- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Insert brunette joke here.

It may not settle the argument, but consider it an interesting data point: A team of blondes defeated a team of brunettes in a blitz match last week in Moscow to mark International Women’s Day.

IM Ekaterina Kovalevskaya was the heroine for the flaxen-haired horde, scoring 6½ points in the eight-round Scheveningen system match. Both teams had some powerful players, with the raven-tressed former women’s world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk anchoring the brunette squad. Time control for the event, held at the Moscow restaurant Carlson, was three minutes for the game with a two-second-per-move increment. Despite Kosteniuk’s 6½-1½ result, the blond squad triumphed by a cumulative 34-30 score.

This is the seventh annual grudge match between the blondes and brunettes, with the blonde team avenging a 34½-29½ match loss a year ago. Overall, the blondes have won four times and brunettes twice, along with a hard-fought draw in 2013.

Another long-running rivalry played out on the chessboard this month as China cruised to a 10-6 victory in the second China-India Chess Summit in Liaocheng, China. The Chinese squad was anchored by two 2700-plus GMs — Bu Xiangzhi and Wei Yi — while the Indians were without former world champion Viswanathan Anand and Indian No. 2 GM Pentala Harikrishna.

One of the best struggles of the event was Wei’s final-round win over Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta. Gupta holds his own against his higher-rated opponent, going astray only while pressing for a win at the end.

Black’s 14. Rd1 b5!? is an intriguing, counterintuitive choice in this Rubinstein Nimzo-Indian, forgoing the expected c6-c5 pawn break to shut down the queenside and give Wei’s knight the b6-square. After 17. Bg4 (Nf5!? Nc4 18. Re1 a5 19. Bf4 was an attractive alternative) a5 18. Rb1 Nc4 19. Nce2 axb4 20. axb4 Bc8 21. h3 Ndb6 22. Qf3, Black owns the a-file but White’s kingside build-up is starting to look menacing.

Both players walk a tightrope after 23. Bh5 g6!? (provocative; White is slightly better on 23…Re6 24. Nf4 fxe5 25. Nxe6 Bxe6 26. dxe5 Nd7 27. Bg4 Qe8 28. Bxe6+ Qxe6 29. Qf5 Qxf5 30. Nxf5 Ndxe5) 24. exf6! Ra7 (Rxe2? 25. Bg5! Qc7 26. f7+ Qxf7 [Kh8 27. Qf6+ Bg7 28. f8=Q mate] 27. Qxf7+ Kxf7 28. Bxe2) 25. Bg5 Rf7 26. Bxg6!? hxg6 27. Nf4, perhaps hoping for 27…Kh7?? 28. Nxg6! Kxg6 29. Qh5 mate.

The smoke clears after 29. Bxf6 Qxf6 30. Nxg6 Bd6 31. Re1 Bd7 32. f4 Nb2?! (missing 32…Rxe1+! 33. Rxe1 Nb2 34. Qb1 Qxd4+) 33. Rxe8+ Bxe8 34. Rxb2 Bxg6 35. f5 Bf7 — Black has two powerful bishops, but his king is so exposed that a draw is likely.

But perhaps eyeing the match score, Gupta goes for broke and ends up bankrupt on 44. Qh7 Ke8 45. f6? (White should take the draw on offer with 45. Qh8+ as White holds after 45…Bf8 46. Re2 Qc4 47. Ng3 Qc1+ 48. Nf1 Qc4 49. Ng3) Qb2! — with the brutal double threat of 46. Qxd4 and 46. Qf2+.

White is lost after 46. Qf5 (46. Rxe4+ dxe4 47. Qxe4+ Kd8 48. Qxc6 Qxd4+ 49. Kh1 Qxb4) Kd8 47. Rd3 (see diagram) Bg6!, and the White queen dare not take on g6 because of 48…Qf2+ 49. Kh1 Qxf1 mate.

The finale: 48. Qf3 Ng5 49. Qe3 Bxd3 50. Qxg5 Qxd4+ 51. Kh1 Qf2, and White resigned facing 52. Qc1 Be4 53. Ne3 Qg3 54. Kg1 (Qg1 Qxh3+) Bf4 and wins.

The “Big Three” will all be in the field when the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women’s Championship kick off March 28 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

Organizers announced this week that defending champion GM Fabiano Caruana and GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So — all among the world’s top six in the FIDE rankings — will compete for the 2017 crown. The 12-player field also includes former champs Gata Kamsky and Alex Onischuk.

Former University of Maryland-Baltimore County star IM Nazi Paikidze will be back to defend her 2016 women’s title, with former champs GM Irina Krush and IM Anna Zatonskih likely to be her top challengers. D.C. resident WFM Jennifer Yu has also been invited to the St. Louis event.

Gupta-Yi, 2nd China-India Summit, Liaocheng, China, March 2017

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Ne2 Re8 6. a3 Bf8 7. Ng3 d5 8. Be2 b6 9. cxd5 exd5 10. b4 Bb7 11. O-O Nbd7 12. Qb3 c6 13. Bf3 a6 14. Rd1 b5 15. e4 Nb6 16. e5 Nfd7 17. Bg4 a5 18. Rb1 Nc4 19. Nce2 axb4 20. axb4 Bc8 21. h3 Ndb6 22. Qf3 f6 23. Bh5 g6 24. exf6 Ra7 25. Bg5 Rf7 26. Bxg6 hxg6 27. Nf4 Rxf6 28. Qd3 Qd6 29. Bxf6 Qxf6 30. Nxg6 Bd6 31. Re1 Bd7 32. f4 Nb2 33. Rxe8+ Bxe8 34. Rxb2 Bxg6 35. f5 Bf7 36. Rb3 Qg5 37. Qf3 Qc1+ 38. Nf1 Nc4 39. Qg4+ Kf8 40. Qh4 Ke8 41. Rf3 Nd2 42. Re3+ Ne4 43. Qh8+ Kd7 44. Qh7 Ke8 45. f6 Qb2 46. Qf5 Kd8 47. Rd3 Bg6 48. Qf3 Ng5 49. Qe3 Bxd3 50. Qxg5 Qxd4+ 51. Kh1 Qf2 White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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