Women success in Chess

By Davide Nastasio

This is the beginning of August 2017.  In the beginning of the week I read about the results from different tournaments.  I watched some of the new games, and it struck me that some women, great players, had great results but nobody spoke about it.

We are all talking when someone cheats, when one of the top 10 players wins a tournament, or if Carlsen’s performance was under 2980 (which for some commentators is not smooth enough), but we DON’T talk and praise the good results by women.



Carlsen vs. Ashley


Surely some people better than me will focus on “why” and give statistics, facts, history, etc.  But personally I care about what can be done to address the issue, instead merely of debating endlessly.  In my humble opinion, one way I felt to fix this situation was to write an article on the women I’ve witnessed who have won a tournament (if I missed some, this is only my fault).  I also wanted to show some of their great games to inspire more women to play chess, and of course to inspire everyone.  Like the FIDE motto says, Gens una sumus, We are one people.




Let’s begin from the least famous to reach the most famous one!  Desiree Di Benedetto is 17 years old.  She was the semi-final Italian women chess champion for 2017.  She has represented Italy in 2016 in the Chess Olympiad in Baku as member of the women chess team.



Desiree Di Benedetto, Italian Women Semi-final Champion




She has played since she was quite young, around 10 years old if I recall well.  Today I include her in this article to praise her performance in the third edition of the Chess Festival of Lignano Sabbiadoro (Sabbiadoro means golden sand).





Lignano Sabbiadoro is a place on the Italian coast (similar to Savannah, Georgia) where many people go for a nice vacation.  In this case it was possible to mix a beautiful vacation on the beach with chess.  The tournament was played from July 30 to August 6. However, for the sake of precision it was a festival of 4 tournaments, one of the four dedicated mainly to amateurs who would love just to try the experience of a tournament without an entry fee, but with medals and cups to entice them to continue in their chess journey!

At the tournament, Desiree had a 2410 performance and went above 2300, achieving the FM title.  She won the tournament with 7 out of 9 first place, shared with FM Daniel Beletic who also made 7 out of 9. The individual encounter between these two titans of the chessboard was a draw!

This is one of the games I like most, a total bloodbath, in the end decided by time, but totally amazing for how she wins against Nester Ihor, an experienced IM from Ukraine who was the winner of this same tournament in 2016!



Desiree Di Benedetto, photo credit: Franz Rizzi



Here is another exciting game against a master-level player from Slovenia:






Meanwhile in Erfurt, Germany, from July 29 to August 6, the tournament “Young Masters” was won by Marina Brunello, another great player from Italy.  She is part of a chess family: her brother, Sabino Brunello, is a GM.



GM Sabino Brunello


Her sister, Roberta, was the winner of the Women Italian Championship in 2006.  Marina had some shining results in team championships with multiple wins and many medals.



Winner Marina Brunello, photo credit: Klaus Steffan




Here are some of her games from Erfurt:



The following game could be titled, “The Dance of the Rooks and the Marathon of the Pawns.”



In Erfurt, a Women’s Open was organized as part of the chess festival. The winner was Mihaela Sandu, another exceptional woman player who around a year ago was unjustly accused  of cheating. She won the Women’s Open with 7.5 out of 9.



GM Mihaela Sandu


Here Mihaela outperforms a player stronger than her by more than 130 points.






Now we come finally to the person who is likely the most widely-known woman chess player (it helps to belong to a population which counts 1.6 billion!), and at the moment the strongest woman chess player in the world: Hou YiFan!





She just won the Biel (Switzerland) GM Tournament, average Elo 2646!! It was played between July 24 and August 2. She finished the tournament with a 2809 performance!! And 6.5 out of 9.
Clearly Hou YiFan didn’t have a good beginning of the year, if we consider the bizarre protest made in Gibraltar where on purpose she lost a game in 5 moves.

Let’s see how she takes down some of the strongest and most well-known names of the chess Olympus!



GM Alexander Morozevich




GM Bacrot Etienne




GM David Navara, 2013



We are at the end of the article, and it doesn’t hurt to remind everyone that on August 24 there will be a rapid match between Hou YiFan and Caruana, and then next month Hou will participate in the World Cup, which will see 128 of the best players (15 of which in the actual top of FIDE rating list) in the world duel for the chance to challenge the world champion. In reality, also the world champion will take part in it, but clearly that will be a top tournament in which everyone wants to play!


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