- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A storied career just added another chapter as GM Nona Gaprindashvili, the women’s world champion from 1961 to 1978 and a five-time Soviet women’s champion, captured last month’s World Women’s 65+ Senior Championship tournament in Bucharest, Romania, for the second year in a row at the ripe young age of 78.

The first woman ever awarded the grandmaster title, the Georgian great still has game, capable of fashioning a long, grueling positional brilliancy. Check out her masterful handling of a blocked position against Russian WGM Elena Fatalibekova, a three-time women’s world senior titleholder who finished second in the event.

White seizes space against Black’s modernist Queen’s Fianchetto Defense with 12. Ng2 Nd7 13. f5!, as 13…gxf5? hangs the bishop out to dry on 14. Qh5+. Black is left with one blocked-in bishop after 15. Qc1! g5 16. Re1 Bxg2 (a sad necessity, as 16…Bg4 17. h4 Nf7 18. Ne3 Bh5 19. g4 wins the piece) 17. Kxg2 Nf7 18. Qd1 a6.


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Black’s game wouldn’t be so bad if she could open things up on the queenside for some counterplay, but over the next 40 moves or so, Gaprindashvili frustrates that plan while cracking open the h-file, repositioning her army and infiltrating decisively.

It’s a virtuoso clinic in exploiting a cramped position, as White collects another key asset on 46. Rh6 Qd7 47. Bh5 b5 (sitting back equals slow death in view of the threat of 48. Bg6 Ra7 49. Qh5 Rb7 50. Bxh7+ Rxh7 51. Qg6+ Kh8 52. Rxh7+ Qxh7 53. Rxh7+ Rxh7 54. Qe8, winning) 48. cxb5 axb5 49. a5! b4 (Black is similarly blocked on 49…c4 50. b4 c3!? 51. Bxc3 Qc8 52. g4!), keeping the b-file closed and creating a dangerous — and distracting — passed pawn.



With the wisdom of age, Gaprindashvili removes her king from the battlefield just before the final assault: 57. Kd3 Ra7 58. Rxf6! Nxf6 59. Rh8+ Kf7 60. Rxe8 Nxe8 61. Qh5+ Ke7 62. Bxg5+ Nf6 63. Bxf6+ and Black resigned just ahead of the hopeless 63…Kxf6 64. Qh6+ Kf7 65. Qxe6+ Kf8 66. Qxd6+ Kg8 67. Qxb6 and wins.

Gaprindashvili played just one game against the greatest female player of all time, a victory over a 14-year-old Judit Polgar at the 1990 Women’s Olympiad in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. Not surprisingly, the two produced a fascinating struggle marked by sacrifices, clever counterattacks and a very cool ending.

In a Scotch Game, we pick it up from today’s diagram, where attacks are building against both king positions. With the impetuosity of youth, Polgar played 17. a4?! (Rf2 would have snuffed out a lot of threats), only to run into 18…Ng4! 18. fxg4 (h4 Ne3 19. Bxe3 Rxe3 20. Qd2 Rde8 also gives Black a strong initiative) Bxg4, the point being that the knight on e2 — guarding the critical pawn on d4 — is under heavy fire and something must give.

White wisely returns the piece with 19. Nf4!? Bxd4+ 20. Kg2 gxf4 21. Bxf4 Be5 (Bh3+ 22. Kh1 Bxf1?! wins more material but gives White loads of play after 23. Bxc7+ Ka8 24. Rxf1, when 24…Rc8?? 25. Bb6 a6 26. Bxa6! even wins for White) 22. c6, with good attacking chances.

The two heavyweights trade hammer blows before Black finally lands the knockout: 22…Bc8 23. Qb4 Bd6 24. Qb3 Bxf4 25. Rxf4 Re3 26. Qc2? (a decisive mistake; perhaps White missed Black’s stunning 31st move) Qh3+ 27. Kh1 Rxg3 28. cxb7 Bxb7 29. Rxf7 (Polgar manages to generate a mate threat) Rc8 30. Bb5 d4+ 31. Bc6, when 31…Bxc6+? 32. Qxc6 Rg6 (remarkably, Black has no mate even though his major pieces swarm around the White king) 33. Qf3 Qxf3+ 34. Rxf3 c5 35. b3, with a notoriously tricky double-rook ending on tap.

Instead, Black ends the game abruptly with the blocking move 31…Rc3!!, as White is mated after 32. bxc3 (Qxc3 Qg2 mate is obviously not viable) Bxc6+ 33. Kg1 Rg8+ 34. Kf2 Qe3+ 35. Kf1 Rg1 mate. A cut-and-thrust struggle every bit the equal of the great Fischer-Tal battles of the 1960s.

Fatalibekova-Gaprindashvili, Women’s Senior 65+ World Championship, Bucharest, November 2019

1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Bd3 e6 4. Nf3 d6 5. c4 c5 6. d5 e5 7. Nc3 g6 8. O-O f6 9. Ne1 Nh6 10. g3 Bc8 11. f4 Bh3 12. Ng2 Nd7 13. f5 Bg7 14. Bd2 O-O 15. Qc1 g5 16. Re1 Bxg2 17. Kxg2 Nf7 18. Qd1 a6 19. a4 Re8 20. Qh5 Nf8 21. h4 Qe7 22. Bc2 Reb8 23. Rh1 h6 24. Bd3 Nh7 25. Qd1 Qd8 26. Be2 Ra7 27. Bh5 Nf8 28. Qe2 Nh8 29. Rhf1 Nh7 30. Rf2 Rab7 31. Raf1 Ra7 32. Qg4 Nf8 33. hxg5 hxg5 34. Rh1 Nf7 35. Qh3 Nh6 36. Be2 Nh7 37. Nd1 Bf8 38. Ne3 Qe7 39. Ng4 Nxg4 40. Qxg4 Qd8 41. Rh5 Rg7 42. Kg1 Rbb7 43. Rfh2 Qe8 44. b3 Be7 45. Qh3 Bd8 46. Rh6 Qd7 47. Bh5 b5 48. cxb5 axb5 49. a5 b4 50. a6 Ra7 51. Be2 Qf7 52. Bc4 Bb6 53. Kf1 Kf8 54. Ke2 Rc7 55. Qf1 Qe8 56. Qh1 Kg8 57. Kd3 Ra7 58. Rxf6 Nxf6 59. Rh8+ Kf7 60. Rxe8 Nxe8 61. Qh5+ Ke7 62. Bxg5+ Nf6 63. Bxf6+ Black resigns.

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

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