Once upon a time on wooden boards (1)

by Elisabeth Pähtz
6/16/2020 – While the abrupt and dramatic changes in the world’s lifestyle caused by the omnipresent "you know what" naturally make people rethink important existential questions, like "What is the meaning of life" or "How did this virus shrink my jeans so fast – they fitted loosely just a week ago?!", today I have a chess-specific question, less complex and painful than those other two: why can’t women, in general, play chess as well as men?

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Creative: Anna Muzychuk

Let’s start with a piece of wisdom from a famous chess celebrity and thinker, Nigel Short, whom we believe to be an expert in such kinds of questions. His answer sounds pretty convincing: we’re just hardwired differently. We should certainly retain an opportunity of accusing a person of sexism for a natural and obvious statement, in case we see some benefits. But for the scope of this article I’d rather satisfy the curiosity of those readers who wonder how differently hardwired creatures handle the new reality.

Female players are traditionally - what an irony - regarded as the ugly ducklings of chess, and men enjoy the benefits of their "superior" ability to concentrate on one thing. But the new Covid-flavoured lifestyle has led to some corrections of this perception. While we can see how the wires in men’s brains keep sending the same signal, pushing them towards online tournaments, and some professionals might feel uncertain and lost, women… well, pictures are better than words, aren’t they?

I have known Anna Muzychuk for a lifetime as a very ambitious top level sportsman highly focused on chess, and I was quite impressed by her suddenly revealing great talent in painting. However, remembering her games, like the masterpiece against Ori Kobo in Gibraltar, which brought her a beauty prize, does not make her creativity on canvas too surprising for me.

Anna Muzychuk – working on a drawing

"My artistic abilities are a bit exaggerated?!" Anna says. I hardly think so. [Click to enlarge]

"I don't draw often, though I love drawing," she told me. [Click to enlarge]

I can't resist: Nigel, how about your drawing skills?

In the 3rd leg of Women’s Chess Grand Prix that took place in March in Lausanne, Anna didn’t succeed in joining the prize winners. But I must give her my personal beauty prize for the game with which I’d like to start my review of the tournament.

[Event "Lausanne WGP 2020"] [Site "Lausanne SUI"] [Date "2020.03.04"] [Round "3.5"] [White "Muzychuk, A."] [Black "Sebag, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B30"] [WhiteElo "2535"] [BlackElo "2443"] [Annotator "Eli Pähtz"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2020.03.02"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1322"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2020.03.09"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.03.09"] [SourceQuality "2"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 e5 4. Bc4 Be7 5. d3 Nf6 6. Ng5 O-O 7. h4 {[#] This move became quite popular after Daniil Dubov used it in his rapid game vs Boris Gelfand. At the first glance it seems like that black has not done anything wrong. With a non completed development it should rather leave the impression that white'attack is premature. Nowdays engines change such human assumptions and come up with unique ideas to make chess a pretty concrete game. From only 7 games in the database, white's score is impressive, but I believe it is a matter of time until engine controlled humans will come up with a satisfactory reply.} h6 $6 {Marie, as a "born" najdorf player was already out of preparation, and after a while of thinking she reacted with some suspicious weakening pawn push on the kings side. Generel rules advice not to create unnecessary weaknesses on the wing you are attacked, besides hxg5 is not really a thread, so that white actually gains a tempo.} (7... Na5 {was already played by Gelfand and Moiseenko, and in some correspondence games respectively. This looks logical as the bishop on c4 is a very annoying piece, however after} 8. f4 {some radical measures must be taken} d5 $1 ({The reason is that if} 8... Nxc4 {then White simply gets a very comfortable attack without any risk} 9. dxc4 d6 10. f5 g6 (10... h6 11. Qf3 (11. a4 $5) 11... Bd7 12. Nh3 (12. g4 $18) 12... b5 13. g4 b4 14. Nd1 Bc6 15. Nhf2 Nxe4 16. Nxe4 Bxh4+ 17. Ndf2 Bxf2+ 18. Kxf2 d5 19. Bxh6 dxe4 20. Qh3 f6 21. Be3 Qe7 22. Qh7+ Kf7 23. Qg6+ Kg8 24. Rh7 Be8 25. Rah1 {1-0 (25) Kryvoruchko,Y (2675)-Moiseenko,A (2623) Lutsk 2019}) ( 10... h5 11. Nd5 Ng4 12. a4 (12. Ne3 $5) 12... Bd7 13. Ne3 Nf6 14. g4 $18 g6 15. Qf3 Kg7 16. gxh5 Nxh5 17. Rg1 Bxg5 18. Rxg5 Rh8 19. fxg6 fxg6 20. Nf5+ Bxf5 21. exf5 e4 22. Qc3+ Kf7 23. fxg6+ Kg8 24. b3 Ng7 25. Bb2 Qe7 26. Qg3 e3 27. Qf3 Rxh4 28. Qf7+ Qxf7 29. gxf7+ Kf8 30. Rxg7 {1-0 (30) Dubov,D (2660)-Gelfand, B (2725) Moscow 2016}) 11. g4 h5 12. gxh5 (12. Rg1 Nxg4 13. Rxg4 hxg4 14. Qxg4 Qe8 15. Nd5 Bd8 16. Be3 Kh8 17. O-O-O f6 18. Ne6 Bxe6 19. Rg1 $1 Bd7 20. Qg2 $16) 12... gxf5 13. Qf3 (13. exf5 Bxf5 14. Rg1 Kh8 $13 {1-0 (47) Hakobyan,A (2554)-Skibbe,W (2245) Karlsruhe 2019}) (13. Rg1 Kh8 14. Qf3 fxe4) 13... fxe4 14. Ncxe4 Ng4 (14... Nxe4 15. Nxe4 Bxh4+ 16. Kf1 f5 17. Bh6 $18) 15. Rg1 (15. Bd2 $16) (15. Nc3 $16) 15... f6 16. Nh3 f5 17. Neg5 $16) 9. Nxd5 (9. Bxd5 Bg4 10. Qd2 Nc6 $1 $44 (10... exf4 11. O-O)) (9. exd5 $2 Bg4 10. Qd2 Nxc4 11. dxc4 exf4 $19) 9... Nxc4 10. dxc4 Nxd5 11. cxd5 exf4 12. Bxf4 Re8 13. O-O (13. e5 f6 14. Ne4 Bf5 15. Qf3 Bxe4 16. Qxe4 Bd6 17. O-O-O Bxe5 {is close to equality}) 13... Bxg5 {and White remained with a small edge after 14.hxg5 and 14. Bxg5, yet Black managed to hold} 14. hxg5 (14. Bxg5 f6 15. Bf4 Rxe4 16. d6 Qd7 17. Qd5+ Qe6 18. Rad1 Qxd5 19. Rxd5 Bd7 20. Rxc5 Bc6 21. Rf2 Kf7 22. Kh2 Rae8 23. Bg3 Ke6 24. c4 Rc8 25. Rd2 {1/2 (25) Podvoysky,E (2393)-Rudenko,A (2328) ICCF email 2017}) 14... Rxe4 15. Qf3 Bf5 16. c4 Rxc4 17. Rae1 Qd7 18. Be5 Bg4 19. Qd3 Ra4 20. Bc3 Rf8 21. d6 Ra6 22. Be5 Be6 23. Qc3 Rxd6 24. Bxd6 Qxd6 25. Rd1 Qc7 26. a3 c4 27. Qd4 Qg3 28. Qf4 Qxf4 29. Rxf4 h6 30. gxh6 Rc8 31. hxg7 Kxg7 32. Rd6 Rc5 33. Kf2 Rb5 34. Rd2 Rc5 35. Rc2 Rd5 36. Ke3 Rd3+ 37. Ke4 Kf8 38. Rff2 Ke7 39. Rfd2 Rg3 40. Rc3 Rg5 41. Kf4 Rf5+ 42. Ke4 b5 43. Rc1 Rg5 44. Kf4 Rf5+ 45. Ke3 Re5+ 46. Kf2 a5 47. Rd4 b4 48. a4 Kf6 49. g4 Kg5 50. Kf3 Bd5+ 51. Kg3 {1/2 (51) Jonsson,D (2557)-Cruzado Duenas,C (2570) ICCF email 2018}) (7... d6 {seems to be too slow.} 8. Nd5 Nxd5 (8... h6 9. Nxf6+ Bxf6 10. Qh5 {and nothing can prevent white of playing Qg6 in the very next move}) 9. Bxd5 g6 10. Nf3 $16 (10. f4 Nb4 11. Bb3 d5 $132) (10. Nxh7 $5 Kxh7 11. Qd2 Bf6 12. Qh6+ Kg8 13. Qxg6+ Bg7 14. Bh6 Qf6 15. Qxf6 Bxf6 16. Bxf8 Kxf8 $14)) 8. Nd5 {Following the idea of 7.h4. White wants to eliminate the f6- knight, then play Qh5 attaking the f7-pawn and keeping in mind the hidden but very unpleasant idea of Qg6.} Nxd5 (8... Nd4 9. Nxf6+ Bxf6 10. c3 (10. Qh5 $5 {leads to some crazy lines which are very entertaining but Black is supposed to be ok there.}) (10. a4 $5) 10... Ne6 11. Nxe6 dxe6 (11... fxe6 12. Qh5 $14) 12. Qh5 $40 {with the idea of Rh3-Rg3 or g4-g5}) 9. exd5 $1 {[#] a fantastic novelty by Anna which she found over the board and once again underlines her incredibly intuitive talent on dynamic play.} (9. Bxd5 {is weaker} Nb4 $1 (9... hxg5 {loses on the spot} 10. hxg5 g6 11. Qg4 Kg7 12. Rh7+ $3 Kxh7 13. Qh4+ Kg8 14. Bd2 $18 { White still needs 3 moves to mate: 0-0-0, Rh1 and Qh7 or Qh8 but there is simply no defense.} Re8 15. Qh6 $1 (15. O-O-O Bf8)) 10. Bxf7+ (10. Bb3 $2 hxg5 {now this works!} 11. hxg5 g6 12. Qg4 Kg7 13. Rh7+ Kxh7 14. Qh4+ Kg8 15. Bd2 Re8 (15... d5 16. O-O-O f6 $19) 16. Qh6 (16. O-O-O Bf8 17. Rh1 Bg7 $19) 16... d5 $19) 10... Rxf7 11. Nxf7 Kxf7 12. c3 Nc6 13. Qh5+ Kf8 (13... Kg8 14. Bxh6) 14. Qf5+ Bf6 (14... Kg8 15. Qg6) 15. g4 d6 (15... d5 16. Qf3 $13) 16. Qf3 h5 17. gxh5 (17. g5 $2 Bg4) 17... Ke7 $13) 9... b5 $1 {That's creative and no surprising, as Marie is a quite tricky tactician herself.} ({After} 9... Nd4 { it was important to spot} 10. d6 $1 Bxd6 11. Qh5 Ne6 12. Ne4 Be7 13. Bxe6 dxe6 (13... fxe6 14. Bxh6 $18) 14. Bxh6 $18 {The moment of 9.exd5 Anna already spotted all these ideas with Bxh6 and her estimation was that whites compensation should be more then sufficient.}) 10. Bb3 {only move. Other options would have turned the tables upside down:} (10. Bxb5 {is simply refuted by} Qa5+) (10. dxc6 bxc4 11. cxd7 Qxd7 12. Nf3 cxd3 $19) 10... Nd4 ( 10... c4 {was perhaps a bit better from the practical point of view} 11. dxc4 bxc4 (11... Na5 12. d6) 12. Bxc4 Na5 13. Qd3 e4 14. Nxe4 $16) 11. d6 $1 Bxd6 ( 11... Bb7 12. dxe7 Qxe7 13. c3 $16 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bxg2 15. Rg1 Bc6 16. Ne4 Qxh4 17. Ra6 $1 $18) 12. Bd5 Rb8 13. Qh5 Qf6 {Maybe that is not the best move but when being in troubles in general it is difficult to find something satisfactory.} (13... Ne6 {was more tenacious but after} 14. Ne4 {followed by Bh6, black's position is still quite unpleasant} Qe7 (14... Be7 15. Bxh6 f5 ( 15... Rb6 16. Qg4 Kh7 17. Bd2 $18) (15... gxh6 16. Qxh6 $18) 16. Bxg7 $1 Kxg7 17. Rh3 $18) 15. Bxh6 Bb7 16. Be3 g6 17. Qf3 Nd4 18. Bxd4 exd4 19. Bxb7 f5 20. O-O fxe4 21. Qxe4 {and White is close to be winning.}) 14. c3 $1 {[#] This is the only winning move which Anna eventually found after spending over 40 minutes of her time. The difficulity was to realize that the very tempting and promissing idea of 14. Ne4 Qf5 and 15.Bg5 is just not working...} (14. Ne4 $2 Qf5 15. Bg5 {Tactical motives such as g4 or Nf6 gxf6 and Be4 are in the air, yet Black has even more than only one defense against it:} (15. Qxf5 Nxf5 16. g4 {does not win as Black has} Ne7) 15... Bc7 (15... Nxc2+ $2 16. Kd2 (16. Kf1 $2 Ne3+ $19) 16... Nb4 17. g4 Qh7 18. Nf6+ gxf6 19. Be4 Qh8 20. Bxh6 $18) ( 15... Rb6 $5 {is probably the strongest} 16. g4 Qh7) (15... Be7 16. c3 Bd8 17. O-O-O $13) 16. Nf6+ gxf6 17. Be4 fxg5 18. Bxf5 Nxf5 19. hxg5 Rb6 {and only Black can be better here}) 14... Bb7 (14... Ne6 15. Ne4 Qe7 16. Bxh6 $18 { not the first time we are seeing this...}) (14... Nc2+ 15. Kd1 Nxa1 16. Ne4 Qe7 17. Bxh6 $18) 15. Ne4 (15. Bxb7 {is winning too but that would have been less precise} Nc2+ 16. Kd1 Nxa1 17. Bd5 $18) 15... Qe7 (15... Qf5 16. Qxf5 Nxf5 17. Bxb7 Rxb7 18. g4 $18 {Now there is no more bishop on d5, so no more Ne7 as in the line after 14.Ne4 Qf5 15.Qf5 Nf5 and 16.g4. White will just be a piece up.} ) (15... Qd8 16. cxd4 (16. Bxb7 $18) 16... Bxd5 17. Nxd6 $18) 16. Bg5 {[#] Anna continues with style. Marie can choose between losing the queen or being mated.} Nc2+ (16... Qe8 17. Nf6+ gxf6 18. Qg6+ Kh8 19. Bxf6#) (16... Bxd5 17. Bxe7 $18) 17. Kd2 Bxd5 18. Bxe7 Bxe7 19. Kxc2 {Instantly played by Muzychuk, damaging a little bit the beauty of that amazing game.} (19. Qxe5 {would have finished the game on the spot.} Bxe4 20. Qxe4 Nxa1 21. Qxe7 $18) 19... f5 20. Ng3 Be6 {White has a huge material advantage and almost any move is winning.} 21. Qe2 (21. f4 {was also logical to break Black's strong centre} exf4 22. Ne2 $18) 21... f4 22. Nf1 Bf6 23. Nd2 d5 24. g4 c4 25. d4 (25. dxc4 bxc4 26. g5 hxg5 27. hxg5 Bf5+ 28. Kc1 Bxg5 29. Qxe5 $18) 25... e4 (25... f3 26. Qe3 Bxg4 27. dxe5 Rbe8 28. Qf4 $18) 26. Nxe4 {The good thing about material advantage is that you always have an option of converting it to some sort of pluses. The rest of the game was easy.} (26. g5 hxg5 27. hxg5 Bxg5 28. Qh5 $18) 26... dxe4 27. Qxe4 Bxg4 28. Rag1 Bh5 29. Qf5 Be8 30. Rg4 b4 31. Rhg1 bxc3 32. bxc3 Ba4+ 33. Kc1 Kh8 34. Qa5 Bc6 35. Rxf4 Rb5 36. Rxf6 Rxf6 37. Qd8+ Kh7 38. Qe7 1-0

Since the Corona crisis impacted our lives and destroyed our tournaments I decided to occupy myself with something useful - creating educational chess videos on YouTube. This video I specially dedicated to one of my best lifetime friends - Annushka. It's a game which once more proves that creativity is the word to describe her best.

The tournament was won by GM Nana Dzagnide, who shared the first place with Aleksandra Goryachkina but was better on coefficients. The turning point of the tournament for Nana was a rather lucky victory over Anna Muzychuk in round five. This roller-coaster game, with some mutual mistakes, would change the tournament fate for both players.

[Event "Lausanne FIDE GP (Women)"] [Site "Lausanne"] [Date "2020.03.06"] [Round "5"] [White "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Black "Dzagnidze, Nana"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B30"] [WhiteElo "2539"] [BlackElo "2515"] [Annotator "Paehtz,Elisabeth"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1bq1rk1/pp4p1/2np1p2/2pN4/4P1pP/3P2Q1/PPP3PN/R4RK1 b - - 0 17"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2020.03.02"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "SUI"] [EventCategory "11"] [SourceTitle "Mega2020 Update 22"] [Source "Chessbase"] [SourceDate "2020.03.20"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.03.20"] [SourceQuality "1"] 17... Ne5 {one of the first critical moments in the game. At this point Anna confessed that she completely missed the idea of Qb6 and Qb4 when choosing Ne3 over her other candidate move Rf4.} 18. Ne3 $6 (18. Rf4 Be6 19. Ne3 (19. Nxg4 $5 Nxg4 20. Rxg4 Bxg4 21. Qxg4 $18 {with a huge compensation for the sacreficed exchange.}) 19... Qb6 20. b3 Qb4 {and now white has the option to bring her other rook into the game by} 21. Raf1 $18) 18... Qb6 19. b3 Qb4 { it is still nothing to worry at all for white, but I guess psychological it always has some negative impact on you if you miss certain moves or ideas of your opponent.} 20. Nd5 $6 {losing a bit the control, as this move stops white for quite a while of activating the other fellow on h2.} (20. Rae1 Qd4 21. Kh1 Be6 22. Nhxg4 $18) (20. Nhxg4 {was Annas first intention, but then she suddenly realized that there is some idea of black with simpliying the position after} Bxg4 21. Nxg4 Nxg4 22. Qxg4 Qd4+ 23. Kh2 f5 24. Qf4 fxe4 25. Qxe4 Qxe4 26. dxe4 $16) (20. Rf2 $5 Qd4 21. Raf1 $18) 20... Qd4+ 21. Kh1 { and now it becomes much harder to activate the rook on a1 as Rf2 ideas do not work any longer.} Be6 22. Nf4 ({What was wrong with} 22. Nc7 $5 Rae8 23. Nxe8 Rxe8 24. Rac1 $16 {and black surely has some compensation but only based on a currently bad coordination.}) 22... Bd7 23. Qe1 $6 $11 {[#] It seems like move by move white is slowly worsening her position. Psychology is sometimes truly underrated, but it is obvious that Anna already feels a sort of discomfort.} ( 23. Rad1 f5 24. c3 Qxc3 25. Nd5 Qd4 26. Ne7+ Kh8 27. Nxf5 Bxf5 28. exf5 $16) 23... Qb2 24. Qd2 f5 $6 {[#] a bit premature but absolutely understandable as black has to react quickly in order not to suffer from an excluded queen lost on the other inactive side of the board.} (24... Qa3 $5) {However this sort of blunder switched on a botton as Anna celebrated a huge come back with her next couple of moves!} 25. Rab1 $1 Qa3 26. Nh5 $1 Qxa2 27. Qg5 $1 Rf7 28. exf5 $2 { [#] too overwhelmed by the sudden chance of a super kingside attack, white sacrefices the most important pawn, the pawn of stability, in this position.} Qxc2 29. Nxg4 $2 {finally turning the tables in favor for the later tournament victor.} Nxg4 30. Qxg4 Bxf5 (30... Raf8 31. Ng3 Qxd3 $17) 31. Qg5 $19 (31. Rxf5 $3 {[#] last chance for white to save the game.} Qxb1+ 32. Kh2 Qa1 33. Qc4 $1 Raf8 34. Qe6 Qd4 35. Nf4 Qf2 36. Kh3 {and as weird as this position may look it seems to be totally equal, though quite hard to understand for an human eye. } d5 {as one example to reach a drawing position after} 37. Rxf7 Rxf7 38. Qe8+ Rf8 39. Qe6+ Kh7 40. Qg6+ Kh8 41. Qh5+ Kg8 42. Qxd5+ Rf7 {and} 43. Ng6 $3 { the idea of Ne5 is not preventable.}) 31... Raf8 {and white had no more chances to hold the game.} 32. Rbe1 Qxd3 33. Rf3 Qd4 34. Rf4 Qc3 35. Ref1 Qe5 36. R1f3 b5 37. Rg3 Qe1+ 38. Kh2 Qe5 39. Qh6 c4 40. bxc4 bxc4 41. Nxg7 Rxg7 42. Rxg7+ Qxg7 43. Qxd6 c3 44. Qd5+ Qf7 0-1

Endgame magic

Recently Anna was in Hamburg and recorded a session of Endgame Magic with GM Karsten Müller in the ChessBase video studio. Magical!

About the author

Elisabeth Pähtz (or Paehtz – rhymes with "Rates") is a German WGM and men's IM, currently rated 2473, making her the strongest female player in the country. Elisabeth (or Elli, or Lizzy) was trained in chess from early childhood by her father, GM Thomas Pähtz.

At the age of nine years she won her first German Championship in the under-11 age group. In 1999 she became Germany's women's chess champion. In 2002 Pähtz became the Youth World Champion in the under-18 age group, and in 2004 the U20 Junior World Champion. As one of the greatest German new-generation talents Pähtz was the subject of a large media interest when growing up. Among other things it was reported that she was likely to fail high school mathematics. Her own explanation for this is that she is an intuitive player, not a universal genius. Elisabeth holds the FIDE titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster. She is an active streamer on YouTube.

Part two in this series describes the inspiring chess talent of GM Nana Dzagnide, and gives you an insight into her baking skills. After that Aleksandra Goryachkina, Zhansaya Abdumalik and Koneru Humpy, three of the strongest, certainly most talented female players in the world.

Elli (or Lizzy) is a German WGM and men's IM, currently rated 2473, making her the strongest female player in the country. She was trained in chess from early childhood by her father GM Thomas Pähtz. In 2002 Pähtz became the Youth World Champion in the under-18 age group, and in 2004 the U20 Junior World Champion.


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