Will Hope Be Krushed at Death Match 26?
For just the second time, Chess.com's Death Match will feature two ladies. GM Nadezhda Kosintseva will take on GM Irina Krush in Death Match 26 on Saturday, July 26 at 12 p.m. Eastern (GMT -5), 9 a.m. Pacific.
The event will be live on Chess.com/TV.
Nadezhda Kosintseva, whose first name means "Hope" in Russian, was named by her grandmother. She's known Krush since childhood, although they've only ever played one game of classical chess. That number could go up in the future, as Kosintseva now lives in the U.S. "for the most part."
Kosintseva is married to GM Leonid Kritz, graduate of Death Match 13, and together they become the second family to compete in a Death Match.
Women are actually 2-1 lifetime in Death Matches, thanks to GM Judit Polgar besting GM Nigel Short in last year's Battle of the Sexes.
Kosintseva plans to continue her studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, and since Krush is based in New York but competing internationally quite frequently, they have yet to meet since Kosintseva's move to the U.S.
They also won't meet at the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway, since Kosintseva declined to play for the Russian women's team, despite her stellar lifetime record in the event.
She told Chess.com she would not be competing even before the recent controversy surrounding the team. "For now I'm taking a break from national team competitions," Kosintseva said.
Krush told Chess.com she will be competing in the Olympiad, probably on first board. Although she just turned 30, it is already her eighth Olympiad, and her fourth as top board. It is her first Olympiad as a GM; she earned the title in 2013. (Zatonskih and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, competitors in the only other all-female Death Match, will likely take boards two and three, respectively.)
Kosintseva's recent tournament play has been sparse, thanks largely to the recent birth of her child. "For sure, [husband Kritz] will be working as a babysitter during the match," she said.
Conversely, Krush recently won her third straight U.S. Women's Championship, and attended events in New Jersey, Iceland, Russia, Gibraltar, San Francisco, Azerbaijan and two in Las Vegas.
"I did train for the World Blitz that took place in April and I think that some of the things I picked up from training will be useful in the Death Match," Krush said. "I just need to remember to play fast."
The two competitors played each other at the 2010 World Blitz Championship in Moscow, where they split 1-1.
Their only classical encounter took place at the 2006 Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy. In that game, Krush's inventive pawn sac 22. e5! got the ball rolling. Black offered the queen to reduce the pressure, but didn't quite get enough in return.
Krush called it "one of the nicest games I ever played." Kosintseva's sister, Tatiana, won on the top board in the same event, tying the match at 1.5-1.5.
Nadezhda Kosintseva doesn't see any USA-Russia overtones in this match. "I take this match as the possibility to compete with a strong opponent," she said.
Krush is Ukrainian by birth. She was born in Odessa and recently returned as a visitor for the first time in many years.
She can't claim Ukraine or the U.S., however, as the first place she played chess. It might be a European country, or no country at all! Her first moves were actually during her family's trip to immigrate to the United States.
"Let me ask my dad about that story about me learning to play on the plane," Krush said. "Maybe it was the plane, or maybe it was once we got off the plane somewhere in Italy or Austria on the way to the U.S. The general idea is correct. My dad started to teach me chess en route to America."
Where would she like the next Olympiad to take place?
"How about Bali, Indonesia?" she said. "South Africa 2018 sounds pretty good, but so does the bid from Georgia. I'd like to go to some lesser-known destinations. On a free day at a foreign tournament, hopefully I am in a place that's amenable to sightseeing."
Full disclosure: Krush took this reporter and his girlfriend shopping all over Istanbul on a rest day at the 2012 Olympiad.
Krush seeks out culture wherever she goes. While interviewing her, she was on her way from Edmonton, Canada to New York. "I picked up a book called 'Midnight in St. Petersburg,' a historical novel set around the time of the Russian Revolution. A love story is at the heart of the book. But I don't know how it ends yet." (Spoiler alert -- the Bolsheviks win.)
As for the three time controls (5+1, 3+1 and 1+1), Kosintseva was happy: "I feel more comfortable when I have increment," she said.
Whereas most recent Death Match participants felt trepidation about the bullet, Kosintseva welcomes it. "It is more interesting to play 1-minute games of chance," said Kosintseva.
Not so for Krush. "Bullet is something I have no experience in...I should feel more comfortable in 5+1," she said.
How is she preparing for this match in particular? "I do quite a bit of problem-solving on Chess.com's Tactics Trainer," said Krush.
Kosintseva's comfort with living in the U.S. is taking some adjustment. "At the beginning, I was shocked every time when a stranger began to talk to me as if he or she was acquainted with me for a long time," said Kosintseva. "People asked my advice at a shop or told me they like my shoes...In Russia it is not usual."
In individual events, the Kosintseva sisters have to play each other on occasion. After eight short head-to-head draws in their initial meetings, they squared off in the 2012 FIDE Women's World Championship. Since it was a knockout, someone had to win a game.
Nadezhda won twice as Black, while her sister won once as Black, allowing Nadezhda to advance 3.5-2.5, before ultimately losing to the eventual winner, GM Anna Ushenina. Here is the most spirited game:
Since this game, they've gone back to short draws against each other. The sisters have flip-flopped being higher-rated, though currently Nadezhda is ahead.
Finally, on the subject of being a woman in the chess world, both Kosintseva and Krush said it has largely been an advantage.
"We can participate at men's tournaments, while men cannot take part at female ones," Kosintseva said. "Moreover, some male players play bad against women because (they) cannot concentrate on a game."
"In my experience, I've never had any problems in the chess world due to my gender," Krush said. "Once you get into the 'club,' it's a perfectly friendly environment for women. If you like the company of men, the chess world is a great place...If a woman wants to marry a fellow chess player, she won't have a problem, but it's not the same for a man!
"Actually, taking up chess sounds at least as good as signing up for Match.com."
Tune in to Chess.com/TV on Saturday, July 26 at 12 p.m. (noon) Eastern (GMT -5), 9 a.m. Pacific for live commentary of the three-hour match with IM Danny Rensch and GM Ben Finegold.