Grandmaster Sergey Shipov reviews the second round of the World Women’s Championship. 

When nothing is right, and your brain doesn’t function, when you cannot do even the simplest things, you can blame tiredness, health, bad weather and magnetic storms.

I doubt the World Championship participants could lose all their energy already by the second round, I doubt they all got sick at the same time, and the weather in the tournament hall seems fine to me. So the only plausible excuse for them is a magnetic anomaly.

Maybe you have a better explanation of the shocking, sensational, unthinkable results of the second round. The World Champion, the recent title contender, and the third player of the world were eliminated without putting up much of a fight! The peak of anomaly was observed on the second day of the round, when blunders occurred every five minutes, making the commentator’s life hell. I like to praise chess players, not criticize them. For a long time I haven’t seen so many grave errors from very good players. There was definitely something wrong with the magnetic field in Khanty-Mansiysk that day.

Here comes another opportunity to blame the unfair pairing system, which turned against the favorites this time. They missed a chance to warm up in the first round and were not ready for tough matches against prepared opponents.

Trust me, I wanted to write about high-level chess and wonderful creative achievements of the world’s best chess players, but it is my duty to show you a handful of critical errors, which influenced the outcomes of many matches.

The World Champion confidently won the first game against Monika Socko with Black pieces, and before the start of the second day I foolishly announced that everybody except Monika has chances to advance to the next round. Monika had a different opinion, and she successfully humiliated the skeptics by winning the second classical and both rapid games. She proved to be a great fighter. And sometimes her opponent helped, too.



First rapid game

28…d5! This timely central blow equalizes the game, but the World Champion wanted to play for a win.

29.Nxa5. Not a mistake yet, but this move shows that Hou clearly underestimated the dangers.

29…Ba8 30.exd5? White’s wish to clarify the situation in the center proves fatal. It was absolutely necessary to go for 30.Rd4! with approximately even chances in a complex ending: 30…dxe4 31.Rxd8 Kxd8 32.f4! Bd5 33.Kf2 Kc7 34.Nc4 Bxc4 35.bxc4 f5 36.a5 Kc6, and… complex turns into simple – it’s a draw.

30…Rxd5! 31.Rxd5 exd5. The black king is threatening to march to b6, and White begins to panic.

32.c3. 32.Kf2 also doesn’t save, but the variations are more complicated: 32…Kd6 33.c4! (33.c3? Kc5!) 33…bxc3 34.b4 d4 (34…c2 35.Nb3) 35.Ke2 Bd5 (35…c2? 36.Kd2 d3 37.Nc4+ and 38.Nb2) 36.Kd3 h5 37.Kc2 Bf7 38.Nb3 Bg6+ 39.Kd1 Kd5, etc.


32…bxc3 33.b4 d4 34.Kf2 Bd5. The white knight is completely cut off. Even easier is 34…d3! 35.Ke3 d2 36.Ke2 Bd5 37.b5 Kd7 38.b6 f5 39.Kd1 g5 40.Kc2 g4, and the bishop comes to f3.


35.Ke2 c2 36.Kd2 d3 37.b5. In case of 37.g4 Kd6 38.Kc1 Black wins with a nice king maneuver: 38…Ke5! 39.b5 Kd4 40.Kd2 Kc5!


37…Kd6 38.b6. 


White saved his knight from the enemy king, but now she is a tempo short on the kingside. She would love to play g3-g4, but…


38…h5! Now the break is imminent.


39.Kc1 g5 40.Kd2 h4! 41.g4 Kd7. Black finalizes her preparation…

42.Kc1 Bxf3! And here comes the final blow. Black’s passed pawn decides the outcome of the game.

43.Nb3 Bxg2 44.a5 Kc6 45.Nd4+ Kc5 46.Nb3+ Kb5 47.Kd2 h3. White resigns.

The downfall of Koneru can only be explained by her ambition, which demands playing for a win in every situation. Perhaps Humpy also underestimated her opponent, who is apparently in excellent form!


First classical game

Black’s passed pawn went too far, and it seems White should not be able to bear its presence any longer.

22.Qe2?! Nothing is impossible for Humpy, though. Very talented players are naturally prone to fancy and tricky play. A mere mortal would go for 22.Rcxc2 Qxc2 23.Rxc2 Rxc2 without hesitation, keeping a slight edge. For example, 24.Bf1! (less clear is 24.Qh6 Rc1+ 25.Bf1 Rdc8 26.Kg2 Bf5!, and Black develops a counterattack) 24…d4 (24…Rc1? 25.Kg2) 25.Bd3 Rxa2 26.Qxh7+ (26.Qh6 dxe3!) 26…Kf8 27.Qh6+ Ke7 28.exd4 Rxd4 29.Qe3 Rd5 30.h4, etc.


22…Bf5! Now it becomes very difficult for White to remove the sting. Did the Indian player truly believe that Black must protect the d5-pawn?


23.Rd4. 23.Bxd5? loses immediately to Qa5! 24.e4 Bxe4.

23…Qb2 24.Qd2 Qxa2 25.e4?! White is overthinking it again. She needed to simplify the game, not to complicate it! After 25.Bxd5 Qb2 26.e4 (26.g4 Be6! 27.Be4 Rxd4 28.exd4 Kg7!) 26…Bxe4 27.Rxe4 Rxd5 28.Rg4+ Kf8 29.Qb4+ Rdc5 30.Qd2 weakness of the black king should secure White a draw. Another option is 25.Rxd5 Rxd5 26.Bxd5 Qb2 27.e4 Be6 28.Bxe6 fxe6 29.e5! with the same ideas of giving the perpetual.


25…Bg6 26.f4? White burns the bridges, which is a big mistake. The computer suggests 26.Bh3, but this is hopeless due to 26…Bxe4! 27.Bxc8 Rxc8, and you wouldn’t wish this extra exchange on your worst enemy. The game may continue 28.Qf4 Rc6 29.Qg4+ Bg6 30.Rxd5 Qxb3, and the a7-pawn begins its home run.

26.b4! gives White more chances to survive. For example, 26…Qb2 27.exd5 (on 27.h4 follows 27…Rd6! with the idea Rd6-a6-a1) 27…Qc3 28.f4 Qxd2 29.Rxd2 Rc4 (or 29…Rc3 30.g4 Bd3 31.Bf1) 30.Bh3! Rxb4 (30…Be4 31.Bg2!) 31.f5 Rxd5! (31…Rb1? 32.Rdxc2) 32.Rdxc2 Bxf5 33.Bxf5 Rxf5 34.Ra2 a5 35.Rc6! – the rook comes to a6, and White creates a solid fortress.


26…Qxb3 27.exd5. On 27.f5 Black has a deadly blow 27…Qb6! 28.fxg6 dxe4 with the decisive pin.


27…Qb2. The iron recommends 27…Rc3 intending Rc3-d3. It knows better, of course, but Natasha also played it well.

28.Rb4. 28.g4 loses to the same tactics as the text move. The game ends nicely after 28.Kf2 Rb8 29.Rc4 a5! 30.g4 Rb4 31.Rxb4 axb4 32.f5 b3 33.fxg6 hxg6 – White is a piece up, but also completely helpless.

28…Qxc1+! 29.Qxc1 Rb8. The c2-pawn is already stronger than a rook.


30.Be4 Rxb4 31.Bxc2 Rc4 32.f5 Bxf5. The more forceful way to win is 32…Rdc8! 33.fxg6 hxg6, and now, for example, 34.d6 (34.Qf1 Rxc2 35.Qxf6 Rd2–+) 34…Rxc2 35.Qe3 Rb8 36.Qe1 Rbb2 37.d7 Rd2 38.Qc1 Ra2 39.Qb1 Ra3–+. However one can get banned for playing such variations on the board in an official game. At the press-conference Natalia stressed that she didn’t know computer evaluation of the position during the game, and I tend to believe her.

33.Qf1 Rxc2 34.Qxf5 Rd2 35.Qg4+ Kh8 36.Qf4 R8xd5 37.Qxf6+ Kg8. Here White lost on time. It seems Koneru was too shocked to even think that White can fight for a draw. Yes, two rooks are stronger than a queen, and Black has a passed pawn. And yet, White should have tried to complicate the technical task by 38.Qc6 h5 39.h3 a5 40.Kf1 the black king is unsafe, and the a5-pawn does not promote easily. Let the opponent show how she wants to win!

Emotions influenced the second game a lot more than objective chess considerations did.


             ZhukovaNatalia - KoneruHumpy

            Second classical game

Natasha just carried out a fine combination, trading two minor pieces for a rook and two pawns, which gave White an almost lost position. At this point I was confident that Humpy will advance to the next round.


28…exf4? Simply unbelievable! One doesn’t need to be a 2600 player (like Koneru) to understand that the player with rooks needs open files, and her opponent must keep the position closed! By 28…Nb4 29.Qb1 e4! Black could obtain a completely safe and highly promising position. She would bring the knight to d6 and start picking up white pawns.

29.gxf4. We shall leave the next few not-so-perfect moves without annotations.Natasha just carried out a fine combination, trading two minor pieces for a rook and two pawns, which gave White an almost lost position. At this point I was confident that Humpy will advance to the next round.


28…exf4? Simply unbelievable! One doesn’t need to be a 2600 player (like Koneru) to understand that the player with rooks needs open files, and her opponent must keep the position closed! By 28…Nb4 29.Qb1 e4! Black could obtain a completely safe and highly promising position. She would bring the knight to d6 and start picking up white pawns.

29.gxf4. We shall leave the next few not-so-perfect moves without annotations.

29…Nd6 30.Kh1 Qc3 31.Rg1+ Kf8 32.Qxc3 Bxc3 33.Rg6 Ne4 34.Nxe4 fxe4 35.Rdg1 Bg7 36.Bxh5 e3 37.Rd6 Bd7 38.Rg3 Bd4 39.Rdg6

Here comes the last scene of our drama. White has absolutely no threats, and Black can take time to improve her position, for instance, improve her offside knight. Instead…

39…Bf5? And the match ended in a few moves.

40.Rg8+ Ke7 41.R3g7+ Kd6. Perhaps Koneru forgot to mentally remove the d4-bishop from the board while calculating 41…Bxg7 42.Rxg7+ Kf6 43.Rxa7 Be4+ 44.Kg1, and thought she now gives mate after 44…e2…

42.Rxa7 Be4+ 43.Rg2. Black resigns.

Anna Muzychuk faced a very skilled, tough and enduring opponent, and was unable to match her.



          First rapid game


In this complicated position the players started to clinch.


21.f4! exf4! 22.exf4. The line 22.Bxh5 fxg3 is unnatural for rapid chess.

22…Nhxf4! 23.gxf4 Nxf4 24.Bg4. Black has compensation for a pawn. However, magnetic fields now begin to influence her.


24…Ba6 25.Rfe1 Rce7 26.Qd2. So far so good, but now Muzychuk suddenly “discovers” mate!


26…h5? After the standard and forced 26…Ne2+ 27.Bxe2 Rxe2 28.Rxe2 Rxe2 29.Qd4 Qg5+ 30.Kh1 f6 31.Rg1 Qf5 32.Qxf6 (there is no alternative) 32…Qxf6 33.Bxf6 Rxf2 34.Rxg7+ (34.Bxg7 Rf3!) 34…Kf8 35.Be5 Rf7 a drawn ending arises.


27.Rxe7 Qxe7 28.Qxf4 Qe1+!! This is so incomprehensible that I find it beautiful in its own way! White wins easily after 28…hxg4 29.Nxg4 Bc8 30.Kh1.


29.Rxe1. Suddenly it turns out that the white king can move to g2. Black resigns.

Ironically, the fourth member of the triumphant Cercle d’Echecs team from Monte Carlo was also eliminated at this stage. And one totally could not foresee such outcome after the first game…



                First classical game

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0–0 a6 7.Nc3 b5 8.Bb3 Bb7 9.e4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Nbd7

A very ambitious line, 10…Nc6 is simpler and safer.

11.Re1 Nc5 12.Bc2 b4? This is too risky. I like the sensible novelty 12…Rc8!? 13.e5 Nd5.

13.e5 bxc3. Black’s position remains difficult after 13…Nfd7 14.Na4 Rc8 15.Be3!?, too. 15…Nxe5 doesn’t work in view of 16.Nxc5 Bxc5 17.Ba4+ Ke7 18.Nc6+ (more interesting and complicated is 18.Rc1, intending to capture on с5) 18…Rxc6 19.Bxc6 Bxe3 20.Bxb7 Bd4 21.Qh5 f6 22.Qe2 – Black does not have full compensation for an exchange.

14.exf6 gxf6. Aleksandrov-Oratovsky, Vejen 1993 continued 14…Qd5 15.Ba4+ Nd7 16.f3 Bc5 (less clear is 16…gxf6! 17.bxc3 0–0–0, but this is basically just a lesser of evils) 17.bxc3 gxf6 18.Be3 Rd8 19.Rb1 Ba8, and here White could secure a big advantage by 20.Qe2.

15.b4. An interesting and sharp novelty. In previous games White played weaker, for example, 15.Ba4+? Nxa4 16.Qxa4+ Qd7 17.Qxd7+ Kxd7 18.bxc3, and Black is better, Hofherr-Von Herman, Austria 1999.

The next paragraph is written personally for Irina Krush. Other readers are kindly advised to skip it.

Unfortunately, Black’s idea can be refuted by 15.Nxe6! Nxe6 (even worse is 15…Qxd1 16.Ng7+ Kd8 17.Rxd1 or 15…fxe6 16.Qh5+ Kd7 17.b4) 16.Ba4+ Ke7 17.Qg4, and White simply completes development and is ready to finish Black off. Black cannot survive here by any means. So, Ira, please, don’t repeat this line.


15…Qd5! Of course not 15…Nd7? 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.Rxe6+ Kf7 (17…Be7 18.Qh5+) 18.Bb3 with a mating attack for White.

16.f3 0–0–0! Black responds with the counterblow – this is her only hope in this game.

17.Be3 e5. Here Pia spent a lot of time and invented an interesting trick.

18.bxc5! If White continues quietly, Black is completely in order: 18.Ne2 Qc4 19.Bf5+ Ne6 20.Qc2 Kb8.

18…exd4 (18…Bxc5? 19.Nf5) 19.Be4 Qxc5! Irina used a lot of time for this move, but did not calculate everything to the end.


20.Bxb7+ Kxb7 21.Rb1+.

21…Ka8?! The following line was probably too scary for the American: 21…Ka7 22.Qb3 Qc7 23.Bf4 Bd6? 24.Re7!!, and White wins.

However, after 21…Ka7 22.Qb3 Black has multiple ways to hold her position. For example,   22…Qc6 23.Qxf7+ (or 23.Bxd4+ Bc5 24.Bxc5+ Qxc5+ 25.Kh1 Rd7) 23…Rd7 24.Qe8 (24.Bxd4+? Bc5) 24…a5! (it is hard to believe in it at the board, I understand) 25.Bf2 (25.Qb8+ Ka6; 25.Bxd4+? Bc5) 25…c2 26.Rbc1 Bc5!, and if 27.Qxh8, then 27…d3, and Black wins, because her passed pawns are stronger than the opponent’s rook.

22.Qa4 Qc8? A decisive mistake. 22…Ka7 was vital, but then White could transpose to the crazy line above by 23.Qb3.

23.Bf4. White threatens to invade with her rook to b8 or b6, and Black can only parry one threat.


23…Bd6. Or 23…Bc5 24.Rb8+ Qxb8 25.Bxb8 d3+ 26.Kf1 Kxb8 27.Rb1+ Kc7 (27…Ka7 28.Qc6) 28.Qc4 and wins.

24.Rb6 Ka7. The king cannot run away: 24…Bxf4 25.Rxa6+ Kb8 26.Rb1+ Kc7 27.Qc6#.

25.Bxd6 Kxb6 26.Rb1+ Ka7 27.Qxd4+ Ka8 28.Qd5+, and Black resigned, not waiting for 28…Ka7 29.Bc5+.  

On the next day the Swede cracked under the consistent pressure of the American.


      Krush, Irina  – Cramling, Pia

     Second classical game

Pia made a huge effort to save this game, but committed a mistake when the goal was very close. Of course, the correct move is 57…Ke6, and after 58.Nc3 Bb3 59.a4 Kd6! Black can hold a draw thanks to her active king.


57…f5? I could not believe my eyes. Pia has a very solid chess education, her technique is excellent – some people even called her Ulf Andersson of women’s chess. How could she possibly make such move? Black voluntarily cuts her counterplay against the f4-pawn and fixates another weakness. The rest of the game can easily be spared, it was elementary for White.

The tie-break results was predetermined by the difference in the players’ energy supply. Here is some drama in the end.



                          Second rapid game


For many moves the Swede played under strict time pressure with only 10 second per move, so no wonder her tactical eye was not very sharp at this point.


68.Re5? The game could be decided by 68.f4+! Kxf4 69.g3+ Kg5 70.Rg8+! Kh5 71.Re5, and Black cannot defend against both 72.Rxf5# and 72.g4# at once.

68…Rf6. Now the position is drawn, but the game concluded in the most logical way.

69.Rg8+ Rg6 70.Rb8 Kf4 71.Rbb5 Rg5 72.Rec5?? Rh5#!

Look at another example of a wild magnetic storm.



                Second classical game


In this complicated position the chances are about even, but Kateryna suddenly slips…


21.exd6? Any other non-blunder move is better.

21...Bf6! This was clearly unexpected. White pieces are loose, and she must accept serious positional concessions in order to save the material.

22.Nxd5 (22.Bxf6? Qxb6+) 22…Bxd4+ 23.Ne3 Qa7 24.Rfe1 Rxd6. The bishop pair and a better pawn structure give Black a serious advantage. Lela methodically converted it into a full point.

The contrast between two games in the next match was ridiculously huge.


         Gunina, Valentina  – Galliamova, Alisa

          Second classical game

On the first day the players showed very solid and savvy chess. The next day showed us all the typical knock-out roller coaster multiplied by three!

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4! An excellent try – Black was not ready for this line.

2…c5 3.e3 Qb6?! The first misstep. Black has at least four better moves.

4.Nc3! After the game Alisa admitted that this move was unknown to her. So strange…

4…e6 5.Bxb8. The simple 5.Nb5! Na6 6.a4 gives White a bigger plus, the point proved by numerous games.


5…Rxb8 6.Bb5+ Kd8. Losing the right to castle is not such a big deal, as the computer thinks!


7.dxc5. Recapturing with the queen seems more natural, but the text also looks okay



Black failed to impress in the opening, but magnetic storms seem to influence Valentina a lot more.


8.Nf3. At the press-conference the winner blamed this move and suggested 8.Qh5 followed by long castling instead. However, she missed a simple reply 8…Nf6! 9.Qxf7 a6 10.Bd3 b5, and the threat of capturing the queen by Rb8-b7 is deadly for White.

8…Nf6 9.Qe2?! Prelude to the wrong plan. Players less prone to magnetic storms would just castle short and play in the center – in this case White plays for a win without any risk.

9…Bd6 10.0–0–0? 10.0–0 should be preferred again.

10…a6 11.Ba4. White could still survive – yes, exactly, survive! – only by 11.Bd3!

11…b5 12.Bb3 b4


The situation has stabilized. Black got an advantage in the center and has good chances to attack the enemy king.

13.Na4? …and we don’t even have to see the rest. Black won easily.



               Second classical game


A simple recapture on d5 with the bishop followed by Rxa6 gives White a big advantage. However…


27.Bf4?! e6! The d5-pawn is now strong like a rock, and effectively blocks the connection between the g2-bishop and the c6-pawn.


28.Qe3 a5 29.Rda1?! Another strange move. Of course White had to start with 29.Re1 f6 and only then play 30.Rea1.


29…g5! An unpleasant surprise!

30.Bxg5 Nxc6. The a5-pawn survives, and the evaluation changes is Black’s favor.

31.Bf4 Be5 32.Bxe5 Qxe5 33.Qxe5 Nxe5 34.Rxa5 Rxb3 35.Re1 Nc4 36.Ra6 Rc8 37.c6 Rb6 38.Rxb6 Nxb6 39.Rc1 Nc4. White was unable to defend the resulting ending with a pawn down.

Let us hope that the situation with magnetic storms in Ugra changes to normal by the third round, and normal life will go on.