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Kateryna and Robert – pour la vie à jamais unis...

2/26/2009 – Would you believe it? After keeping it secret from all but the family circle, today they sent us the happy announcement: Kateryna Lahno, former child prodigy, European Women's Champion, Ukrainian chess grandmaster, has married Robert Fontaine, French grandmaster and well-known TV reporter for the French chess magazine Europe Echecs. We have pictures and memories.
 

Kateryna and Robert – pour la vie à jamais unis...


"United for life..." The two tied the knot on February 25 2009 in la Mairie de Besançon


The happy couple after the completion of the ceremony


Mylène Fontaine, Robert Fontaine, Kateryna Lahno, Gérard Demuydt and Bachar Kouatly


The bride and groom outside the civil office


The strongest chess couple in the world?! Anyone up for the challenge?

The main competition comes from GM Laurent Fressinet and IM Almira Skripchenko (that's a tough one); GM Alexander Grischuk and WGM Natalia Zhukova (equally tough); GM Pia Cramling and GM Juan Manuel Bellon; GM Bartosz Socko and GM Monika Socko; GM Mohamad Al-Modiahki and GM Zhu Chen.

Marriage pictures reproduced with permission of Katya, Robert and Europe Echecs

Addendum

René Olthof of 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, reminded us that GM Daniel Fridman and IM Anna Zatonskih are also a married couple; while Rubens Kurita of São José dos Campos-SP, Brazil noted that we had fogotten another strong couple: GM Zhang Zhong and GMF Li Ruofan from Singapore. We added one more ourselves: GM Suat and IM Ekaterina Atalik from Turkey. Rubens put together a table of the strongest couples:

Husband Elo Wife Elo Average
Grischuk 2716 Zhukova 2450 2583
Socko B. 2644 Socko M. 2505 2574.5
Fressinet 2656 Skripchenko 2443 2549.5
Al-Modhiaki 2554 Zhu Chen 2521 2537.5
Fontaine 2563 Lahno 2479 2521
Atalik S. 2607 Atalik E. 2434 2520.5
Zhang Zhong 2613 Li Ruofan 2423 2518
Bellon 2422 Cramling 2539 2480.5

So, the winner is Grischuk + Zhukova! There are a few more contenders, but they don't have marriage licences yet. We do, however, see a very interesting chess tournament coming...


Kateryna Lahno – the making of a chess grandmaster

 

This was Kateryna in 2003. On the April FIDE rating list she was 2417. This Ukrainian chess prodigy had fulfilled her women's GM norm a year earlier, when she was exactly 12 years, 4 months, 2 days, breaking the previous record held by Judit Polgar.

On the left you can see Kateryna's Elo progress from the ages of ten to thirteen.

Even at an early age Kateryna loved the chess struggle and fought ferociously to achieve success. Once she was playing in a blitz tournament that included Viktor Korchnoi. Viktor the Terrible began the event with five straight victories. Then he faced Kateryna.

He got nothing out of the opening and offered her a draw. Can you imagine his surprise when the little girl refused and played on instead. She did this by picking up a queen to indicate that she intended to promote and win. Korchnoi survived and the game ended in a draw. All this happened in Kramatorsk on January 24, 2001 when Kateryna was only 11 years old!


Future stars: Yuriy Kuzubov, Sergey Karjakin, Kateryna Lahno, Anna and Mariya Muzychuk in 2001


Ukrainian prodigies: Sergey Karjakin and Kateryna Lahno at the age of 13. Sergey is sixteen days younger.

In July 2003 there was a GM tournament (average rating 2483) in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. The winner was 13-year-old WGM Kateryna Lahno, who ended a full point ahead of the field. Kateryna also achieved her first GM norm with the 9.5/14 score (performance: 2622).

In July 2003 Kateryna spent some weeks in Hamburg, at the home of Frederic Friedel. She came all by herself, at the age of thirteen, equipped with a very rudimentary knowledge of the language. But she picked it up quickly enough, and had a great time playing chess, solving puzzles and savoring the pleasures of Western junk food.


Learning English with Ingrid Friedel in Hamburg


Pretending to be bored during a blitz game against GM Jan Gustafsson in the ChessBase office in 2003


Enjoying the real amenities of Western life


Hanging out with Aruna Anand in Wijk aan Zee in 2004

Kateryna, Garry Kasparov and Viktor Korchnoi during a chess spectacle in Linz, Austria, in 2006. The three spent a lot of time together. At the dinner above (you are not going to believe this) Garry has just given the two our famous Christmas puzzle. Naturally they could not solve it and the legendary World Champion, who twenty years earlier had had his own problems with the puzzle, enjoyed the sight of the two struggling GMs immensely.


Kateryna in India, where she won a match against Parimarjan Negi in December 2006

Congratulations to the young couple! We will pass on any messages to them, sent using the feedback button on the left and entitled "Kateryna and Robert".

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