Paehtz wins Pia Cramling's Ladies Open

by Macauley Peterson
9/2/2018 – One of the most respected grandmasters in Europe, 55-year-old Pia Cramling, hosted two parallel events during the first weekend of September at the Scandic Foresta Hotel in Lidingö, Sweden. A four-player double round robin and a 7-round Swiss Open are taking place concurrently. After two days of play, Elizabeth Paehtz emerged the clear victor in the Invitational, while Inna Agrest had a near perfect run in the Open. | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

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A chess weekend for ladies only

Pia Cramling's chess club, Wasa SK, organised two chess events exclusively for women in the island of Lidingö on September 1st and 2nd. Four well-known players from four different countries — including Pia — were recruited for the Invitational, while the Ladies Open attracted very strong players from the Scandinavian area with its 22.500 SEK in prizes.

After six rounds of rapid chess, German IM Elisabeth Paehtz ended clear first with 4½/6 despite losing the last round to Cramling.

Elisabeth Paehtz

Top seed and clear winner | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

Paehtz took the lead early

The highest-rated player in the Invitational was Paehtz, who won two and drew one to finish in clear first place after Saturday's action. She defeated both Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (from Scotland) and Almira Skripchenko (from France) with the black pieces from the Sicilian Defence. Her success in both games came thanks to sound positional play against some overly-optimistic attacks.

Cramling is half a point behind thanks to a win over Arakhamia-Grant in the second round. Facing the King's Indian Defence, Pia castled queenside and managed to force Black's king to the centre of the board. Black is totally busted despite having the pair of bishops in the final position:


On Sunday, Paehtz once again won consecutive games against Arakhamia-Grant and Skripchenko. The second win clinched first place in the tournament after Skripchenko did not spot an only-move defence under pressure.


Black has to play 25...Ba6, forcing a repetition after 26.Qc6 Bb7, based on the fact that 26.Qxa7 simply allows Qxd6 with a piece up.

Instead, Skripchenko played her rook to a6, 25...Ra6, which ran into 26.Rgd1 with a crushing attack. Paehtz quickly cashed in for a pawn-up and easily winning endgame.

Almira Skripchenko

Almira Skripchenko drew her remaining games to finish third | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

In the last round, Paehtz faced the tournament's namesake with black. Cramling tried a principled pawn sacrifice in the early middle game which had not been seen previously.


Objectively, Black is more than fine after 13...Ne4, but after Paehtz's 13...Qc8, Cramling managed to get compensation for the pawn in the form of an attacking initiative on the kingside which eventually bore fruit.

After the game, both players joined the live commentary for a spirited discussion of the game and the event as a whole:

Paehtz said she was honoured to be invited.

"I was very happy about it because also I never saw Stockholm...It was a very nice tournament, super well organised, and also it's really nice to see especially how women are honoured here in Sweden because I have always the impression that in a lot of countries women's chess is a little bit discriminated [against] and actually to see this example here gives me some hope that maybe other federations will join this way and give more support to women's chess in general."

Cramling, who finished a half point behind, was also pleased with the weekend's festivities.

"It has been fantastic and I'm very very happy that it was Sweden the women have been forgotten for a long time, so we really have quite a big problem because there are [fewer] women that are playing — we have lots of girls who play that are around ten years old, because they are playing in the school, but the school chess they play for one year and then they stop — but we have very few women who compete and it's a little bit like we have been forgotten [by] the federation. So this was a really lovely way for what I hope will be a new start."

Final standings


All games and commentary

Day 1 commentary

Day 2 commentary

IM Anna Rudolf hosted commentary joined by various guests during the weekend — among them, GM Juan Bellon and GM Ferdinand Hellers

The Ladies Open

The players that registered to the open section had a tougher schedule on Saturday, as they had to play four rounds during the first day. That did not stop Swedish IM Inna Agrest from winning all her games and taking the sole lead. English IM Harriet Hunt and Swedish WIM Viktoria Johansson were a half a point behind heading into Sunday.

IM Inna Agrest finished the first day of play with a perfect score | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

Agrest scored a crucial win on Sunday morning with black against Hunt, the top seed. 


Hunt's attempt to simplify with 29.c4 Bxc4 30.Nxd6 backfired after 30...Bc7 winning the exchange. There was another option that could have relieved the pressure by 29.d5! Bd7 and only now 30.c4 keeping equality. Note that 29...Bxd5 makes 30.Nxd6 playable due to the intermezzo after 30...Bc7 31.Rd4!

After this win, Agrest could coast to tournament victory with two easy draws to end on 6/7. Hunt, who seldom plays these days, despite being the top-rated English woman, went on to lose her next game as well to end on a disappointing 4½ points.

Harriet Hunt

IM Harriet Hunt, still English number one at 40 years of age | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

Final standings


All games - Ladies Open


Antonio Pereira contributed reporting.


Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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DennisBrian DennisBrian 9/21/2018 12:49
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RouslanT RouslanT 9/6/2018 06:12
Fons3, there is no "different" chess game. There are equal ratings, superior ratings, inferior ratings. You have similar players, inferior players, superior players.

Chess has this charm, as opposed to Federer vs Djokovic vs Nadal. Just have a look at the rating, the one to top the fide list is usually also world champion.

Then, my initial comment was NOT about choosing between equal or inferior. You just didn't got my point. My initial comment was about proving that women chess has absolutely no reason to exist. It's an insult to women but professionnal chess women still like to receive money for being (relatively) mediocre chess players.
fons3 fons3 9/5/2018 11:05
@ RouslanT: You're sort of moving the goalpost.

Your initial comment was about choosing between "equal" or "inferior" and left the choice open for discussion.
My response was: how about either "equal" or "different".

Then after you're saying that "equal" is the only valid choice and use that to argue that your previous use of the term "inferior" was valid. But I don't see how that conclusion follows from the argument.

If your point is: women are equal to men therefore women only tournaments should not exist, you could have said that from the start, no need to bother with using insulting terms as "inferior".
RouslanT RouslanT 9/5/2018 06:52
Peter B, black people are vastly underrepresented, so black-people only tournaments would exist to encourage more black people to play. See the racism? Then you see the sexism in women only tournaments.

I have actually already answered to what you said. Everything you said is either already answered, or something I also said.
Philip Feeley Philip Feeley 9/4/2018 05:06
Did her daughter play in the open? If not, why not?
Peter B Peter B 9/4/2018 04:47
@Rouslan or option 3: men and women have equal innate ability, but women are vastly underrepresented, so womens-only tournaments exist to encourage more women to play. Just like some professions take steps to encourage more women to take that profession.
Recent history has shown that, to be top class at chess, you must study and play it when you are very young, while your mind is developing; and it is overwhelmingly boys who do this. The example of the Polgar sisters showed what can happen if girls apply themselves to chess when they are very young. If women were inferior then there is no way Judit could have reached the top 10 in the world.
RouslanT RouslanT 9/4/2018 02:48
Fons3, there's no "flexible" chess or "strong" chess, there's only elo rating on a chessboard.

Actually, I think that since Judit Polgar reached rank 8 in the world, we have had a solid proof that a women can compete in top level chess tournaments and that woman chess is pure bullshit and should never have been separated from ... chess.

Thus, the word inferior is clearly the good one. Either women can reach a top 10 rating and perform at a world chess tournament, which Judit Polgar did, and they have similar abilities, or they're inferior and we need to keep women chess.

Thus, a female only tournament is exactly as shocking as a black only tournament.

How about saying that Maurice Ashley is the strongest black chess player in the world, and admitting that black people are less clever, thus his 400 rating points difference with the strongest white player justifies creating a specific category in tournaments?

Clearly bullshit? Then female chess is clearly a fraud as well.
fons3 fons3 9/3/2018 08:19
@ RouslanT: I would not have used the term "inferior".

For example. Men's and women's gymnastics are vastly different.
The _main_ reason is that men have more pure strength and women have more flexibility.

There are exercises in gymnastics that women can do that men cannot do and vice versa. (Or at least not to the same standards for the nitpickers out there.)

Does that mean that one is better than the other? No. They're just different.

There is also a difference in numbers:

"The number of female gymnasts who compete in high school gymnastics totally smacks down the number of males. There were 90% more high school gymnasts that were female than male in 2013, which might explain why there are so many more women's teams than men's teams in the NCAA"

Of course in sports the reasons for these differences are obvious. For cognitive related activities the reasons are a lot less obvious or not clear at all, which gives rise to all the discussion.
macauley macauley 9/3/2018 04:14
@Vencels - Got the standings updated. We were missing the last round game between Andersson and Reizniece-Ozola, and also the first round game of Puuska. The scores are now correct for the top 10.
Vencels Vencels 9/3/2018 12:33 The actually final standings of the Ladies Open in which WGM Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Latvia's current Minister of Finance, scored 5.5 points - not 4.5.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 9/3/2018 10:40
Paehtz felt that in Sweden she is finally not discriminated against based on her gender by the federation, yet, Cramling organized the tournament to end the forgotten state of women in Sweden. Quite the contrast.
RouslanT RouslanT 9/2/2018 11:27
Out of the two following sentences, one has to be true.

Either men and women are biologically equal when playing chess, thus "women only competitions" is a sexist thing that should not exist, nor should women prizes exist in open tournaments.

Or women's brain is biologically inferior, and then it's all fully legit.

Some people will object that the purpose is to "promote women chess". Bright !!

Then let's also try to promote chess amongst black people. There aren't many black people playing chess, so how about a black prize for the first black man in any open tournament? How about a black world chess champion?

... only two options. Either women are inferior, or all this women chess thing should never have existed.
garyklien garyklien 9/2/2018 10:55
Very surprised they have female tournaments even in a mental game. If the women develope better or worse naturally, tough nuggies for either side!
macauley macauley 9/2/2018 05:58
@Bruce Harper - Thanks. Fixed.
Harry Pillsbury Harry Pillsbury 9/2/2018 04:01
Love Pia's car!
Bruce Harper Bruce Harper 9/2/2018 03:26
"That did not stop Swedish IM Inna Agrest from winning all his games..." "his" games. Ironic...