Zatonskih clinches 2nd consecutive U.S. Women's Championship title

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Zatonskih clinches 2nd US titleLast year she won her first title after a dramatic playoff with Irina Krush, but this time things went more smoothly for IM Anna Zatonskih, who yesterday clinched her second consecutive U.S. Women's Chess championship with a phenomenal score of 8.5/9. In a very combative tournament, WGM Camilla Baginskaite finished second, two points behind the winner. Info, games, photos and videos.

The U.S. Women's Chess championship took place October 4-13 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Missouri (USA). It was a 10-player round robin with IM Anna Zatonskih (2496), IM Irina Krush (2478), IM Rusudan Goletiani (2437), WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor (2390), WGM Camilla Baginskaite (2356), WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (2334), WIM Alisa Melekhina (2301), WIM Iryna Zenyuk (2281), WIM Battsetseg Tsagaan (2256) and NM Yun Fan (2201). The rate of play was 40 moves in 2 hours + 1 hour to finish the game, with 5 seconds increment from the start of the game.

[Update: on the official website Zatonskih, Krush and Goletiani have "IM & WGM" before their names. Since IM is a higher title, it doesn't make much sense, like women's titles don't make much sense in general. There's an article in the Wall Street Journal about this.]

Daily video reports by Jennifer Shahade & Macauley Peterson

Anna Zatonskih already secured the record $15,000 (€ 10,080) first prize with one round remaining when she acquired a near-perfect 7.5 out of 8 points. At that point no other woman had more than 5.5 points. In the last round, played yesterday, Zatonskih (Long Island, New York) finished off the tournament in style with a positional crush of Yun Fan, of Greencastle, Ind.

Zatonskih ended with eight wins and one draw in nine games, and her 8.5 points (performance rating: 2817!) were tied for the best result in the championship in more than 20 years. She said the championship was the best performance of her career. "I think it was the strongest U.S. Championship I ever played."

She scoffed at the idea of taking a short draw in yesterday's last round. "I had nothing to lose," she said. "I had such a good position out of the opening." She added that the superior quality of the tournament organization and conditions "made me feel like I was doing something important."


Anna Zatonskih concentrating before one of her victories with Black

The battle for second place, which began with three women mathematically eligible, crystallized when 42-year-old Camilla Baginskaite, the tournament's oldest participant, rebounded from a rough eight loss. Baginskaite, of Sioux Falls, S.D., finished with six wins and one draw after beating Sabina Foisor, of Baltimore, Md., in the longest game of the day to pull one point ahead of both Alisa Melekhina and Irina Krush.

Melekhina, of Philadelphia, Pa., found a late checkmate tactic to beat Battsetseg Tsagaan, of Ellicott City, Md., and briefly pulled into a tie with Baginskaite, whose game was still in progress. Krush, of Brooklyn, N.Y., failed to keep pace. She began the round on equal second with Baginskaite but could not stay tied, as she lost to Tatev Abrahamyan, of Glendale, Calif. Krush's loss ended her streak of three consecutive wins.

Camilla Baginskaite

With the win, Baginskaite won $12,000 and avoided a complicated tiebreaker system that would have left second place highly in doubt. This was especially important because the top two finishers in the tournament qualified for the next Women's World Chess Championship, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey. Krush may still qualify based on her high rating. Baginskaite said she noticed that Krush lost and all she needed to do was draw her position to clinch second place. But judging that her game was better, she risked thousands of dollars in prize money and her world championship qualification to play for the win. "I couldn't see any way for (Foisor) to hold. Why should I play for a draw?" she said. "It's about self-respect. You have to win this position." After more than 30 years of playing chess, Baginskaite also earned her first international master norm, a title she will acquire with two more norms. Melekhina, the youngest player in the event, finished in a tie for third place with Krush at 5.5 points. They will both take home $7,500. All five games were decisive in the last round. The last draw was in round five, more than 20 games ago. In many men's events, more than half of the games end in draws. At this championship, fewer than a quarter ended peacefully.

U.S. Women Championship 2009 | Final Standings
US Women Ch 2009

All games for replay, annotated by Chris Bird & Ben Finegold

Game viewer by ChessTempo


Shared 9th-10th, with 2.5/9: Battsetseg Tsagaan

Yu Fan

Shared 9th-10th, with 2.5/9: Yun Fan


8th, with 3.0/9: Iryna Zenyuk


6th-7th, with 3.5/9: Sabina Foisor


6th-7th, with 3.5/9: Rusudan Goletiani


5th, with 4/9: Tatev Abrahamyan


Shared 3rd-4th, with 5.5/9: Alisa Melekhina


Shared 3rd-4th, with 5.5/9: Irina Krush


Second, with 6.5/9: Camilla Baginskaite


And the winner, with 8.5/9: Anna Zatonskih

Report thanks to the wonderful Official website | Photos by Betsy Dynako


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