Ladies Knight with FM Alisa Melekhina

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In the first anniversary episode of Ladies Knight, Jen Shahade interviews the multi-talented FM, entrepreneur, gold medalist, author and lawyer Alisa Melekhina. Jennifer talks to Alisa live in Philadelphia, where  both grew up, about a wide range of topics, from Alisa’s corporate chess league, to lessons behind her first book, “Reality Check: What the Ancient Game of Chess Can Teach You About Success in Modern Competitive Settings.”

Alisa founded the Corporate Chess League in 2018 with Yuanling Yuan and Alex WienerGoldman-Sachs took down this year's event, which was hosted for the second year in a row at Debevoise & Plimpton's offices in Manhattan.  Jen and Alisa talk about how events like the Corporate League can help with retention for adults, who may be too busy to play chess on the weekends, or who may even fear losing rating points due to the “K” for kids factor. Corporate Chess Leagues exist in other cities in the United States, including Saint Louis, as well as in Washington State. The Chicago Industrial League, founded in 1957, also features team chess between area organizations.

Alisa herself had a strong showing at this year's event as the board one MVP. She detailed one of her favorite games from the event, a victory in a pet-line of the c3-Sicilian.

[pgn] [Event "NYCCL 2019 Season 2"] [Site "NYC"] [Date "2019.10.24"] [White "Melekhina, Alisa"] [Black "Ewing, Gabriel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C02"] [WhiteElo "2300"] [BlackElo "2250"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Debevoise"] [BlackTeam "Google"] {I had lost the first of our two games with Black, so winning was essential to keep our team chances alive.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Bd7 8. O-O Nxd4 9. Nbd2 {My pet gambit line in the Advanced French, which I covered previously for Chess Life magazine (10/2015).} Nxf3+ 10. Nxf3 Ne7 (10... Bc5 {is a critical line.}) 11. Be3 {Showing the drawback of 10...Ne7. Be3 develops with a tempo, and White is not in the least worried about the b2 pawn. If black captures on b2, this allows White to gain quick control of the b-file with Rb1, followed by critical control of the seventh rank upon capturing on b7. The queen has to retreat, and there are drawbacks to placing it on the open c-file, as well as back on its original square, where development is impeded.} Qd8 12. Ng5 Nc6 13. f4 Be7 14. Nxh7 g6 { I remembered up to 12. Ng5 in this line, but was on my own after this turn of events since Black usually puts up more resistance to defend h7. Nevertheless, White has to be careful about how to disentangle.} 15. Ng5 Bxg5 16. fxg5 Nxe5 17. Qe2 {Given that Bd4 does not work immediately, this slow move renews the threat while completing development and continuing to aim at the black king.} ( 17. Bd4 Qxg5 18. Qe2 Rh5 $1 $15 (18... f6 $2 19. Rxf6 $1 Qxf6 (19... Nxd3 20. Rxe6+ Bxe6 21. Qxe6+ Qe7 22. Qxg6+ Kd7 23. Qxd3 Rh6 24. Qb5+ Kc7 25. Qxd5 Rd8 26. Be5+ $18) 20. Bxe5 $18)) 17... Nxd3 {The best option. I was not concerned about losing the light-squared bishop, which is typically a strong asset in the French. Here, my control of the dark squares are paramount.} (17... Nc6 18. Qf2) 18. Qxd3 Bc6 19. Bd4 (19. Rxf7 Kxf7 20. Rf1+ Ke7 21. Qxg6 Kd6 $1 {Black escapes with the rook advantage.} 22. Bf4+ Kd7) 19... Rh5 $2 (19... Rh7 { A bit passive, but it was important to counter the devastating blow of...}) 20. Rxf7 $1 Qxg5 21. Bf6 (21. Raf1 {The most precise continuation, but not the most practical.} O-O-O 22. Bf6 Qh6 23. Bxd8 Rxh2 {This would have required me to see ahead in the quick G/10 time control and be certain that Black's threats are neutralized, as it turns out they are.} 24. Be7 Rh1+ 25. Kf2 Rxf1+ 26. Kxf1 Qc1+ 27. Kf2 Qxb2+ 28. Qe2 {No more checks. This time White escapes with the rook advantage.}) 21... Qf5 (21... Qf4 22. g3 $1 (22. Re7+ Kf8 23. Qxg6 Qxh2+ 24. Kf2 Rf5+ 25. Ke3 Qf4+ 26. Kd3 Qe4+ 27. Kd2 Rf2+ 28. Kd1 Qe2+ 29. Kc1 Rf1#) 22... Kxf7 23. gxf4 Kxf6 {Amazingly, this is Black's best response, but it is difficult to willingly go down this path during a game when White is still ahead.}) 22. Qa3 $1 {And even when Black has a full move, there is no way he can stop the mate on e7. Usually my games were the last to finish during the season -- it was nice to have a miniature for once and be among the first to conclude.} 1-0[/pgn]

Former US Women's Champion Rusudan Goletiani of Deutsche-Bank was the League MVP, with a sizzling 10.5/12 performance.

Alisa and Jen also talk about business chess heroes, the competing hierarchies of chess and the corporate world, and what she's been reading lately to prepare for her upcoming chess events.

You can find out more about Alisa on her website, twitter and Instagram. Find an excerpt of her book, Reality Check, on CLO and purchase it here.   Ladies Knight features music by the artist Juga, who went viral when her song, Oh Capablanca, dropped in the Fall of 2018. You can find more about Juga on

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