sabato 21 settembre 2019

Yes, Edna, nobody can exclude that it will be the only pas de deux in history which begins and ends with a solo

Artwork © fairy-taco

Sitcom Queens

居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) – Aleksandra Yuryevna Goryachkina
Women’s Grand Prix 2019–2020; 1st stage; Skolkovo, September 21, 2019
English Opening A20

Always looking ahead, 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) and Goryachkina saved much of their intensity and pent-up rivalry for their next year’s World Chess Championship match. Today’s game, indeed, was dominated most of the time by 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn), who, however, seemed in no wise eager to win a victory before the time comes when she will have to win the crown of earthly glory. 1. c4 e5 2. g3 c6 3. Nf3 e4 4. Nd4 d5 5. cxd5 Qxd5 6. Nc2 Nf6 7. Nc3 Qe5 8. Bg2 Na6 9. 0-0 Be7 10. d3 exd3 11. Qxd3 0-0 12. e4!? White takes another way from 12. Qe3 Bd6 13. Rd1 Re8 14. Qd4 Bc7 15. Bf4 Qh5 16. Bxc7 Nxc7 17. f3 Ne6 18. Qf2 Ng5 19. g4 Qg6 20. Ne3 h5 21. h4 Ne6 22. g5 Nf4 23. Rd4 N6d5 24. Ncxd5 Nxd5 25. Nxd5 cxd5 26. Rxd5 Be6 27. Rd2 Rad8 28. e4 f5 29. Rxd8 Rxd8 30. Qxa7 Qf7 31. Qa5 Qd7 32. Qe5 fxe4 33. fxe4 Bh3 34. Qd5+ Qxd5 35. exd5 Bxg2 36. Kxg2 Rxd5 and Black didn’t have to struggle too much to draw the Rook endgame a Pawn down, Hammer – Giri, Grand Prix 2017, 2nd stage, Moscow 2017. 12. ... Qh5 13. Qd1 Bg4 14. f3 Rad8 15. Qe2 Bh3 16. Be3 Bc5 17. Rad1 Bxg2 18. Kxg2 Nc7 19. Nd4 Bxd4 20. Bxd4 c5? 20. ... a6 21. Bb6! was certainly not too pleasant, but the text causes Black much more trouble.

21. g4! Qg5 22. f4 Qxg4+ 23. Qxg4 Nxg4 24. Bxc5 Rxd1 25. Rxd1 Ne6 26. Bxa7! White is a clear Pawn up with a near winning endgame. 26. ... f5 27. Kg3 h5 28. exf5? As a matter of superstition, 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) seems to be content with what she got, without pushing for more — otherwise she would have preferred 28. Rd6!+− with overwhelming preponderance. 28. ... Rxf5 29. Nd5 Kf7 30. h3 Nf6 31. Nxf6 Kxf6 32. Be3 Rb5 33. b3 Ke7 34. Kf3 g5! 35. fxg5 Nxg5+ 36. Bxg5+ Rxg5 37. Rd4 Ke6 38. h4 Ra5! 39. a4 b5 40. axb5 Rxb5 41. b4. The endgame is theoretically drawn, in spite of White’s extra Pawn, even though, of course, it’s not easy at all for Black to draw. 41. ... Rf5+ 42. Ke2 Ke5 43. Rc4 Kd6 44. Ke3 Rf1 45. Ke4 Rf2 46. Rd4+ Kc6 47. Ke5 Kb5 48. Rf4 Rg2! The only move which draws. 49. Kf6 Rg1? A mistake which could easily cost Goryachkina half a point. Correct was 49. ... Rg4!= and if 50. Ke5 then 50. ... Rg1 (as well as almost any other Rook move along the g-file) with a draw in sight. 50. Rf5+ Kxb4 51. Rxh5+− Rh1 52. Rh8 Rf1+ 53. Ke5 Re1+ 54. Kf4 Rf1+ 55. Kg3 Kc5 56. h5 Rh1 57. Kg4? 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) returns the courtesy, under the form of a lost tempo. The winning move was 57. h6!+− (not allowing the Black King to get to d6), followed by White’s King march to her queening Pawn’s support. 57. ... Kd6!= 58. h6 Ke7 59. h7 Kf7 60. Ra8 Rxh7 ½ : ½.

Today 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) and Goryachkina officially started the rehearsals for their next year’s all-female pas de deux. Photo © David Llada.

Hey, Edna, what’s up? It was only five minutes since she got rid of her agent, and things are already getting better

Game of Queens

The election of the venues for the upcoming Women’s World Chess Championship match between 17th Women’s World Chess Champion 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) and her challenger Aleksandra Yuryevna Goryachkina was finally made public throughout the FIDE web site. As in 1999, even this time, and precisely on January 2020, the Women’s World Championship match will be held in two venues: 上海 (Shànghǎi) (China) and Vladivostok (Russia) — thus reflecting the birth countries of both women — with a rich prize fund of €500,000 €uros after taxes.
Furthermore, the 1999 and the 2020 matches have another similarity in common. Prior to the 1999 match between 谢军 (Xiè Jūn) and Alisa Mikhailovna Galliamova, indeed, 8th Women’s World Chess Champion Zsuzsa (Susan) Polgár had been “dethroned” by FIDE after bitter controversy. And even this time, a rebel Oxfordian Queen, a Phantom of the Opera — namely 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán), who wore the queendom’s crown on four times just to be barely tolerated, if not snubbed, by the chess oligarchy — will be out there ready to cast her metaphysical curse upon the usurpers of her throne. Usually, history should not repeat itself, but of course Caïssa can make miracles happen.

venerdì 20 settembre 2019

The Vacant Chair

Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Lahno – 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn)
Women’s Grand Prix 2019–2020; 1st stage; Skolkovo, September 20, 2019
Russian Defence C42

Today 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) played her Russian Defence as if she was happy to cut the Gordian Knot well in advance, leaving both her lead and her starring role suddenly vacant. 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bf5 7. 0-0 Be7 8. Re1 0-0 9. c4 Nc6 10. cxd5 Qxd5 11. Nc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Bxd3 13. Qxd3 Rfe8 14. Bf4 Bd6 15. Ng5. On Round Five (five days ago) International Master Elisabeth Pähtz contented herself with 15. c4 Qh5 16. Bg3 b6 17. Re4 Bxg3 18. hxg3 Rxe4 19. Qxe4 Qg6 20. Qf4 Qd6 21. Qe4 Qg6 22. Qf4 Qd6 23. Qe4 Qg6 ½ : ½ Pähtz – 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn), Women’s Grand Prix 2019–2020. 1st stage, Skolkovo 2019. 15. ... g6 16. Ne4 Re6 17. Nxd6!? Lahno’s homemade cooked spécialité de la maison instead of 17. Qf3 Kg7 18. Nxd6 Qxf3 19. gxf3 cxd6 20. Rxe6 fxe6 21. Bxd6 Rd8 22. Bg3 Rc8 23. c4 Rd8 24. Rb1 Rd7 with a dynamic balance, Paravyan – 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn), 1st Prague International Chess Festival (Challengers Tournament), Prague 2019. 17. ... cxd6 18. Rxe6 fxe6 19. Rb1 b6 20. h4 Rf8 (20. ... e5!? 21. Bh6 Re8) 21. Bh6 Qf5 22. Qf1 Rc8 23. Re1 e5. That looks so natural, but there were some good arguments in favour of 23. ... Qd5(!), so as to reply to 24. Qa6 by 24. ... Rc7 with quite a rocky defence. 24. Qa6! Qd7! (24. ... Rc7? 25. Re3!+−) 25. Qd3 Re8 26. Qf3 (26. h5!?⩲↑) 26. ... Nd8 27. dxe5 Qf7? 27. ... Qe6 was probably better, but then after 28. Be3 dxe5 29. Rd1 Nf7 30. a4⩲ White enjoys a safe and lasting edge. 28. Qg4 dxe5 (28. ... Qxa2? 29. Qd7 Qf7 30. Qxd6+−) 29. Rd1 Ne6? Even under worse circumstances than before, 29. ... Qe6 was still Black’s best bet, though after 30. Qxe6+ Nxe6 31. Rd7 White would stand much better. 30. Qa4! Nc5 31. Qc6 Rb8 32. Rd5! Qe7

33. h5! By now White’s attack plays itself. 33. ... gxh5. Loses instantly, but if 33. ... g5 there would follow 34. Rd6! with the perfidious threat of Rd6-g6+. 34. f4! Qb7 35. Qf6 Qf7 36. Rd8+ 1 : 0. For mate in two follows.

Today 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) politely surrendered her seat to Humpy Koneru. Photo © David Llada.

Not for Sale

Last September 16, Chinese movie star 范冰冰 (Fàn Bīngbīng) celebrated her 38th birthday quietly in a low-key manner, for the first time after her tax case. Three days after, however, she uploaded on her microblog a 8-min vid thanking her admirers for their wishes and gifts, and being especially moved by a book-album which she showed the camera, titled Our Book, including a compilation of pictures and letters from fans who stood by her despite all the difficulties she experienced lately. Video screen grab courtesy of 范冰冰 (Fàn Bīngbīng).

Oh no, Edna, of course not. In real life, Snow White’s Prince Charming would have never sent the eighth dwarf out to steal Cinderella’s shoe away

Artwork © babyhelllboy

Yes, Edna, they always start out standing erect and martial as epic superheroes and then unfailingly wind up as farcical caricatures peeking through the keyhole of your closet

Artwork © achromatic-skies

giovedì 19 settembre 2019

少年Pi的奇幻漂流 (Life of Pi)

居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) – Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk
Women’s Grand Prix 2019–2020; 1st stage; Skolkovo, September 19, 2019
Catalan Opening E04

居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) keeps on winning in the East, but les jeux ne sont pas encore faits, as Indian Grandmaster Humpy Koneru has apparently returned after childbirth to the same level, if not better, than before pregnancy, thus putting to question the very primacy of 17th Women’s World Chess Champion. Whatever it will be like, time will tell very soon, as 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) and Koneru will face each other on last round. 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 dxc4 5. Nf3 a6 6. 0-0 Nc6 7. e3 Rb8 8. Nfd2 e5 9. Bxc6+ bxc6 10. dxe5 Ng4 11. Nxc4 Be6 12. Nbd2 Bb4 13. b3. Or likewise, 13. Qe2 h5!? with powerful light-square compensation for the Pawn, M. O. Muzychuk – Kosteniuk, 10th European Women’s Team Chess Championship, Warsaw 2013. 13. ... h5!? 14. f3!? 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) decides to play with fire — with some good reason, as 14. Bb2? h4!→ would give Black full value in terms of initiative and attack, Iljushin – Smeets, World Cities Team Knockout Championship, al-’Ayn (Al Ain) 2012. 14. ... Bxd2. But Kosteniuk does not dare to play 14. ... Nxe3! 15. Nxe3 Qd4 (which was as good as critical). As a result, the game soon settles down to a very drawish Rook endgame. 15. Bxd2 Bxc4 16. bxc4 Nxe5 17. Bc3 Qxd1 18. Raxd1 f6 19. Rd4 0-0 20. Kf2 Rfd8 21. Rxd8+ Rxd8 22. Bxe5 fxe5 23. Ke2 Rb8 24. Rd1 Rb4 25. Kd3 Ra4 26. Rd2 Kf7 27. Rc2 Ke6 28. Ke4 g5 29. h4 gxh4 30. gxh4 Rb4 31. f4 exf4 32. Kxf4 Kf6 33. e4 Rb1 34. e5+ Ke6 35. Kg5 Kxe5 36. Kxh5 Kd4 37. c5

37. ... Rb5?? This grave mistake has the immediate effect of losing an otherwise drawn ending. For instance: 37. ... a5! 38. Kh6 (38. a4 Rg1=) 38. ... a4 39. h5 a3 40. Kg7 Rb2 41. Rc1 Rxa2 42. h6 Rh2 43. h7 Rg2+ with an obvious draw. 38. Kg6+− Kd3. It’s too late for Black to rewind the tape with 38. ... Rb1 because of 39. Rh2! winning easily. 39. Rc1 Kd2 40. Rf1 Rxc5 41. h5 Rd5 42. h6 c5 43. Rf5 Rd6+ 44. Rf6 Rd8 45. Rc6 Kc3 46. Rxc5+ Kb2 47. Rxc7 Ra8 48. h7 Kxa2 49. Rg7 Rb8 50. Ra7 1 : 0.

Perhaps 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) is thinking that foreign photographers had no Russian rivals so far. Photo © David Llada.

Oh my beloved Edna! There is, of course, no need to say who won and who lost in the West and in the East

Earth, Moon and Sun

Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina – 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn)
Women’s Grand Prix 2019–2020; 1st stage; Skolkovo, September 18, 2019
Catalan Opening E04

And thus, neither 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) nor 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) — the two highest-rated women players of the world — will participate in the Grand Swiss to be taking place from October 7–21, 2019 on the Isle of Man. Now the reasons are much different. On one hand, four-time Women’s World Chess Champion and Rhodes Scholar 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) ought to feel very happy over the fact that she’s gearing up to prepare for her second year of studies at Oxford University, thus showing the world that sometimes — fortunately — culture conquers ignorance. On the other hand, 17th Women’s World Chess Champion 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) will have to renounce the unisex Grand Swiss due to the near-juxtaposition of her “high-noon showdown” with the Russian tsarina Aleksandra Yuryevna Goryachkina, who, although being only the challenger, will be seconded by the mightiest chess super-power on earth and its close satellites. 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 dxc4 5. Qa4+ Bd7 6. Qxc4 c5 7. 0-0 Bc6 8. d4 Nbd7 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. b4 Be7 11. Nc3 Rc8 12. Qb3 a6 13. a4 0-0 14. Be3? Best seems 14. b5⩲ by which White may eventually secure the Bishop pair with a small advantage. 14. ... Nd5 15. Nxd5 Bxd5 16. Qb1 Rc4 17. b5 Rb4 18. Qd3 axb5 19. axb5 Rb3 20. Qc2 Rxb5. Thus Black has gained a clear Pawn as well as the better game. The win, however, will not come for osmosis, but it’s gonna take several other mistakes by Gunina to make it happen: 21. Rfd1 Bf6 22. Bd4 Qc8 23. Qd2 Bxd4 24. Nxd4 Rc5 25. Bxd5 Rxd5 26. e4 Rd6 27. Rac1. Here 27. Nf5 was well worth considering, as after 27. ... Rxd2 28. Ne7+ Kh8 29. Nxc8 Rxd1+ 30. Rxd1 Nc5 the Knight and Rook endgame a Pawn up is hardly winnable for Black. 27. ... Qd8 28. Qb4 Ne5 29. Kg2 Rd7 30. Qc5? (30. Rc5!? Qf6!?∓) 30. ... Ng6 31. f4? h6 32. Rc3 b6 33. Qb4 Qa8 34. Re1 Rfd8 35. Nc6? 35. Nf3 Qa2+ 36. Kf1 Qa7 is obviously bad, but at least avoids the immediate disaster. 35. ... Qa2+ 36. Kh3 Rd2 37. Rh1

37. ... Nxf4+! 38. Kg4. If 38. gxf4 then 38. ... R8d3+ and mate in four follows. 38. ... Nd3. Or 38. ... h5+! 39. Kxf4 f6! 40. Nxd8 Rf2+ 41. Rf3 g5+ and mate in three follows. 39. Qe7 Nf2+ 40. Kf3 Nxh1 0 : 1.

No matter what’s wrong with a bona fide bid to sell the crown jewels, 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) looks higher and higher. Photo © David Llada.

mercoledì 18 settembre 2019

Come, come, Edna, don’t be too severe with them; it’s been only two days since school started!

Love at a Distance

A Chihuahua in a dress leans against the leg of an activist during an animal rights march in Uzhhorod, Ukraine. Photo: Ukrinform/Barcroft Media.

Sure, Edna, after all, what she lost was only a minor role in a medieval farce, gaining in exchange the eternal reward of your respectful attention

A Bona Fide Diva

居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) – Alina Anatolyevna Kashlinskaya
Women’s Grand Prix 2019–2020; 1st stage; Skolkovo, September 16, 2019
French Defence C18

The Women’s Grand Prix 2019–2020 is another “bona fide story” scripted in absentia of four-time Women’s World Chess Champion and world’s No. 1 woman player 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán), who, on her part, has been spending her last year more profitably on a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University. If nothing else, the Grand Prix’s first stage, hosted in the Skolkovo Innovation Centre outside Moscow, features the world’s No. 2 woman player, who, incidentally, is also the current Women’s World Champion. 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Ne7 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. Qg4 Kf8. Black’s monarch sits on a precarious throne, but praxis (idem to say theory) showed that he is quite justified in thinking his realm quite safe. 8. h4 Qa5 9. Bd2 Qa4 10. h5 h6 11. Rh3 Nbc6 12. Qf4 b6 13. Rf3 Nd8 14. dxc5 Qxc2?? A disastrous novelty that precipitates Black’s King into an abyss. Best was 14. ... Qxf4 15. Rxf4 bxc5 16. Be3 c4 17. Rb1 Ndc6 18. Nf3 g5!? 19. hxg6 Nxg6 20. Rg4 Kg7 21. Nh4!?⩲↑ Atlas – Psakhis, 6th International Open, Genève 1992. 15. Bd3 Qb2 16. Rb1 Qxa3

17. cxb6 axb6 18. Rxb6. It is a temptation hard to resist, but even stronger seems 18. c4! with the devastating threat of Bd2-b4. 18. ... Qa1+. After 18. ... Ra4! 19. c4!± White obviously stands much better. 19. Rb1 Qa2? The most tenacious is 19. ... Qa4! after which White should probably content herself with aiming at a much better ending (by 20. Qb4!). 20. Ne2 Ba6 21. Nc1 Bxd3. Desperation, but 21. ... Qa5 22. c4 Qc7 23. Bb4 also results in a catastrophe. 22. Nxa2 Bxb1 23. Nb4 Be4 24. Rg3. The plot is by now none too original, as what is pure amusement for one is pure torment for the other. 24. ... Nf5 25. Rg4 Kg8 26. f3 Bb1 27. Qh2 Kh7 28. Rf4 Ra1 29. Kf2 Ba2 30. g4 Ne7 31. Qh4 Re8 32. g5 Nf5 33. Rxf5! exf5 34. gxh6 Bc4 35. hxg7 Rxe5 36. Qxd8 Re2+ 37. Kg3 Kxg7 38. Bg5 Re6 39. h6+ Kh7 40. Qf8 Rg1+ 41. Kf4 1 : 0.

居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) did her best so far to break the siege by her opponents. Photo © David Llada.

The more you look, the less you want to see

Si solum spectes hominis caput, Hectora credas:
si stan tem videas, Astyanacta putes.

If you regard the man’s head alone
You would believe him Hector;
If you saw him standing
You would deem him Astyanax.

Martial, Epigrams, Book 9, CCXII
English translation by Walter C. A. Ker

常玉 (Cháng Yù), Reclining Nude, 1931. Credit: WikiArt.

sabato 14 settembre 2019