Friday, February 10, 2006

Chess players in love

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

GM EDUARD Gufeld (1936-2002) of Ukraine was one of the top players in the 1950s and ’60s, having defeated Tal, Spassky, Smyslov, Korchnoi and Bronstein, and just about every strong player in the Soviet Union. He was also a prolific writer, having authored more than 50 books on chess. Here is an anecdote about his love life.

Eduard was in love with a beautiful girl and tried everything to win her heart – chocolates, flowers, letters – but nothing worked. Then one day he found out that she played chess. So, in his next letter to her, he used a few metaphors to describe his love for her.

He wrote: “You are for me the Queen on d8 and I am the pawn on d7!”

His chess metaphors won her heart and they lived happily ever after.

John Donaldson is an international master, author, organizer, journalist and chess politician. He was captain of the US team to six Olympiads from 1986 to 1996, including the 1988 Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, where a love story happened between him and Russia’s Elena Akhmolovskaya, one of the strongest woman chess players then. Elena played Maia Chiburdinadze for the World Chess Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1986 but lost 8 ½-5 ½.

John performed a special service which brought about the defeat of the leading Soviet Woman’s team by marrying Elena and helping her defect to the United States. This elopement cum defection, three rounds before the Olympiad was over, caused the Soviet team to fall from first to second.

John and Elena are now living in San Francisco, where he is director of the Mechanics Institute. He has two GM norms: Linsborg 2002 and Stratton mountain 2003. Elena won the 1990 and 1994 US Women’s Open Championship and tied for first in 1993.

Sofia Polgar is considered to be the most beautiful of the Polgar chess-playing sisters. Her elder sister Susan is a four-time World champion and five-time Olympic gold medallist, while younger sister Judit is considered to be the greatest woman chess player of all time.

Chess lovers all over the world abandoned all hope when Sofia married Grandmaster Yona Kosashvili on Feb. 7, 1999 in Rishon, Israel. Her husband is not a professional chess player but a practicing medical doctor in Israel.

Sofia shocked the world in 1989 when in Rome, at the age of 14, she defeated a string of grandmasters and achieved the highest performance rating of any chess player, male or female, in any open tournament in chess history. This result has since become known as “The Sack of Rome.” She scored 8.5/9 points, defeating a host of strong GMs with a performance rating of 2928.

Zhu Chen’s romance with Grandmaster Mohammad Al-Modiahki of Qatar is well known among chess players and most especially by Chinese fans of this woman world champion. Her marriage has brought her stability and her winning the World Championship over Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk in 2002 is testament to the success of her marriage despite the obvious differences in culture and religion.

She was a World under-12 champion and twice won the World under-20 championship.

The four-game final between the 17-year-old model-cum-chess player Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia and Zhu Chen was one of the most fascinating finals ever contested in Women’s chess. The result of the four classical games was 2-2 with both players in the lead at least once. All the four games were decisive.

P.S. Mandy Baria, the energetic new president of the Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association, is inviting chess players of the Mactan Export Processing Zone to a 20-board match to be held sometime in March.

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