Sisterhood - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


Today marks International Women’s Day, a global event that celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. But while some people might only be just waking up to the importance of this annual celebration, IWD has actually been around for more than a century and dates back to the early 1900s, with its roots originating out of the first National Woman’s Day, as it was called back then, acknowledge in the United States on 28 February 1909.

With the rise of suffrage, it turned global in 1910 at the suggestion of German’s women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin whilst attending the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark. The following year, the observation date began the progress of being celebrated across the world. And in 1975, during its International Women’s Year, the United Nations formally adopted and supported the annual early March date globally to be IWD.

In chess-strong nations such as China, Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, IWD is a national holiday. Also, it is not unusual to see some of these country’s organising specific women’s tournaments in celebration. This year, however, IWD falls across the FIDE World Team Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, which also includes the FIDE Women’s World Team Championship – so it would be quite remiss of us on this day of sisterhood not to cover the event!

Just like their recent Women’s Olympiad rivalries, it’s turning into a two-horse race in the Women’s Team Championship between top seeds Russia and China, who are both undefeated on a perfect 8/8, and the title looks set to be decided when the two leaders clash. The USA has to be heartened by the outstanding early performances of two rapidly rising star in Carissa Yip, 15, and Rochelle Wu, 13, who between them scored 3.5/4 against very strong opposition!

And the game that stood out most, was Yip’s heroic giant-killing takedown of the Ukrainian former women’s world champion Anna Ushenina in the opening round with Black in her favourite King’s Indian Defence – and especially a standout moment to look out for, was just how Yip brought her KID Indian “bad” bishop into the game in a way that belied her age!


Open: 1. Russia 7/8; 2-4. India, USA, England 6; 5. Iran 5; 6. Kazakhstan 4; 7. China 3; 8. Sweden 2; 9. Azerbaijan 1; 10. Egypt 0.

Women’s: 1-2. Russia, China 8/8; 3. Ukraine 6; 4-5. Georgia, India 4; 6-7. USA, Kazakhstan 3; 8-9. Armenia, Hungary 2; 10. Egypt 0.

Photo: Carissa Yip was the hero of the day with her opening round giant-killing performance | © Maria Emelianova/

GM Anna Ushenina – FM Carissa Yip
FIDE Women’s World Team Championship, (1)
King’s Indian Defence, Averbakh System
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 Bg7 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 This is the Averbakh System, named after Russia’s Yuri Averbakh, the world’s oldest-living grandmaster, who on February 8 celebrated his 97th birthday. The idea of this system is to stop Black from playing …e5 immediately as this would lose at least a pawn. 6…Nbd7 The main tries are usually 6…c5 7.d5 h6 8.Bf4 e6 entering into a Benoni-type set-up or the more modern-day set-up with 6…Na6. Yip’s move attempts to steer the game into a positional Classical King’s Indian Defence set-up. 7.Qd2 c6 8.Nf3 e5 Also possible is 8…d5!? with the idea of 9.exd5 (If 9.e5 Ne4! gives Black instant and easy equality.) 9…cxd5 10.0-0 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Nb6 12.Bb3 Nbd5 and a firm blockade of the d5 square. 9.d5 A standard KID move – but it just plays into Yip’s plans. Perhaps a better ploy would have been to keep the options open for now by delaying this move, and building up the pressure on the centre with 9.Rd1!? and see how Black now reacts before making such a committal move as d5. 9…Nc5 The trouble with d5 is that with tension now released in the centre, this standard KID knight move and outpost gives Black easy equality. 10.Qc2 a5 The last two Black moves usually come hand and hand in the KID, as who wants to see that knight easily being shunted from the wonderful c5 outpost? 11.0-0 Rb8 Yip wants to open up lines on the queenside with …b5 – but more accurate was the common KID plan of 11…cxd5 12.cxd5 Bd7 so that if White plans moving the knight with 13.a3 a4 foils that plan. 12.a3 cxd5 13.cxd5 Qc7 Playing for tricks, as it stops in its tracks 14.b4? as it backfires to 14…Ncxe4! 14.Nd2 Doubling down on the protection of e4 – but better was 14.Rfc1! protecting the queen and piling on the pressure down the c-file. 14…Bd7 15.Nb5 This was always going to be an awkward move after Yip had committed to her 13…Qc7 plan. 15…Bxb5 16.Bxb5 Rfc8 It’s time to take stock. There’s nothing much in the position: White has the bishop-pair and Black looks to have at least generated counter-play on the queenside. The game basically is decided now on who comes up with a clear plan of action – and it comes from Yip! 17.Rac1 Qd8 Yip keeps chipping away at the awkward …Ncxe4 trick that’s frustrated Ushenina these past few moves or so. 18.Qb1 a4! Simples. Black needs to put the ‘big clamp’ down on the queenside, and this fixes White’s pawns and retains the wonderful c5 outpost for her knight. 19.Be3 It’s clear by now that the …Nc5 is beginning to annoy Ushenina. 19…Qa5! Another reason for …a4 was to bring the queen back into the game – and with it, now there’s no holding back Black’s queenside expansion. 20.Be2 b5 Not just gaining real estate on the queenside but more importantly denying White the vital c4 square for her knight. 21.f3 Nfd7 22.Rc3 Bf6! A nuanced move in the KID: Black’s bishop is doing nothing on g7, so Yip, showing experience beyond her age implies, re-routes it via d8 to play a more active part in the game from either b6 or a5. And with this move, it becomes clear that Yip is the one who has the better “feel” for the dynamics of the position. 23.Qc2 Bd8 24.Rb1 Qa6 Awkward! The simple – yet logical – retreat of the queen suddenly threatens …Ba5 trapping the white rook. And with it, Ushenina simply collapses under the pressure, as Yip now has free-reign to put her pieces on their most optimum squares. 25.Qd1 Ba5 26.Rc2 Bb6 Returning to the old trick of …Ncxe4 that wins due to the hanging Be3 – and with it, Ushenina is forced into yet another humiliating retreat for one of her pieces. 27.Bf2 Kg7 a nice waiting move that just shores up the dark-squares around the Black kingside, and more critically, just removes any possibilities of an annoying back-rank check should a tactical threat of …Nxe4 come back into play again. 28.Rbc1 Rc7 29.Qf1! Ushenina is fighting to get back into the game – and this does help, as suddenly b5 is under attack. 29…Ba7 30.Rc3 Rcc8 Better looks the immediate 30…Qb7!? simply removing the queen from any potential pinning problems. And with it, Black could well be threatening to hit out with …f5 as the White d5-pawn lacks protection. 31.Kh1? An inexplicable move that will come back to haunt Ushenina big-time. And with it, I think it is a clear sign that White doesn’t quite know what to do in this dynamic position. 31…Qb7 Better late than never, I suppose! 32.R1c2 Rf8 33.b4 axb3 34.Nxb3 Qa6 35.Bh4 The game begins to grow more complex and dynamic at just the right time for Yip, as Ushenina hits the time-trouble zone – and the pressure tells, as she begins to crack. 35…Qa4 36.Qb1?! What was needed was 36.Nc1 or even 36.Nd2 to stay competitive. 36…b4! 37.axb4 Qxb4 Yip has now seized the advantage – and she takes it to the max with Ushenina’s self-inflicted back-rank mating threats with her ill-fated 31.Kh1. 38.Qa2 Nxb3 39.Qxa7 Nd4 40.Qxd7 Qxc3!! 0-1 [see diagram] A stunning finale that’s fitting of a diagram moment, as Ushenina can’t stop the self-inflicted back-rank mate that’s come about because of her inexplicable 31.Kh1.


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