[original photo: Chessvibes]
I've lost a lot of games of chess to a lot of different people: if I had to remember all the faces and put names to them, I wouldn't bother with the game at all because I'll probably be the World Champìon at Pelmanism.
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
However, I was reading the latest New In Chess and there was a face that looked familiar. I know her, I thought. I'm sure I lost to her just the other month. So I looked in my scorebook and yes, sure enough, I had. D Harika, an international master from India: she beat me in the sixth round at Benasque. Nothing exceptional in that, I lost to four other people in the same tournament: rather more exceptional was that the New in Chess report was about the World Under-20 Junior Championships, in which, the month after putting paid to me, my exceptional opponent had won the girls' title. A rather more difficult feat, perhaps.
Dronavalli Harika. (As with Viswanathan Anand, the family name comes first, the other way round from the way we are accustomed to.) Well, here's a thing: how many world champions of any kind am I ever likely to play?
position after 11...Qd8-c7
It wasn't much of a game: I got overoptimistic straight out of the opening and failed to appreciate that the f4 advance I thought I was provoking was, in fact, my opponent's main idea. (Moreover, as it happens 12.e4 would have won straightaway. Which is a few moves too early to be lost in that line of the Slav - and never mind who the opposition may be.)
Not, perhaps, much of a struggle. Not, perhaps the world champion. Not, perhaps, actually the world champion at the time our game was played. But who cares? She's a world champion and I played her one-on-one. It's as close as I'm ever likely to get.