Yu Claims U.S. Women’s Championship In Thrilling Armageddon Tiebreaker

Yu Claims U.S. Women's Championship In Thrilling Armageddon Tiebreaker


WGM Jennifer Yu was crowned the winner of the 2022 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship on Thursday after a thrilling tiebreaker that had to be decided by an armageddon game. After winning the opening game of the match against GM Irina Krush, Yu very nearly put the match away during the second game. However, the eight-time champion Krush was not going to go down without a fight and clapped back to equal the scores.

The final armageddon game featured imbalance, blunders, time shortage, and a stunning turnaround victory for Yu that was dramatic right up until the final move. An illegal move was the coup de grâce for Krush’s title dreams, and her time expired soon after, confirming Yu as the U.S. women’s champion for the second time.

The playoff for the women’s title was always going to be a slugfest and Thursday’s duel did not disappoint. Krush opted for the Czech Benoni in the opening game which immediately implied her intent to try and win with the black pieces.

The highly anticipated playoff about to get underway. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Having scored eight wins in the 13 rounds of the women’s championship, Yu was ready to fight tooth and nail for the first point. In an imbalanced middlegame, Krush decided to grab a pawn but it was poisoned and Yu took full advantage, checkmating the eight-time champion. GM Dejan Bojkov has analyzed our Game of the Day below.

The annotated Game of the Day will be added soon.

The second game looked to be favoring Krush as she steered the game onto a more positional battlefield where she could slowly press against Yu. Needing to win on demand, Krush decided to sacrifice a knight for two pawns but was swiftly punished with a counter exchange sacrifice. Yu’s advantage wouldn’t last long though and the dubious 35.Nc4?? left Krush in a dominant position that she converted with relative ease.

The rules for the armageddon tiebreak stipulated that white would begin the final game with five minutes and black would have four minutes and drawing odds. The game started as tame as any other but quickly descended into chaos. Needing to win with the white pieces, Krush’s poison of choice was the King’s Indian Attack and Yu seemed to have the position under control until she capitulated and played the erroneous 9.Bg4??. 

Yu had to kept her cool after realizing her harrowing bishop blunder. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

After hanging a bishop, pundits were ready to dub Krush the champion, but several twists awaited the combatants. On move 23 it was Krush’s turn to blunder and, after losing her queen for a knight and a rook, her lead had diminished from +9 to slightly better than equal. Yu’s queen danced around Krush’s remaining pieces as the player’s clocks dwindled and it still looked as though Krush would pull through. However, she eventually blundered into a drawn position with eight seconds left on the clock. Swaths of fans and chess legends were already praising the intense playoff on Twitter.

With no increment to save the game, a two-second clock advantage in favor of Yu appeared decisive, but Krush pushed on. An illegal move by the latter in the final seconds gave Yu an extra two minutes on the clock and was further confirmation of what was already known: Yu would be crowned the U.S. women’s champion for the second time.

Yu was all smiles after the match and would later front for an interview claiming, “I honestly did not think I would pull this off here at this tournament,” and that she “did not feel ready” before the event. Yu’s victory meant that she joined an elite group of 16 women players who have won two or more championships in its prestigious 85-year history.

Final Women’s Standings

Note: the tiebreak results between Yu and Krush have been added to the standings.

The 2022 U.S. Chess Championships takes place October 4-20, 2022 in St. Louis to determine the next chess champions of the United States. The 2022 U.S. Women’s Championship is being held concurrently. Both events have the same format: 14 players, 13-round tournament with a $250,500 prize fund for the U.S. Championship, and $154,000 for the U.S. Women’s Championship.

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