Kavalek in Huffington: Women in chess – a few tales (Part 2)

5/20/2012 – After WWII Russian ladies had the World Championship title, but in 1962 they were replaced by two Georgian players who dominated women's chess – for nearly thirty years. Then the Chinese took over, their dynasty only briefly interrupted by champions from Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia. In part two of his Huffington Post column GM Lubomir Kavalek retraces history with some exciting games.

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Women in Chess: A Few Tales – Part two

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

Lurking in the background, hiding their identity, they seem mysterious, magical, beautiful. At first, they observed the game from a distance, but as centuries went by, women were drawn closer to the chessboard. Still, for ages they could not play chess in public and it took some courage and determination to break into the male-dominated game. Let's have a look at some who paved the way. [Read part one here]

Dynasties of champions

After World War Two the world title went to Lyudmila Rudenko (1950-1953), Olga Rubcova (1956-1958) and Bykova (1953-1956 and 1958-1962). Since they were not interested in challenging the men, women's chess didn't make much progress.

It all changed with the appearance of two Georgian women who dominated the women's title for nearly 30 years: Nona Gaprindashvili (1962-1978) and Maya Chiburdanidze (1978-1991). They didn't mind competing against men. The more aggressively they played, the more successful they became. The pace of their games quickened, sacrifices multiplied and it was fun to watch them. Women's chess would never be the same.

In the year Garry Kasparov was born, the 22-year-old Gaprindashvili played a nice combination in the 1963 Championship of Georgia, destroying her opponent through the vital square f7.

[Event "GEO-ch"] [Site "Georgia"] [Date "1963.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Gaprindashvili, Nona"] [Black "Blagidze, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B23"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/ The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "29"] [EventDate "1963.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "URS"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 g6 4. Bb5 Nd4 5. Bc4 Bg7 6. Nge2 e6 7. Nxd4 cxd4 8. Ne2 Qh4+ 9. Ng3 $5 {Gaprindashvili shows no fear. The pawn sacrifice allows the white pieces to spring into play.} Qxf4 ({White may get some pressure along the f-file. It was better to decline the gift and play} 9... Nf6) 10. d3 Qc7 11. O-O Ne7 12. Bg5 Nc6 $6 (12... d6 {or}) (12... Qc5 {would prevent the fireworks.}) 13. Nh5 $1 {(A prelude to a rook sacrifice.)} gxh5 14. Rxf7 $3 { (An astonishing sacrifice, destroying black king's cover.)} Qe5 $2 ({A blunder. Interestingly, after the correct defense} 14... h6 $1 15. Bf4 Be5 16. Qxh5 Kd8 17. Qh4+ Ke8 18. Qh5 {white has nothing better but to repeat moves.}) ({After} 14... Kxf7 $2 15. Qxh5+ Kg8 16. Qe8+ Bf8 17. Rf1 {white wins}) 15. Rf5 $1 ({ Black loses the queen because of} 15. Rf5 exf5 16. Qxh5+ Kf8 17. Qf7#) 1-0

The Chinese dynasty began with Xie Jun (1991-1996 and 1999-2001). She learned tactics from the traditional Chinese chess – xiangqi – and brought her experience to the chessboard. Already at 15, she was the girl with Adolf Anderssen's combinational talent. In the game against her coach Qi the pieces collided with speed. It was brutal, imaginative, colorful. Another assault against the square f7.

[Event "Shanghai"] [Site "?"] [Date "1985.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Xie Jun"] [Black "Qi Jingxuan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B47"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "59"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. f4 a6 7. Be2 Nge7 8. Ndb5 $1 axb5 9. Nxb5 Qb6 10. Nd6+ Kd8 11. Nxf7+ Ke8 12. Nd6+ ({Xie does not bother with the trivial} 12. Nxh8 g6 13. f5 {with white's advantage. She has her own attacking ideas.)}) 12... Kd8 13. Nc4 $1 {(A move of courage!)} Qd4 14. Bd3 Ng6 ({The black queen almost disappear from the board after} 14... d5 15. Be3 Qf6 16. e5 Qf7 17. Nd6 Qg8 18. Bb6+ Kd7 19. O-O {and black is cramped.}) 15. Be3 Qf6 16. e5 Qf7 (16... Qh4+ 17. g3 Qh3 18. Qd2 Nb4 19. Be4 $16) 17. O-O Nh4 $6 (17... Nb4 18. Be4 $16) (17... Be7 18. c3 Kc7 19. Nd6 Qf8 20. Be4 {, followed by b2-b4.}) 18. g3 Nf5 19. Bb6+ Ke8 20. g4 Nh4 (20... d5 21. exd6 Nxd6 22. Ne5 Qf6 23. g5 Qe7 24. Bg6+ $18) 21. Qe1 Be7 (21... g5 22. Qg3 Qg7 23. f5 $16) 22. f5 h5 23. f6 hxg4 24. Qxh4 $3 {The queen sacrifice, utilizing the weak black squares, is the most elegant way to victory.} Rxh4 25. fxe7 Qf3 { Other moves lose, for example} (25... Qg8 26. Bc5 d6 27. Rf8+ Qxf8 28. exf8=Q+ Kxf8 29. Bxd6+ Ke8 30. Nb6 $18) (25... Qh5 26. Rf8+ Kxe7 27. Bc5+ d6 28. Bxd6+ Kd7 29. Nb6#) 26. Be4 $1 {(A series of amazing bishop moves leading to a win.)} Nxe5 (26... Qxe4 27. Nd6+ Kxe7 28. Rf7#) (26... Kxe7 27. Bxf3 gxf3 28. Bc5+ Kd8 29. Rxf3 Rxc4 30. Bd6 $1 {closing the mating net: Rf3-f8 mate will follow soon. }) 27. Bd8 $1 {The black king is surrounded by white's dangling pieces.} Nf7 28. Bg6 Ra6 29. Ne5 Qe3+ 30. Rf2 {Black is getting mated on the square f7.} 1-0

Xie was the role model for other Chinese girls. They looked up to her and went after the world title with gusto. They were Zhu Chen (2001-2004), Xu Yuhua (2008-2010) and the current women's champion, the 18-year-old Hou Yifan (2010-). The Chinese dynasty was briefly interrupted by world champions Zsuzsa Polgar (1996-1999), Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria (2004-2006) and Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia (2008-2010).

And that brings us to the Polgar sisters. When they were very young, they had to choose: mathematics or chess. They made the right choice. Competing mostly against men, they progressed rapidly and won many titles. Zsuzsa became the women's world champion.

Without a doubt, Judit is the all-time best woman chessplayer. During her career she defeated many strong male players and world champions such as Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov and Vishy Anand. In 2005, she was rated number eight in the world with her FIDE peak rating of 2735.

In January, Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan met in Gibraltar. Just another game, said some. A historical contest between the Queen and the Princess, thought others. Hou won. She is climbing all alone. Can she reach Judit's heights so far unattainable to other women?

Hou Yifan and Judit Polgar before their game in January in Gibraltar

[Event "Gibraltar Open"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2012.01.30"] [Round "7.7"] [White "Hou Yifan"] [Black "Polgar, Ju"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B46"] [WhiteElo "2605"] [BlackElo "2710"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2b4r/5p1p/p1p1pkn1/3p2pB/1r2P3/2N3P1/PPPR1P1P/2K1R3 b - - 0 20"] [PlyCount "54"] [EventDate "2012.01.24"] {The temptation to play actively led Polgar to a faulty decision:} 20... d4 $2 {A tactical challenge that plays into Hou's hand. Polgar should have waited, but it is not her style.} 21. e5+ $1 Nxe5 22. Ne4+ Ke7 23. Nxg5 h6 $2 ({An unfortunate move, dropping a pawn. But even after the better} 23... f6 24. Ne4 Rd8 25. b3 {white's pawn structure is healthy and her pieces are more actively placed. Black's pawn on d4 could be a target, the bishop on c8 is dormant.}) 24. Nxe6 $1 Bxe6 ({After} 24... Kxe6 25. f4 f6 26. b3 {threatening a2-a3, black is in trouble:} Rd8 (26... c5 27. fxe5 fxe5 28. Rde2 $18) 27. c3 Rb5 28. cxd4 Rbd5 29. Bg4+ Kf7 30. Bxc8 Rxc8 31. dxe5 fxe5 32. Rxe5 $18) 25. Rxe5 {Hou is a pawn up and other black pawns are still scattered.} Rd8 26. f4 Rb5 27. Rde2 Kf6 28. Bf3 c5 29. a4 Rb4 30. Rxc5 Rxa4 31. b3 Rb4 32. Be4 Bg4 33. Re1 Rd6 34. Bd3 Bd7 35. Ree5 Be6 36. Kd2 Rbb6 37. Ra5 Rbc6 38. Ra4 Rb6 39. Re4 Bf5 40. Rexd4 {The time control is over and Hou brings the two pawn advantage home.} Re6 41. Bc4 Rec6 42. Ra5 Bc8 43. Bd3 Be6 44. Rd8 Bc8 45. Rad5 Be6 46. Rh5 Kg7 47. f5 ({The finishing combination is pretty} 47. f5 Bc8 48. f6+ $3 Kxf6 49. Rxc8 Rxc8 50. Rxh6+ {and wins. Judit didn't want to see any of it.}) 1-0


Champions come and go and we wish them well. But before they say the final goodbye, we demand another masterpiece. At the 2004 Olympiad in Calvia, Spain, Zsuzsa Polgar and Maya Chiburdanidze obliged. Their tactical skills did not diminish with age and they gave us a memorable performance. And again, the square f7 played a major role in Zsuzsa's combination.

Maia Chiburdanidze and Susan Polgar during their game at the Chess Olympiad in 2004

[Event "36th Olympiad w"] [Site "Calvia ESP"] [Date "2004.10.20"] [Round "6"] [White "Polgar, Zsuzsa"] [Black "Chiburdanidze, Maya"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A17"] [WhiteElo "2567"] [BlackElo "2503"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2004.10.15"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3 6. Qxc3 c5 7. b4 b6 8. Bb2 d6 9. g4 $1 $146 {A vintage Polgar! Where others look to increase a small positional advantage, the Polgar sisters go after the king.} Bb7 10. g5 Nh5 11. Rg1 e5 12. Bh3 Nf4 13. Bf5 {Provoking the next mistake.} g6 $2 {Weakening the long diagonal allows a beautiful combination. The queen on c3 supported by the bishop on b2 can now "see" as far as the square h8.} (13... Nc6 {gives black a good game.}) 14. Nxe5 $1 Nxe2 ({A good idea, but the wrong move-order. Black should have played:} 14... Qe7 15. Be4 dxe5 (15... Bxe4 16. Nc6 Nd3+ 17. Kf1 $18) 16. Bxb7 {and only now} Nxe2 $1 17. Kxe2 Qxb7 18. Qxe5 f6 19. Qe6+ Rf7 20. gxf6 {and although white is clearly better, black can still fight.}) ({ After} 14... dxe5 $2 15. Qxe5 f6 16. Qxf4 {wins.}) 15. Nxf7 $3 {(Creating mating threats.)} (15. Kxe2 dxe5 16. Qxe5 Re8) 15... Nxc3 (15... Kxf7 16. Qg7+ Ke8 17. Bf6 $18) (15... Rxf7 16. Qh8#) 16. Nh6+ Kg7 17. Bxc3+ Rf6 18. Bxf6+ Qxf6 19. gxf6+ Kxh6 20. Be6 $6 ({This wins slowly. Interestingly, Polgar who was drilled in mating finales, missed to swing her rook from a1 to h3:} 20. Rb1 $1 gxf5 (20... Bf3 21. Rb3 Bh5 22. Be4 {wins.}) (20... Nc6 21. Rb3 {and the rook goes to mate on h3.}) (20... Nd7 21. Bxd7 $18) 21. Rb3 {and white mates.}) 20... Nc6 21. Bd5 {(The pin.)} Rf8 22. f7 Nd8 23. Bxb7 Nxb7 24. Rg3 Rxf7 25. Re3 {(The rook made it to the open file.)} Nd8 26. b5 {(Taking away the square c6.)} Rf4 27. d3 d5 28. Re7 $1 {(The rook on the 7th rank limits the knight.)} dxc4 29. dxc4 Nf7 (29... Rxc4 30. Rd1 Rd4 31. Rxd4 cxd4 32. Rxa7 { and the b6-pawn falls shortly.}) 30. Rd1 Ng5 31. Rxa7 Rxc4 32. Ra6 Rc2 33. Rxb6 c4 34. a4 Ra2 35. Ra6 Nf3+ 36. Kf1 Nd2+ 37. Rxd2 $1 {(Simplifying into clearly won rook endgame.)} Rxd2 38. Rc6 Rc2 39. b6 1-0

Acknowledgement: the top photo by Peter Mayer from Hospodarske noviny is from my recent trip to Slovak town of Nitra where we celebrated the 50th anniversary of my blindfold simultaneous exhibition against ten club players. The photo is from Roman Cerulik's headquarters of the K-CERO company where the celebration took place.

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site has around 13 million unique visitors per month (number for March 2010); according to Google Analytics the number is 22 million uniques per month.

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