Women's WCh. G3: Change of tactics, but draw

by Albert Silver
3/6/2016 – After a failed opening in game one with 1.e4, failed because there had never been a chance to make a fight of it with white, reigning champion Mariya Muzychuk changed tactics, and opened with 1.d4 in game three. A Closed Catalan ensued with symmetrical pawns, and in spite of White's small edge thanks to a bishop pair, Hou Yifan was never in any danger. Report with GM commentary.

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2016 Women's World Chess Championship

The Women’s World Chess Championship Match 2016 between the current World Champion Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine and Challenger Hou Yifan of China (former World Champion 2010-2012, 2013-2015) takes place in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 1-18, 2016. The first game is scheduled to start at 3 pm local time on 2nd of March 2016. You can watch the games live in our broadcast window at the bottom of this page.

Game three

Photos by Vitaliy Hrabar for the official site

In many ways, round three was a crucial test of fire. After being unable to secure so much as an initiative in game one with 1.e4, the World Champion resorted to Plan B: 1.d4. This led to a Closed Catalan in which White struggled again to get more than an almost symbolic advantage. The choice of opening and preparation was viewed by the commentators on the spot as the influence of Muzychuk's newest second, the elite GM Pavel Eljanov.

The World Champion essayed 1.d4 as a surprise weapon...

...but world no. 1 Hou Yifan smelled a rat and sidestepped any dangers

It is perhaps unfair to call the advantage entirely symbolic as White did retain the bishop pair, but Black never seemed to be in any difficulty much less danger. This isn't to say the game had no fight, since both sides certainly did their best, but the onus was on White to try and make a fight of it. The challenger, and world no. 1, Hou Yifan was content to neutralize her opponent's efforts, and by not attempting to do more, left it up to Mariya to try and rock the boat.

In YouTube one can find live video commentary in English

In the Ukrainian commentary were Efstratios Grivas, WGM Natalia Buksa, and Adrian Mikhalchishin

The end result was a good fight, with interesting play, but it also means going back to the drawing board as the Ukrainian attempts to destabilize her rival to wrest back the match.

Game three analyzed by GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

[Event "Women's World Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.03.05"] [Round "3"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E08"] [WhiteElo "2563"] [BlackElo "2667"] [Annotator "Adrian Mikhalchishin"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2016.03.05"] [SourceDate "2016.03.05"] {The third game was considered very important for the current World Champion to get back into the fight.} 1. d4 {Surprise from Mariya,known as Miss Tactics. She was practically al;ways known for being e4 player.} Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 { Big surprise! It was the general opinion among the commentators that this was the influence of her new second GM Pavel Eljanov.} d5 4. Bg2 Bb4+ {A clever decision by Hou Yifan,who sensed big preparation coming her way in her favourite lines.} (4... Be7) (4... dxc4 5. Nf3 a6 6. O-O Nc6 7. Nc3 Be7 8. e4 O-O 9. Qe2 b5 10. Rd1 Rb8 11. Bf4 Bb7 12. a4 b4 13. Nb1 Na5 14. Ne5 Nb3 15. Ra2 Nxd4 16. Qxc4 c5 {Stefanova-Hou Yifan,Bejing 2013.}) 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Nbd7 8. Qc2 c6 9. Rd1 b6 10. Bf4 ({Very logical is the solid set up} 10. b3 Bb7 11. Nc3 Rc8 12. e4 c5 13. exd5 exd5 14. Bf4 Re8 15. dxc5 Bxc5 16. Nd4 $1 Ba8 (16... Nf8 17. Nf5 Ng4 18. Bxd5 Bxf2+ 19. Kh1 $16) 17. Qf5 $1 (17. Ndb5 Ng4 18. Rd2 Qf6 19. Rf1 g5 $13) 17... dxc4 (17... g6 18. Qg5 $16) 18. Bxa8 Rxa8 19. Ndb5 $1 {with initiative Beliavsky,A (2650)-Breder,D (2440)/Deutschland 2002}) 10... Ba6 ({Here direct action against the bishop is the most common reaction: } 10... Nh5 {The bishop on f4 is so unpleasantly placed, that every player wants to kick it away.} 11. cxd5 $5 ({For me the most interesting and principaled continuation is Rubinstein's idea:} 11. Nbd2 Nxf4 12. gxf4 Bb7 13. a3 c5 14. cxd5 exd5 (14... Bxd5 15. e4 Bb7 16. dxc5 bxc5 17. Nc4 Qc7 18. Na5 Bc8 19. b4 Qxf4 20. e5 {with initiative.}) 15. Ne5 Nf6 16. dxc5 Bxc5 17. e3 Qe7 18. Ndf3 Rac8 19. Qa4 a6 20. Nd4 g6 21. Rac1 b5 22. Qb3 Bxd4 23. Rxc8 Rxc8 24. Rxd4 Kg7 {and Black successfully defended the isolated pawn, Maze,S (2571)-Del Rio Angelis,S (2502)/Salou 2011}) 11... Nxf4 ({The recapture is risky} 11... cxd5 12. Bc7 Qe8 13. Nc3 Ba6 14. Qa4 Bb7 15. Rac1 a6 16. Qb3 b5 17. a4 b4 18. Na2 a5 19. Nc3 $1 {White secures a real advantage.}) 12. dxc6 $1 Nxg2 13. cxd7 Ne3 {At least it is useful to destroy the opponent's structure as a form of compensation.Black obtained the bishop pair but in this structure it is very difficult to demonstrate its power.} 14. fxe3 Bxd7 {with better play, Sandipan, C (2590)-Najer,E (2647)/Moscow RUS 2013}) ({Less principaled is} 10... Bb7 11. Ne5 Rc8 12. Nc3 Nh5 13. Bc1 Nhf6 14. e4 dxc4 15. Nxc4 b5 16. Ne3 Qb6 17. a4 Rfd8 18. e5 Ne8 19. a5 Qa6 20. f4 Nc7 21. Bd2 c5 22. d5 exd5 23. Nexd5 Nxd5 24. Nxd5 Bf8 25. Be3 {with powerful centralization, Xu Jun (2500)-Le Quang,L (2717) /Qinhuangdao 2011/}) 11. cxd5 ({Here White could play very tense positions with } 11. b3 Rc8 12. Nc3 dxc4 13. Nd2 b5 14. bxc4 bxc4 15. Qa4 (15. e4 Qa5 16. Nf3) 15... Bb5 16. Nxb5 cxb5 17. Qxb5 Qb6 18. Qxb6 (18. Qa4 c3 19. Nc4 Qb4 20. Qxb4 Bxb4 21. a3 Be7 22. Nd6 $14) 18... Nxb6 19. Bb7 Rcd8 {with a very good position, Delchev,A (2634)-Beliavsky,A (2668)/Moscow 2001}) ({Or even} 11. Ne5 Rc8 12. Nc3 Nh5 13. Be3 Bxc4 14. Nxc4 dxc4 15. Ne4 b5 16. a4 a6 17. Nc5 Nhf6 18. Nxa6 Nd5 19. Bd2 {with better chances, Ernst,S (2540)-Parligras,M (2584)/ Trier GER 2016}) 11... cxd5 12. Ne5 {[#]} (12. Nc3 {promised nothing. Ex:} b5 13. a3 Qb6 14. Ne5 Nxe5 15. Bxe5 Bb7 16. Qd3 Bc6 17. Rac1 a5 18. e4 b4 19. exd5 Nxd5 20. Nxd5 Bxd5 21. Bxd5 exd5 22. a4 Rfc8 {with equal play, Atalik,S (2595) -Beliavsky,A (2690)/Belgrade 1998}) 12... Rc8 13. Nc6 Bb5 ({Also possible is} 13... Nh5 14. Be3 Nb8 15. Nxe7+ Qxe7 16. Nc3 f5 17. Qd2 (17. Bf3 Nf6 18. Bg5 Qf7 19. Bxf6 Qxf6 20. e3 g5 21. Qd2) 17... Nc6 18. Rac1 Qd7 19. f3 h6 20. Bf2 Nf6 21. b3 {with a very small advantage,Tomashevsky,E (2710)-Ponomariov,R (2758)/Saratov 2011}) 14. Nxe7+ Qxe7 15. Nc3 Nh5 16. Be3 Nhf6 {[#]} ({We commentators expected the riskier} 16... f5 17. f3 f4 18. Bxf4 Nxf4 19. gxf4 Rxf4 20. Qd2) 17. a4 {Mariya is a very direct player, but here such plans don't promise anything. Correct is a long preparation here .} ({There were two more gradual ways to improve here} 17. Qd2 Ba6 18. Rac1 h6 19. h3 Rfe8 20. Rc2 b5 21. Rdc1) ({and} 17. f3 Bc6 18. Qd3 Rfe8 19. Rac1 Bb7 20. Bf2) 17... Bc4 18. a5 bxa5 {Hou Yifan chooses the simplest decision.} (18... Qb4 {led to very interesting play.} 19. Ra4 Qb3 20. Qd2 b5 21. Raa1 Qb4 22. Rdc1) 19. Rxa5 Qb4 20. Rda1 Rb8 {Absolutely correct simplification.} (20... a6 {led to a complicated strategic position} 21. Bf4 Rfe8 22. R5a3 Rc6 23. Rc1) 21. Rxa7 ({ White would have really no big prospects after} 21. Bc1 a6) 21... Qxb2 22. Qxb2 Rxb2 23. Bf3 {In the endgame it seems that there are no real problems, but White retains some slight chances even so.} h6 24. h4 Rc8 {[#]} ({Hou Yifan simply could not play two moves in a row with the pawns} 24... h5) 25. Bf4 $6 ( {Here White still had chances to win more space and to create some real threats. Had it been Carlsen, he would have made Black's lfe hard here. Unfortunately Mariya does not enjoy Magnus's technique...} 25. g4 Rb3 26. Nb1 Bb5 27. g5) 25... Rc2 26. R7a3 $6 ({Much more natural was} 26. R1a3) 26... h5 $1 27. Kg2 Kh7 28. Rc1 ({It was necessary to try to keep the pressure on with} 28. Rb1 Rc6 29. Rb7) 28... Rxc1 29. Bxc1 e5 $1 {The most effective simplifications.} 30. dxe5 Nxe5 31. Be3 Nxf3 32. Kxf3 Ne4 {I must be honest in admitting that most men would have agreed to a draw some ten moves earlier, but girls simply believe that to offer a draw would be a sign of weakness!} 33. Nxe4 dxe4+ 34. Kxe4 Bxe2 35. Ra5 f6 36. Rc5 Rxc5 37. Bxc5 1/2-1/2

The palace press center: spacious, well-lit, well-connected and comfortable. All one could wish for.

Enjoying the live commentary with the video feed


The press conference after game three

Current standings

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 G10 Pts
Mariya Muzychuk
Hou Yifan


March 5 Saturday 15:00 Game 3
March 6 Sunday 15:00 Game 4
March 7 Monday Day Off  
March 8 Tuesday 15:00 Game 5
March 9 Wednesday 15:00 Game 6
March 10 Thursday Day Off  
March 11 Friday 15:00 Game 7
March 12 Saturday 15:00 Game 8
March 13 Sunday Day Off  
March 14 Monday 15:00 Game 9
March 15 Tuesday Day Off  
March 16 Wednesday 15:00 Game 10
March 17 Thursday Day Off  
March 18 Friday 15:00 Tie-break games
March 18 Friday 18:00 Closing Ceremony

All games start at 3 p.m. local time, which is an hour ahead of European time, two ahead of Britain, and seven ahead of New York. You can find the starting time at your location here.

Women's World Chess Championship 2016 live broadcast

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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kassy kassy 3/8/2016 05:12
I am not acquainted with the MEN's World Championship you refer to. I am aware of a World Championship and a Women's World Championship
deadbob deadbob 3/6/2016 11:39
I often wonder why the Women's World Championship is contested by GIRLS and not WOMEN. But the Men's World Championship is always contested by MEN and never BOYS. Seems that there is a double standard here even though both GIRLS and MEN are playing the same game!! Guess it's all how we boys(men) perceive the opposite sex as the game is being played.
TheSame Wastrel TheSame Wastrel 3/6/2016 04:55
"I must be honest in admitting that most men would have agreed to a draw some ten moves earlier, but girls simply believe that to offer a draw would be a sign of weakness!"

I find that remark rather amusing, but there are people who will not.
mozartiano123 mozartiano123 3/6/2016 02:23
Makes really no difference. 90 minutes plus 30 seconds until move 40, if you waste 1 minute in the first move because somebody just didn't press the clock, that doesn't make any difference. Sometimes you waste 2 or 3 minutes because you are just talking to somebody beside the table and still makes no difference.
johnmk johnmk 3/6/2016 01:27
So far, boring. 11 cxd5 forcing a symmetrical pawn structure was not going to win.
fons fons 3/6/2016 12:52
It seems that every time the arbiter starts the clock _before_ the celebrity guest has made his move so that the clock is running while the celebrity is fumbling with his move, posing for the camera's etc... I would say this is highly unprofessional.

For game two Hou Yifan even had to make sure to press her clock before the second (!) guest started to make his move (for black) or her time would just have been running...

It might not make much of a difference in the long run but still: how to handle it properly is just a matter of common sense.
abhayanniya abhayanniya 3/6/2016 02:45