BEIJING, Oct. 8- 2008 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Bu Xiangzhi was crowned in men's rapid chess event at the World Mind Games here on Wednesday, while the gold in women's competition was clinched by Bulgarian pinup blonde player Stefanova Antoaneta.

In the short two-round final, Bu, whose world ranking was above his rival, beat Korobov Anton from Ukraine in the opening round and forced the latter to ask for a draw in the second. Bu's victory also gifted the Chinese chess team the first gold of the 15-day Games.

"It was really difficult in the second game as I couldn't find any offence chance. But later, things changed and I found a critical opportunity to grasp the momentum tightly," said Bu.

"Anyway, it feels great to win the gold, especially the first one for our team. I hope we can play better in the following team events," added the 23-year-old winner.

In the third-place playoff, Zhang Zhong from Singapore outscored his Brazilian opponent Fier Alexandr 2-1 to wrap up the bronze.

Women's final was between old rivals Chinese Zhao Xue and former world champion Stefanova. Apparently in better form, the 29-year-old Bulgarian started with a tight defense and then gained initiative by abandoning the soldiers to seize Zhao's queen.

Taking the white chessman, Zhao has to win the second round to stage a turnover. But the less experienced Zhao failed to start well in faced with Stefanova intricate routines and lost to the veteran again after her same defeat in the preliminaries.

Zhao's teammate Huang Qian survived a three round seesaw battle to beat Houska Jovanka of Britain for the bronze.

When asked about her title of "chess beauty", the Bulgaria winner smiled shyly.

"Appearance doesn't necessarily contradict with wisdom," said Stefanova.

"Of course I don't mean to say myself," the girl soon added, "in international events there are many pretty girls, and I hope Icould meet more such rivals in the future."

Russian "chess queen" Kosteniuk Alexandra who impressed audiences with her Hapburn-style hat and Chinese 14-year-old hopeful Hou Yifan finished seventh and eighth due to their not-so-good performances in the preliminaries.

The elementary school at the edge of this rural town has a playground that boasts little more than a swing set. That's no problem — the hot new game is inside.

Chess, once used as a way to teach war strategy, is now being taught to second- and third-graders across Idaho once a week as part of a plan to make students better at subjects like math and reading.

"At first I thought, 'You've got to be kidding,'" said Penny Lattimer, a Council Elementary School teacher. "We already have so much stuff to teach."

Lattimer didn't know how to play chess until last year, when she and a dozen other Idaho teachers were trained as part of a pilot program to bring chess into public schools.

The state Department of Education has now invested $120,000 into the project, which was tested in 100 schools last year and expanded this fall to 100 more.

Jerry Nash, scholastic director for the United States Chess Federation, said he has worked with public schools nationwide to develop chess programs, but Idaho is the first state to encourage public schools statewide to use the game as part of their curricula in second- and third-grades.

While the federation estimates 500,000 students nationwide in grades K-12 are being taught some aspect of the game through chess clubs, programs, or in the classroom, chess proponents such as Nash consider Idaho a trailblazer for introducing the game on such a large scale.

"What we're hoping is that it will be a great introduction," Nash said. "The more teachers that we have involved, obviously the greater impact we'll make."

Earlier this week at Council Elementary, third-grader Kristen Kruger, 8, played chess across the room from her brother, Tyler, a 9-year-old in the fourth grade. Kruger said the two often challenge one another.

"He's beat me like a hundred times," she said. "I won him once."

Lattimer points out one of her students who she said struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. "In the classroom, he cannot sit still," Lattimer said, "but he sits still for this."

Council Elementary embraced the chance to become one of the first to try the program last year, when the state paid for it. This year, those same schools had to pay $340 per classroom to keep it.

The cash-strapped elementary school has scaled back on teaching aides just to make ends meet, but Principal Bonnie Thompson said it was able to find enough money to keep the program going.

Council doesn't stray far from tradition, she said, but the game has brought a new dimension to life in this former timber town where its 800 people struggle to survive the economic downturns of the logging industry.

"They just don't have that much exposure to culture here," Thompson said. "They do what they've always done in Council. They play football and they go to the park. I've never heard them talk about chess."

The program being taught in Idaho public schools — called First Move — was developed by the America's Foundation for Chess, and was first tested in Seattle-area schools, said foundation Vice President Wendi Fischer.

First Move is now taught in 26 states, with Idaho public schools Superintendent Tom Luna the first to adopt it on such a large scale.

The game can help students develop critical thinking skills that make them better at math, reading and writing, Fischer said. For example, students who become familiar with the vertical and horizontal lines of a chess board and how they are numbered also learn the fundamentals of how maps, graphs and how X and Y coordinates work.

"That's pre-algebra," Fischer said.

Idaho was second only to Utah in the lowest school district spending per student in 2006, according to a 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report based on the most recent data available. The report says Idaho spent about $6,440 per pupil in 2006, compared to the national average of $9,138 per student.

Luna acknowledges there's little hard evidence students actually benefit from playing chess, and it could take a few years before Idaho can gauge whether students who learn chess are more successful in academics.

"But if we're going to encourage innovation and new ideas," Luna said, "we have to give those new ideas time to produce results."

Lattimer said she has noticed students seem more polite after learning a game that requires opponents to shake hands before and after they play.

"You'll see it on the playground," Lattimer said. "The kids are just more kind."


But, it wasn't great valor or even a wicked jump shot that landed Mike Skidmore in the Hall of Fame. Instead, it was instead his cunning strategies and all those checkmates.

Skidmore joined earlier this month an elite group of only 14 others named to the Michigan Chess Hall of Fame since its formation 20 years ago by the Michigan Chess Association.


There will be no multimillion dollar contracts, wax figures or Vince Lombardi trophy. Not even a crown for one of chess' kings.

Skidmore will get just a plaque, lifetime membership to the association, and be featured in an article for the association's magazine.

For Skidmore, the honor itself is worth more than any glamorous prize.

For the past 30 years, he's coached the Kearsley High School Chess Team, leading teams to win several state and national championships over the years.

Just as he's shared his knowledge of the game with his students, he also is sharing his honor.

"It's nice because it means some of the people in Michigan chess are recognizing what we do here," Skidmore said. "It's not about the individual honor. It's about the kids, the team and what they do."

The association exists in name only. There are no headquarters or offices. Instead board members meet four or five times a year at different locations.

The organization produces a bi-monthly magazine and bulletin of events and is responsible for organizing state championship events.

Hall of Fame inductees must have made a significant contribution to the growth, development, and prestige of chess in Michigan and the MCA, the selection requirements state.

Skidmore paid his dues by serving two terms on the MCA board, serving as chair of several sub-groups, editor of the magazine and coordinator of the U.S. Open Denker Invitational Tournament of Champions.

Skid, as he's affectionately called by his players, taught himself to play chess in fourth grade and went on to earn himself both local and state titles.

He started his first job coaching chess at Daly Jr. High School in 1973, the year after chess legend Bobby Fischer became the first American to win the World Chess Match igniting enormous interest in the game.

And, now, his students enjoy it when Skidmore occasionally makes rookie mistakes -- allowing them that rare chance to beat him at his own game.

"It's exciting because I know how experienced he is and how many people he's played and beat," said student Zach McComb, a 17-year-old senior.

Skidmore said he wants his students to learn more than just how to be good chess players.

"The kids are learning life skill through this game," Skidmore said. "I tell them to take those chess decision making skills and apply them to your life."


Flint Journal extras

More about 'Skid'

• Name: Mike Skidmore

• Age: 60

• Job: Chess coach and media specialist for Kearsley High School

• Family: Married with adult children

• Nickname: Skid

• How long have you been playing chess? "Since fourth grade. I taught my sister to play so I could beat her."

• How many games have you won? "Too many to count."

• Have you ever lost to any of your students? "Yes, but only when I'm tired or off my game."

NALCHIK: Indian Grandmaster Koneru Humpy rose to the occasion defeating Yifan Hao of China in the return game and forced the mini-match in to a tie-breaker in the ongoing World Women's Chess Championship here.

Humpy, who lost the first game as black, won the second game of the two-game mini-match and will now have to play the tie-break games on Friday.

The highest rated woman player after Judit Polgar of Hungary played imaginatively to beat Yifan, a 14-year-old sensation, who has been training hard and playing well against high opposition for past couple of years.

Meanwhile, in the other semifinal of the day Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk made sure she did not make mistakes in her quest for a berth in the finals and held Pia Cramling of Sweden to a draw to win the match by a 1.5-0.5 margin. In the first game of this semifinal, Kosteniuk had won with white pieces.

Humpy rose back in style to draw level in the second game. Starting with a knight manoeuvre on the first move, the Andhra girl transposed to a position akin to the Accelerated Sicilian Dragon and Yifan was in troubles early looking out for best ways to counter the opening.

While Yifan spent a lot of time in the opening, Humpy saved it for the crucial middle game stage where she had to find some tricky manoeuvre to avoid an equal position. As a result, both players fell in acute time pressure and the nerves played a crucial role.

Yifan could have defended better but the clock was ticking away and it was on the 32nd move that the Chinese blundered decisively and allowed Humpy to get a crushing attack on her king. The game ended just four moves later giving Humpy a chance to remain in the match and now in the tie-break the Indian will be a big favourite to win the match.

In the tie-breaker the players will first play a 2-game rapid match and if the scores are tied there will be two more games under blitz chess rules. If still tied the match will go in the sudden-death stage where white will get a minute extra on the clock with no increment and will have to win in order to qualify to the next stage.

Kosteniuk did many things right in order to gain a draw against Cramling. Her opening choice of Queen's gambit accepted proved correct, the concentration along the central squares was excellent and when the opportunity arose, the calculation was perfect.

Cramling on her part tried hard but Kosteniuk, despite being lower on rating, was simply the better player in this match. The game was eventual drawn vide perpetual checks. If Cramling had tried to avoid that the scoreline would have read 2-0 instead of 1.5-0.5.

For the records this will be Kosteniuk's second appearance in the final of the World Women's Championship. The last time she went to the finals was in 2000 at Moscow, where Zhu Chen of China had beaten her comprehensively to win the crown.

Results of game 2 semifinal with final score in the end: Koneru Humpy (Ind) beat Yifan Hao (Chn) 1-1 goes to tie-breaker; Pia Cramling (Swe) drew with Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus) 0.5-1.5, Kosteniuk goes to the finals.