On December 1, it was confirmed that Anna Ushenina had won the Women’s World Chess Championship. This is the first time that Ushenina has picked up this title, and she fought a hard-won game against her acclaimed opponent Antoaneta Stevanova. Chess fans were kept absolutely on their toes right up until the end of the Championship, as Stevanova and Ushenina remained neck and neck until the final game, which was a tie break. Consistently deadpan, as she characteristically is, those close by may have caught a flicker of a smile on Ushenina’s face as she and and Stefanova shook hands after the winner was decided.
One of the highlights of the final rounds of the Championship was the point at which Ushenina deployed her winning move with the Queen. Ushenina used the move known as the ‘creeping queen’ (which involved her moving Qa7). This move is all about the element of surprise. The creeping queen move involves shifting the queen a square or two along the board, without any obvious purpose. The queen is neither in a position to threaten the opposing king, nor to attack any piece that is sitting there undefended. When the creeping queen move is utilised, it often creates a sense of bafflement: why is the queen ignoring undefended pieces and making a fairly neutral move across the board? Later, as Ushenina showed, this move proves to be deadly for the opponent as it can be used to set up a striking checkmate! Chess fans will remember a similarly exciting use of this move by Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik in the World Chess Championships earlier this year.
The hard work over, Ushenina and Stefanova could enjoy the cultural highlights of a rather quirky closing ceremony. Amid the traditional orchestral music and a performance of Rachmaninov on a grand piano, men and women dressed as giant chess pieces danced elegantly on the wooden boards!