Grandmaster Sergey Shipov observes the semifinal matches.

I was sad to see so few girls on the stage. You know, I got used to this beauty contest from all over the world! However, the elimination is a harsh format, and by the time we reached the final stages, we had to say goodbye to many heroines of the championship.

In the semifinals experienced European, or, more precisely, Slav ladies confidently defeated their Asian opponents. Stefanova simply outclassed Harika Dronavalli. Antoaneta is in excellent shape and plays her best brand of chess. The Indian was unable to handle such a force.

Antoaneta Stefanova – Harika Dronavalli

First classical game

1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.Nc3 Be7. The Queen’s Gambit – what could be safer than that?

4.Bf4 Nf6 5.e3 0–0 6.a3 Nbd7 7.Nb5 Ne8 8.Nf3 c6 9.Nc3 f5! An important finesse. This is the only way to utilize the drawbacks of White’s early attack – Black establishes control in the center.

10.h3. White does not really aim to play g2-g4, but rather wants to keep her dark-squared bishop alive.

10…Nd6 11.cxd5 exd5 12.Bd3 Nf6 13.Ne5 Nfe4

 

Black’s setup is extremely solid and very promising. However, with all the pieces remaining on the board there is still a lot of play.

14.Ne2! A new and interesting idea! Now in case of f2-f3 Black is unable to exchange the knights and has to retreat. Savvy men played differently: 14.0–0 Nf7 15.Qc2 Bd6 16.Bh2 Nxe5 17.Bxe5 Bxe5 18.dxe5 a5 19.Na4?! b5 20.Nc5 Qe7 21.Rac1 Qxe5 22.f4 Qd6 23.Bxe4 fxe4 24.Nb3 Bd7, and White’s compensation for a pawn only suffices to maintain equality from the position of weakness, Gelfand-Aronian, Wijk aan Zee 2012.

14…Nf7. Harika clearly studies Aronian’s games and repeats his plan. The more I thought about this position, the more I liked the computer recommendation 14…Qa5+ 15.b4 Qb6, planning to use the b4-pawn later as a target. For example, on 16.0–0 I like 16…a5. And if White plays 16.f3, Black can use the following trick: 16…Bh4+! 17.g3 Be7, and White does not win a piece: 18.fxe4 fxe4 19.Bc2 g5!

15.0–0 Bd6 16.Qc2. Creating some tension on the b1-h7 diagonal. The Indian clearly underestimated this idea.

16…Qf6? A serious mistake. It may look like Black strengthens the f5-pawn, but in fact she just abandons it. Correct is 16…Qe7, and White’s activity does not lead anywhere: 17.f3 Nf6 18.Nxf7 Bxf4 19.exf4 Qe3+ 20.Kh2 Rxf7. Now taking on f5 is out of question because the knight on e2 is weak, and the black queen is very comfortable on e3.

17.f3.

 

17…Neg5. During the online report I thought the knight can stay on e4, but the computer proved me wrong. After 17…Nxe5? 18.dxe5 Bxe5 19.Bxe5 Qxe5 20.fxe4 fxe4 the machine gives 21.Rxf8+ Kxf8 22.Qc5+!, and White can retreat the bishop from d3 to c2.

 

18.h4! No doubt Harika missed this daring thrust. The following complications look promising for Black, and it feels she obtains real compensation. However, the illusion evaporates after a few correct moves by White.

18…Ne6 19.Bxf5 Nxe5 20.Bxh7+ Kh8 21.dxe5 Bxe5 22.Bxe5 Qxe5. So far everything was forced.

23.Kf2! A brilliant resource that one had to foresee. The white king actively participates in the battle, just like Napoleon in Egypt.

 

23…d4. The Indian shows her hot temper. Five years from now, the more experienced Harika would probably play 23…Bd7, methodically increasing the pressure. The text move makes White’s task easier.

24.exd4 Nxd4 25.Qe4! Trading the queens gives White a technically won position, so Black must sacrifice a piece.

25…Nxf3! 26.gxf3 Qh2+ 27.Ke3! Just like that! The brave Emperor rushes to the battlefield! After the coward 27.Ke1 Black seizes the initiative by 27…Bh3, threatening Ra8-e8.

 

27…Bd7? The decisive mistake. 27…Bh3! was necessary, and then 28.Rh1 (the computer recommends 28.Bg6, but this move is hard to find) 28…Qc7 29.Rxh3 Rae8 30.Kf2 Rxe4 31.Bxe4 Qb6+ 32.Kf1 Qxb2 33.Rb1 Qe5, and White has no time to take on b7 due to threats to the e4-bishop. Of course White is still ahead on material count, but Black is better coordinated and has strong pawns on the queenside, so the outcome is unclear.

28.Rad1! Simple and strong. Less clear (from practical point of view at least) is 28.Nf4 Rae8! (weaker is 28…Rfe8 29.Rf2 Rxe4+ 30.Bxe4 Qg3 31.Rg2 because of 31…Qxh4? 32.Ng6+) 29.Ng6+ Kxh7 30.Nxf8+ Kg8 31.Nxd7 Rxe4+ 32.Kxe4 – we must continue the variation, because the white king is insecure – 32…Qxb2 (or 32…Qc2+ 33.Ke5 Qxb2+ 34.Kd6! Qd2+ 35.Kc7!) 33.Ne5 Qe2+ 34.Kf5 Qc2+ 35.Kg4 Qg2+ 36.Kh5! Kh7 37.Rg1 g6+ 38.Nxg6 Qxf3+ 39.Kg5 Qe3+ 40.Nf4 Qe5+ 41.Kg4 – White hides from checks and wins.

However, calculating all these lines at the board requires too much of an effort, and the consequences for one’s health could be too dear.

28…Qc7 29.Qc2?! A bit more accurate is 29.Kd2!

 

29…Bh3. Black should have utilized her miracle chance: 29…Qb6+! 30.Kd2 Be6! She either creates real counterplay or regains an exchange. Yet, the chances to survive are still slim: 31.Be4 Bb3 32.Qc3 Rad8+ 33.Kc1 Bxd1 34.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 35.Kxd1 Rd8+ 36.Ke1, and the technical stage follows. White’s two minor pieces are stronger than Black’s rook.

30.Rg1 Qb6+. On 30…Rad8 the best is 31.Rxd8 Rxd8 32.Rg5!, and if 32…Qb6+, then 33.Rc5 Rd5 34.b4 – Black cannot create new threats.

31.Kd2 Be6. Now White’s play against g7 outweighs Black’s small threats.

32.Qc3! Rf7 (or 32…Rf6 33.Be4 Bb3 34.Rde1+-) 33.Bg6. In the end Antoaneta is ruthless like a janizary.

33…Rf6 34.Kc1 Qf2 35.Qe5 Kg8 36.Nd4 Ba2 37.Bb1! Bd5 38.Rdf1 Qxh4.

39.Rxg7+! And Black gave up in view of 39…Kxg7 40.Nf5+. A very convincing victory of the former World Champion!

Harika Dronavalli – Antoaneta Stefanova

Second classical game

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 a6 6.c5 Nbd7 7.Qc2. 7.Bd3 e5! favors Black – this line occurred a few times in Stefanova’s practice.

7…Qe7?! I think this is dubious. The standard moves 7…b6 and 7…g6 are better.

8.b4 e5 9.Be2! White’s best reaction is complete indifference to Black’s action.

9…e4 10.Nd2.

 

The structure determines the players’ plans. White focuses on the queenside, Black must look for the kingside play. And both armies should keep an eye on the center…

10…g6 11.Nb3 Bg7 12.a4 Nf8. A new and probably good move. Black regroups her pieces and inserts the defensive maneuver Qe7-c7. Nguyen Chi Minh – Thesing, Triesen 2007 continued with White having the initiative: 12…0–0 13.b5 h5?! 14.bxc6 bxc6 15.Na5 Nb8 16.Bd2 Bg4 17.Qb3 Bxe2 18.Nxe2 Ra7 19.Rb1 Nfd7 20.Nb7 h4 21.h3 f5 22.Nd6 g5 23.f4 exf3 24.gxf3 Kh8 25.Qd3 Qe6 26.Rg1 Bh6 27.Kd1 a5 28.f4, etc, White won. Of course, Black’s moves were far from perfection.

13.Ra3?! White begins to hesitate. This move just wastes time, as after 13.b5! axb5?! is bad for Black:14.axb5 Rxa1 15.Nxa1 – the white queen jumps to a4, and the knight quickly leaves its corner and joins the fight via с2 and b4.

13…Ne6 14.b5. Opening the a-file now makes no sense for Black.

14…0–0! Correct! The rook is ideally placed for the standard f7-f5-f4 break, and the king is more secure on g8 – two in one!

15.bxc6 bxc6 16.Na2. The natural plan with 16.a5 followed by Ra3-a4-b4-b6 fails to 16…Nc7!, and Black puts a solid lock on b5.

16…h5. The necessary preparation. The knight would be poorly placed on e8, and 16…Nd7 is unpleasantly met by 17.Na5, and there is no easy way of defending the c6-pawn.

17.h3?! The second hesitant move. After the immediate 17.Bd2! White retains slightly better chances. For example, 17…Ng4 (looks like logical in association with h7-h5) 18.h3 Nh6 19.Na5 Qc7 (19…Bd7 20.Rb3) 20.Qb2 Rb8 (20…Nxc5?! 21.Qc2; 20…f5 21.Qb6!) 21.Rb3 Bd7 22.Nb7! Black’s counterplay failed, and White’s minor pieces take active positions on a5 and d6.

17…Nh7 18.Bd2 (or 18.Na5 Qc7) 18…f5! Now Black creates a new battlefield just in time.

19.Na5. In case of 19.Nb4 Qc7 the knight cannot get to a5.

19…Qc7. Black had a promising pawn sacrifice: 19…Bd7!? 20.Nb4 f4! 21.Naxc6 Bxc6 22.Nxc6 Qc7 23.Ne5 (23.Nb4 is no better – 23…fxe3 24.Rxe3 Nxd4 25.Qa2 Qxc5 26.0–0 Nf6) 23…fxe3 24.Bxe3 Bxe5 25.dxe5 Qxe5 – the material is equal, and Black has some initiative in the center.

 

20.Qb1. This quick move lacks depth.

Enormous complications arise after 20.Rb3! f4 21.Rb6 fxe3 22.fxe3 (22.Bxe3 Nxd4 is not attractive) 22…Qg3+ 23.Kd1 Qxg2 24.Re1 Nf6 25.Nxc6 Ng5, and let us not dig it any deeper. The computer gives variations that can easily drive you crazy.

Another interesting attempt is 20.g3 h4 21.gxh4 f4 22.Kd1! White provokes more brutality from her opponent, including a piece sacrifice on d4. And only God knows what would happen if the game continued this way.

20…f4 21.Qb6 fxe3! Naturally! The threat of checking from g3 forces White to recapture with a piece, or else… 22.fxe3 Qg3+ 23.Kd1 Bxd4! 24.Qxc6 Rb8!, and Black’s attack is devastating.

22.Bxe3 Qxb6 23.cxb6 Nxd4. White’s center is completely ruined, and even a strong pawn on b6 does not increase her chances.

24.b7. 24.Nb4! Nxe2 25.Kxe2 d4 26.Nbxc6 dxe3 27.fxe3 perhaps gives more practical chances to survive – White’s queenside domination may compensate for a piece.

24…Bxb7 25.Bxd4 Bxd4 26.Nxb7 Bxf2+. The computer suggests other strong moves, but Antoaneta prefers to keep it simple during the time trouble.

27.Kd1

 

Three pawns and a positional advantage is more than enough for a knight.

27…a5! A very strong and sensible move. Black gets rid of a weakness and encircles the b7-knight.

28.Nc1. Harika could maintain the tension by 28.Rf1! On 28…Ra7 White plays 29.Nd8, and Black is forced to trade the minor pieces because of 29…Rc7? 30.Ne6.

28…Ra7 29.Rb3. 29.Nd6? loses a knight to 29…Rd7.

29…Ng5! Black’s last piece joins the action, and White runs out of ideas.

30.Rf1. Too late!

30…Ne6. The knight not only controls important squares, but is ready to attack, too.

31.Nd6 (on 31.g4 Black has the smothering 31…h4!) 31…Nc5 32.Rb6 Rc7.

 

If now 33.Nb3, Black captures the knight: 33…Nxa4 34.Ra6 Nc3+ 35.Kd2 a4! 36.Kxc3 axb3 37.Kxb3 Bc5 38.Rxf8+ Kxf8 and can continue playing for a win without risk. So the Indian decided to save five rating points at least.

33.Ne8 33…Rc8 34.Nd6 Rc7 35.Ne8 Rc8 36.Nd6. Draw.

In my opinion, Zhao Xue would be a tougher opponent for Stefanova. However, the Chinese was too polite and wasteful in the quarterfinal…

The second semifinal was very even. Ushenina turned out to be more patient and durable than her cute opponent Ju Wenjun, and this difference decided the fate of the match. Also the Ukrainian coaches outplayed their Chinese colleagues – Anna had clear opening advantage throughout the match, creating terrible pressure with White and equalizing easily with Black.

It is hard to make up for such a big handicap without luck and huge effort at the board. The first ingredient was there, but the second one was missing.

Anna Ushenina – Ju Wenjun

First classical game

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0–0.

 

The King’s Indian Defense can be renamed to the New Chinese Defense! Recently it became one of the pet lines for many strong players from China.

6.h3 e5 7.d5 Nh5 8.g3 a5. In the following example I was surprised by a stunning contrast between the outcome of the opening duel and the result of the game: Jakovenko-Ding Liren, St. Petersburg 2012 saw 8…Qe8 9.Be2 f5 10.exf5 gxf5 11.Ng5 Nf6 12.g4 f4? 13.Nge4 Na6 14.Bd3 Nc5 15.Nxc5 dxc5 16.Qc2 b5 (wow!) 17.Ne4 (17.cxb5! Bb7 18.0–0+-) 17…bxc4 18.Nxf6+ Rxf6 19.Bxh7+ Kh8 20.Be4 with a clear plus for White, however, the game ended in Black’s favor.

9.Be3. Ju played this position a few times before, and with good results: 9.Nh2 Na6 10.Be2 Nf6 11.Ng4 Nc5 12.Nxf6+ Qxf6 13.h4 Qe7 14.h5 gxh5!? (an original idea!) 15.Be3 f5 16.Bxc5 dxc5 17.Rxh5 Ra6 18.Qd3 f4 19.0–0–0 Rg6 20.Rdh1 h6 21.Nd1 Qf6 22.R1h4 Rg5, and a strong Russian grandmaster was unable to break Black’s defense, Lysyj-Ju Wenjun, Moscow 2011.

I am sure Anna’s trainers examined this scheme and suggested an improvement for White.

9…f5 10.exf5 gxf5 11.Nh4! Here it is. Earlier White tried 11.Nxe5 Nxg3 12.fxg3 Bxe5 13.Qf3 Qf6 14.Bf4 Na6 15.Kd2 Nc5 16.Bd3 Bd7 (Demuth-Geenen, Lille 2012), but failed to impress completely.

11…Nf4. I am very curious to find out what the Ukrainians prepared against 11…Nf6. Probably the answer is 12.Bd3!, and Black must play e5-e4 either right now or a bit later (after 12…Ne8 13.Qh5), which gives White a very comfortable game in the center.

The sharp reply 12…f4 is strongly met by 13.gxf4 exf4 14.Bd4! c5 (14…Nbd7? 15.Nf5) 15.Bxf6 Rxf6 (15…Bxf6 16.Bxh7+!) 16.Rg1 with a very dangerous initiative on the kingside.

12.gxf4. 

12…Qxh4! The immediate and correct response. The Chinese player probably did not even consider the alternative 12…exf4, which seemed to lead to an unclear game: 13.Bxf4 Re8+! 14.Be2 Qxh4 15.Qd2 Nd7, and now 16.Nb5 is no good because of 16…Ne5 17.0–0–0 (17.Nxc7? Nf3+) 17…Nxc4! 18.Bxc4 Re4 with good counterchances for Black.

However, after the game I found a strong resource (following 12…exf4 13.Bxf4 Re8+ 14.Be2 Qxh4 15.Qd2 Nd7) – 16.Bg5!, intending 16…Qxc4 17.Rg1, and White’s initiative becomes decisive. For example, 17…Nf8 18.0–0–0 Qb4 (more resistant is 18…Rxe2) 19.Bh5! Ng6 20.Bh6 Qh4 21.Bxg6 Qxh6 22.Bxe8, and Black’s forces are too limited.

13.Rg1! Played very quickly, so this is probably a home preparation.

13…Qe7? I dare putting a question mark here. Black is underdeveloped, and she must not waste another tempo on a queen move. True adepts of the King’s Indian value their time more than pawns, and it looked like the situation was calling for 13…Nd7, ignoring the Nc3-b5xc7 threat. However, then I discovered 14.Qd2! (instead of 14.fxe5 f4!) 14…exf4 15.Bxf4 Re8+ 16.Kd1!, and the white king relaxes in safety on c2, while his black counterpart is in great danger.

Thus the best option for Black is 13…exf4! 14.Qd4 (14.Bd4 Rf7 leads nowhere) 14…Rf6 15.Qxf4 (15.Bxf4 Rg6!) 15…Qxf4 16.Bxf4 Na6, and she probably can hold this position with the bishop on d7 and the rook on g6.

14.Be2! A simple and strong way to continue development. The bishop on e2 is not only a defender – in some lines in jumps to h5.

14…Nd7 15.Qd2 Rf6?! There is no need to make White’s life easier. This panicky rook move costs Black another important tempo.

Of course, opening the center is very dangerous: 15…exf4 16.Bxf4 Kh8 17.0–0–0, and 17…Nc5 loses to 18.Rxg7 Qxg7 19.Bh6 Qf6 20.Be3!, while 17…Ne5 is no better, as White continues 18.Rxg7 Qxg7 19.Bh6 Qf6 20.Bxf8 Qxf8 21.Nb5, then plays f2-f4 and activates her major pieces.

The best defense is 15…Kh8 16.0–0–0 Bf6!, fooling the g1-rook and keeping an eye on e5. However, the cruel machine suggests the sneaky maneuver 17.Rde1!, and Black is in trouble. Well, it was a bad position to begin with.

Still, this was the best practical chance, and we all know that anything can happen at the board…

16.Nb5. I am not sure whether I should mention the following silly trap: 16.fxe5 Nxe5 17.Bg5? Nf3+! However, 16.0–0–0! is clearly more useful than the text.

16…exf4. 16…Nc5 17.fxe5! dxe5 18.Bg5 is no good.

17.Bxf4 Ne5. The aforementioned adepts of the King’s Indian would prefer 17…Nc5!? 18.Bg5 Kh8.

18.0–0–0 Bd7! Black’s best chance is developing pieces.

 

19.Nc3? Clearly a mistake. Anna plays too modest due to huge tension and the burden of responsibility. Of course, one can easily rule out 19.Nxc7?! Rc8 in favor of the principled 19.Bg5! 19…Bxb5 20.cxb5, and White enjoys an extra rook and a safe position. Black’s compensation is just an illusion.

On 20…a4 White wins by 21.Bxf6 Qxf6 22.Qg5! Qf7 23.Kb1 a3 24.Bh5 Qf8 25.Rc1 Rc8 26.Rc3.

If 20…Kh8, then 21.Bxf6 is very strong: 21…Qxf6 22.Kb1 (22.Qg5? Bh6) 22…a4 23.Qg5 Qf8, and now 24.f4 Ng6 25.Bd3!

Finally, 20…Nd7 is met by 21.Bd3!, and the f5-pawn falls: 21…Qf7 22.Bxf6 Qxf6 23.Bxf5 Qxf5 24.Rg5 Qf6 25.Rdg1.

So a direct attack was winning without much trouble.

19…Rg6. Black saves an exchange and cleverly rearranges her forces. The tension begins to drop quickly.

20.Bg5 Bf6 21.Bxf6. Perhaps White should try 21.h4!

21…Qxf6 22.f4 Rxg1! 23.Rxg1+ Ng6 24.Bh5 Kg7. This is also acceptable.

25.Rg5 Rg8! 26.Qf2 b6 27.h4 Kf8! 

 

White’s initiative has evaporated.

28.Bxg6. Draw.

The second classical game looked more like a reception dinner with mutual compliments and handshakes.

This was the fifth tie-break for Ju Wenjun at this championship. Way too many, if you ask me. Human energy has its limitations.

Anna Ushenina – Ju Wenjun

First rapid game

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3! A very good opening choice. Uncle Saemisch caught the Chinese headquarters by surprise!

5…0–0 6.Be3 e5 7.Nge2 c6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.0–0–0 a6 10.h4 b5 11.h5.

 

11…Qc7!? A new move invented out of desperation. Ju realized that the opponent is well prepared in the main line, and decided to deviate. The black queen focuses on defensive duties.

The main line goes 11…Qa5 (Wang Doudou-Ju Wenjun, Taizhou 2012) 12.hxg6 fxg6 13.Qc2 Nb6 14.c5 Nc4 15.Bg1 d5 16.dxe5 Nxe5 17.Bd4 (the computer suggests 17.Nd4 dxe4 18.Kb1! with the initiative for White) 17…Qc7 18.Qb3 Be6 19.Nf4? (19.Kb1!) 19…Bf7 20.exd5 Nxf3! 21.gxf3 Qxf4+ 22.Kb1 Nxd5 23.Bxg7 Ne3!, and Black collects more than White.

However, much more dangerous for Black is 12.Bh6 with a sharp game. E. g., 12…b4 13.Nb1 Bxh6 (Black is in trouble after 13…Qxa2 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Ng3 exd4 16.Qg5!) 14.Qxh6 Qxa2 (14…Nxh5? 15.g4 Nhf6 16.g5 Nh5 17.Rxh5 gxh5 18.Ng3+-) 15.Ng3 Nb6 (more solid is 15…exd4 16.Qg5 Re8 17.Nf5 Nc5! with some hope for the perpetual) 16.c5 Nc4 17.Rd2! Nxd2 (17…Be6 18.Nf5!; 17…exd4 18.e5! Nxe5 19.Ne4) 18.Nxd2 Qa1+ 19.Nb1 Be6?! (more accurate is 19…Qa2! 20.cxd6 Qe6) 20.cxd6 Qa5, and here in Beliavsky-Timman, Linares 1991 White could win quickly by 21.Bc4! Bxc4 22.Nf5 gxf5 23.Qg5+ Kh8 24.Qxf6+ Kg8 25.h6.

The Ukrainians probably had something like that in mind.

12.hxg6 fxg6. Of course it is dangerous to open the h-file: 12…hxg6? 13.Bh6!

13.g4?! An aggressive but questionable idea. White weakens the important f3-square. However, in this game aggression proved more important.

This position could be handled in a more solid way by 13.dxe5 Nxe5 (or 13…dxe5 14.Kb1! and Ne2-c1–b3) 14.Nf4 with pressure on d6. Another interesting idea, which lies somewhere between these two on the aggression scale, is 13.Bh6.

13…b4?! Black ruins a fine balance between safety and aggression. If she wanted to put the knight on e5, she’d better hurry: 13…exd4 14.Nxd4 Ne5. Another idea, inspired by weakness of the f3-pawn, is 13…Ne8!? The automatic 14.Bg2 suddenly leads to problems on с4 after 14…Nb6!

14.Na4 exd4. In a longer game one could discover the spectacular 14…d5! with a complicated game. Analysis shows that White is better, but anything can happen in a practical game.

15.Nxd4 Ne5.

 

16.c5! A timely punch that destroys Black’s pawn chain and undermines the e5-knight. 16.Qh2? is premature due to 16…c5!

16…d5 17.Nb6 Rb8. Perhaps 17…Ra7 is stronger, but the position is unpleasant for Black anyway: 18.Bh3!

18.Nxc8 (better is 18.Qh2) 18…Qxc8. The brilliant resource 18…Rbxc8! 19.Ne6 Nxf3 20.Qg2 Qe5 21.Nxg7 (21.Nxf8 Rxf8!) 21…Qxe4! could only be spotted by a less worn-out player, not by those who fight every day for more than two weeks straight.

19.Qh2! White got a winning advantage thanks to the pressure on the h-file and the h2-b8 diagonal. Now 19…Re8 loses to 20.Bf4 Qc7 21.Bxe5 Qxe5 (21…Rxe5 22.Ne6) 22.Qxe5 Rxe5 23.Nxc6.

But Black finds a much better response.

19…b3! An excellent move!

20.axb3. The careless 20.Qxe5? could turn the tables: 20…bxa2 21.Kc2 Nxg4, and Black wins.

20…Nxf3! 21.Nxf3. The tension has reached its peak.

21…Rxb3? Alas! Ju already spent too much time on the previous moves and overlooked a typical Dragon idea: after 21…h5! 22.gxh5 Ng4 the deadly file is temporary blocked, and many white pieces are in danger. It would be pretty hard for Anna to handle such situation at the board, despite having an extra piece.

22.e5! Now White wins by simple materialistic play.

22…Rxe3 23.exf6 h5 24.fxg7 Rfxf3 25.Be2 Rh3 26.Qf2 Rxh1 27.Rxh1 Qe8 28.Bd1 Kxg7 29.gxh5 Qe7 30.hxg6 Qxc5+ 31.Kb1. Black resigns.

Ju Wenjun – Anna Ushenina

Second rapid game

 

This ending is won for White. In the middlegame Ju missed a number of direct wins, but her advantage here is still undisputed.

However, now the Chinese once again loses her focus due to exceptional tiredness, and misses the deserved win.

66.e7? What a terrible mistake! White could win easily even without the h5-pawn: 66.Be5+ Kf8 67.Kg6 Rg1+ (bad is 67…Ke7 68.Bf4! Kxe6 69.h6 Rg1+ 70.Bg5+-) 68.Kf6 Rh1 69.Bd6+ Ke8 70.f4! Rxh5 71.f5 Rh1. This would be drawn without the c4 and c5-pawns, but with those pawns still present Black cannot survive: 72.Bf4! Rf1 73.Bg5 Re1 74.Kg6 Kf8 (or 74…Re2 75.f6 Rxe6 76.Kg7) 75.f6 Rxe6 76.Bf4 Kg8 (76…Ke8 77.Kg7) 77.Bd6, and the zugzwang decides the game.

But how many men with a grandmaster title could find the solution in similar circumstances – with two weeks of tough chess labor and enormous nervous tension on their shoulders? Not 100%, I am sure. Far from 100%.

66…Kf7. Now the white pawns are blocked, and the bishop is immobile.

67.Kg5 Rg1+ 68.Kh6 Rg2 69.f4 Ke8 70.f5 Kf7 71.f6 Rg4 72.Kh7 Rg5 73.h6 Rg4. Even stronger is 73…Rg8 74.Bf4 Re8! 75.Be5 Rg8, etc.

74.Be5 Rg2 75.Bd4 Rg4 76.Be3 Rg2 77.Kh8 Rg4 78.h7 Rg6 79.Bd2.

 

The threat of transferring the bishop to g7 and then distracting the black king from f7 by e7-e8Q+ is quite serious. However, Anna found the solution within seconds.

79…Rg2 80.Bh6 Re2! 81.Bg7 Re1. Black just keeps the rook on the e-file, and White runs out of new ideas. Ju accepted a draw in this game (thus giving up the match) only in 62 more moves, when Anna already collected 10 bonus minutes on her clock.

So this is how the Slav girls said goodbye to their opponents. The new World Champion… err, I should have said “the next World Champion”, will be determined in the final…