Jen on Mind Sport Rapids, Pairs and Team Climb
By Jennifer Shahade   
October 11, 2008
The U.S. team plays dress up outside the Ming Tombs. L to R: GM Varuzhan Akobian, Jennifer Shahade, Alexander Shabalov, Abby Marshall and in front, Iryna Zenyuk

After the grueling 9-round Mind Sports Games rapid event, team dress-up, climbing the Great Wall  and a massage that felt more like Kung-Fu, I’m back to reporting from Beijing, China. (Check links to results, pgn/live games , my arrival blog and my blitz report.)

In the individual rapid events, the second seed in each section prevailed, GM Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria and GM Bu Xiangzhi of China.  Stefanova scored an awesome 8/9 in the rapid preliminary, and in her final round, she found a pretty rook trap when finishing off Ruofan Li of Singapore.


Ruofan Li, who I played 10 years ago in my first international event in Brazil, is playing the pairs event with her husband, GM Zhang Zhong. There are also husband and wife teams from Poland and Luxembourg.  The powerhouse teams were supposed to be Stefanova/Topalov and Kosteniuk/Karpov, but sadly, both fell through. (Of course, the men were at fault!)

In the blitz pairs India, Ukraine, Ecuador and Iran qualified to the semi-finals. The Ecuadorian pair, IM Martha Fierro and GM Franco Carlos Matomoros took gold, a surprise since they were ranked 11th going in. Martha lives in Italy but was born in Rhode Island and lived in the U.S. for many years, so she is familiar to many American players. Martha followed up her medal-winning performance with a win in the rapid pairs over top-seed Hou Yifan:


IM Fierro and GM Matamoros

American pair David Pruess and Irina Krush scored 5.5/11 match point in the blitz pairs, and were happy with their play. In the rapid pairs, they had a good start but finished on 4.5/9.

IMs Irina Krush and David Pruess

Irina Krush was happy with the sacrifices and overall quality in her blitz game against WIM Kharisma Irine Sukandar of Indonesia.


David Pruess was most proud that he held the following game against GM Gyimesi Zoltan of Hungary, which secured a match win since Irina won her game, against IM Nora Medvegy.


The pair event would have been more interesting to me if the pairs actually alternated moves, rather than simply playing two-game matches. In GO, the pairs competition is structured so that each pair (always one female and one male) takes turns moving. According to Allan Abramson, President of the American GO Association, the rise of such pair events helped popularize GO among women.

The organization of the Mind Sport Games is very impressive, but the future of the concept is uncertain. One potential improvement is that there is little official integration between the games- the chess players don’t interact much with the bridge, GO or draughts players and we are isolated into various corners of the convention center.

There should be a panel in which representatives from each game explain the virtues of their mind sport. My conversations with players from foreign games always seem to turn to why Go or chess or Bridge is superior. That may be because my typical opening line is, “Why is your game best?”

Chess Sleeves

Playing blitz for such high stakes will result in some scandals. There were several incidents in which players were disqualified for knocking over pieces—the draconian punishment implemented in the Mind Sports Games, probably as a reaction to the recent Socko-Foisor and Krush-Zatonskih Amargeddon scandals. Total disqualification for any displaced pieces is too extreme in my opinion. It creates situations which are a total joke…like a player who is up a queen and has a minute on the clock but his sleeve knocks over a piece. Just before the blitz individual, I played blitz with Zenyuk and Marshall with an eye to the rule, and wisely abandoned my thick sleeved blazer that I had planned to wear to most of the games.

Photo Gallery

Enjoy more photos from the Games, the American Great Wall Climb and miscellaneous shots from Beijing, which is right now, not only a gamesplayer's paradise, but also a photographer’s paradise.

Shirley Ben-Dak and Jennifer Shahade strike a chess pose close to the top of the Great Wall

A guard on the Ming Tomb Grounds

Winners of the Individual Blitz and Rapid, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk in white, and GM Antoaneta Stefanova in Black

Iryna Zenyuk and Jennifer Shahade's hair

Chinese schoolchildren on their way down the Great Wall

The Iranian team, WIM Atousa Pourkashiyan and GM Ehsan Maghami Ghaem, ranked only 13th going into the event, made the semi-finals of the Blitz Pair and just qualified for the semis of the Rapid Pair as well.

GM Jesse Kraai sees the light

In one of Beijing's hutongs (alleyways)

Josh Friedel and Iryna Zenyuk at the Great Wall