First in Judgement

“0 thou whose cynic sneers express
The censure of our favourite chess,
Know that its skill is science’ self,
Its play distraction from distress.
It soothes the anxious lover’s care,
It weans the drunkard from excess;
It counsels warriors in their art,
When danger threat, and perils press;
And yields us when we need them most,
Companions in our loneliness.”
Ibn al-Mutazz, a chess-playing Abbasid Caliph’s son

If you were following the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix played Feb. 11-23, 2016 in Tehran, you were witness to the emergence of a new chess star. 19-year-old Sarasadat Khademalsharieh took equal 2/3 only 1/2 point out of first.

The young Iranian IM/WGM bears a sonorous, polysyllabic name, her surname meaning something like “First in Judgement”, which could well be applied to her play in today’s game against 30-year-old Chinese GM/WGM Zhao Xue.

In a queenless position of wildly dynamic equality, Zhao Xue blinked first with 30. Kg2?! (30. Bc4) after which 30… Bf4! led to a tumbling continuation based on potential knight forks and bishop forks. Black’s advantage lasted through the return of the pawn thus won and was never yielded until White resigned on move 71.

This and her other games from the Grand Prix persuade me that WGM Khademalsharieh will attain or approach the women’s world championship within a few years.

Jacques Delaguerre