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 possible...in 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.

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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.