Rich As A King

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Women's Grand Prix round 8 report


Women's Grand Prix round 8 report by Alina L'Ami

The high fighting spirit animating the 8th round was not reflected on the score table. All the games ended in draws with the exception of Stefanova-Muminova, won by the former Women World Champion.


For the first time in the tournament, Hou Yifan seemed to be under pressure when Harika made an original pawn sacrifice for the initiative.

There are no big shakes in the classification, Hou Yifan keeps her one and a half points advantage over her trailers, Ju Wenjun and Dzagnidze. So this may be a good moment to learn something about the players' secret dreams and aspirations, if they had not been chess players.

Dzagnidze and Danielian are confident they would have been sportives anyway, with an inclination for basketball for the former and tennis for the latter. The most exotic option belongs to Ju Wenjun, who would have chosen to be a cooking teacher!

The others tend to keep chess on the top position, Hou Yifan would have been happy to play chess with her idol, Bobby Fischer, while Kosteniuk and others would have been delighted to play with other great players from the past.

Hou Yifan - Harika Dronavalli 1/2

Meeting the French Defence with Chigorin's 2.Qe2 is quite an oddity these days, at the top level, but Hou Yifan has shown before in this event that she doesn't shy away from the occasional side-lines.

Off the beaten track - Yifan can play anything!

Although, today's experiment did cost her some points in her overall performance:
she has now a rating perfomance of 'only' 2844, after drawing Harika.

Here, this approach brought her plenty of succeses earlier in the tournament, but today was quite a different story. Her opponent, Harika Dronavalli, responded well and could boost on a slight advantage in the early stages of the game. A pawn sacrifice spiced things up even further but this is also the moment the chances became mutual:

Harika is playing a very sharp, inventive and refreshing ches so far, and is currently on +1 and with 7 extra rating points in the pocket.



Here Yifan could have played 24.Bxd4 Bxg2 25.Qxg2 (25.Kh2!?) with a risk-free advantage in the endgame. Instead, 24.b5 gave Harika the chance to strike with 24...Bxg2 25.Qxg2 Bxe5 and either White takes on a8 or e5, a check on f3 will always win the exchange in the end.

During the press conference, Harika was truly puzzled to have discovered that she actually forgot her plan, which started with her 23rd move (23...Qa8); this was aimed precisely for Bxg2 ideas, when the lady has to be protected, in order to make things work. Time trouble though and Yifan's unexpected b5 move cought her on the wrong foot, so Harika went for the natural but less dangerous:

24...Nb3 25.Rc2 Nc5 - we have to make use of the c5 square, right? Which makes a lot of sense but allowed the game to metamorphose into an ending with rooks and opposite-coloured bishops.

The extra bit of energy, brought all the way from home, was more than welcome!

In order to draw the endgame Hou Yifan did have to show some accuracy, but she did just that, sacrificing a pawn in order to activate her pieces. The scoresheets were signed on move 53: draw.

Humpy Koneru - Alexandra Kosteniuk 1/2

The big drama of the eighth round was in the game between Koneru and Kosteniuk. Let's jump right in the moment when things heated up inmensely:



With the rook attacked, would you place it on c7 or c8? Alexandra chose the most natural square: c7, but after 20.Rag1 Bg5 21.h4 Ne6 22.Be5! Rc5 23.Bd6! the unfortunate position of the rook was fully taken advantage of. Instead, 19...Rc8 20.Rag1 Bg5 21.h4 Ne6 22.Be5 b5! would be ok for Black. In chess, the smallest details can make the difference!

People who thought that was the end of it were very much mistaken! Alexandra gave a piece, got some vague fighting chances but, objectively speaking, that was all it was. Indeed, Humpy seemed to keep her composure and bring home the point, until the following happened:



There is no apparent threat and Humpy played the natural 44.Kg2, safeguarding her king, falling in the last trap that Alexandra had prepared... she now issued a perpetual check with the shocking

44...Rxf2+!! 45.Bxf2 (45.Kxf2 Qa2+! actually loses) 45...Qg4+ 46.Kh2 Qh5+ and the draw was agreed. A huge escape from Alexandra Kosteniuk!

The players are getting visibly tired

Our Chairman Appeals Luxman Wijesuriya (Sri Lanka) is preparing something special for the players: biscuits from...his homeland! Maybe this is what helped the players in need to hold on to a draw today.

Zhao Xue - Anna Muzychuk 1/2


This encounter saw two (maybe three in fact) very interesting moments. The first one was on move 13:



With Black's king still in the centre, Xue decided 13.0-0 was in order, to which Anna's 13...Kf7! was a worthy reply. (Who woud have the courage to complain about women chess?!) With her queen and bishop hanging, 14.Qb3 was the obvious follow-up and this is actually the first critical moment:



Here 14...a6 15.Bxc6 Qxb3! 16.axb3 bxc6 should be a somewhat better endgame for Anna, but even more ambitious is 14...Na5 15.Qxd5 Be6, which may just be better for Black. For instance: 16.Qc5 Qxc5 16.dxc5 a6 followed by fxg5. The general consensus in the press room was that with 14...Bg4, Anna let her opponent of the hook. The game then developed quietly until a very sudden and ecstatic opportunity presented itself for Zhao Xue.



Here 20.Bf4 Rac8 21.Bd6!! is suddenly decisive. The point is that 21...Qxd6 is met with 22.Qxb7+, winning the rook on c8, while on 21...Rxc1 White has the intermediate 22.Qxd5+, mating.


Although a very strong tactical player, Anna feels she is missing something on the chess market:

"A tactics book clearly divided in sections for different rating levels".

Anna saw the resource immediately after she had played her move and already started to visualize a big zero on the scoresheet; but she didn't agonize too much, as it was not to be for Xue, who chose 20.Rc3 and the game ended in a draw ten moves later. We must agree though, that such an out of the blue resource is difficult to spot, unless you know it's there.

Ju Wenjun - Nana Dzagnidze 1/2


The first game that finished today, Ju Wenjun vs Nana Dzagnidze, was rather short - a repetition was initiated on move 15.


"What will my coach say, when he will see that I played 3...d5 instead of the 3...b6 plans
we had discussed before the game?" Nana was brave enough to shift towards a new idea,
which she had never played before, right when she was sitting at the board!



After 15.Nbd6 Rc7 16.Nb5 Rc8 the players were both satisfied with repeating the same sequence of moves. If either player had been looking for more, then either 15...Bxd6!? or 16.Nf5 would come to mind, but this would bring significant risks as well, of course.


Both players were the first to enjoy the upcoming rest day! And they keep on hanging to the 2nd and 3rd place

Bella Khotenashvili - Elina Danielian 1/2

The longest game of the day was the one between Bella Khotenashvili and Elina Danielian. The ever sharp Benoni was met by Bella with the fashionable 7.Bf4. The middlegame developed along the typical Benoni-lines, with Elina preparing and eventually succeeding, the b7-b5 push, as well as trying to make headway with g6-g5 and f5-f4, starting a kingside offensive. It was indeed Elina who seemed to be very much at home in this type of positions, as she was making progress left and right.



But Bella stood her ground and steered the game into an unpleasant but holdable position. That, in the end, is what she did as the players agreed to a draw on move 68.

After so many draws, which were certainly not as dry as dust, it is time to examine the only decisive result:

Antoaneta Stefanova - Nafisa Muminova 1-0

Antoaneta Stefanova played a model game against Nafisa Muminova. A Retí opening let to the seemingly innocent diagrammed position:



But Antoaneta continued 14.Nc4 Qa6 15.a4! highlighting the unfortunate position of the black queen. A further Bf1 emphasized this fact and, at this point, it already seemed difficult to propose improvement.

The only point of the day goes to Antoaneta

Nafisa did manage to escape with her queen but in order to do so she had to compromise her entire queenside. That allowed the Bulgarian to penetrate decisively and the next diagram really says it all:



Stefanova's 28.Rc5! left all Black's pieces hanging and the game was decided shortly afterwards.

Making choices is one of the most difficult things in chess, but the free day of tomorrow will not spare the players this effort. Will they attend the excursion, or practice horse riding, or else stay in their hotel rooms to prepare?! Since your reporter does not play in the tournament, her choice is simplified by one item, but she doesn't know either what to do, yet!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She rocks.