We're gonna try!

In the closing moments of Round 8, after a long and complicated fight, Irina Krush scored a hugely significant win against former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk to give the United States team a resounding victory over Russia in the Women’s section leaders’ clash. After catching her breath (and going through a customary anti-doping check), Irina joined Susan Polgar in the Press Center.

-          Congratulations! How do you feel?

Well, I am very happy! I don’t know, probably close to ecstatic!

-          How did the game go?

It was a really tough, complicated game, that I think didn’t go so well for me from some point… It was a pretty ambitious strategy from both of us in the opening: she was pushing her pawns, I was pushing mine… I made a move, 12…a5, that essentially turns out to be a pawn sacrifice. I didn’t really envision it to be a pawn sacrifice, but that’s how it turned out; the continuation she found essentially forced me to sacrifice a pawn, and I thought that was not so good for me. Overall I was going for the elimination of my bad pieces and carving some outposts for my knights; that’s what I got, and I think I had decent compensation. I think I made a very big imprecision when I put my rook on c7 instead of a8; that lost me a few tempos and it was big. But, kind of incredibly, even despite that there was compensation in the position, and it was not that easy ever, I think, for White to win, although I’m pretty sure there was something there. And then it got crazy in time trouble. She really started to put the pressure on with this move, 29.f5, and starting those complications, and it was really hard to defend…

-          I saw at one point you tried to claim a draw by threefold repetition (ed: on move 40), but it was declined. Why did you do that? Did you want to make sure if it is or it isn’t?

It was a little bit confusing… It turned out it was only a twofold repetition, and only if on the 41st move she would return her knight to c6, only then would we be repeating three times. But it was on the 40th move and I knew it was important for the team that I don’t lose; I thought it would be a good result to finally just draw this game, get it over with… So I thought to check, since checking doesn’t really cost you anything; but if it turned out it was a threefold repetition and you didn’t claim it, and then she changes her mind and plays on, that could cost you something. It turns out that, for her to reject the repetition, she found… I didn’t even see how it was possible, but she found a way (ed: there might have been an even better one, starting with 41.Rf8+!). All credit to her, because she found a very interesting continuation, 41.Bc6 and 42.c4, I didn’t see that at all. And then I really had to try and come up with something in return, and I think my move 42…Qd2 was not a bad idea. I’m not sure why she sacrificed the exchange, maybe she just didn’t find… I don’t know, there is this move 43.Rf8+ that I was thinking she’s going to play… When she gets the two pawns for the exchange it’s a complicated position, but I would say that at that point it’s certainly not Black who is risking. And if things work out and you pick up a few pawns, Black can play for a win.

-          And then you had a cute trick at the very end, using the pin, based on …Nf4+.

I had been looking at that trick on, I think, the previous move (it was on move 65). I think her bishop was on f5 then, I have this move …h5+, she has to take, I pin the bishop, she plays Kg5, I play …Ne6 and she plays Ne3; but when I attack this knight with …Re5, she plays Kf4, and it seems like she holds on and I just lost my pawn. So I definitely was aware of that trick over the board, but I actually think that, with my knight coming to g5, even if she doesn’t miss this tactic, it just looks like it’s losing. I kind of think it’s losing even without the knights on the board; I don’t know, but I think so, because my pawn is far back… I’m not an expert, but yeah! (laughs)

-          Well, I know you had a long day, but I have to ask you: how many Olympiads have you played so far? I know you have been playing them since you were 14 years old, so this is number…?

This is number nine! I played my first Olympiad in Elista 1998, when Chess City in Elista was just being built!

-          Wow, that’s quite a few! And you have a few more to go, I’m sure…

I think so, I think I’ve got a few more Olympiads left in me; I’d definitely like to go to Georgia, to Batumi, in two years.

-          I know you have a lot of pleasant memories from Baku; it’s where you made your final Grandmaster norm. How do you find Baku, coming back this year, and how do you like the organization of the Olympiad?

I’ve got to say, Baku is a beautiful city. I’m really happy with the tournament hall, the location of the hotel – it’s very close to the center… I always walk back from the games, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything else, like take the bus, because I really like that walk back after the game, by the water; I find it pretty relaxing after the end of the day… So, I like Baku a lot; the old town is a beautiful place to walk around in.

-          Enjoy the moment, enjoy the evening, you deserve it! Good luck for the remaining rounds, and hopefully a gold medal for the United States!

We’re gonna try!