It is noticeably colder in Khanty-Mansiysk. The thermometer showings dropped to -26 degrees. This is not the limit, however. There is a strong possibility that the guests of the championship will have a chance to experience real Siberian frosts of -30 and lower.  To be objective, it should be noted that it is easier to survive such temperatures in the dry air of Ugra rather than in the European part of Russia. The frost here pinches your nose, but does not try to bite it.


World Championship finalists however, have no reason to appear outdoors. Special minivan drives them from the hotel “Olympiyskaya” to Ugra Chess Academy, and carries the back route after the games.  And it is rather warm in the spacious playing hall, even without 62 more players inside.

The Bulgarian delegation is fully present in the auditorium with Silvio Danailov, Nikolay Velchev and the coach of ex-world champion Vladimir Georgiev following the games.   Anna Ushenina is by herself.

And yet, in the third game the Ukrainian scored with white in Slav defense. Stefanova used her old weapon – Chebanenko with 4 … a6 (or “Chameleon variation” if you prefer), but Ushenina acted very confident and gained the advantage.


Ushenina A. – Stefanova A. 

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.c5 Nbd7 6.Bf4 Nh5 7.Bd2 Nhf6 8.Rc1 g6 9.h3 Qc7 10.g3 Bg7 11.Bf4 Qd8 12.Bg2 0–0 13.0–0 Nh5 14.Bd2 f5 15.Qb3

Black went for a risky central break with 15…e5, probably underestimating White’s idea with the capture on d5, which was bravely conducted by the Ukrainian in the game. Nervous decision by Stefanova, because White just played 15.Qb3 and obviously not for nothing.  If the immediate central break was possible, this lunge of the queen is pointless.  Anna played quickly and naturally still followed her preparation. Grandmaster Vladimir Malakhov in the recent 2012 game against GM Viorel Bologan acted more precise 15…Kh8 16.Ng5 Ndf6 17.Na4 h6 18.Nf3 Ne4, and later managed to win it.

16.Ng5 exd4


During the post-game press-conference Anna Ushenina was not exactly herself. Perhaps, she still could not believe that after this win she stands half a step to the world champion title. She was happy, and tried to hide it and keep serious in the same time. One could feel that she tries not to drop the concentration, and so the answers to the vain questions of the journalists were very dry.

This moment was commented by the Ukrainian as follows: “During the game I came up with the idea of trading the rook for two pieces, and enter some wild complications. I understood that after 17.Nxd5 the position is unclear, and just played. It is difficult to say where Black made the decisive error, she had a lot of possibilities. It is better to check with the computer.”

But the computer is relentless. It gives White an advantage already after the capture on d5 and only increases it with the further play. Rook and two pawns for two pieces – the right estimation of such trades is always based on the peculiarities of the position. Here it happened that Black is defeated – her pieces are scattered, and she cannot quickly coordinate them. And White has just to push her passed pawns…

Normally an active player Antoaneta Stefanova went for a passive defense instead of trying to find some wild chances on the kingside. Everything ended rather quickly:

17…cxd5 18.Bxd5+ Kh8 19.Ne6 Qf6 20.Nxf8 Qxf8 21.Bxb7 Rb8 22.c6 Nc5 23.Qb6 Nxb7 24.Qa7 Be5 25.c7 Ra8 26.Qxa8 Qe8 27.Qxa6 Nc5 28.Qa8 Ne4 29.Rc2 Nxd2 30.Rxd2 Kg7 31.Rc2 Kh6 32.b4 Bd6 33.Qd5 Nxg3 34.Qxd6 Nxf1 35.Qxd4 g5 36.Qf6+ Kh5 37.Rc6




The Bulgarian needs only a win in the 4th game

The fourth game of the final match can become the last one in the championship. Anna Ushenina needs only half a point to claim the title. On the other hand, Stefanova already managed to strike back once in this tournament – against Marie Sebag. If it happens again, then the winner would be decided only at the tie-break.