London Chess Conference

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Participants from more than 50 countries are expected for the 2019 London Chess Conference, coming up November 30-December 1. There is still time to register. The day after the conference ends, the London Chess Classic begins. The London Chess Classic features some of the best chess players in the world, headlined by the current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen.

Chess and Female Empowerment

This is the seventh year for the annual London Chess Conference. While maintaining its traditional emphasis on chess and education, the 2019 conference has a theme of “Chess and Female Empowerment.” This year’s conference “examines the involvement of women and girls in chess and presents insights into how to improve the gender balance. The conference will be of interest to women chess players, organisers and educators.” Find out more by watching this preview video and by visiting the conference’s website. To buy tickets for the London Chess Classic, which follows the conference, go to this website.

 Judit Polgar, founder and motor of the Global Chess Festival, interviewed during her event Courtesy of the London Chess Conference, photo by Alina l´Ami
Judit Polgar, founder and motor of the Global Chess Festival, interviewed during her event Courtesy of the London Chess Conference, photo by Alina l´Ami

The London Chess Conference provides an amazing opportunity to interact with over 100 experts on chess and education. But if you can’t attend in person, there are still opportunities to learn. Presentations will become available on the conference’s website after the conference ends. During the conference, organizers will stream a few select sessions such as a Round Table on Inclusion and Equal Opportunities.

More Bishop-and-Knight Checkmates

As I admitted in this article, when I was a teenager I failed to checkmate with bishop, knight, and king against a lone king. Therefore, I probably notice this checkmate more often than other people do. If, like me, you need to practice that checkmate, review the article which provides instruction.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s top player, Grandmaster Kamil Dragun, knows the bishop-and-knight checkmate. When Poland defeated Russia at the 2018 Chess Olympiad (Batumi, Georgia), Dragun won as Black against Grandmaster Dmitry Jakovenko. To conclude that game before checkmate, Dragun’s moves convinced his opponent that Dragun knew how checkmate with a bishop and a knight against a lone king. When Dragun played 68…Be6, demonstrating the mating pattern, Jakovenko resigned.

On July 20, 2019, the Saint Louis Chess Club live-streamed Veronika Zilajeva, as White, playing with a bishop, knight, and king against Rachael Li’s lone king. Watching that video, one can imagine the pressure Zilajeva felt to complete the checkmate. Spectators at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship (and the concurrent U.S. Senior Championship and U.S. Junior Championship) and online viewers followed her moves. For example, this YouTube video, which included parts of the Zilajeva-Li game, has 8,895 views. And this last-round game determined if Zilajeva or Li finished last in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

Zilajeva-Li (Zilajeva with back to camera)
Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, photo by Crystal Fuller
Zilajeva-Li (Zilajeva with back to camera)
Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, photo by Crystal Fuller

According to Commentator and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, Zilajeva’s opponent, nine-year-old Rachael Li, displayed “restless” behavior perhaps not unexpected from a child. Several times during the ending, Li stood behind and close to Zilajeva while Zilajeva’s clock was running. As Commentator and Grandmaster Robert Hess said, “It is a bit frustrating to have someone over your shoulder.”

Zilajeva completed the checkmate with just a couple moves and a few minutes on her clock to spare, as the “50 move rule” applied. For games when one is facing a lone king, one has 50 moves after the last pawn move or capture to checkmate or the game is declared a draw. In the Zilajeva-Li game, the last capture was on White’s 83rd move, and Zilajeva won on move 131. With this win, Zilajeva finished in ninth place, and Li finished in tenth place, in the 10-player round robin 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on Amazon.com.

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