2010 Women's World Championship – Ruan strikes back! Tiebreaks ahead

12/23/2010 – It seemed like Hou Yifan's victory was in the cards. Her early blow in the second game taking a 1.5-0.5 lead seemed decisive, and though Lufei Ruan obtained a significant edge in the third game, it ended in a draw. In the last, Ruan needed a win at all costs to force a tiebreak, and Ms. Nerves of Steel did it again and pulled off the victory! Report with annotations by GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

The Women's World Chess Championship is being held at Hatay, Turkey, from December 2nd to 25th. It is a 64-player knockout tournament, with two-game mini-matches qualifying a player to the next round, until the final and 6th round, which is a four-game match to determine the champion. In the event of a draw after the two tournament time-control games, there will be a rapid game tie-breaker, followed by a possible blitz playoff, and finally an armageddon blitz game. The time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, and a 30-second increment per move as of the first move. The games are held daily at 3 PM local time (2 PM Paris / 8 AM New York / 5 AM Los Angeles). The full schedule is available here.

Note that the organizers pulled out all the stops to provide coverage of the highest quality, including daily live video coverage during the rounds.

Finals

We are really getting an amazing number of dramatic comebacks this month. In London, Magnus Carlsen had a very difficult start and from the get-go had seemed out of contention for the top prize, with McShane stealing the show, followed by Anand, Then just yesterday we saw an even more impressive twist of fate with Karjakin stumbling at the finish and an opportunistic Nepomniachtchi stealing the prize. Today however, it was not so much Hou that stumbled as it was Ruan who came up with the goods in an 11th hour win over her higher-rated prodigy opponent.

In the third round, Lufei had an extremely promising game that seemed headed toward a possible equalizer, but when it failed, many felt that this had been her chance and she had missed it.


A confident Hou Yifan arrives for game three followed by her mother

Hou,Yifan (2591) - Ruan,Lufei (2480) [B17]
WCh Women Antakya TUR (6.3), 20.12.2010 [Elshan Moradiabadi]

1.e4 c6 Again! Ruan was doing ok with Caro-Kann in the previous game and though Hou was surely not surprised, there was no reason to avoid it. 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3. No more Vera! In the previous report, I mentioned Ivanchuk's contribution to help popularize it, but forgot to mention that 3.f3 is called the Vera Menchik line in honor of the first women's world champion, Vera Menchik. 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 g6. An odd choice! We all have seen e6 and its long theoretical battles through the reigning world champion's masterful play with white. It seems to me that Ruan is not eager for another surprise by her well-prepared opponent. 7.N1f3 Bg7 8.0-0 0-0








At this point I did not expect to find many interesting games, however, to my surprise, this position occured in the game Sokolov-Spraggett in their Candidates Match in 1988. as well as the recent Adams-Short played in the London Classic. 9.Qe2. 9.Re1 h6 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Bxe4 c5 12.c3 cxd4 13.Nxd4 Nc5 14.Bc2 e5 15.Nb3 Qc7 16.Nxc5 Qxc5 17.Be3 Qc7 18.Qd5 Be6 19.Qc5 Qxc5 20.Bxc5 Rfd8 21.Red1 b6 22.Be3 f5 23.f3 Kf7 24.Bb3 h5 25.Kf1 Bf6 26.Ke2 Ke7 27.Bxe6 Kxe6 28.a4 Rxd1 29.Kxd1 Be7 30.Ke2 Bc5 31.Bg5 Be7 32.Be3 Bc5 33.Bg5 Be7 1/2-1/2 Sokolov,A (2595) -Spraggett,K (2580)/Saint John 1988/Candidates; 9.Ne5 Nxe5 10.dxe5 Nd5 11.e6 Bxe6 12.Nxe6 fxe6 13.c3 Qd6 14.Bc2 b5 15.a3 a5 16.h4 Rad8 17.Qg4 b4 18.axb4 axb4 19.cxb4 Rb8 1/2-1/2 Adams,M (2723)-Short,N (2680)/London 2010/CB49_2010 (50) 9...h6 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Qxe4 c5. Ruan is following the steps of Banikas as in the game Kotronias-Banikas (2005). 12.Bc4?! There is nothing really wrong with this move, but one can see that Hou is not playing the most energetic. 12.d5!? Nf6 13.Qh4 Qxd5 14.Bxh6 Qh5 15.Qxh5 Nxh5 16.Bxg7 is what was played by Kotronias and he managed obtain an advantage by this point. Nevertheless, Qh5 is inaccurate and instead Bg4 would keep things unclear. 12...e6 13.Be3 Nf6 14.Qd3 Ng4








It is a risky decision, but Ruan is one point behind, and has to be willing to take chances. 15.dxc5?! Another non-energetic move. 15.Bf4!? cxd4 16.h3 Nf6 17.Be5 with a slight, long-lasting advantage for White. 15...Qc7 16.Rad1 Nxe3. Engines dare to enter the line 16...b6 17.Qd6 Qxd6 18.cxd6 Nxe3 19.fxe3 Bxb2 however with the pawn on d6, only White can push for the win. 17.Qxe3 b6 18.Nd2?! I cannot understand this move! 18.Rfe1 is more appealing 18...Qxc5 19.Qxc5 bxc5 20.c3 Bb7 21.Nb3 Rfc8 after all the simplifications the position is about equal. What comes after is one of those dramatic stories in chess! 22.Na5 Rc7 23.Nxb7? Not having gained a slight edge for the second time with white, and this time left in an "arid" position, Hou Yifan creates lightning, except that it strikes her own hut! 23...Rxb7








Ruan Lufei destroys White's queenside in just a few masterful moves. 24.Rd2 Rab8 25.Bb3?! White will lose a pawn anyway, however with b3 and keeping her rooks on the d-file she could create a long lasting fortress. 25...a5. 25...c4 would have been my alternative. 26.Rc1 a4 27.Bxa4 Rxb2 28.Rxb2 Rxb2 29.Bd1 Rxa2 30.g3 Ra3! Excellent! Now the bishop is going to have a very nice outpost on d4. 31.c4 Bd4 32.Kg2 Ra2?!








An inaccuracy. e5 could have sealed the game. Then e4 would have been unstoppable and black's pawn avalanche would have decided it. With regard to the bishop on d4, do you remember what Botvinnik said? [32...e5] 33.Rc2 Ra1 34.Bf3 Kf8 35.h4 Ke7 36.Bc6 g5?! Meaningful but premature at this stage as the reduction in material is in white's favor. The plan of f5 followed by e5-e4 could make Hou's day gloomy.

37.hxg5 hxg5 38.g4! The best defence! Now Black is unable to create a pair of pawns on f4 and e4, and instead must go for the less effective f/g pair. 38...Ra3 39.Be4 Kd6 40.Re2 Kc7 41.Bh7 e5? Simply very ugly! Now White's light squared bishop will crawl between Black's pawns, which can no longer produce a pair. 42.Be4 Kb6 43.Rd2 Ka5 44.Bd5 f6 45.Kf1 Kb4 46.Ke2?! Returning the favor. 46.f3 this move would have avoid the next move's tactic 46...e4!








This creates more problems though I am not sure if it is enough. 47.Rc2 [47.Bxe4 Kxc4] 47...e3 48.fxe3 Rxe3+ 49.Kd1 Rg3 50.Rg2 Rh3 51.Re2








Though Black managed a breakthrough it is still hard to say whether it is a clear win or not. 51...Kc3 52.Rd2 Rh4 53.Rg2 Kd3 54.Rd2+ Ke3 55.Re2+ Kf4 56.Re4+ Kg3 57.Be6 Rh8 58.Kd2 Re8 59.Kd3 Rxe6? It seems Ruan Lufei is disappointed and goes for a direct " win if my opponent fails to find the defense" however in this case Hou simply finds it. 59...Rd8 60.Ke2 Rb8 61.Bf5 Rb2+ (61...Rb4? 62.Rxd4! cxd4 63.Kd3 Kf3 64.Kxd4 Kf4 65.Kd5 Rb2 66.c5 Rd2+ 67.Ke6 Re2+ 68.Kd6 Rd2+ 69.Ke6 would be a draw.) 62.Kd3 Rb3+ 63.Kd2 Rc3 64.Be6 and Black has not improved much. 60.Rxe6 Kxg4 61.Re4+ Kf5. 61...Kf3








62.Rxd4 cxd4 63.c5 g4 64.c6 g3 65.c7 g2 66.c8Q g1Q 67.Qf5+ 62.Re1 g4 63.Rf1+ Ke5 64.Re1+ Kd6. 64...Kf4 65.Rf1+ Kg3 66.Ke2 would have been a draw as well. 65.Ke4 Bf2 66.Rd1+ Ke6 67.Rd5 g3 68.Kf3 f5 69.Kg2 Kf6 70.Kf3 Kg5 71.Re5 Kg6 72.Rd5 Kf6 73.Kg2 Ke6 74.Kf3 f4 75.Kg2 Be3 Another breath-taking game by the two ladies. 1/2-1/2. [Click to Replay]

In the fourth round, despite having the white pieces, it really felt as if Yifan was only a formality away from the title, and though a fight was expected, a well-chosen opening choice, and solid play would yield the much-wanted title and world record.


Despite having her back against the wall, Lufei Ruan casts a gentle smile for the camera

Ruan Lufei (2480) - Hou Yifan (2591) [B81]
WCh Women Antakya TUR (6.4), 23.12.2010 [Elshan Moradiabadi]

"One day you have to read these books", Nigel Short told me on Facebook! Though I couldn't hear the voice of my dearest ex-coach, his tone was firm. To explain: back in 2006-2007, Nigel was the Iranian team's official coach, an unforgettable experience, and with this message he was pointing out the second game of these two ladies which had also been a Sicilian. I had simply forgotten to mention that Kasparov ("I thought his opinion matters!", said Nigel in an ironic tone) in his great book ("My Great Predecessors"), mentioned 10. fxe5, which he considered as the only way for White to seek an advantage. In my defense, I should add that I don't actually have the 4th book, where this is mentioned. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4








The Keres Attack! A bold and correct decision by Ruan Lufei. She absolutely has to win this game. Despite the theoretical battles which have slowly taken this line out of fashion since the mid 90s, it still yields rich positions with lots of complication. The 12th World Champion, Anatoly Karpov, used to play this opening regularly in the 70s and 80s. 6...h6 The safest and most common. 6...Nc6 7.g5 Nd7 8.Be3 a6 9.f4 Be7 10.Rg1 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 e5 12.Qd2 exf4 13.Bxf4 Ne5 14.Be2 Be6 15.Nd5 Bxd5 16.exd5 Ng6 17.Be3 h6 18.gxh6 Bh4+ 19.Kd1 gxh6 20.Bxh6 Bf6 21.c3 Be5 22.Rg4! famous rook lift 22...Qf6 23.h4 Qf5 24.Rb4 Bf6 25.h5 Ne7 26.Rf4 Qe5 27.Rf3 Nxd5 28.Rd3 Rxh6 29.Rxd5 Qe4 30.Rd3 Qh1+ 31.Kc2 Qxa1 32.Qxh6 Be5 33.Qg5 1-0 Karpov,A (2540)-Hort,V (2605)/Moscow 1971/MCL 7.h4 Nc6 8.Rg1 d5!?








8...h5 9.gxh5 Nxh5 10.Bg5 Nf6 11.Qd2 is considered the main line. The position is similiar to the Sicilian Four Knights. 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxd5 Qxd5 11.Bg2 Qe5+. 11...Qxd4?? loses to 12.Bxc6+ 12.Be3 Qh2 13.f4








13...Bd7? This is not losing but gives White a long-term advantage. 13...Qxh4+?? is another mistake one should avoid due to 14.Bf2 when c6 is hanging.; Instead Hou had to go for 13...Nxd4 14.Qxd4 Qxh4+ 15.Bf2 Qd8








after which Black should be able to hold, however it is White who has the initiative, in spite of the sacrificed pawn. For instance 16.Qxd8+ Kxd8 17.0-0-0+ Kc7 18.Rd4 Be7 19.Rgd1 h5 (19...e5 20.Rc4+ Kb8 21.Rd5 Be6 22.Rb5 with a dangerous attack for White. 22...Bxc4 23.Rxb7+ Kc8 24.Rxe7) 20.gxh5 Rxh5 21.Rc4+ Kb8 22.f5 a5 23.Bg3+ Ka7 24.Rc7 Bf6 25.fxe6 fxe6 In spite of the material advantage I find it too hard to develop for Black. That said I also cannot see how White presses forward. 14.Qd2 Nxd4? Another error, and now White's advantage is decisive.


Things started to get very complicated for the prodigy

15.0-0-0! Bc5 16.Bxd4 Bxd4 17.Qxd4 0-0-0 18.Qc4+? Why not 18.Qxa7 Qxf4+ 19.Kb1 Qb8 20.Qa3 and Black's king seems too vulnerable to survive for long. 18...Kb8 19.Qe4 Bc8 20.h5 Ka8 21.a4!? The plan is clear, however, White's advantage has been reduced due to the erroneous 18th move. 21...Rd5 22.Rdf1?! Risky and bold. 22.Rh1 Qg3 23.Rxd5 exd5 24.Qf3 Qxg4 25.Qxg4 Bxg4 26.Bxd5 Rf8 27.Re1 Be6 28.Bf3 Kb8 will be equal.; 22.Rxd5 exd5 23.Qd4 Bxg4 24.Bxd5 Bf5 and Black will keep the balance. 22...Qh4. Eccentric! 23.Qc4 Rd7 24.a5 Qd8 25.a6 Qa5








Both players have managed to follow their plans. In this matter, Hou Yifan's queen maneuver from h2 to a5 was kind of an "aesthetic" one! 26.Kb1 Kb8 27.axb7 Bxb7 28.Bxb7 Rxb7 29.Qd4 Ka8 30.Rf3! A move with two intentions: First and foremost, to defend b3 in order to prevent Black's activities against her king; second, to prepare an invasion on the d and c files. 30...Rhb8 31.b3 f6 Now e6 is a target, and White can go for Capablanca's "rule of two weaknesses": better pawn structure and vulnerable king! 32.Rd1 Qb4 33.Qe3 Rb6 34.Rd4 Qe7 35.Qd3 R6b7 36.Re3








Ruan masterfully consolidated her advantage. Once more she has a decisive one and this time does not let it slip a way and converted her advantage into the full point. 36...Re8 37.Rd6 e5 38.fxe5 fxe5 39.Re4! White shows class in "Petrosian like" fashion! She stops all black's counter play. This time Ruan is in no hurry! 39...Qc7 40.Rd5 Qb8 41.Rc4 Rf8 42.Kb2 Qe8 43.Rdc5 Qe6 44.Qe4 Kb8 45.Rxe5 Qf6 46.Rc6 Qf7 47.Rf5 After Qe8 or Qg8, Qf4+ wins the rook. A wonderful comeback from Ruan Lufei and she will once more play a tie-break. Having won all the previous ones, this makes her the favorite in tomorrow's mini-match, however, one should not forget that her opponent is a prodigy! 1-0. [Click to Replay]

This victory has set the stage for a very tense tiebreak where one can no longer speak of edges or favorites. In fact the momentum is with Lufei, with her incredible tie-break record, and having struck the last blow. If anything, she will play with a slight psychological edge if anything.

Please note that the organizers announced a last-minute change in the schedule, and the tiebreaks will be held three hours earlier than originally announced, and the games will start at 12 PM local time (11 AM Paris / 5 AM New York).


Final result (classic games)

Name
FED
Tit
Rtg
G1
G2
G3
G4
Total
   
Ruan, Lufei
CHN
WGM
2480
½
0
½
1
2
Hou, Yifan
CHN
GM
2591
½
1
½
0
2

Tie-break

 Name
FED
Tit
Rtg
Rp1
Rp2
Rp3
Rp4
Bz1
Bz2
SD
Total
                       
 Ruan, Lufei
CHN
WGM
2480
               
 Hou, Yifan
CHN
GM
2591
               

About the annotator

Born in Tehran, Iran in 1985, Elshan Moradiabadi learned chess at the age of seven from his father. He became one of Iranian chess’s "New wave" players, which included many talents, some of whom are GMs and teammates. In 2001 he won the Iran Championship with a score of 10.0/11 and a 2712 performance. After entering the Sharif University of Technology, Iran’s top engineering school, to study Chemical Engineering, despite being only rated 2350 at the time, he became an IM and GM within 18 months. This leap included a run of three GM norms in three tournaments in a row in 27 days in 2005.

His interests include books,movies, old songs and music, and stand-up comedy, and his favorite thinkers are Erich Fromm, Sigmund Freud, Alain Badiou, Avram Noam Chomsky and Richard Dawkins.


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