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27 Mar

Kings, Queens & Politicians

World champions past and present took their clarion call for the inclusion of chess in the classroom directly to the door steps of top politicians earlier this week, as Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov combined forces at the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo.  The high-profile event was hosted by the Norwegian Minister of Education, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, and saw the two ‘Kings’ of our game successfully lobby the politicos for a trial of chess to be used in the classroom as an educational tool for kids.

Many nations already have chess programs appearing as integral parts of the curriculums - and the Norwegian Chess Federation intends to launch a trial with chess included in the classroom for one hour a week for third and fourth grade students.  This initiative was presented and promoted by Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen, and follows similar efforts underway in the UK and Spain - and, not forgetting the many scholastic chess programmes here also in the US, including our very own First Move initiative.

Not unsurprisingly, there was a huge media presence at the Norwegian Parliament for Carlsen & Kasparov - and a lot of school-kids, too!  Carlsen, who is also the Honorary Chairman of First Move, took on children and their parents in a big simultaneous display.   “Chess,” said Kasparov to the Norwegian newspaper VG, “is one of the most effective and inexpensive educational tools.”

Meanwhile, at the Women’s World Championship in Sochi, Russia, it was the politician who came to meet the Queens of Chess.  Earlier this week,  Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister (and former president) dropped in to meet the players and to make an obligatory ceremonial opening move.

The Women’s World Championship has now reached the quarterfinals - and with it, in the first game of the mini-matches, we also witnessed the best game so far, as top seed Humpy Koneru’s six-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt, as the Indian lost to Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine in dramatic fashion.

M Muzychuk - H Koneru
Women’s World Ch., (4)
Scotch Opening
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.c3 Nge7 7.g3 d5 8.Bg2 dxe4 9.0–0 0–0 10.Nd2 Bb6 11.Re1 Nxd4 12.Nxe4 Qf5 13.Bxd4 Nc6 14.Bxb6 axb6 15.f4 Be6 16.b3 h6 17.h3 Ra3 Structurally, although Black has doubled b-pawns, the Black position is  better, as there's a lot of pressure coming down the a-file.  18.Qd2 Qa5 19.b4 Qa4 20.g4 White - perhaps realizing that, in the long-term, her queenside is likely to collapse - decides to go "all-in" with a rush attack on the kingside.  The gamble works. 20...Rd8 21.Qf2 Rxa2 22.Rxa2 Bxa2 Hindsight is always 20/20 - but in view of what happens next, perhaps taking with the queen would be better: 22...Qxa2 23.Qg3 - though White still has a promising attack for the pawn. 23.b5 Na7 24.g5! hxg5 25.Nxg5 f6? (See Diagram) Totally oblivious to the dangers in the position.  Black had to bail-out now with 25...Rd1 26.Bf3 Rxe1+ 27.Qxe1 Qxb5 28.Qd2 Qc5+ 29.Kg2 Bc4 30.Qd8+ Qf8 31.Qxc7 Qc8 with a likely draw. 26.Qd2!! The killer blow - Black is hopelessly lost now, with a back-rank mate if Rxd2. 26...Rf8 27.Bd5+ Bxd5 27...Kh8 28.Qe2 forces mate. 28.Qxd5+ Kh8 29.Qf7! 1–0 Déjà vu! Again the queen can't be taken, due to the same back-rank mate - and now there's also the combined threat of Qh5+ with mate to follow.

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