Krush's Last-Minute Run Edges Kosintseva in Death Match

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 7/27/14, 7:03 AM.

GM Irina Krush won the final five games of Death Match 26 Saturday to clip GM Nadezhda Kosintseva 14-13.

The four-game deficit overcome by Krush was the second largest in Death Match history, only eclipsed by the previous Death Match.

The second all-female Death Match went nowhere in the first hours. Both the 5+1 and 3+1 sections ended tied.

In the final bullet portion, Krush won the opening game but then lost four in a row. After a draw in game 21, Kosintseva won again to make the lead four games with a little more than 10 minutes remaining. That's when Krush "won out" by taking all of the final five games to win.

"I was so far behind, I thought the match was over," Krush said. "The last part of the match was a huge surprise for it happened I have no idea."

GM Irina Krush before playing and winning her third straight U.S. Women's Championship in May, 2014.

Her lack of experience in one-minute chess and the inherent unpredictability of the time control both proved decisive.

"I haven't made myself known as a blitz specialist," she said before the match. "I think bullet is really random, unless you play someone who has played a lot of bullet. It sounds like something guys would do. I don't know any women who play bullet."

Game five demonstrated many patterns that recurred during the match.

Though the game ended in an unfortunate mouse slip (partially due to Krush's minimal time), all of the match's recurring patterns were present: Kosintseva's reliance on the Nimzo-Indian, her better time management, her willingness to accept an isolated queen pawn, and Krush's preference for the bishop pair.

Astonishingly, Krush played with the bishop pair in about two-thirds of the 27 games.

"Before the match, I thought it was easier to play in blitz with the knight, not the bishop," Kosintseva said, reflecting the popular notion that knights can be very tricky with minimal time.

GM Nadezhda Kosintseva played the match at the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy.

"I do like to get the bishop pair," Krush said. "It's rare you'll see me on the other side of that piece balance."

After the opening segment ended tied 3.5-3.5, Krush faced a nagging lag issue with her computer's connection. The problem only added to her time deficits.

She explained before the match that she was playing from the Catskill Mountains, about 100 miles up the Hudson River from her home in Brooklyn, NY. She said she was there training for the Olympiad.

"When time dwindles, [Krush] gets nervous," commentator GM Robert Hess said. "That could come back to bite her."

The connectivity issues likely contributed to Krush flagging in the final game of the 3+1 blitz.

The final position is a theoretical draw. If White brings the king to g4 and bishop to e6, there is time to take the g-pawn and not let either rook pawn promote. While laboring to figure this out, Krush's time expired, thus tying the second segment 4-4.

A secret training weapon? Krush reads the Master's Bulletin at a tournament in Las Vegas in June, 2014.

The ladies entered the bullet portion of the match with everything on the line. After Krush went down four but then won game 23, commentator IM Danny Rensch said, "It's totally doable," about a comeback.

The closing streak began with a cute checkmate trap in the endgame.

After Krush won twice more, Rensch added, "Irina's showing some resilience. The pace of the match has changed. The last few games Irina has got in her wheelhouse."

She won again in game 26 to even the match. With time remaining for one more game, another Nimzo remained. Krush got a Carlsbad pawn structure where only she coud probe a weakness, and eventually a trick on the pinned c-pawn allowed her to crash through.

The match win for Krush came despite her lack of preparation. She did not play much blitz on before the match, whereas Kosintseva's account was full of games in the last few days. Instead, Krush focused on nourishment.

"I prepared -- I got a banana and a Luna Bar!" Krush said.

She likely needed it. Both women claimed that fatigue played a big part in the match.

"I'm tired and I could not concentrate," Kosintseva said afterward. "It was bad...I tried to play quite positionally but it was necessary for me to calculate a lot. That's why I had no energy at the end. I'd like to repeat the match, just not today!"

Kosintseva with husband GM Leonid Kritz and six-month-old daughter Sophia. Kritz, a past Death Match player, babysat during the match.

The exhaustion may have been exacerbated by the new addition to Kosintseva's family. Although her daughter slept as Kosintseva entered the chess club, husband GM Leonid Kritz reported that teeth are on the way.

"It's grueling," was Krush's sentiment. "I got really tired after one hour. The pressure was off at the end [when I was losing]. That's when I started to feel OK -- when the match was 'over.'"

"It was a very close match. That was good for the fans, for those that stuck around!"

The winner of a Death Match now gets $500, plus a $100 bonus for each of the three segments won. (The loser takes $200 plus the same bonus.)

Because the first two segements were tied, each player earned a $50 bonus for those. Thus, Krush's check is $700 and Kosintseva's $300.

15586 reads 32 comments
11 votes


  • 2 years ago


    l saw krush play at 12 years old. see attacks the f, c files  the same spirit.

  • 2 years ago


    yo, i seen irina krush play at the marshall, and manhattan chess clubs when see was 12 years old. believe me see played the f and c files with the same spirit

  • 2 years ago



    Thanks, I wasn't sure if it was an early list that the organizers were using (before Lahno was confirmed).   Gunina and Lahno are blitz specialists; Gunina is very aggressive while Lahno is more positional.

  • 2 years ago


    The actual board placement isn't made at the time they turn in the lists, if they follow the same procedures as in Turkey last time around. The order of the boards will likely change. People don't always follow the elo sort exactly, but most do.

  • 2 years ago


    "I think bullet is really random, unless you play someone who has played a lot of bullet. It sounds like something guys would do. I don't know any women who play bullet."

    Misandrist much?
  • 2 years ago


    Awesome match this was! Indeed, now let's get Tatiana Kosintseva to play Irina, that would be really great.

  • 2 years ago



    Krush deserves the best, get Lahno or Hou for your next DEATH MATCH.

    Don't you think it odd that the World Rapid Champion, highest rated Russian female player, and former 1st board for Ukraine is listed as a reserve?  (With a plus score against Hou Yifan.)

    My guess is Kateryna will play a full slate of games, even as a reserve.  (This way Russia can plug her in on any board they want?)

  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago

    FM MikeKlein

    @b2b2 - This list suggests Lagno is playing as the alternate, not as first board. Not sure if players are in official order, but for most teams, players seem to be in board order.

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    I would like to see the death match between another Kosintseva sister (Tatiana) and Irina Krush :)

  • 2 years ago

    FM MikeKlein

    @duck29 - I know both women and I can report that both are in excellent shape. Nearly every Death Match player has said it was exhausting. Perhaps these ladies are just being more honest that it affected their play.

  • 2 years ago


    thats the problem with women players they become "emotionally drained", and "fatigued" easily, my tip?   take a break from pregnancies and/or get in shape

  • 2 years ago


    Excellent match

  • 2 years ago


    Thank you for providing Death Matches and to all the chess-masters who participated. A milestone. 

  • 2 years ago


    I hope that Irina is enjoying the Catskills. I am.

  • 2 years ago

    FM MikeKlein

    @mcnasty - we have a new daily video on our homepage (every day except Sunday). This broadcast will be edited and will be become one of those videos in the near future.

    @b2b2 - I don't think they know wach other too well, but they met in childhood at various junior tournaments.

  • 2 years ago


    @MikeKlein, Too bad it'll just be for premium... Anyway, what do you mean, that it'll be a daily video?

  • 2 years ago


    Great match between "old friends".

    Seems I missed the "chitchat" between the ladies. article indicated that they knew each other since childhood (in Russia).  Would have liked to have listened in on their reminiscing.

  • 2 years ago


    awesome match

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