Mariya Muzychuk leads in the Monaco GP

by Sagar Shah
10/9/2015 – The first leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix cycle has begun in Monaco. This tournament is of immense importance as the series of Grand Prix tournaments will determine the challenger for Women’s World Championships in 2017. After four rounds, it’s the reigning World Champion Mariya Muzychuk who leads with a score of 3.5/4. Big illustrated report with pictures, videos and analysis.

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Mariya Muzychuk leads in the Monaco GP

The FIDE women’s Grand Prix cycle for the year 2015-16 has begun with the first leg being held in Monte Carlo, Monaco from the 3rd to the 15th of October 2015. The Grand Prix (GP) cycle consists of four tournaments being held in period of 2015-16. The schedule for these events is as follows:

  1. Monte Carlo, Monaco, 3rd-15th October 2015
  2. Kish, Iran, February 2016
  3. Tbilisi, Georgia, May 2016
  4. Chengdu, China, July 2016

The players have to select any three of the above events, and their aggregate points from those three events will decide the eventual winner. The GP champion qualifies for the World Women’s Championship Match (Challenger) in 2017. In case the World Women Champion and the winner of GP cycle are the same then the second place in the GP standings gets a chance to challenge the World Champion.

16 players will be playing in the Grand Prix cycle. Four are from World Championship, Sochi 2015

  1. Mariya Muzychuk (World Champion)
  2. Natalija Pogonina (World Championship finalist)
  3. Pia Cramling (Semi-finalist)
  4. Dronavalli Harika (Semi-finalist)

Six players by rating

  1. Hou Yifan
  2. Koneru Humpy
  3. Nana Dzagnidze
  4. Ju Wenjun
  5. Anna Muzychuk
  6. Valentina Gunina

Two nominations by FIDE President

  1. Alexandra Kosteniuk
  2. Antaoneta Stefanova

For the remaining four players, one player will be nominated in each leg by the organizers.

After this introduction about the FIDE Grand Prix cycle 2015-16, let us turn our attention to the Monaco GP which is being held in the Monte Carlo Casino.

The twelve participants on the rest day (from left to right front row): Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, Pia Cramling, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Natalija Pogonina, Humpy Koneru, Anna Muzychuk, Mariya Muzychuk; (back row left to right): chief arbiter Anastasia Sorokina, Hou Yifan, Almira Skripchenko, Nataliya Zhukova, Nana Dzagnidze. The player who is missing is Antanoeta Stefanova.

Let’s have a look at the cross table after four rounds:

Reigning World Champion, Mariya Muzychuk,
leads by a full point after four rounds with a score of 3.5/4

Mariya started the tournament with a brilliant technical endgame display against Antanoeta Stefanova. She used her two bishops to create weaknesses on both flanks and penetrated with her king. This first game was good enough to convince us that the reigning world champion was in excellent form.

In her next round she made short work of Nana Dzagnidze in a game that lasted only twenty moves. Let’s have a look at that one:

[Event "Monaco 2015"] [Site "Monte-Carlo"] [Date "2015.10.04"] [Round "2.6"] [White "Dzagnidze, Nana (GEO)"] [Black "Muzychuk, Mariya (UKR)"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D83"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "40"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:32:06"] [BlackClock "0:21:58"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bf4 {This line in the Grunfeld playing the bishop to f4 without first developing the knight to f3 is gaining popularity. Later the knight could go to f3 or e2 depending upon the situation.} Bg7 5. e3 O-O 6. Rc1 c5 7. dxc5 Be6 (7... Qa5 8. cxd5 Ne4 9. Nge2 {has led to some excellent results for White.}) 8. Nf3 Nc6 9. Ng5 {White moves the same piece in the opening in spite of being behind in development. Though this is all theory, it seems like Black should be having a very good position.} Bg4 10. f3 (10. Be2 Bxe2 11. Qxe2 e5 $17) 10... e5 $1 {There is no time to be wasted.} ( 10... Bc8 11. cxd5 $16) 11. Bg3 (11. cxd5 exf4 12. dxc6 Qe7 {leads to a position with mutual chances.} 13. fxg4 Qxe3+ 14. Be2 Nxg4 $13) 11... d4 {This line might look ultra-modern and sharp but you will be surprised to know that it was first played by Svetozar Gilgoric against Mikhail Botvinnik in 1964!} 12. Nb5 $2 {A very bad reaction and the losing move in the game.} (12. fxg4 dxc3 13. Qxd8 Rfxd8 14. Rxc3 {was played by Botvinnik when the position is round about equal but not so easy for White to play. 0-1 (78) Botvinnik, M-Gligoric,S (2575) Tel Aviv 1964}) 12... h6 (12... Bh6 {would have been pretty strong as after} 13. h4 Bxg5 14. hxg5 Ne4 $3 15. Bh2 Qxg5 $19 {Both the pieces are taboo and Black has a winning position.}) 13. exd4 exd4 14. fxg4 hxg5 (14... Re8+ {transposes to the game.}) 15. Bd3 Re8+ 16. Kf2 {If White could play Rf1 and Kg1 she would be better, but unfortunately Black is too well developed to allow that.} Nb4 17. Bb1 (17. Rf1 Qe7 $1 18. Kg1 Qe3+ 19. Bf2 Qxd3 $19) 17... d3 $1 18. Rf1 Ne4+ 19. Kg1 Nxg3 20. hxg3 Bd4+ {This is clearly not a case of premature resignation.} (20... Bd4+ 21. Nxd4 Qxd4+ 22. Kh2 (22. Rf2 Re2 $19) 22... Kg7 $1 {The threat of Rh8+ is impossible to meet.}) 0-1

With 2.0/2 Mariya seemed invincible. But she was stopped in her tracks by the lowest rated player in the tournament, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh of Iran, in the third round. After a long struggle the players agreed to a draw.

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (2397), who is playing for the first time at such a high level tournament, has been doing very well with draws in the first three rounds against the Muzychuk sisters and Nataliya Zhukova. She lost her fourth round game to Alexandra Kosteniuk.

In the fourth round, Mariya faced Zhukova, and the two played quite a sedate variation of the Anti-Grunfeld which reached the following position after ten moves:

Nataliya Zhukova – Mariya Muzychuk, round four

Black to play

Three games had reached exactly the same position that we have on the board above, the most important being Ni Hua against Wei Yi from September 2015. In all those battles the black player went for the simple 10…Bg7. After 11.Bxc3 Bxc3 12.dxc3 the position is roughly about equal, with some chances for White. As Mariya Muzychuk said after the game, “I did not want to play for just two results. I wanted to go for three!” She played 10…Ne4 11.Bxh8 f6, which is objectively dubious but practically not so easy to play for both players due to the unconventional material balance.

After 17 moves, Black’s pawn structure was a complete wreck with all the pawns being isolated and a couple of them being doubled. But Mariya kept fighting and in the end was rewarded with a full point.

The post-game conference between Zhukova and Muzychuk. Look how sure Zhukova was
about the merits of her position right until the very end, but was unable to hold the game.

With a win against Mariya, Nataliya Zhukova (above) could well have been the joint leader,
but instead she lost and is now in the tenth position with 1.5/4

Just like the World Cup in Baku, the organizers have disallowed the players from carrying
their own pens and watches to the tournament hall – as an anti-cheating measure

The highest rated women’s player in the world, Hou Yifan, is having not such a great event. She beat Pia Cramling convincingly but won from a nearly lost position against Natalija Pogonina. She drew with Anna Muzychuk and lost her game to Humpy Koneru from a very promising position. In spite of this loss, Hou Yifan is in joint second position.

[Event "Monaco 2015"] [Site "Monte-Carlo"] [Date "2015.10.04"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Hou, Yifan (CHN)"] [Black "Koneru, Humpy (IND)"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A05"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "150"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:00:56"] [BlackClock "0:02:00"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. d4 Be7 5. g3 O-O 6. Bg2 c6 7. O-O b6 8. b3 Nbd7 9. Qd3 Ba6 10. e4 dxc4 11. bxc4 e5 12. dxe5 Ng4 13. Bf4 g5 14. Nxg5 Ngxe5 15. Qd2 Nxc4 16. Qc1 Nde5 17. Rd1 Nd3 18. Rxd3 Qxd3 19. Bf1 Qd8 20. h4 Qe8 {[#] White has excellent compensation for an exchange in the form of an exposed black king. If you were given just 30 seconds to find the move, what would you play?} 21. Qd1 $6 (21. e5 {As Humpy explained in the post game conference, if the knight gets to e4, then the position is completely lost for Black.} f6 {is a necessary move.} 22. exf6 Bxf6 23. Qc2 {Threatening a mate on h7.} Bxg5 ( 23... Qg6 24. Bd3) 24. hxg5 $14 {The knight is coming to e4 and in general White has excellent co-ordination.}) 21... Bxg5 $1 22. Bxg5 (22. hxg5 {could have been preferable.}) 22... Qe6 $15 {Black has stabilised the position and though her technique wasn't immaculate, Humpy went onto win the game.} 23. Qa4 Bb5 24. Nxb5 cxb5 25. Qxb5 Rac8 26. Re1 Rc5 27. Qb1 Ne5 28. Bg2 Rfc8 29. Qd1 Rc2 30. a4 Qa2 31. Rf1 Qe6 32. h5 h6 33. Bf4 Kh7 34. Qd4 Nc6 35. Qa1 Ra2 36. Qd1 Rd8 37. Qb1 Nd4 38. Bc7 Rc8 39. e5+ Kg7 40. Bd6 Rcc2 41. Qb4 Qg4 42. e6 Ne2+ 43. Kh2 Qxb4 44. Bxb4 fxe6 45. Rd1 Nd4 46. Rxd4 Rxf2 47. Rd7+ Kf6 48. Rxa7 Rxg2+ 49. Kh3 Rh2+ 50. Kg4 Ke5 51. Ra6 Kd5 52. Bf8 Kc6 53. Ra7 Rac2 54. Re7 Rc4+ 55. Kf3 Rxh5 56. Rxe6+ Kd7 57. Rd6+ Kc7 58. Rf6 Rxa4 59. Bxh6 b5 60. Bf4+ Kb7 61. Ke3 Rd5 62. g4 b4 63. Rf7+ Kc6 64. g5 b3 65. Rc7+ Kb6 66. Rc1 Rf5 67. Bc7+ Kb7 68. Bd8 Re5+ 69. Kf3 Rb5 70. Bf6 Ra6 71. Kg4 Rc6 72. Rf1 Kc7 73. Kh5 b2 74. Bxb2 Rxb2 75. Rf7+ Kd8 0-1

You usually do not see Hou Yifan as quiet and as she was in this press conference

How about a nice round of roulette? No, this was at the
drawing of colours: Humpy Koneru with her mother Latha

Humpy had a wonderful start to her tournament. Not only was she 2.5/3 but had also beaten Hou Yifan in their personal encounter. However, in the fourth round, she lost from a very comfortable opening position against Stefanova.

[Event "Monaco 2015"] [Site "Monte-Carlo"] [Date "2015.10.06"] [Round "4.6"] [White "Stefanova, Antoaneta (BUL)"] [Black "Koneru, Humpy (IND)"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A05"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "118"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:03:08"] [BlackClock "0:26:04"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 b5 3. Na3 a6 4. c4 e6 5. b3 b4 6. Nc2 Bb7 7. Bg2 Be7 8. a3 a5 9. d4 O-O 10. O-O c5 11. dxc5 Bxc5 12. Bb2 Na6 13. Ne5 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 Qb6 15. Nd3 Be7 16. Bd4 Qb7+ 17. f3 d5 18. axb4 dxc4 19. bxc4 axb4 20. Ra5 {[#] In order to understand how things can go wrong from a very normal position we pick up the game from this point. Black is doing fine and should be round about equal. Her pawn on b4 is weak, but so is the pawn on c4.} Rfd8 $6 (20... Qc6 {was shown by Humpy in the press conference.} 21. Qa1 (21. c5 $1 {is stronger.}) 21... Qxc4 22. Rc1 Nc7 {was discussed and it seemed that Black had equalized but it is not the case as after} 23. Rxa8 Rxa8 24. Ncxb4 $1 Qb5 25. Qb2 {White's superior co-ordination gives her a tangible edge.}) (20... Rfc8 { was the most solid.} 21. Rb5 Qc7 22. Ne3 Qd8 $11 {with equality.}) 21. Qa1 $1 Nc7 (21... b3 22. Rb1 $16) 22. Rb1 {Now the b4 pawn becomes very weak and the c4 pawn cannot be attacked easily.} Qc6 23. c5 Qd7 24. Ne5 (24. Ncxb4 Qxd4 25. Qxd4 Rxd4 26. Rxa8+ Nxa8 27. Nc6 $18 {was the faster way but not at all easy to see.}) 24... Rxa5 25. Qxa5 Qb5 26. Qxb5 Nxb5 27. Nc6 Nxd4 28. N2xd4 Rd7 29. Nxe7+ Rxe7 30. Rxb4 $18 {White is a pawn up and the passed c-pawn ensured Stefanova's victory.} Kf8 31. c6 Rc7 32. Rb7 Rc8 33. f4 Nd5 34. e4 Ne7 35. Rb6 Ke8 36. Kf3 g6 37. g4 f6 38. e5 fxe5 39. fxe5 Nd5 40. Rb7 Ne7 41. Rb6 Nd5 42. Rb2 Ne7 43. Rc2 g5 44. Ke4 h6 45. Rc5 Kf7 46. c7 Ke8 47. Nxe6 Kd7 48. Nd4 Rxc7 49. Rxc7+ Kxc7 50. Nf5 Ng8 51. Kd5 Kd7 52. h3 Kd8 53. Kd6 Ke8 54. Ke6 Kf8 55. Kd7 Kf7 56. e6+ Kf6 57. e7 Nxe7 58. Nxe7 Ke5 59. Ng8 Ke4 1-0

Antanoeta Stefanova is having a topsy turvy event. Wins against Humpy Koneru and
Alexandra Kosteniuk have been offset by losses to Pia Cramling and Mariya Muzychuk

Pia Cramling is in joint second position with a score of 2.5/4

The French/Moldovan-Russian connection – Almira Skripchenko (left)
shares a light moment with Alexandra Kosteniuk before the start of the game

Almira has been having quite a bad event with two draws and two losses and is currently in the eleventh position with 1.0/4. On the other hand, Kosteniuk is doing pretty well with 2.5/4.

Recently wed Pavel Tregubov and Aleksandra Kosteniuk, proud owner of a selfie stick

Refreshments are available to all the players, with selected chocolates, juices and tea

Absolutely! Russian IM Natalija Pogonina

Natalija should not have lost her game to Hou Yifan. But in spite of that loss, she is doing quite decently with 2.0/4, scoring an important win against Anna Muzychuk

Be sure not to miss some excellent live commentary on the official website by
the living legend Ljubomir Ljubojevic (assisted by strong grandmaster Jeroen Piket)

The older Muzychuk, Anna, has not been able to keep up with her sister and is currently on 1.5/4.

In last position after four rounds is Nana Dzagnidze from Georgia

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov acknowledging the efforts of the chief sponsor of the event

WIM Anastasia Sorokina is the chief arbiter of the event

Lovers of the game might recall the strong tournament held in Monaco 1967, which was won by….

….none other than the great Bobby Fischer!

An appeal to our French readers who understand this cartoon, specially made for the
FIDE Women’s Grand Prix: please explain it to us in the comments section below!

The translation, supplied by Richard Mathews, Australia, is: "It seems that some (women) are stronger than the men?!!" – "Evidently, after all one gives check to the king rather than the queen."

Pictures from the official website

Addendum

In the meantime round five is over and it produced the following results:

Round 5 on 2015/10/08 at 15:00

Title
Name Rtg
Res.
Title
Name Rtg
GM
Muzychuk Mariya 2528
½-½
GM
Muzychuk Anna 2549
GM
Kosteniuk Alexandra 2525
½-½
GM
Zhukova Natalia 2485
GM
Cramling Pia 2513
1-0
IM
Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2402
GM
Koneru Humpy 2578
1-0
GM
Dzagnidze Nana 2573
WGM
Pogonina Natalija 2445
0-1
GM
Stefanova Antoaneta 2500
GM
Hou Yifan 2671
1-0
IM
Skripchenko Almira 2441

Ranking Crosstable after Round 5

Rank
SNo.
Title
Name Rtg FED
Pts
Res.
1
3
GM
Muzychuk Mariya 2528 UKR
4
0
2
8
GM
Hou Yifan 2671 CHN
0
3
6
GM
Koneru Humpy 2578 IND
0
4
5
GM
Cramling Pia 2513 SWE
0
5
10
GM
Stefanova Antoaneta 2500 BUL
3
1
6
4
GM
Kosteniuk Alexandra 2525 RUS
3
0
7
7
WGM
Pogonina Natalija 2445 RUS
2
0
8
12
GM
Muzychuk Anna 2549 UKR
2
0
9
2
GM
Zhukova Natalia 2485 UKR
2
0
10
1
IM
Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2402 IRI
0
11
11
GM
Dzagnidze Nana 2573 GEO
1
0
12
9
IM
Skripchenko Almira 2441 FRA
1
0

Links

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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Boon-Swee Yen Boon-Swee Yen 10/12/2015 06:44
Hou Yifan is the winner of last GP series and therefore wins the right to challenge for the World Championship next March.
tigerprowl2 tigerprowl2 10/10/2015 10:19
Vam, Yifan refused play in the knockout tournament in March. However, she gets to regain it in March if she accepts since she was the previous champion. I have not seen any confirmation yet that she will.
Vam Vam 10/10/2015 07:51
Can someone explain why Maria is Women's World Champion when she did not beat Hou Yifan in a match?

Is there some loophole to top women's chess that im missing?
SkipsPa SkipsPa 10/9/2015 06:42
That comment is not meant to suggest any doubts about her honesty though.
SkipsPa SkipsPa 10/9/2015 06:40
Apparently players own pens and watches were not allowed but does the pic of Alexandra Kosteniuk show her wearing a watch or is it a bangle?
Denix Denix 10/9/2015 05:30
Hou Yifan will win.
kikos kikos 10/9/2015 02:04
"they say some gof those girls are stronger than men" "of course, you say check at the king, not at the queen"
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