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The girl who impressed Kasparov

By Stan Rayan

KOCHI, NOV. 17. Very few people get to play Garry Kasparov these days. The World No. 1 is an elusive star, frequently keeping away from chess tournaments and from the limelight.

But one young girl here, German Elisabeth Paehtz, has played two exhibition games against the former World champion. That was during a computer fair in Hannover five years ago. Kasparov was so impressed by the little girl's talent that he even helped her find sponsors for her early training.

Now 19, Elisabeth is the girls' second seed at the World junior chess championship that begins at the Casino Hotel here on Friday.

The former under-18 World champion is also a strong favourite for the title. And just two Elo points separate her from the top-seeded Russian, Ekaterina Korbut here.

"But you must have a lot of luck to win the title. I would say all the top five players begin as favourites," said Elisabeth, quite modestly, on Wednesday evening.

Elisabeth comes from a chess family. Her father Thomas, a Grandmaster, is also her coach. "But he is not very active these days. He has come with me," she said. Her brother Thomas jr is also a strong player in Germany. She took to the game at five and by 14, she became the German women's title.

This is Elisabeth's first visit to the country but she has had many close encounters with Indians. "Three years ago, at my last World juniors in Athens, I lost to Koneru Humpy in the final round. My loss gave Humpy the girls World title," she laughed.

"And at the Chess Olympiad last month, your team and our team stayed at the same hotel — Palmera Paradise — in Spain. That's how I got to know Harika," said the new International Master.

Harika, who won the under-14 Worlds in Greece the other day, will get to know a lot more about Elisabeth during the fornight-long championship here. Of course, it would be on the 64-square stage, for Dronavalli Harika is the third seed in the Kochi event.

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