Ashritha Eswaran Victorious in Tulsa

The USA girls under 20 championship took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the end of June. It was an all-play-all round robin closed event where ten of the best American girls competed. This year it was a qualifier for the USA women championship and thus the main reason for the very strong field.
The average USCF rating of the girls was above 2200 (2214 to be more precise) which made it the strongest ever championship. Three of the girls (Annie Wang, Jennifer Yu and Apurva Virkud) competed at the USA women championship this year, while Ashritha Eswaran made a debut at this prestigious event last year. What is greatly encouraging for the USA chess is that most of the participants are very young and have a lot of time and room for improvement.

The youngest participant Carissa Yip is only eleven years old and is already teaching chess (chess is a regular contributor to www.chesskid.com). These young girls are exceptional. All of them are A+ students and beside chess have a lot of side interests. Music, arts and reading are naturally above those, but other sports take serious part too. For instance Sarah Chiang holds a 3rd degree Black Belt in the Martial Arts of taekwondo!
I knew very little about Tulsa and am pretty much at the same level. One thing is sure- it is very hot and humid. We arrived in the evening before the first round, got at the hotel and then everything went in a flash. Nine rounds were played in five days and the pressure was enormous. I admire the girls for their stamina. And their fighting spirit, of course.
At the opening ceremony the USCF president Ruth Haring mentioned the contract according to which the players cannot draw before move thirty. They did not need it. From the total of 45 games that were played and only nine ended peacefully. None of them was short. The games were transmitted live on monroi.com

My student Ashritha Eswaran was the lowest rated player of the event (together with Agata Bykovtsev.) The intense school year did not contribute to her chess development and she dropped some rating points. She also lost her initial game, but this did not discourage her. We knew that at this championship anyone can beat everyone and that we have time to catch up with the leaders. At the beginning the tournament the lead was grabbed by Annie Wang and Agata Bykovtsev. However, Annie lost to Ashritha in round four and then allowed two more losses, while Agata slowly lost the point advantage in the middle of the event.

Our tournament was following an interesting schedule- loss, two wins, then again loss and two wins. Round seven was an improvement- a draw instead of the loss and then I was secretly hoping for the "regular" pair of wins. They really came- in round eight against the current world champion (under 12) Jennifer Yu and in the decisive last against game against Maggie Feng.
Before it Ashritha was leading with 5.5, while Maggie had 5 and the white pieces. The game was a mind-blower itself. Feng got completely won position, earned material but got into severe time trouble. The time control was 90 minutes for the whole game with thirty seconds increment and around move thirty Maggie was practically playing on increment only. Ashritha managed to swindle her in time trouble and win the game, thus claiming the title.
The closing ceremony was a bit unusual for an European. The girls received cash prices and the organizer Frank Berry asked them to carefully check the amount. There were no medals, nor trophies for the winners. Some additional cash prices went for best game, best combination and endgame.

Although Frank is a very experienced organizer this tournament cannot be called success. A lot of things can be improved and the girls hope that the next year's championship will take place in Saint Louis (as the boys' one) in an attempt to raise the interest towards the female chess in USA.

No comments: