Monday, May 17, 2010

World Women's Chess Championship, Manila 1991

The 1991 World Women's Chess Championship was a historic event. Xie Jun defeated Maya Chiburdanidze becoming the first Asian to win the Title. For a very long time, the Soviets had dominated the Women's title and the advent of Xie triggered an awakening of Chess in China.

Xie had won the Candidates Tournament by defeating Alisa Maric in a tie-break 4.5 to 2.5 (the tie-break was required since Xie had tied with Alisa). The Manila match was held from Sep 25th to Oct 28th as the best of 16 games.

It was organized by the Philippine Sports Committee in collaboration with the City of Manila. It had been a long time since any non-soviet player had challenged the World champion and the Ladies match had anmost never been played outside the Soviet Union. So, this match was very important for Asian chess. The organizers had made good arrangements with identical facilities for the two players. The hotel rooms were identical in size and positioned at two ends of the same floor. Bodyguards were allocated to the players.

Before the match Xie was worried about preparation because Maya was well versed with modern opening theory. So Xie decided to turn her lack of understand in openings into a practical weapon. By playing boldly and originally, Xie hoped to upset her opponent.
Her delegation to the match consisted of 6 members (team-leader, his assistant, medical doctor, 2 seconds and Xie herself).

Xie got good support from her team who stayed in the playing hall throughout the duration of the game. After 10 games the score was tied 5-5. Xie started playing with more energy but Maya began to get tired. Both players became more nervous and the games were riddled with more mistakes than expected. The 14th game was the decisive which ended in a draw and left Xie with a 2 point lead with just 2 more games to go.

Xie won the match 8.5 to 6.5 (4 wins, 2 losses and 9 draws) without needing to play the last game of the match. Xie won Games 3, 8, 11 and 13. She lost Games 4 and 5.

One incident that could have proved fatal for Xie happened after Game Four. On a rest day, Xie wanted to relax in the swimming pool. She did not know how to swim, so she stayed in the shallow side of the pool. Due to the strong current in the pool, her legs got dragged to the deep end and luckily, her seconds and doctor who were with her rescued her. She had a lucky escape but was frightened badly.

After winning the match Xie found herself in the centre of popularity and media attention. Several parties were arranged and there seemed to be no end to the celebrations for bringing the title to Asia. Xie's delegation was invited to the Presidential palace to meet President Corazon Aquino. Xie was awarded the Medal of Honour from the President.

Back in China also, Xie received an incredible reception. She was invited to the City Hall to give a series of interviews and press conferences.
Xie has been primarily responsible for popularising Chess in China. The Media started considering it as a true sport and players got more publicity than before.

Below i give the 15th Game of this match.

White: Xie Jun
Black: Maya Chiburdanidze
15th game of Womens World Championship, Manila 1991

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 [going into this game, Xie had a lead of 8-6 and needed only a draw to win the title] 4.Nc3 a6 5.a4 b6 6.Bc4 e6 7.0-0 Nd7 8.h3 Bb7 9.Be3 Ne7 10.Qd2 h6 11.Nh2 Nf6 12.Bd3 Qd7 13.Rad1 d5 14.f3 Nh5 15.Qf2 f5 16.g4 dxe4 17.fxe4 Nf6 18.Nf3 0-0-0 19.Ne5 Qe8 20.Qe2 Nxe4 21.Nxe4 fxe4 22.Bxa6 Bxe5 23.dxe5 Qxa4 24.Bxb7+ Kxb7 25.Ra1 Qc6 26.Qa6+ Kb8 27.Rf6? Qb7 28.Qxb7+ Kxb7 29.Rxe6 Nd5 30.Re1 Nxe3 31.Rxe3 Rd2 32.Rxe4 Rxc2 33.Rxg6 Rd8 34.Re1 Rdd2 35.Rxh6 Rg2+ 36.Kh1 Rh2+ 37.Kg1 Rcg2+ 38.Kf1 Rxb2 39.Kg1 Rhg2+ 40.Kh1 b5 41.e6 Rge2 42.Rxe2 Rxe2 43.Rf6 b4 44.g5 b3 45.Rf1 c5 46.g6 Rxe6 47.g7 Re8 48.h4 Rg8?? 49.Rg1 Kc6 50.h5 b2 51.Rb1?? Rxg7 52.Rxb2 c4 53.h6 Rh7 54.Rh2 Kd5 55.Kg2 Ke4 56.Kf2 Kd3 57.Ke1 Kc3 58.Ke2 Kb3 59.Ke3 c3 60.Kf4 c2 61.Rxc2 Kxc2 62.Kg5 ½-½

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