The fast-rising Lu and Lee, both 14, could make for a Fischer-Spassky-style rivalry

<span>Lu Miaoyi (left) narrowly missed her first grandmaster standard in Reykjakiv, while Alice Lee won $40,000 at the Women’s American Cup.</span><span>Composition: Fide</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 73a148e159a73a” data-src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 48e159a73a”/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Lu Miaoyi (left) narrowly missed her first grandmaster norm in Reykjakiv, while Alice Lee won $40,000 at the Women’s American Cup.Composite: Fide

In November 2022, this column wrote that a then little-known 12-year-old Chinese girl, Lu Miaoyi, could join Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan among the top three female players in chess history: the world’s elite: It’s been a while, but the evidence is mounting.

Lu’s mother, Xu Yuanyuan, was the 2003 Chinese women’s champion and two-time world girls champion. Lu learned chess at age three, got her first Fide rating at age five, and was 2200, master level, at age 10. At the age of 12, she defeated Lilit Mkrtchian, Armenia’s third woman, in a brilliant 18-move sacrificial miniature.

In tournaments around her 14th birthday last month. Lu closed in on the open IM title as the rating rose to over 2400. Last week she played undefeated through the first eight rounds in Reykjavik, where she defeated Zachary Saine, a well-known streamer, in 11 moves and easily drew with the former world champion Number 2 Vasyl Ivanchuk and then checkmated against England’s number 9 Daniel Fernandez in an attacking style reminiscent of Mikhail Tal.

Lu’s only defeat in Reykjavik, in round nine, cost her her first grandmaster norm. The next target for her will be the GM title, which Hou achieved at 14 years and six months and Polgar at 15 years and four months. A record isn’t a given there, because once Lu’s rating exceeded 2400, the K-factor or multiplier used to calculate her rating dropped from 40 to 10, slowing her progress.

While Lu was mowing down masters in Reykjavik, Alice Lee, also 14, was making American chess history at the $150,000 (£119,000) Women’s American Cup in St. Louis. Lee had lost both the 2022 and 2023 finals to longtime US women’s No. 1 Irina Krush and seemed destined to fail again this year, but then she fought back.

Their classic and quick mini-matches ended on a level note, and it all came down to the final 3+2 blitz. Krush had an extra bishop after 27 Bb5?? Nf3+, but missed the chance at 30…Rf7! 31 Rxd4 Rxf2+! 32 Kxf2 Qf6+ when checks picked up the white rook and black wins, and instead he blundered into defeat. The first prize was $40,000.

Lu and Lee will now be the fourth and sixth youngest over 2,400 women in chess history, trailing only Polgar, Hou and Kateryna Lagno (a world title contender next month). The stage could set the stage for an epic rivalry, a female equivalent of the 1960s and early 1970s, when Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky engaged in some famous duels before their 1972 world title match. Their match at the 1970 Siegen Olympiad was a classic.

The Olympiad could be an apt comparison as China appears likely to include Lu in its team for the 2024 women’s competition in Budapest in September, while Lee looks assured of a US team place after last week’s dramatic success. China will be the gold medal favorite, the US contenders for silver or bronze.

In addition, Lee and Lu will be the standard bearers in the coming decade, when international women’s chess could achieve a permanently higher profile with the help of other rising stars, not least England’s Bodhana Sivanandan, nine, who has broken historic age records.

Sivanandan took part in the Vera Menchik Memorial at the London MindSports Center in Hammersmith this week, the first event organized with support from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s new £500,000 support for elite chess. It was held to commemorate the first female world champion, who held the title for 17 years before her untimely death in 1944, when she was killed by a V1 rocket that hit her home in Clapham.

Former England No. 1 woman Harriet Hunt, 46, who recently returned to chess after several years in an academic career, won the Menchik Memorial 7/9, half a point ahead of a trio including Scotland’s Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, 55, former world-class duo showed their enduring skills in their best games.

Sivanandan’s 3/9 performance, six draws and three losses were among her best, but she came straight from Reykjavik where she scored an impressive 5.5/9. Most of her matches were full distance, so she played two rounds and ten hours a day. Small margins ruined her results. She missed two easy wins due to being fast in her specialty rook endgame, while her losses came from passive play from the opening.

Next up for Sivanandan is the European Women’s Championship in Rhodes, Greece, from April 19 to 29, where England, again with support from the DCMS, will send a strong delegation led by British champion Lan Yao and commentator Jovanka Houska.

Another DCMS-backed English standards event took place this week, the 4NCL GM Round Robin in Peterborough, where Marcus Harvey, 28, Matthew Wadsworth, 23, and Shreyas Royal, 15, tried for the GM standard of 6.5/9. Harvey came closest with 6, only to be dismissed when he only drew in the final round. Wadsworth scored 5 and Royal 4.

There was still an English-based standard of 6.5 GM. Rajat Makkar, who represents France but is in his fifth year at Hampton School, Middlesex, where he will sit his GCSE exams this summer, fought his way back to normal with on-demand wins in the final two rounds.

Makkar’s ambition is the GM title before he leaves Hampton, and this week’s performance was a big step in that direction. His entertaining game with Wadsworth ended with a king chase and checkmate.

World number 1 Magnus Carlsen blundered a knight and match against Richard Rapport in the opening round of the ongoing Grenke Classic. The position had WK f1, WR d3 and WB c5, against BK h6, BR c2 and BN c4 plus pawns that were not relevant to the tactics. It was easily drawn, but Carlsen fell before the fork 1…Nd2+?? 2 Rxd2! and resigned because of Rxd2 3 Be3+ and 4 Bxd2.

It’s been a tough few days for the world number 1. Carlsen also blundered a knight when he lost to 10-year-old Faustino Oro in a one-minute ball match at’s weekly Bullet Brawl. The Argentinian prodigy, known as “The Messi of Chess”, already has the youngest ever rating of 2300 and IM norm across the board, plus a rating of 3000 in online blitz.

3913 It’s mate in five with 1 Ng7+! Bxg7 2 g4+! Kxg4 (if fxg4 3 Qh2 mate or Kh4 3 Qg3 mate) 3 Bd1+ Bf3 4 Bxf3+ Kh4 5 Qg3 mate.

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