North Urals Cup: well balanced event, exciting play

7/26/2007 – At halftime all ten players in this tournament are very close together, just a point separating the first from the last. Elisabeth Pähtz recovered from her 0-3 start with two wins, Kateryna Lahno and top seed Hou Yifan faltered, Natalya Pogonina and Zhu Chen fought their way to the top. We bring you a full report with splendid pictures by event photographer Vadim Smalkov.

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The North Urals Cup 2007 is taking place from July 22 to 31 in Krasnoturinsk, Russia, in the Palace of Culture of of Bogoslovskiy Aluminium Smelter (which, you may be interested to know, is the subsidiary of OJSC “Aluminium Company of Siberia and Urals” in the Sverdlovsk region of the Russian Federation). The event is restricted to top female players and has an Elo average of 2478.

Round four


Elisabeth Pähtz vs Hou Yifan in round four

There was only one decided game in round four: Elisabeth Pähtz, the former junior world champion who had lost her first three games in this tournament, played a spirited game against China's wonderkid Hou Yifan. After some remarkably violent hostilities in the middlegame "Lizzy" ended up with a knight and four pawns for a rook. In spite of some heroic defensive efforts by her 13-year-old opponent the German IM navigated the game to a sure victory. The audience were delighted by the 83-mover, and a lot of Pähtz fans came to the press conference.


At last a win, after three traumatic losses: Elisabeth Pähtz


Tough duel between Kateryna Lahno, left, and Antoaneta Stefanova

Stefanova vs Lahno saw the former women's world champion from Bulgaria trying hard to consolidate her lead with a win against the dynamic Ukrainian star, but the latter found good counterplay and the game ended after 39 moves in a repetition.


Group photo with Galliamova, Stefanova, Lahno and Zhao Xue seated, Hou Yifan, Pähtz, Pogonina, Muzychuk, Zhu Chen and Ushenina standing (from left to right)


Anna Ushenina, the only 2500+ player in the event not of Chinese origin


Zhao Xue, at 2500 the lowest-ranked Chinese participant!


Round five

Unbelievable. After the restful fourth round, with a single decided game, today in round five all five games were decided. Two with white and three with black. Let us go through them one at a time.

Antoaneta Stefanova was doing okay in an Archangelsk Variation of the Ruy Lopez against Natalya Pogonina when she messed it up on move 19, possibly overlooking a simple knight fork.


Natalya Pogonina greeting Antoaneta Stefanova at the start of round five

Pogonina,N (2429) - Stefanova,A (2481) [C78]
North Urals Cup Krasnoturinsk RUS (5), 26.07.2007
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Bc5 6.c3 b5 7.Bc2 d6 8.a4 Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 b4 11.a5 0-0 12.d3 Rb8 13.Nd2 d5 14.exd5 bxc3 15.bxc3 Nxd5 16.d4 exd4 17.Qd3 g6 18.Qc4 Rb5 19.Ne4

19...Ne5? 20.Qxd5 (and now 20...Qxd5 fails to 21.Nf6+) 20...d3 21.Qxd8 Rxd8 22.Ba4 Rxa5 23.Bg5 Rb8 24.Bf6 Bf8 25.Bxe5 1-0.


The winner and new leader in this event: Natalya Pogonina

WGM Zhao Xue, 22 years old, is a veteran of the Chinese Olympiad team. In Bled 2002 she scored 11/12 on board four, in Calvia 2004 it was 10/12 on board three. In round five she was up against the eleventh women's world champion Zhu Chen, who hails from Wenzhou province in China but now lives in Qatar, having married Qatari GM Mohammed Al-Modiahki.


Zhao vs Zhu, 22 years of ambition vs 31 years of experience. The latter won.

Zhao seemed fine against Zhu's Slav and was a pawn up for most of the game. But around move 55 she allowed her opponent to get counter chances and then was thoroughly outplayed in the ending. A bitter defeat for the young Chinese girl.


Anna vs Elisabeth: Anna Muzychuk faces comeback kid Lizzy Pähtz

Looks like Elisabeth Pähtz may have learnt a tough lesson from her second round game against Kateryna Lahno, where the king had been driven all over the board, into a mating net that cost her the point. Today she played a French Defence and chased Anna Muzychuk's king in similarly traumatic fashion, finishing the game with a forced mate which Anna did not care to be shown.


Enterprising attacking player Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine

Lahno,Kateryna (2450) - Galliamova,A (2468) [B61]
North Urals Cup Krasnoturinsk RUS (5), 26.07.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 Bd7 7.Qd2 Rc8 8.f4 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Qa5 10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 e6 12.0-0-0 Bc6 13.Nb5 Bxb5 14.exf6 Bc6 15.h4 g6 16.Bc4 Bc5 17.Qe5 Bb6 18.Qd6 Bc5 19.Qg3 0-0 20.Bd2 Qa4 21.Bb3 Qe4 22.h5 Qxg2 23.Qf4 g5 24.Qe5 Bf3 25.Rde1 h6

Kateryna, as so often, had set her aims on a uncompromising kingside attack, which her very experienced Russian opponent had coolly parried. Now the 17-year-old Ukrainian GM, who won't give up her plan, makes a fatal mistake: 26.Bxe6? Looked good, because 26...fxe6 27.Qxe6+ leads to a clear white win, as Katya had probably worked out to the end. Unfortunately Black has 26...Rfe8 and the game is over for White, who can only make some token attacking moves. 27.Bxf7+ Kxf7 28.Qf5 Be4 29.Qd7+ Be7 30.Rhf1 Rxc2+ 31.Kd1 Rxd2+ 0-1.


Experience triumphs over esprit: Alisa Galliamova beat Kateryna Lahno in round five

Everone's darling Hou Yifan looked like she was heading for a third defeat in this tournament against Anna Ushenina's B30 Sicilian. But she hung on with some imaginative knight play and gave her opponent the important opportunity to blunder.


13-year-old Hou Yifan, at 2523 top seed (!) in this event

Hou Yifan (2523) - Ushenina,A (2502) [B30]
North Urals Cup Krasnoturinsk RUS (5), 26.07.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Bc4 e6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.0-0 a6 7.d3 b5 8.Bb3 Nxb3 9.axb3 Bb7 10.e5 Nd5 11.Ne4 Be7 12.Bg5 f6 13.exf6 Nxf6 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Re1 0-0 16.d4 cxd4 17.Nxd4 Kh8 18.Ng3 Rg8 19.f3 Qc7 20.Kh1 Rg6 21.Qd2 Rag8 22.Nde2 Bf8 23.Rad1 Bc6 24.Qf4 Qb7 25.Rf1 e5 26.Qf5 d5 27.c3 b4 28.Qe6 bxc3 29.bxc3 a5 30.Nc1 R8g7 31.Nh5 Re7 32.Qf5 Bd7 33.Qd3 Bb5 34.c4 Bc6 35.Ne2 d4 36.Neg3 Re8 37.Ne4 Be7 38.Nhg3 Reg8 39.Rf2 Qd7 40.Nd2 Bb4 41.Ndf1 Qc8 42.Nf5 Bd7 43.N1g3 Qf8 44.f4 Bc6 45.fxe5 fxe5 46.Rdf1 Qa8 47.Qe2 Re8 48.Nh4 Rg5 49.Rf5 Rxf5 50.Rxf5

50...e4? Anna should have pushed the d-pawn instead, because then after 51.Qh5 Re6 52.Rf7 Qg8 53.Qf5 she would have had 53...d2 winning. Now, however, she was in trouble and lost after 53...Be8 54.Qxe6 Bxf7 55.Qxe4 Bc3 56.Nhf5 Qe8 57.Ne7 d3 58.Qxd3 Bf6 59.Ngf5 Be6 60.Qd6 Bxe7 61.Qe5+ and mate in two. 1-0.


The paths of Hou's queen and king knights during this game

Standings after five rounds

Note that after half the tournament all ten players are very close together, just a point separating the first from the last. Only Natalya Pogonina and Hou Yifan are performing considerably above and below their nominal rating. A well-balanced tournament if ever we saw one.

Note too that Friday is a free day in the North Urals Cup

All pictures provided by Vadim Smalkov

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