Checkmate: Latvia’s finance minister humbles world chess champ!
Amit Karmarkar | TNN | Sep 7, 2016, 09.47 AM IST
PUNE: It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t a win aided by an opponent’s blunder. Believe it or not, it was a clear case of the women’s world No. 318 outplaying the world No.1. On Monday, Dana Reizniece Ozola, a minister of finance in the Latvian government, proved to the world she is not just a casual chess player – the 34-year-old defeated women’s world champion Hou Yifan of China in the fourth round of the Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, the birthplace of the great Garry Kasparov. Dana is placed 400 Elo points below Hou Yifan.
In an indication that she has the ability to play above her rating, Dana has always played at the Olympiad on the top board, generally reserved for the country’s highest-rated player, despite never being the country’s best woman player. She had defeated WGM Lara Rogule, Latvia’s highest-rated woman player in a rating meet three months ago.
Dana, a mother of four, has played in seven Olympiads but pulling off the impossible on the chessboard isn’t her only talent – she can speak six languages with higher studies in law, business administration, finance, aerospace management and translation and terminology, apart from being a minister.
The previous Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, was forgettable for Dana – she had five defeats and one win, with the remaining games being drawn. The win over Hou Yifan should wash away those bad memories.
It was no surprise that the Dana-Hou Yifan game was played in a less travelled line of the English opening – the Agincourt defence; the NEO Catalan Declined variation. Quite a few elite players have played this ‘infashion’ line this year, but a majority of these games have been in rapid format, not the classical version like at the Olympiad.
The Dana launched a superb kingside attack and pierced open the Chinese defence with gpawn thrust. The finishing touches were provided elegantly, underlining the fact that if players at the highest level are taken out of their prepared lines, they too can come under pressure.
Dana became a Woman Grand Master (WGM) at the ‘ripe old age,’ in chess terms, of 20, in the early 2000s. Her peak rating of 2346 was in 2010 before she devoted more time to her career outside chess. Dana is married to Andris Ozols, the director of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia who is 12 years elder to her. India’s women’s team has come up against Latvia just twice during Dana’s seven Olympiads -in 2000, S Vijayalakshmi missed a chance to play her as Dana was rested.in 1998, Dana defeated Bhagyashree Thipsay on the top board with white pieces. Dana was a chief organizer of the three Fide rating tournaments held in Latvia during the last two years.
This is Dana’s eighth chess Olympiad. She played in 1998, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014.
Prior to the Baku Olympiad, she had played 77 Olympiad games.
Her first two Olympiads were the best for Latvia. On both occasions, they finished in the top-20.
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