Hou Yifan wins Monaco by two points

by Sagar Shah
10/17/2015 – After a 2.5/4 start, Chinese GM Hou Yifan went on a rampage, scoring 6.5 in the last seven rounds to win the first leg of the 2015/16 FIDE Grand Prix. At 9.0/11 she finished two full points ahead of her nearest rivals Mariya Muzychuk and Humpy Koneru. Along with pictures, analysis and videos, we have zeroed in on a game where Hou Yifan played exactly like a former World Champion.

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Hou Yifan wins Monaco Womens' Grand Prix

The first leg of FIDE Grand Prix, which was held in Monte Carlo, came to an end on the 15th of October with a resounding victory for Hou Yifan. The Chinese girl simply crushed the competition, and won with an entire two point margin over the joint second placed Maria Muzychuk and Humpy Koneru. This result once again proves that Hou Yifan is in a different league altogether, compared to the other female players.

Hou Yifan earned 160 Grand Prix points (120+40 bonus) and €10,000 prize money

The final crosstable, automatically generated by the computer. Here are the official final rankings:

Rank SNo. Title Name Rtg FED
SB KoyaF
1 8 GM Hou Yifan 2671 CHN
45,00 4½ 5½ 8 9
2 3 GM Muzychuk Mariya 2528 UKR
36,00 3½ 4½ 6½ 7
3 6 GM Koneru Humpy 2578 IND
36,00 3 4 6 7
4 5 GM Cramling Pia 2513 SWE
29,00 3 3½ 5 6
5 7 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2445 RUS
28,25 2 3 5 6
6 10 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2500 BUL
26,75 3 3 4½ 5½
7 4 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2525 RUS
27,25 2 3 4½ 5½
8 11 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2573 GEO
21,25 1½ 1½ 4 5
9 9 IM Skripchenko Almira 2441 FRA
20,25 2 2 3½ 4½
10 2 GM Zhukova Natalia 2485 UKR
22,25 2½ 3 4 4½
11 12 GM Muzychuk Anna 2549 UKR
26,50 3½ 3½ 4 4½
12 1 IM Khademalsharieh S. 2402 IRI
8,00 ½ ½ 1½ 1½

The previous report covered the tournament until the eighth round. At that point the tournament was still quite closely contested between Hou Yifan, who was on 6.5/8, and Mariya Muzychuk, who was just a half point behind her on 6.0/8. The Chinese GM managed to win her ninth round game against Natalia Zhukova, while Mariya could only manage a draw with Natalija Pogonina. This meant that Hou Yifan had a full point lead over her Ukrainian rival. But everything could change in the tenth round as both of them were up against each other.

Mariya Muzychuk – Hou Yifan, a rehearsal of their upcoming World Championship match in March 2016:
Making the first ceremonial move is Agnès Puons, Manager of Human Resources at the casino Bains de Mer

[Event "Monaco 2015"] [Site "Monte-Carlo"] [Date "2015.10.14"] [Round "10.4"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya (UKR)"] [Black "Hou, Yifan (CHN)"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:01:59"] [BlackClock "0:20:11"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. O-O a6 5. Bd3 Ngf6 6. c4 {The main moves here are 6.c3 and 6.Re1. This move 6.c4 has just been played in one game before. So it can be assumed that Mariya wanted an original, non-theoretical game.} g6 7. Nc3 Bg7 8. Re1 Ng4 $1 {A very important move by Hou Yifan. It is necessary to stop White's idea of Bf1 followed by d2-d4.} (8... O-O {looks pretty normal, but allows White to go for d4 with} 9. Bf1 {[%cal Gd2d4]}) 9. Bf1 Nge5 10. d3 O-O 11. Be3 {[%cal Gd7e5,Ge5c6,Re7e5,Ye5f3]} Nxf3+ $1 {With the clear idea to clamp down on the d4 square.} 12. Qxf3 Ne5 13. Qd1 Nc6 $1 { [%cal Gg7d4,Gc6d4] The knight has rerouted itself wonderfully to control the d4 square.} 14. Qd2 Rb8 15. Ne2 e5 $5 {Prevent d4 at all costs.} 16. Nc3 Be6 17. Nd5 b5 {Black's position is just so easy to play with breaks on both wings - b5 and f5.} 18. b3 ({After the game Mariya said that playing 18.b3 was the critical mistake and insted she should have preferred Rab1.} 18. Rab1) 18... f5 19. g3 $2 (19. exf5 gxf5 20. Rac1 $15 {would have left White with an inferior but playable position as f4 is currently not possible due to Bxf4 and e6 bishop is hanging.}) 19... f4 $1 {Alert as ever, Hou Yifan doesn't let such chances pass by.} 20. gxf4 exf4 21. Nxf4 {Of course Mariya had calculated till this point but missed her opponent's strong reply.} Bg4 $1 {The rook on a1 is hanging, the knight is coming to e5, rook on f8 is perfect and the queen will powerfully land on h4. All in all a completely lost position for White.} 22. Bg2 Ne5 23. h3 Nf3+ 24. Bxf3 Bxf3 25. Ne6 (25. Ne2 Qh4 26. Kh2 Be5+ 27. Ng3 Bg4 $19) 25... Qh4 26. Ng5 h6 $1 {Very accurate. The rook on a1 is unimportant.} 27. Nxf3 Rxf3 28. d4 Rxh3 29. Kf1 Qg4 {A beautifully played game by Hou Yifan who gave absolutely no chances to her opponent.} 0-1

Check out the post-game press conference where the players speak about their upcoming World
Championship match and how financially attractive it is to be a chess player [7:30 min into the clip]

If you look closely at the above game, you will see how Hou Yifan wonderfully kept control on the d4 square with …Nxf3,…Ne5-c6 and later e7-e5. I wonder if she knew the following classic:

Tigran Petrosian – Florian Gheorghiu, Moscow 1967

It’s White’s (Petrosian’s) turn to play. How did iron Tigran continue?

[Event "October Revolution 50"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "1967.??.??"] [Round "2"] [White "Petrosian, Tigran V"] [Black "Gheorghiu, Florin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A29"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "1967.05.21"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "17"] [EventCountry "URS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 Bb4 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O Re8 7. d3 h6 8. Nd5 Bf8 {[#]} 9. Nxf6+ $1 {Tigran Petrosian executes the same idea that we saw in the Hou Yifan-Mariya Muzychuk game. In the recently published book by Quality Chess, Python Strategy which deals with Tigran Petrosian's best games, this game has been annotated by Vladimir Simagin. This is what Simagin has to say about the move, " A routine move would have been 9.Rb1. Petrosian exchanges his knight with a concrete plan in view. It consists in playing for the good minor piece which is what White's other active knight will later prove t be - as opposed to Black's passive dark squared bishop.} Qxf6 10. Nd2 $1 {[%cal Gd2e4,Ge4c3] Just like Hou Yifan did, the knight is going from d2-e4-c3 in order to clamp down the d5 square.} d6 11. Ne4 Qd8 12. Nc3 {We could just as well stop here with the evaluation as clearly better position for White, but I would like you to play through a few more moves in order to show you another wonderful positional idea.} Bd7 13. b4 {This move is tactically achieves the goal of getting in the queenside expansion.} Qc8 14. Rb1 Bh3 15. e4 $1 {This is it! Let's hear once again what Simagin has to say: "A subtle positional continuation, which in my view is worth just as much as some spectacular combinations. White consistently pursues the strategy of making his opponent's dark squares bishop "bad". The weakening of d4 is without significance, as White's own dark- squared bishop has still been retained.} Bxg2 $6 {This falls right into White's plans.} (15... Be6 {is a difficult move to make but relatively the best.}) 16. Kxg2 $14 {Tigran won the game in fine fashion as you can see for yourself.} g6 17. h4 Bg7 18. h5 g5 19. Nd5 Nd4 20. Ne3 f5 21. Bb2 fxe4 22. dxe4 Qe6 23. Bc3 b5 24. cxb5 Qxa2 25. Qd3 Qe2 26. Qxe2 Nxe2 27. Nd5 Rab8 28. Rfe1 Nd4 29. Bxd4 exd4 30. Rbc1 Rb7 31. Nxc7 Re5 32. Rc6 g4 33. Nd5 Rxb5 34. Rxd6 Rb7 35. Rg6 Kh7 36. Rxg4 Rd7 37. Rh1 Re6 38. Rd1 Rc6 39. Rd2 Be5 40. f4 Bh8 41. f5 1-0

We don't know if Yifan knows her classics or not, but she definitely gets the job done!

With this tournament victory Hou Yifan gained eleven Elo points and has a classical live rating of 2683, which is exactly 100 points more than number two Koneru Humpy, currently at 2583. Her next aim will definitely be crossing the 2700 barrier and then 2735, which was Judit Polgar’s peak rating.

The current World Champion Mariya Muzychuk had a great event and ended with the second place,
a score of plus three, and 13 points of rating gain. The 23-year-old is now world number five.

On the other hand Anna Muzychuk (above) had a dismal event where she performed below par and lost 15 Elo points. She scored 4.5/11 but despite her bad performance Anna will go back home with a happy feeling thanks to her last round win over Humpy.

Humpy Koneru – Anna Muzychuk, round eleven

Black had been pressing throughout the game. In the above position it was Black (Anna) to play. She has many ways to win but she chose the best one with 42…Bd5+, and after 43.Kg3 (Kf2 d2-+) Rg1+! 44.Bxg1 d2! A nice little deflection – the pawn cannot be stopped. Humpy resigned within a few more moves.

Humpy Koneru receiving her trophy for the third place finish from Zurab Azmaiparashvili,
who is the FIDE Continental President for Europe and President of the European Chess Union

The high point for Humpy in this tournament was defeating Hou Yifan – she was the only one who could do it. Although the last round pawn promotion to a queen (the above game with Anna) must have left a bad taste in Humpy’s mouth, she herself executed something similar against against Alexandra Kosteniuk in the ninth round.

Humpy Koneru – Alexandra Kosteniuk, ninth round

I cannot give this position as a test for you to solve, as White has many ways to win here. The f4 knight cannot be taken right now because f3 hanging. Besides the d6 knight is also en prise. Humpy found a pretty solution starting with 40.Qxd5! Nxd5 41.Bxh6 Rxd6 42.b7! and Kosteniuk resigned, as 42…Rb6 is met with Rxg7 Kh8 Rf7+- The pawn on b7 can only be stopped from queening at the cost of an entire rook.

The top three finishers, Mariya, Yifan and Humpy, with Michel Rapaire, President of the
Monaco Chess Federation (left) and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the World Chess Federation

Pia Cramling played steady chess and with a score of 6.0/11 finished fourth

Natalija Pogonina finished fifth, but she had better or
winning positions in many of her drawn and lost games

A 50% score for Alexandra Kosteniuk

Antanoeta Stefanova (left) finished sixth and Nana Dzagnidze eighth. The latter managed to limit her rating loss with four consecutive wins in the last four rounds. When Stefanova and Dzagnidze met in the ninth round it seemed like the game would end in a peaceful draw. The double rook endgame after 22 moves was completely equal. But Stefanova misplayed it horribly and lost the game. This reminds us of the game Stefanova-Pogonina which we analyzed in the previous report, where the latter was unable to hold a clearly drawn rook endgame.

[Event "Monaco 2015"] [Site "Monte-Carlo"] [Date "2015.10.13"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Stefanova, Antoaneta (BUL)"] [Black "Dzagnidze, Nana (GEO)"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A46"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:29:49"] [BlackClock "0:31:16"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 b6 4. c4 Bb7 5. Nc3 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Bb5+ c6 8. Bd3 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. e4 dxe4 11. Nxe4 Nxe4 12. Bxe4 Nd7 13. Bg5 Be7 14. Bxe7 Qxe7 15. Re1 Qd6 16. Ne5 Rae8 17. Rc1 Nxe5 18. dxe5 Qb8 19. Qd6 c5 20. Qxb8 Rxb8 21. Bxb7 Rxb7 22. Rcd1 {[#] It's Black to play and the position is nearly equal. If someone is better it has to be White, as she has the open d-file.} Re7 23. f4 (23. Rd6 {could have been thought of.} f6 24. e6 $14) 23... f6 24. Rd6 (24. exf6 Rxe1+ 25. Rxe1 Rxf6 26. Re7 $11 {is the easiest way to draw the game, but maybe Stefanova was ambitious at that point of the game and was not happy with the half point.}) 24... h5 (24... fxe5 $11) 25. g3 $6 (25. e6 f5 26. Kf2 $11) 25... Rfe8 26. Rd5 Kf7 27. Kg2 fxe5 28. fxe5 Ke6 {Black is suddenly starting to push a bit. She has already activated her king, and White's passed e-pawn is more of a weakness than a strength.} 29. Rd2 Rd7 $1 30. Rf2 (30. Rxd7 Kxd7 31. Kf3 Ke6 32. Ke4 Rd8 $17) 30... Red8 31. Rfe2 Rd2 {The} 32. Kf3 g5 33. h4 gxh4 34. gxh4 Rf8+ 35. Kg3 Rg8+ 36. Kf3 Rd7 $1 {From a technical position, things have become razor sharp and Black is winning, thanks to a direct attack on the king.} 37. Re4 Rf7+ 38. Ke3 Rg3+ 39. Kd2 Rf2+ 40. Kc1 (40. R1e2 Rxe2+ 41. Rxe2 Rg4 $19) 40... Rgg2 41. Ra4 Rxb2 42. Rxa7 Rxa2 {Black is two pawns up and Stefanova saw nothing better than to resign. Lack of objectivity at the crucial juncture can lead you to lose such such equal endgames.} 0-1

Four beautiful ladies at the closing ceremony: Natalia Zhukova,
Antanoeta Stefanova, Almira Skripchenko and the chief arbiter Anastasia Sorokina

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh played one of the toughest tournaments of her life. After three draws at the start she suffered eight defeats in a row. Quite a harrowing event for the Iranian youngster but with such an experience she can only become a stronger chess player.

Beautiful trophies for the top three players

While the tournament was in progress, the Post of Ukraine issued a stamp with the pictures of Mariya and Anna Muzychuk. The pictures are taken from the time when they became World Champions. Mariya became Women’s World Champion in 2015 while Anna won the under 16 world title in 2005.

You need pliers to eat them! Antoaneta Stefanova has lobster for dinner.

The final group picture of players and organisers

The Monaco Grand Prix 2015 comes to an end. It was wonderfully organized. All the players enjoyed the hospitality and Hou Yifan said that she would be happy to return to Monte Carlo casino whenever a tournament was organized there. A special mention must be made about the extremely up-to-date website maintained by the organizers and FIDE, which had excellent pictures, videos and reports uploaded every day.

Hou Yifan has won the previous three Grand Prix cycles in 2009-11, 2011-12 and 2013-14. And now she has started off the 2015-16 season with a bang. Will anybody be able to stop her? We will have to wait until February 2016 when the next Grand Prix leg will be held in Kish, Iran.

Grand Prix Standings

Rank Players
GP points
1 Hou Yifan
2 Mariya Muzychuk
3 Humpy Koneru
4 Pia Cramling
5 Natalija Pogonina
6 Antanoeta Stefanova 
7 Alexandra Kosteniuk
8 Nana Dzagnidze
9 Almira Skripchenko
10 Natalia Zhukova
11 Anna Muzychuk
12 Sarasadat Khademalsharieh

Pictures from the official website


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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Chad Phillips Chad Phillips 10/19/2015 11:11
Blackacre, the article compares Hou Yifan to former world champion Tigran Petrosian NOT former world champion Hou Yifan. The entire piece is highly complementary to Hou Yifan and basically says about her exactly what you say.
beerpatzer beerpatzer 10/18/2015 07:25
Despite her age, Almira is still the cutest of the bunch...
Derek880 Derek880 10/18/2015 06:49
I followed a lot of these games online, and found the fighting chess that these women displayed to be very exciting. I was very disappointed to see the lack of coverage by Chessbase and other sites. Sure we get this final story at the end of the tournament, but in an 11-round tournament, where the ladies World Chess Champion is playing along with the current highest rated female player in the world, I expected to see more coverage than the three stories that were displayed ever 4 days or so. As an organization, we need to give our women's chess players, especially when it comes to our best women's players, a decent and considerable amount of coverage as well, and also show them that their efforts and hard work are being recognized.
Blackacre Blackacre 10/18/2015 03:53
It's a bit rich to opine that Hou Yifan played like a "former" World Champion. She didn't play in the silly knockout tournament won by Mariya Muzychuk, but there's no reason to think that anyone who did could beat her, or even offer her serious competition, in a match. She crushed knockout "world champion" Anna Ushenina in their world championship match, and I expect her to do the same to Muzychuk. As this tournament reaffirmed, she is the world's best active female chessplayer, and by a wide margin.
genem genem 10/17/2015 09:30
I like Alexandra's necklace!
An impressive second place finish by Mariya.
Nyanaviveka Nyanaviveka 10/17/2015 08:48
"Check out the post-game press conference where the players speak about their upcoming World Championship match..." Are you sure that these two players will participate in this world championship match in Lviv? Yifan still hasn't signed the contracts for this event and after FIDE has arbitrarily postponed the dates to 2016, it might be that these new dates overlap with the preparations for her exam for the Bachelor’s degree at Peking University. I think that Chessbase chooses too often the wrong approach in its articles. The fact that FIDE wants to host an event without contacting the participants in advance would for example give a much better headline than this blind loyalty towards Ilyumzhinov and his world chess federation.
Denix Denix 10/17/2015 08:09
Everybody is beautiful in this wonderful report!
Boon-Swee Yen Boon-Swee Yen 10/17/2015 08:01
Players with equal points share GP points. The GP standings should be:-
Rank Players GP points
1 Hou Yifan 160
2 Mariya Muzychuk 120
3 Humpy Koneru 120
4 Pia Cramling 85
5 Natalija Pogonina 85
6 Alexandra Kosteniuk 65
7 Antanoeta Stefanova 65
8 Nana Dzagnidze 50
9 Anna Muzychuk 30
10 Natalia Zhukova 30
11 Almira Skripchenko 30
12 Sarasadat Khademalsharieh 10
bolter41 bolter41 10/17/2015 02:03
Great report!
qiqiangzhu qiqiangzhu 10/17/2015 01:49
All the girls look beautifully here. Clever girls!