BBC Radio interviews Hou and Sharansky

by Albert Silver
1/5/2014 – In the last episodes of the BBC Radio program “Across the Board”, Dominic Lawson interviews the only professional player in the series, Hou Yifan, as well as Natan Sharansky, a prominent Israeli politician, human rights activist and author. Nathan Sharansky was sent by the Soviets to a Siberian Gulag where he survived by playing endless games of chess in his mind. Life imitates fiction.

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Episode four - Hou Yifan

Dominic Lawson conducts a series of interviews over a game of chess. In this episode he interviews the women's world champion, Hou Yifan. Still only 19, she's one of only a handful of women to have become an elite grandmaster. And she comes from a country with no strong link to chess, China.

Hou Yifan is a Chinese chess prodigy. She is the Women's World Chess Champion, the youngest ever to win the title, as well as the youngest female player ever to qualify for the title of Grandmaster.

The full fifteen-minute broadcast can be viewed at the official site

In the interview, Dominic Lawson asks the tough questions of grandmaster Hou Yifan, possibly out of revenge for his crushing loss, but more likely out of good journalism. Apart from classic questions regarding her upbringing and how she first became involved in Western chess, he asks her about what money in female chess is like and her theory on the overall disparate level between male chess and female.

[Event "BBC Across the Board"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Hou, Yifan"] [Black "Lawson, Dominic"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D78"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] {Dominic Lawson conducts a series of interviews over a game of chess. In this episode he interviews the women's world champion, Hou Yifan. Still only 19, she's one of only a handful of women to have become an elite grandmaster. And she comes from a country with no strong link to chess, China.} 1. g3 d5 2. Bg2 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. d4 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. b3 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 8. Nbd2 Nbd7 9. Bb2 Re8 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Nxf3 e6 12. Qc2 Rc8 13. Rfd1 Qc7 14. Rac1 Ne4 15. Ne1 Ndf6 16. Nd3 Bf8 17. g4 Qb8 18. f3 Nd6 19. c5 Nb5 20. a4 Nc7 21. e4 Bh6 22. Rb1 Bg7 23. e5 Nd7 24. Bc1 Na6 25. b4 b5 26. axb5 Qxb5 27. Bf1 Nc7 28. Ra1 a6 29. Bd2 Qb7 30. Ra5 Ra8 31. Rda1 Reb8 32. Qa2 Re8 33. Nc1 Nb8 34. Ra3 Nb5 35. Bxb5 Qxb5 36. Ra5 Qb7 37. Ne2 Bf8 38. Kg2 Be7 39. Ra3 Bd8 40. Qc2 Qc8 41. Qd3 Kg7 42. Nc3 Re7 43. b5 Bc7 44. Bg5 Rd7 45. Bf6+ {Black resigned.} 1-0

One reader and listener commented the chess commentary by GM Daniel King was unnecessary and irrelevant for an audience who could not follow the game. This is not actually true, though it might seem that way to some.  For a non-chess playing audience, listening out of curiosity, the general comments are enough to not only show that Lawson was outclassed by the Women World Champion, initially described as a match between a poor amateur football club and a top club such as Manchester United, but also the general reason that led to his demise. A feeling of how the game went and why is conveyed without immersing the listeners into technical details. In fact, actual move-by-move analysis would have been the blunder.

Episode five - Nathan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky is a prominent Israeli politician, human rights activist and author, who spent years in a Soviet prison for allegedly spying for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Sharansky was denied an exit visa to Israel in 1973. The reason given for denial of the visa was that he had been given access, at some point in his career, to information vital to Soviet national security and could not now be allowed to leave. After that Sharansky became a human rights activist and spokesperson for the Moscow Helsinki Group. Sharansky was one of the founders of the Refusenik movement in Moscow.

In 1977 Sharansky was arrested on charges of spying for the DIA and treason and sentenced to 13 years of forced labor in Perm 35, a Siberian labor camp (Gulag). He kept himself sane during solitary confinement by mentally playing chess. (Source: Wikipedia)

The full fifteen-minute broadcast can be viewed at the official site

Nathan Sharansky explains how he had first wanted to not only be a professional chess player, but the World Champion. The reason for the choice, aside from plain love for the game, had to do with something else.

[Event "BBC Across the Board"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Sharansky, Natan"] [Black "Lawson, Dominic"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D01"] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5 Nbd7 4. Nf3 c5 5. e3 e6 6. Be2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. dxc5 Nxc5 9. Bf4 a6 10. Ne5 Nfd7 11. Nd3 Bf6 12. Bd6 Be7 13. Bxe7 Qxe7 14. Nf4 b5 15. a3 Nb6 16. Bf3 Bb7 17. Qd4 Rfd8 18. Qb4 Nc4 19. Rfd1 a5 20. Qxb5 Ba6 21. Qc6 Rac8 22. Nfxd5 exd5 23. Nxd5 Qf8 24. Nc7 Bb7 25. Rxd8 Rxd8 26. Qb5 Bxf3 27. Qxc4 Bb7 28. h3 Qd6 29. Nb5 Qc6 30. f3 Ne6 31. Qxc6 Bxc6 32. Nc3 Rd2 33. Rc1 f5 34. Rd1 Rxd1+ 35. Nxd1 Nc5 36. b4 axb4 37. axb4 Na6 38. c3 Ba4 39. Nb2 Bb3 40. Kf2 Kf7 41. Ke2 Ke6 42. Kd3 Ke5 43. f4+ Kd6 44. Kd4 Bc2 45. b5 Nc7 46. Nc4+ Kd7 47. Ne5+ Kd6 48. Nf7+ Ke7 49. b6 Ne6+ 50. Kc4 Be4 51. Ne5 Bxg2 52. Kb5 Nd8 53. c4 Nb7 54. c5 Nxc5 55. Kxc5 Kd8 56. h4 Kc8 57. Nf7 g6 58. Nd6+ Kb8 59. Kd4 Bc6 60. Ke5 Bd7 61. Kf6 1-0


Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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