Review of the first round by grandmaster Sergey Shipov.

It is great that chess ladies have a tournament where they can make decent money. By the standards of poor women’s chess this World Championship is heaven.

But the pressure here is enormous, too. This tournament is very demanding for one’s nerves. When there is no second chance, and the stakes are high, playing chess becomes really hard. Those who can keep their cool under such circumstances usually prevail. This, of course, mostly applies to the matches between equals.

In the first round of the championship the favorites were paired against the weakest participants, while solid players from the middle of the rating list faced each other. I honestly believe this system is unfair. Why the strongest players, who are in a very good position anyway, receive such privileges? This is like lowering taxes for billionaires. Why shouldn’t we use the most standard pairing system, when the rating list in divided in two halves, and the players in corresponding rows of each half play against each other?

Of course I know the answer. Once upon a time the FIDE leadership altered the pairing system in order to attract the world’s best players to their knock-outs. They did not achieve this goal, but the unfair rule stuck and even expanded to women’s chess, which never suffered from this problem – even the world’s best players happily participate in knock-out events.

It is because of this rule the first rounds of knock-out championships became for top players a mere formality without the slightest flavor of competition.

And our World Championship is not an exception. How Yifan and Co easily smashed their doomed opponents in the first round. There is absolutely nothing to add about like a dozen of matches, and no chess fragments are needed to illustrate the enormous gap in strength.

The zone of real competition is located around the 13th board. Highly determined Cuban player Arribas Robaina managed to come back in her match against Khotenshvili and took the upper hand on tie-breaks. And she was not the only one who won the second game after losing the first one.

All in all, there were no major upsets in the first round. The stronger players usually advanced, including all real title contenders.

The most interesting match from creative point of view was played between the experienced Georgian player and the talented Russian junior. The first game reminded me the evergreen masterpieces Andersen-Kieserizky and Euwe-Reti.

 

Bodnaruk,Anastasia – Javakhishvili,Lela

FIDE Women World Championship, Khanty-Mansiysk, 11.11.2012

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Bc5 6.Nb3 Be7 7.Qg4 Bf6 8.Qg3 Nc6 9.Nc3 Nge7 10.Bf4 Ng6 11.Bd6 Bh4 12.Qe3 Qg5 13.Qh3 Nf4 14.Bxf4 Qxf4

 

Black overstepped the boundaries of risk in the opening, and here comes the spectacular refutation:

15.g3! Qf3 16.Qxh4! Qxh1+ 17.Ke2 Nd4+. On 17…Qg2 there is 18.e5!, threatening Bd3-e4, and 18…d5 19.exd6 f5 doesn’t save in view of 20.Nd2 (the computer suggest 20.Ke3!, but this is too much for a human brain) 20…0-0 (20…e5 21.Bc4!) 21.Nf3 e5 22.Rg1! Nd4+ 23.Nxd4 Qxg1 (curiously, White sacrifices her second rook, just like in the game) 24.Nd5! exd4 25.Ne7+ Kf7 26.Qxh7 with a winning attack for White.

18.Nxd4 Qxa1. The altar is overloaded!

19.e5! The knight attempts to get to d6, and Black is unable to castle short.

19…d5. The computer insists that Black can hold after 19…h6, but after 20.Ne4 d5 (or 20…0-0 21.Nf6+! Kh8 22.Qe4 g6 23.Qf4 Kg7 24.Ng4 Rh8 25.Qf6+ Kg8 26.Bxg6!) 21.Nd6+ Kd7 22.Nxf7 it begins to realize that White wins: 22…Rf8 23.Nb3! Qxa2 (23…Qxb2 24.Nc5+ Kc6 25.Qe7) 24.Nc5+ Kc6 25.Qe7, and there is no adequate defense against the mate.

20.exd6 f6 21.Bxh7. Perhaps more accurate is 21.Qh5+ Kf8 22.Qc5! Ke8 (22…Kg8 23.Qc7) 23.Qc7 Bd7 24.Nxe6.

21…Kf8. Some interesting lines arise after 21…Kf7. For example, 22.Qh5+ Kf8 23.Qc5! Bd7 24.Qc7 Rxh7 25.Qxd7 Qxb2 26.Qe7+ Kg8 27.Qxe6+ Kh8 28.d7 Qa3 29.Nd5!, and White’s two knights accompanied by the powerful d7-pawn are much stronger than Black’s uncoordinated rooks.

22.Ne4. Preparing to deliver a blow on f6.

 

22…e5.

More tenacious is 22…Rxh7! 23.Qxh7 Qxb2. This would be a good practical chance. White’s best move is 24.Kd3!, and Anastasia suggested it after the game (after 24.Nxf6 gxf6 25.d7 Bxd7 26.Qxd7 Kg8! Black has drawing chances). After 24…Qa3+ 25.Nb3 Qa4 26.Nbc5 Qa3+ (26…Qe8 27.d7! Bxd7 28.Qh8+) 27.Kd2 Qa5+ 28.c3 Qxa2+ 29.Ke3 Qb1 30.d7 Qc1+ 31.Kf3 Bxd7 32.Nxd7+ Kf7 33.Qh5+ Ke7 34.Kg2!! White is winning. However, it is not easy to calculate all these simple-looking variations at the board and without computer.

23.Nxf6! Rxh7. Finally Black realizes the danger, but it is already too late! On 23…exd4 there is 24.Nd7+! Bxd7 25.Qe7#.

24.Nxh7+ Kg8 25.Ng5 Qxa2 26.Qh7+ Kf8 27.b3! Once again separating Black’s queen from her king.

27…Bg4+ 28.f3 Ke8 29.Qg8+ Kd7 30.Qf7+ Kxd6 31.Ne4#.

A beautiful finale of the beautiful game. Bravo, Nastya!

On the next day Lela managed to turn the tables.

 

Javakhishvili,Lela – Bodnaruk,Anastasia

FIDE  Women World Championship, Khanty-Mansiysk,12.11.2012

 

Complicated middlegame turned into even more complicated endgame, spiced up by the time trouble.

53…Bf6?! Black loses the thread. She should have simplified the position by 53…g5! 54.Rxf5 (54.Rb4 g4!) 54…Bxb6 55.Rxg5 Bxc7 56.dxc7 Rxc7 57.Rxh5 Ke6, and her drawing chances in this rook ending are almost 100%.

54.Rc5. More accurate is 54.Rd5!, and Black is unable to build a fortress.

54…Bd4 55.Rb5 Bf6?! 56.f4 Bd4 57.Kd2 Bf6? For the third time the bishop comes to this square, and here it is probably a decisive mistake. After the correct 57…Kc6! 58.Rb4 Kd7! White has difficulties with making progress. Is seems her best try is 59.Ke2 Ke6 60.Rxc4 Bxb6 61.Rb4 Rxc7 62.dxc7 Bxc7 – the evaluation of ending is debatable, but Black’s position seems unbreakable to me.

58.Ke3! Bc3 59.Rb1. White win quicker by 59.Rc5!

59…Bg7 60.Rd1 Bc3 61.Rd5 Bb4 62.Kd4. White forces Black to move her pawn from c4, and opens the path to a6 for her king. The rest is easy.

62…c3 63.Kd3 h4 64.Kc2 Ba3 65.Kxc3 Bc1 66.Kc4 Bxf4 67.Kb5 Be3 68.Ka6 Kc6 69.d7 Bxb6 70.Rd6+ Kc5 71.Kxb7. Black resigns.

Experience and cool nerves of the Georgian grandmaster decided the outcome of the tie-break.

Here is another exciting fragment.

 

Guo,Qi – Zhukova,Natalia

FIDE Women World Championship, Khanty-Mansiysk, 12.11.2012

Should I retreat the queen? Chinese don’t retreat!

20.Rxa6! bxa6 21.c5! This decision deserves extra credit because Guo Qi played these moves very quickly. And she was right!

21…dxc5 22.d6 Qf8 23.Nd5 Nf6 24.Ne7+ Kh8 25.Nc4. White sacrificed an exchange and a pawn, but her threats are very dangerous.

25…e4. On 25…Be6 26.Nxe5 Rb8 also follows 27.Bh3! with the idea 27…Rb1+ 28.Kg2 Qa8+ 29.f3 Rb2+ 30.Kg1 Rb1+ 31.Kf2! Rb2+ 32.Ke1! – Black will soon run out of checks, and White’s attack will go on.

26.Ne5 Be6?! Natalia didn’t manage to find the only continuation 26…Re8! 27.Qxc5 Be6.

27.Bh3! Here comes a new and very serious threat. In addition the Ukrainian grandmaster was in severe time trouble. However, she surprised me by playing the next few moves with extreme precision. Possibly her opponent was surprised as well…

27…Bb3! Naturally not falling for 27…Bxh3 28.Qxd8 Qxd8 29.Nxf7# – Lord, this is scary!

28.N5c6 Ra8 29.d7. More accurate is 29.Qb7! Ba4 30.d7 with an advantage to White, but it didn’t seem important yet.

29…Nxd7 30.Bxd7 a5! Here is the difference with the line above. Black manages to create dangerous counterplay. Now I am unable to find a victory for White.

31.Bc8. If the Chinese player knew the future, she would probably opt for the equalizing 31.Nxa5 Qxe7 32.Nxb3 c4 33.Nc5 c3 34.Qb7 Rd8 35.Qd5 c2 36.Qc4 Rxd7 37.Nxd7 Qxd7 38.Qxc2 Qe6, and a draw is near. But who could expect that!

31…a4! 32.Qb7 Rxc8 33.Nxc8 Be6!

 

 

Black’s plan is very straightforward – just push the a-pawn and pray. For White everything is more complicated.

34.Nd6? She could still release the tension by 34.Nb6 a3 35.Nd7 Qe8 36.Nxc5 Bd5 37.Qa7 Bxc6 38.Qxa3, etc.

34…a3 35.Ne5. After 35.Nxe4 a2 36.Qa6 Qc8 37.Qa4 Bd5! White’s knights look like kebab pieces.

35…a2. This pawn is already out of reach – the knights are way too slow.

36.Qa7. Also 36.Qa6 fails to 36…Bd5!, although here White could still resist after 37.Nc8! a1Q+ 38.Qxa1 Qxc8 39.Qd1.

36…Bd5! The threat Qf8-a8 proves deadly.

37.Kg2 Qa8 38.Qe7 a1Q 39.Ne8. White’s desperate counterattack is fruitless.

39…Kg8 40.Nd7 h6! 41.Qf8+ Kh7. The newborn queen is very handy in defense.

42.Ndf6+ Qxf6. White resigns.   

Yeah, I always knew that a bishop is stronger than a knight!

The tie-break was an exciting show for the cool-blooded spectators. Here is a typical example.

 

Pogonina,Natalija – Matveeva,Svetlana

FIDE Women World Championship, Khanty-Mansiysk, 13.11.2012

Natalija just conducted a sound tactical operation and won an exchange, but now she loses her vigilance…

41.Rf8? Any other reasonable move wins, but this one suddenly loses.

41…Ne2+? Black mixes up the move order, which is very unfortunate. After 41…Qb1+! 42.Kh2 Ne2 Svetlana would win immediately by 43.h4 Qg1+ 44.Kh3 Qh1+ 45.Kg4 Qxg2+ 46.Kh5 Qg6#.

42.Kf1 Ng3+. You may not believe it, but this position is drawn!

43.Ke1! On 43.Qxg3 Black must play 43…Qb1+! 44.Ke2 Qxa2+, and White can avoid the perpetual only by giving away the rook.

43…Qe5+ 44.Kd1 Qe2+ 45.Kc1 Qe1+ 46.Kc2 Qe2+ 47.Kc3 Ne4+ 48.Kd4. The pressure just reached its peak, and the player from Moscow decided to play something solid.

48…Nf6? After 48…Nxf2! the White’s king have problems hiding from checks, and the computer is confident that this is a draw. The natural 49.Qe3 even loses to 49…e5+! 50.Qxe5 Qd3+ 51.Kc5 Qa3+ and 52…Qxf8.

49.Qd3+. White trades the queens, and Black resigns.

Of course I was also deeply impressed by tremendous fighting spirit of beautiful Maria Muzychuk, who made comebacks against Foisor twice and managed to defeat her opponent in Armageddon. This surely was some feat!

The second round is coming, and I am sure it will be more exciting than the first one.