Hou-Ivanchuk: Game three is short but intense

by Liang Ziming
4/8/2017 – Game three of the match between Hou Yifan and Vassily Ivanchuk ended in a draw in 19 moves… but what a draw! It would be a mistake to skip this short but intense battle of theoretical importance and covered with tactical veneer. If all short draws were like this, no one would ever complain. Report and analysis.

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The time control for the four games is 40 moves in 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes and a 30-second increment as of move one. Draws cannot be offered before move 30, and if the match ends in a 2-2 tie, a blitz tiebreak will take place at the rate of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds. If even this is tied, then a special super-bitz game will be used to decide the winner. This is not an Armageddon game. Instead, a single blitz game at the rate of 5 minutes plus 2 seconds will be played with the following condition: if it ends in a draw, the clock times are left as they are, the colors are reversed, and the players start a new game with those times left. This will continue until the tie is broken.

Game three

The official poster of the match

After the game, Hou Yifan commented, "This game is quite interesting although relatively short. The battle in the middle game contains a lot of changes and possibilities.  I think there may be some improvements for the moves of both sides in the early middle game." With limited time and intense complications possible, her instincts did not fail her, and improvements can be found in both the opening, and above all the crucial middlegame skirmish that ended in a draw, but with some missed opportunities.

Both Vassily Ivanchuk and Hou Yifan had professed a desire for interesting games and they have delivered

Vassily Ivanchuk vs Hou Yifan

[Event "King and Queen Summit Match 2017"] [Site "Shenzhen"] [Date "2017.04.07"] [Round "3"] [White "Ivanchuk, Vassily"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E04"] [WhiteElo "2732"] [BlackElo "2649"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "36"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Nbd2 dxc4 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O b5 { 5 E04: Open Catalan: Nf3} 8. a4 c6 9. axb5 cxb5 10. Ng5 (10. Ne1 $11 Nd5 11. e4 ) 10... Nd5 $17 11. e4 Ne7 $146 {A novelty, but not best.} ({But not} 11... Qxg5 $6 12. exd5 Bb7 {[#]} (12... exd5 13. Nxc4 Qd8 14. Ne3 Be6 15. f4 f6 16. Nc2 Ba5 17. Qh5 f5 18. Qe2 Bf7 19. Qxb5 $14) 13. Nxc4 $1 $14) ({Better is} 11... Nc7 $1 $15 12. Nb1 (12. Qh5 h6 13. Ngf3 Bb7 $17) (12. Nxc4 $2 bxc4 13. e5 Nd5 $19) (12. Nxh7 Kxh7 13. Qh5+ Kg8 14. e5 f5 $15) 12... Bb7) 12. e5 $1 $14 ({ And not} 12. Qh5 h6 13. Ngf3 a6 $17) 12... Nd5 {[#]} 13. Nxh7 $6 {It is hard to call this a mistake, even if it is in a purely mathematical sense. The idea of Nxh7 is quite correct, but played just now can only lead to a draw with best play, which is indeed what happens. But for one preparatory move, this would have been winning.} ({Not} 13. Bxd5 $2 exd5 14. f4 Nc6 $19) (13. Nde4 $1 {would have made all the difference, after which White can win with best play.} h6 (13... Be7 {is worse after} 14. Nxh7 Kxh7 15. Qh5+ Kg8 16. Bg5 g6 17. Qh6 Nd7 18. Bxe7 Qxe7 19. Ng5 f6 20. Qxg6+ Kh8 21. Nxe6 Qxe6 22. Qh6+ Kg8 23. Rfe1 {and White is winning} Rf7 24. exf6 {Black will lose material now.}) 14. Nf6+ $1 Nxf6 (14... gxf6 15. Ne4 $1 {and Black cannot defend. Ex:} f5 16. Bxh6 Be7 ( 16... fxe4 $2 17. Qg4+ {and mate.})) 15. exf6 Qxf6 16. Nh3 $1 {and the bishop is unstoppable. Black must give up his knight to save the rook.} Nc6 17. Bxc6 Rb8 18. Bg2 $16 (18. Rxa7 $2 e5 $1 {and because of the attack on the Nh3, Black wins the d4 pawn.})) 13... Kxh7 14. Qh5+ $1 Kg8 {White must now prevent . ..Qe8.} 15. Ne4 f6 {[#]} 16. Nxf6+ $1 gxf6 (16... Nxf6 17. exf6) 17. Qg6+ Kh8 { ...Qe7 is the strong threat.} 18. Qh5+ Kg8 {A short, but very intense battle. If all short draws were like this, no one would ever complain.} 1/2-1/2

The score after three games stands 1.5 - 0.5 in Ivanchuk's favor.

Liang Ziming has been a chess journalist since 2003 and the New Officer for the Chinese Chess Association since 2011. In 2007, he translated Kasparov's book "How Life Imitates Chess" into Chinese together with the former Women World Champion Xie Jun.
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