Chess kings clash over their queen

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 June, 2006, 12:00am

It was an unusual move from a chess grandmaster miffed by his opponent's aggressive tactics.

English grandmaster Danny Gormally took out the king, but it was with his fist on a nightclub dance floor in Turin, Italy, over a glamorous player described as the sport's Anna Kournikova.

Last week the fallout was dramatic, transforming perceptions of a normally sedate pastime.

Cups of tea were sent flying as teammates of felled star Levon Aronian, dubbed the David Beckham of Armenia's chess set, sought revenge at a pavement cafe.

A battered Gormally was sent home in shame and the stunning player whose 'energetic' salsa dancing sparked his disco dust-up made her first public comments to The Times of London.

'Suddenly there was a scrum and Lev was on the floor,' said Arianne Caoili, a 19-year-old Australian child prodigy of Filipino descent who was an international master by the age of 14. 'Fortunately Lev was not badly hurt.'

The wide-ranging interview revealed a chess queen intent on modelling, recording her first album and studying law and international relations at Oxford University or in Germany. Keen to clear up any misconceptions, she announced: 'I want to be known as the Sharapova of chess, rather than the Kournikova - known for both my brains and beauty.'

Caoili started playing the game when she was five but in recent years concentrated on her schoolwork. Her website lists an eclectic array of personal interests, including 'philosophy', 'getting up to no good', 'fine food [and fine boys]', 'dwarfs' and 'the odd Cuban cigar'. She also hopes to learn 10 languages and 'earn giant gobs of money'.

Another website featuring Caoili is the Women's Chess Beauty Contest, in which female players apply to take part and urge surfers to vote for them. It offers a startling contrast to the traditional image of top-class chess; dominated by men often wearing milk-bottle spectacles and pullovers resembling the boards they play on.

Currently ranked seventh, Arianne's photographs are less risque than several others, including 32-year-old Serbian grandmaster Maria Manakova, who has posed nude for magazines and turned up at tournaments in skimpy outfits and stilettos.

Seemingly without irony, Caoili told The Times she loved the game because it is 'fighting for the mere pleasure of fighting'.

'There is nothing like arguing for the mere pleasure of arguing,' she added. 'It is my weakness to sometimes start a random friction between myself and another to test reactions, psyche, get amused, or simply to relax.' It was a lively Latin routine with Aronian during the Chess Olympiad in Turin earlier this month that raised the hackles of Gormally.

Caoili said England's 10th-ranked player was under the influence of alcohol and medication when he punched Aronian, the world No3, on the dance floor at the Hiroshima Mon Armour club.

Earlier in the evening Arianne told Gormally she wanted to be 'just friends'.