Hou Yifan has won what must be considered one of the strongest, if not the strongest, all-women chess tournaments ever held. Staged in the opulent surroundings of the Casino in Monte Carlo, the organisers succeeded in arranging a line-up which could have been improved upon only if Judit Polgar had agreed to participate. Judit, after many years at the top of female chess, has finally retired. Leading scores in Monaco were as follows: Hou Yifan 9/11; M. Muzychuk and Koneru 7; Cramling and Pogonina 6.
It was unfortunate that there was no British representation in this stellar competition. Indeed, ever since 1976 when the English women’s team won the silver medals in the Haifa Olympiad, there seems to have been a steady decline in English women’s chess. This is quite strange; it is worth noting that probably the best chess players in Parliament are the Labour MPs Rachel Reeves, Maria Eagle and Angela Eagle.
The English Chess Federation’s failure to foster female talent is disappointing. Barry Martin recently wrote an article for the newspaper Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today about the disparity in support for men’s and women’s chess in England. Since then, the Federation has also suffered the debacle of having to cancel a planned English women’s championship. At more or less the same time, several federation officials, deemed by their electorate to have been under-performing, lost out to ‘any other candidate’ at the recent federation AGM.
This week, we follow the female stars from Monaco in action.
Hou Yifan-Zhukova: Monaco 2015
(see diagram 1)
White stands better here as she can manoeuvre against the black b- and h-pawns. Black’s next is an attempt to free her bishop and grab a pawn but it backfires. 44 … exf4+ 45 gxf4 Bxc3 46 Kd3 Bf6 47 Rxb5 With this small tactic White creates an immensely powerful passed pawn on the b-file. 47 … Rbc6 The best chance was 47 … Rxb5 48 Kxc4 Rb8. The white pair of rooks is now much stronger than the black pair. 48 Ra5 Rc2 49 b5 Rc8 50 Ra7+ Ke6 51 b6 Ra2 52 f5+ Ke5 53 Ra5+ Black resigns
M. Muzychuk-Stefanova: Monaco 2015
In this endgame White gives an object lesson in how the king can be a powerful piece in the endgame. 57 Bf2 Be5 58 Kf5 Bf4 59 Bd1 Nxh6+ 60 Kf6 Ng8+ 61 Kg7 Ne7 62 Kxh7 Nc8 63 Kg6 Nb6 64 Be2 Bc1 Black has some counter-chances as the white a- and c-pawns are weak. However, her bishop pair and active king prove too powerful. 65 Bg3+ Kd7 66 Bd3 a5 67 Be5 a4 68 Bf5+ Kd8 69 d6 Nd7 70 Bc3 Ke8 71 Bc2 Bxa3 72 Bxa4 Bc1 73 Bf6 Bf4 74 Be7 Black resigns
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