Wang Yu keeps China's reputation intact

MORE online casual chess games are played today than over-the-board games. The Internet helps bridge boundaries and chess is perhaps the only game that can be played online without losing any of its charm which makes people argue whether it is a sport or an art.

ARVIND AARON

MORE online casual chess games are played today than over-the-board games. The Internet helps bridge boundaries and chess is perhaps the only game that can be played online without losing any of its charm which makes people argue whether it is a sport or an art.

Wang Yu having played online chess for long was more at home. — Pic. S. THANTHONI-

On May 31, 2003 when National women's champion Aarthie Ramaswamy of Chennai played her first online game it was a two game match against Wang Yu of China. The show was sponsored by a New York organiser, Ashok Aaron, with the Internet Chess Club (ICC) handle "Encourager''. The event had two themes, calling it SARS Free and Fifth Saturday Internet Match. The subsequent fifth Saturday matches are likely to be held in August and November this year.

Wang Yu is waiting for the next FIDE meeting to confirm her Woman Grandmaster title. She was the higher rated of the two with 2359 and Aarthie had an Elo rating of 2348. Aarthie had beaten Wang Yu in 1999 in the final round to win the World Under-18 girls championship. Their last meeting was a quick draw in the Asian women's championship in Chennai (2001). As such a close match was anticipated. Wang Yu was more at home on the ICC having played online chess for long. She was seen like a favourite.

When the games began at 8.30 p.m. Indian time, about 100 players watched the games online and the automatic colour toss gave Aarthie white for the opening game in the best of two series. They were each given 15 minutes at the start of each game and for each move they make they received ten seconds as an increment under the Fischer time control. S. Paul Arokiaraj of Chennai Port Trust was the arbiter for the match. He monitored the games online from another computer connected to the Internet.

Aarthie won the double bishop advantage after 25 moves with the white pieces and was set for a king side attack. Wang Yu, however, exchanged off the black square bishop and queens to enter a favourable rook and minor piece ending. Having gone into the ending with a slight handicap, Aarthie proposed a draw at move 32 but the Chinese rightly turned it down. A blunder on the 38th move by Aarthie cost her a pawn and Wang Yu converted that advantage in the resultant rook ending in 53 moves.

In game two, Aarthie had the uphill task of requiring a win with the black pieces to square the series. But, after consuming ten minutes for an opening move against the Rauser attack, she rallied and swung into a good position. In the major pieces ending, Wang Yu was regrouping for a big attack. That was when Aarthie took a draw by perpetual check in 32 moves.

National women's champion, WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy, playing online chess from the Chess Mate office in Chennai . — Pic. ARVIND AARON-

Aarthie, 23, could have done better in both games. She could have put up better defence in the opening game which she lost and tried to win the second game which she drew by perpetual check. "I missed my chances," said Aarthie who looked little nervous at the start of the match. "I never wanted to play online games,'' confessed Aarthie who added, "when the offer came I could not say no.'' She enjoyed the games, playing them from the Chess Mate magazine office at Adyar in South Chennai.

The result ensured that China's reputation would remain intact. Aarthie who came with her mother for the game has learnt something new in the defeat. Online games have the same character as regular game minus the emotions of the opponent. Wang Yu became richer receiving an undisclosed prizemoney. Both players also received appearance fees.

New ways are invented to promote chess each day and Wipro-sponsored Aarthie was not the first Indian to play an online match. A few years ago Dibyendu Barua played a two game match against Garry Kasparov from the Kolkata office of Tata Steel. That was round one of an online tournament organised by the official web site of Kasparov. That tournament was won by Dutchman Jeroen Piket largely because he did not see Kasparov face to face in the finals! Piket has since retired from chess and Kasparov's web site also folded up recently.

Wang Yu, 21, played the match from Tianjin, about two hours drive from the Chinese capital, Beijing. They say she is there to keep away from SARS which is plaguing the bigger cities. Like Aarthie, Wang Yu also won World age group titles — the girls under-14 in 1996. She complained of being "tired" at the start of the match as it was 11 p.m. local time in China when the games began. The event was played for a global audience and Americans who had this start at 11 a.m., Eastern Time. The organisers hope that the next events will bring more top players from the world and India in the picture. The result of this match has helped Wang Yu to level her head-to-head deficit against Aarthie which stands at one win, one defeat and two draws after this latest match. With the head-to-head score level at 2-2 it may be time for one more match between them.

The moves:

WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy-WFM Wang Yu, match game one, time control 15 minutes plus 10 seconds, Ruy Lopez, C97: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 Rd8 13.d5 c4 14.Nf1 Nb7 15.a4 Bd7 16.Bg5 Nc5 17.axb5 axb5 18.Ng3 h6 19.Be3 Bf8 20.Nh2 Ra7 21.Qf3 Be7 22.Ng4 Nxg4 23.hxg4 Rda8 24.Rxa7 Rxa7 25.Nf5 Bxf5 26.gxf5 Ra2 27.Bc1 Qd8 28.Qg4 Bg5 29.Bxg5 Qxg5 30.Qxg5 hxg5 31.Rb1 Kf8 32.Kf1 Ke7 33.Ke2 g4 34.g3 Kd7 35.f3 gxf3+ 36.Kxf3 Ke7 37.Kg4 Kf6 38.Kh4 Nd3 39.Bxd3 cxd3 40.g4 d2 41.g5+ Ke7 42.Kg3 Rxb2 43.Rd1 Rc2 44.Kf2 Rxc3 45.Rxd2 b4 46.Ra2 Kd7 47.Ra7+ Rc7 48.Ra8 Rb7 49.f6 gxf6 50.gxf6 b3 51.Rf8 Rb4 52.Rxf7+ Ke8 53.Rh7 b2 0-1.