Chess: men win Gibraltar’s Battle of the Sexes as England’s talent impresses
Gibraltar’s Battle of the Sexes, a 10-a-side series of 100 games between evenly matched teams of men and women, provided a fluctuating and entertaining struggle. The women’s team began strongly with 13-7 in the first two rounds, before the men gradually overhauled and passed them for a final 53-47 margin. This small lead earned the victors 75 per cent of the £100,000 prize fund.
The women were almost all ranked in the women’s world top 50, and in many cases knew each other from events such as the World Cup, the Olympiads, or the world rapid and blitz championships.
In contrast, the men were often meeting their team mates for the first time, were invited from a wide range of countries and continents, and had rankings in the top 500 or top 1000. Zambia’s Gillan Bwalya, whose day job is as a policeman in Lusaka, lacked experience of high level chess and totalled 1.5/9 after arriving a day late.
The overall score table shows a crucial difference between the teams in the pattern of results. All but one of the individual totals of 7/10 or 6.5/10 came from men. They included England’s rising star Ravi Haria, 23 this week, who edged closer to a place on the national team.
Haria’s best win featured a pair of dancing knights which over-ran the black king’s defences. In contrast, six of the women’s team scored between 4.5/10 and 5.5/10, holding their own but no better. The two with superior percentages are both women world champions. Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine totalled an unbeaten 6.5/10, while the Bulgarian Antoaneta Stefanova scored 3/4 despite having to miss most of the event due to Covid.
In normal times Gibraltar would be looking to revive its celebrated and competitive international open in 2023, However, the tournament’s long-standing venue, the Caleta Hotel, has closed for refurbishment, and will eventually reopen as a Hilton. It therefore seems probable that the women’s team will have their chance for revenge a year or so from now.
James Aitken v Roland Payne, Whitby 1962. White to move and win. Aitken, 10 times Scottish champion, was also a Bletchley codebreaker. Can you find his sharp sequence here?
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