Almira holds number four player to a draw

3/21/2002 – It took great control on our part to refrain from using a "beauty vs the beast" headline here. In round ten of the German Bundesliga Almira Skripchenko, number 618 in the rankings, faced Britain's top GM Michael Adams, number four in the world. With an excited crowd watching Almira showed a great deal of pluck to hold her tenacious opponent to a 91-move draw. More

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A long, gruelling battle

In the current ratings lists you will find Michael Adams, 30, at place four, already pushing Vishy Anand on the number three spot. Adams plays for the top German team SV Lübeck, who have just won the championship. His rating: a cool (some would say obscene) 2742.

Almira Skripchenko-Lautier, who has just turned 26, hails from Moldavia but now lives in Paris with her husband Joel Lautier (2687, number 20 in the world). Almira, the reigning European women's champion, is to be found at the 618 spot in the world rankings, with a rating of 2498. She is also one of the most popular multimedia reporters of ChessBase Magazine.

Last weekend the two met over the chessboard. It was a somewhat unexpected encounter. Almira playes for Heiligenhaus, a club at the tail end of the German first division. She was put on board one to face the top player of the top team. A daunting task in which she invested a few hours or preparation.

"I had to play 1.e4, and from his games I could see that he is very strong in any line after that," she said, looking somewhat discouraged during her late-night preparation with the computer.

The game was the big highlight in the spectacular Lübeck venue, with most of the audience crowded around the top board at the end of the majestic Town Hall. And they weren't to be disappointed.

Instead of the massacre many had expected the game turned into a long, tough and gruelling battle. Almira got a comfortable position, and with a pawn less on the board she scorned a clear drawing chance, deciding instead to go for a win. But "Tricky Mickey" found the refutation and, at move 35, the position was objectively a draw. Almira had a rook for a knight and pawn, but no real chances of winning.

Adams would have none of it. The tenacious grandmaster pressed on for 56 more moves, testing the chess skills, nerves and stamina of his young opponent. To no avail: Almira did not allow any mishaps and and move 91 a draw was finally agreed. It was the only score in her team, which lost all other seven games to Lübeck and only got Almira's half point to take home with them.

You can replay this game on our Javascript board here.

The German newspapers the next day were full of Almira's brave draw against the world's number four player. We believe it was the first time that any woman (apart from the great Judit Polgar) has held a top ten player in recent times. The title reads "An unusual duel in an unusual place".


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