn but without my g2 bishop, or I can simply back my bishop up to h1. There are two lines that I could have gone to try to grab a pawn. They are 14. Bxf3 and 14. cxd6.

After 14. Bxf3 Rxf3 15. cxd6 Qxd6 16. Rd1 Qe7, this position occurs.


Black has compensation for White’s extra pawn. The disappearance of the White g2 bishop is obvious, as the surrounding light squares around the White king are extremely weak. Black is not worse here at all because he has multiple ideas of attacking the light squares. It would have been an easy game for my opponent to play.

14. cxd6 would have led to a similar game after 14… fxg2 15.Kxg2 Qxd6.

The best and only option left was 14. Bh1. This simple move allows me to keep my vital fianchettoed bishop. The result was technically a trade between my opponent’s strong c5 knight and my e2 knight who stuck defending in the back. That was fine with me! 14…fxe2 15. Qxe2

14… dxc5 delaying the capture of the e2 knight is a possibility. I feel like it would have been slightly better then capturing right away because this would keep the tension. However, I still have a slight advantage after this.

15… dxc5 16. Rd1 Qf6


I now have a nice, little positional advantage. My light squared bishop is eyeing a beautiful diagonal full of possibilities, my rook is on the open file, and my knight has a bright future on either d5 or c5. My only pieces that aren’t doing much are the b1 rook and the c1 bishop. However after a few moves like b3 and Bb2, my dark squared bishop has potential and my rooks could double on the open file. Overall, this is a very comfortable position. After his last move, my opponent is eyeing my f2 pawn. This is not a problem right now, as my queen is defending the pawn, but I did not feel safe with only one piece protecting me against a possible checkmate by Qxf2. For example, my opponent has Bg4 ideas, which although do not work because of Bd5+, could become a deadly threat. Based on these facts, I decided to play 17. Bg2 creating room for my king on h1 and stopping any Bh3 ideas by black. Now, my opponent made a mistake. 17…Qf7?. He had wanted to remove the queen from possibly being attacked by my knight and place it on a good square eyeing the c4 pawn. It would have been alright had I not had this idea.

Try to see the best way for white to continue


18. Bd5! pinning the black queen. 18… Be6. I am 100% sure my opponent automatically saw these two moves before playing 17… Qf7. His mistake may have been that he  cut off the variation here, not bothering to look into it further. It would have been easy as it seems like my bishop is tied to d5, since if it moves, the c4 pawn would be hanging.

19. Bxb7 Bxc4 and now, the point of 18. Bd5,

20. Qxc4!


The point being after 20…Qxc4 21. Bd5+! the bishop returns back to d5 to win back the black queen. 22… Qxd5 23. Rxd5 


I am up by a pawn and will soon win another. My bishop on c1 and rook on b1 will soon come out and I will have no problems. Black’s knight is misplaced on h5 and his rooks cannot penetrate into my position using the d-file. The game ended up as a straightforward win for white.


The Secret(!?) Ingredient to Chess Improvement (This is not clickbait)

Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer Yu and I am excited to be joining the writers at Chess^Summit! To introduce myself in a quick snippet: I’ve been playing chess for eight years now, as my first tournament was in February of 2009. Right now, my rating is currently floating around the 2300 range. I have had my chess ups, downs, and times where my rating just seemed to get stuck at a wall and not get anywhere at all. I currently reside in the Northern Virginia area and compete in many of the tournaments on the East Coast. I also have had the opportunity to compete nationally and internationally. I think my most notable achievement is probably winning the gold medal in the 2014 World Youth Chess Championships U12 Girls. I am also in the process of preparing for my third US Women’s Chess Championship this year. Along the years I’ve gathered some helpful tidbits that I would like to share with you all. However before I start, I would like to thank Isaac for giving me this opportunity to write on Chess^Summit and share my ideas with all of you. Now to the article!

There is one question that I am often asked about chess; whether by a fellow chess player comparing notes, a younger player seeking advice, or most often, friends at school who have not yet entered the complicated realm of chess. It is, “How do you practice chess?”. It is a simple question, really, and one that I’m sure all tournament players were asked at one point in time. Now this would be different for everyone as the levels, time commitment, and aspirations of every player vary. If one wants to improve the most they possibly can in a specific amount of time, there would have to be a specific routine set in place that takes into account all variables. This would lead to perhaps one player committing to solve as many tactical problems as they can while another reads and memorizes entire endgame books over and over again. It would be impossible to create a practice routine that applies for all players that will guarantee improvement. So… what is the point of this article? I believe there is one factor that will lead to steady improvement over time for all players. This magic ingredient, simply put, is to play more.

I know this topic has been mulled about and been described time after time again, but I cannot over stress the importance of it. I have heard it before said here and there, but to me I just always kind of put the advice away into my pocket and sarcastically scoff, “Yeah, because that would somehow magically make me play better.” But now, I truly believe in the importance of increasing play as I have seen the improvement it gave to other players, and the evidence of this in my own chess history. I originally learned chess in California where my rating rose to about 1400. After I moved to Virginia in the summer of 2011, I increased the number of tournaments I played in, especially larger opens (I previously attended mostly scholastics). By the end of 2012, I was a solid 1900. That is quite a leap! I’ve also observed the dramatic rise of young talented players correlated with the amount of games they play. An amazing example is a fellow Gold Medalist Rochelle Wu. Rochelle is the current reigning World Champion for U10 Girls and is already at a high 2100! She plays a tournament nearly every week sometimes driving hundreds of miles to get there. This also shows an extreme amount of dedication and hard work.

I have compiled three simple reasons why increasing the amount of games played, will increase skill level.

  1. Experience

Usually when a child plays an adult of the same level, it will almost always be an interesting battle. The issue of the difference of age will become a factor in the game somehow. Some people may say the child has the sharper mind, and therefore the upper hand. Many others say that many more years of experience that the adult has garnered easily triumphs the child. This is a hypothetical situation, as in a real game, it will be rarely as simple as this. However, the gist of this example is that experience cannot be overlooked. It can only be a good thing, as it slowly adds new knowledge each move you play. It can definitely help improve one’s play because if you lose to a trap in one game, you will be wary of it in the next. The only real way you can get more experience, is to play more games.

2. Intuition

You may have once seen a blitz game between high level players, maybe Grandmasters. As the clock winds down, each second becomes more precious, each move entering faster on the board then the last. Before long, a frenzy of clock banging and the whizzing of moves will occur. How is it possible for them to play that fast?  How is it possible for them to think that fast? Most likely, the players are using their intuitions. They have a subconscious feeling that tells them where to go during the game.  A solid intuition is the basis for every good player. It can help conserve valuable time during a game and sort through jumbles of variations to direct a clear way to go. Intuition can be developed by solving problems like the ones in Positional Play by Jacob Aagard (a great book!), an excellent technique I learned at the US Chess School. However, I found that by actually physically playing a game, it will develop an unique “chess sense”.

3. Focus

Have you ever just gone to a chess tournament and felt like you learned more about chess in those few measly hours between games than weeks of ‘practicing’ at home? This happens to me all the time. It’s really absurd but I find that just being in the environment of playing an entire day of chess makes me focus on chess more in my down time after games.  It is extremely easy to get distracted at home, but at a tournament, I am only thinking about chess. For example, I may explore opening lines I have never seen before when preparing for an opponent. Also, when analyzing a game with an opponent, I could be provided by valuable insight from the ‘enemy’ that could not be given by an engine or a coach.

In a nutshell, these are three relatively simple reasons of why playing more chess will improve chess skill. I think that increasing play at larger tournaments will be most beneficial. However, if you are restricted by time, finances,or etc., playing online can also be great. (It does have to noted that there is a real difference between playing games over the board and over a computer screen.) And also, if your rating suffers at the beginning don’t be alarmed! It is completely natural and occurs to me often. Just realize that rating is only showing something that is temporary and if you experience true improvement over time, your rating will realize that too. As I said in the beginning of the article, I am preparing for the US Women’s Championship and I know how I will be practicing! My calendar’s lined jam packed full of tournaments! I hope this article helped all of you in some way and I wish you all good luck on your journey to play more games!