Women's WCh. G6: Hou has two-point lead

by Albert Silver
3/9/2016 – The game started with Muzychuk on the white side of a Giuoco Piano, in which she seemed to have the clear upperhand, and her fans rubbed their hands in the hopes of an equalizing result. Things got complicated and then downright ugly as her knight found itself stranded on the rim, and Hou Yifan flipped the tables for a big win. Report with GM annotations.

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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 six

Photos by Vitaliy Hrabar for the official site

It was about as dramatic a game as could be, and tragic… for Ukrainians and Mariya Muzychuk’s fans. It was generally agreed that the time for solid play and wait-and-see chess was past, and if the title holder wished to defend her crown, she would need to take far more energetic measures than she had until now. She was behind the score by a point, and the Chinese challenger did not seem as if she were about to ease up.

The opening choice was a repeat of game one, the Giuoco Piano AKA Italian game, but this time the Ukrainian quickly eschewed the cautious 7.h3 for the sharper 7.Bg5. The choice soon paid off as she built a significant advantage just begging to unleash hell on her opponent. The opportunity arose when she reached this position:

White has built an excellent position, and the time has come to take
advantage of it. White to play and increase her advantage.

Unfortunately she missed the window of opportunity, and as so often happens in such cases, she began to waffle on how to proceed. Five moves later, at a loss on how to progress, she began to go seriously astray, first by removing her strongest piece, the bishop on c4, from its attacking outpost, and then with a king move that just wasted a tempo. Her knight that had seemed a piece to cause trouble, was now a castaway on the island square of h5, with no hope of rescue.

When the tide had turned decisively, Hou Yifan did not waste time as she found and executed the winning blow.

Things have gone all wrong for White, and now Black has the means to
end White's resistance. White to play and win. Solutions in the game notes.

Game six annotated by GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

[Event "Women's World Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.03.09"] [Round "6"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Black "Hou , Yifan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2563"] [BlackElo "2667"] [Annotator "Adrian Mikhalchishin"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2016.03.09"] [SourceDate "2016.03.09"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 O-O {[#]} 7. Bg5 { Choosing the sharpest line and not the cautious 7.h3 from game one.} h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 ({Of course, here one mus always be attentive to the typical piece sacrifice} 9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5 Kg7 11. Qf3 ({Much more useful is} 11. b4 $1 { to avoid Bc5xa3 after the white knight starts it maneuver Na3-c2-e3-d5.} Bb6 12. Qf3 Rh8 13. Na3) 11... Be6 $6 ({Better is} 11... a5 12. Nd2 (12. Na3 $5 Bxa3 13. bxa3 Rh8 14. Rab1 $13) 12... Rh8 13. h4 Qe7 14. a4 Nd8) 12. Nd2 (12. b4 Bb6 13. Nd2 Rh8 14. Bd5) 12... Rh8 13. h4 (13. b4) 13... Qe7 14. Bd5 Nxd5 $6 15. Bxe7 Ndxe7 16. b4 Bb6 17. b5 $2 (17. g3 $5 Rh6 18. Nc4) 17... Na5 (17... Rxh4 18. g3 Bg4 19. Qg2 Bh3 20. Qh2 Rh6 21. bxc6 Bxf1) 18. g3 Rag8 {with unsufficient compensation for the queen, Vajda,L (2511)-Sutovsky,E (2628)/ Turin 2006}) 9... g4 {A very sharp line.} ({More usual is} 9... Bg4 10. h3 (10. Nbd2 Nh5 (10... a6 11. a4 Ba7 12. Re1 Nh5 13. h3 Bc8 14. Nf1 Qf6 15. Ne3 Ne7 ( 15... Nxg3 16. fxg3 h5) 16. d4 exd4 17. cxd4 Nxg3 18. fxg3 Nc6 {with strong pressure, Lie,K (2509)-Khairullin,I (2657)/Yerevan 2014}) 11. Kh1 Qf6 12. h3 Bd7 13. d4 exd4 14. Nxd4 Nf4 15. Nxc6 Bxc6 16. Qg4 Rae8 17. b4 Bb6 18. a4 a6 { equality, Ponkratov,P (2582)-Khismatullin,D (2656)/Tomsk 2011}) 10... Bh5 11. b4 Bb6 12. Nbd2 Ne7 13. Re1 Ng6 14. Qc2 g4 15. hxg4 Nxg4 16. d4 Qf6 17. Be2 Nf4 18. Nc4 {with better play, Yudasin,L (2505)-Tukmakov,V (2590)/Simferopol 1988}) 10. Nh4 Nh5 11. a4 a6 12. Na3 Qg5 13. Nc2 Ba7 14. Ne3 $5 ({Here there are two options} 14. d4 Bd7 15. Qd3 Rae8 16. b4 Ne7 17. f3 Ng6 18. Nxg6 Qxg6 19. fxg4 Nxg3 20. Qxg3 exd4 21. Nxd4 Qxe4 22. Rf4 Qe3+ 23. Kh1 Qxg3 24. hxg3 Re3 { Black has good chances,Jakovenko,D (2733)-Bok,B (2572)/Caleta 2015}) (14. b4 Nxg3 15. hxg3 Be6 16. Qe2) 14... Ne7 ({Black also had to calculate the pawn sacrifice tendered by White after} 14... Bxe3 15. fxe3 Nxg3 16. hxg3 Qxe3+ 17. Kh2 Qg5 18. Qb3 Qg7 19. Nf5 {with a strong inititiative .}) 15. d4 (15. Qb3 { was also interesting. Ex:} Bxe3 16. fxe3 Qxe3+ 17. Bf2 Qg5 18. g3 Ng7 19. Rae1 Ne6 20. Be3 {with excellent compensation.}) 15... Qg7 $2 {At first sight, this appears to be a strange move, but the underlying idea in a different move order could have caused problems for White.} ({Instead of the immediate 15... Qg7 as in the game, Black would have cause White trouble had she instead first played} 15... Nxg3 16. hxg3 exd4 17. cxd4 {and only now} Qg7 $1) 16. dxe5 dxe5 {[#]} 17. Nef5 $2 {Possibly Maria was trying to strike quickly, but it would have been better for her to prepare this maneuver first.} (17. Qd2 {first was better, with the idea} Nxg3 18. hxg3 h5 19. Rad1) 17... Bxf5 18. exf5 Bc5 { Black tries to transfer the bishop to d6} ({However, better was to bring the knight to d6 instead with} 18... Nxg3 19. hxg3 Nc8 $1) 19. Re1 $6 ({White misses an opportunity to gain a significant upperhand with} 19. f6 $1 Qxf6 ( 19... Nxf6 20. Bxe5) 20. Qxg4+ Qg5 21. Qf3 Rab8 22. Rfe1 {with much better play.}) 19... Nxg3 20. hxg3 Kh8 21. Qe2 $5 ({I was commenting this game together with GM Andrei Volokitin and he offered here} 21. Re4 h5 22. Qe2 Bd6 23. f4 (23. Rd1 $1) 23... exf4 24. Rxe7 Qf6 25. Rxf7 Rxf7 26. Bxf7 Qxf7 27. gxf4) 21... Bd6 22. Qe4 Rab8 {[#]} 23. Be2 $2 {An incomprehensible mistake. How can White consider removing the bishop from its powerful attacking outpost on c4??} ({White still kept huge initiative on White squares after} 23. f6 Qxf6 24. Qxg4 Rbd8 25. Qe4) 23... h5 24. Rad1 Ng8 25. Kh2 $2 ({It was possible to still improve the position with} 25. a5 Nf6 26. Qe3 Rbd8 27. Bc4) ({or} 25. Qe3 Nf6 26. b4) 25... Qg5 26. Bc4 ({It is psychologically very difficult to to start playing for a draw with the pawn sacrifice} 26. f6 Nxf6 27. Qf5) 26... Nf6 27. Qe3 {White simplifies the game into a clearly worse endgame.} ({ Not better is} 27. Qc2 e4) 27... Qxe3 28. Rxe3 e4 29. Re2 Rbd8 ({Very good was Volokitin's proposal} 29... Kg7) 30. Bb3 Rd7 31. f3 Re8 32. Rde1 Rde7 33. Bc2 { [#]} {After some thinking Hou Yifan finds the winning sequence.} exf3 $1 34. Rxe7 Rxe7 35. Rxe7 f2 $1 36. Rxf7 (36. Bd3 Bxe7) 36... f1=Q 37. Ng6+ Kg8 38. Rxf6 ({Immediately losing was} 38. Bb3 Bxg3+ 39. Kxg3 Ne4+ 40. Kh2 g3+ 41. Kh3 Qh1#) 38... Bc5 $1 0-1

Current standings

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


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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stephenbalkan stephenbalkan 3/11/2016 09:12
You know who's the mister in the pic? Is Mircea Lucescu the coach of Shakhtar Donetsk. I thought showing this pic u wanted to underline that.
gmwdim gmwdim 3/11/2016 06:00
@mozartiano123 I think he means that FIDE is sexist for not giving the women's world championship the same qualification format as the regular world championship, and instead having a KO tournament.
johnmk johnmk 3/11/2016 04:25
Maria missed some pretty straightforward ways to stay in the game and keep advantage, and instead played inexplicably weak moves and . The match is just not really world champion calibre or very exciting to be honest but I'm sure Hou will win by 3 or 4 points. Fortunately there is the candidates match starting tomorrow.
mozartiano123 mozartiano123 3/11/2016 03:41
/richard khyam vui voon your commentary has a nice base, however to call FIDE sexyst with your arguments is a joke, right? Is it sexyst because it took Hou Yifan's ttile out and gave it to another woman????????????????
thlai80 thlai80 3/11/2016 02:08
Hou Yifan rating seems to stop progressing because she started her university education and practically stop her training in chess, not because of plateau. When she completes her degree, watch her burn the tracks to 2700+. When the need arises, she has no problem beating 2700 clubs. At TATA Steel, her problem is her preparation (again due to her studies) and endgame skills. There were games where she was objectively lost after opening. Against Magnus Carlsen who doesn't rely on opening to beat someone, she managed to hang on until the very last moment of endgame.

On the sidenote, if Mariya couldn't win in a game in which she outprepared Hou Yifan, what else can she do to win a game?
Emil Cabagay Emil Cabagay 3/11/2016 12:59
Hou Yifan vs Judit Polgar!! No other woman players could beat these two !
richard khyam vui voon richard khyam vui voon 3/10/2016 11:45
I find it extremely offensive and outrageous that FIDE should organize knock-out tournaments to take the TITLE of HOU, not once but twice. To me her non-participation in the last one,and rightly so is a form of protest.I often wonder why FIDE does not organize similar knock-out tournaments to make it easier and cheaper for someone to take the TITLE of CARLSEN or call the winner of the up-coming canditates tournament the WORLD CHESS CHAMPION and MAGNUS CARLSEN the CHALLENGER.Is FIDE a racist and sexist organisation?
vixen vixen 3/10/2016 07:01
Though earlier Hou was defensive I guess it was easier for here to play coz she had very limited options to choose
a move but for Maria finding correct plan was more trickier Still good game from Hou
emerlion emerlion 3/10/2016 03:58
@KevinC . I know it's not blitz, but look at the position for 5 secs your mind will automatically go to f6 and reject Be2. Then look at the position for 2-3 minutes, can you find any good reason for Be2? That's why this I cannot comprehend this mistake. By the way my comment was made before the analysis was shown here. All the other mistakes shown here are hard to evaluate and understandable.
ff2017 ff2017 3/10/2016 03:22
@richard khyam vui voon I believe the knockout/match alternating system was developed and determined before Yifan originally won her title. Prior to this system, it was a pure knock out tournament for about a decade, with no rights granted to the reigning champion.
Jason Rihel Jason Rihel 3/10/2016 01:34
Just off the top of my head, Aronian was around 2680 in 2005, when he would have been 22.
A less clear case is MVL, who dropped to 2680 after climbing over 2700, in 2010, also at 22.
Eljanov is one of the weirder curves. 2686 (the first time) in 2007, when he was 26 or so. But he's only reached #11 in the world....
Nakamura was about 2680 in 2008, when he was 20, so a little bit ahead. Mamedyarov was also about 20 at that level.

By the way, Hou Yifan has been as high as ~50 in the world already, so I would consider that the real baseline, not 75. And she has been up there since around age 20. It all depends on if this is her plateau, or just a stall.
digupagal digupagal 3/10/2016 12:02
AFAIK, Hou participated in Tata Steel and her performance was the best among all, she out prepared and outplayed everyone there. She is a real talent and soon will become no.1 in the world by beating Magnus
Hawkman Hawkman 3/10/2016 10:56
Show me the last time a 22 year old who was #73 in the world became a top 10 player in the world.
Jason Rihel Jason Rihel 3/10/2016 10:10
@Hawkman -- Meh, it is difficult to say. Hou Yifan's improvement curve doesn't look too different than some other Top 10 players. She also still plays in women's events where she outrates everyone by 100-200 points. I get the impression this has suppressed her rating a bit, as even decisive tournament victories peppered with draws loses her rating points.
goodzylla goodzylla 3/10/2016 09:51
Why nobody talk about one of the most important football coach Lucescu??
This is very important promotion for chess!
Aighearach Aighearach 3/10/2016 09:38
The computer above only gives 23. f6 as being (=)+0.24 even at 22 depth, not white having any significant advantage. It actually recommends 23. Rad1 instead. Commentators are happy to offer improvements, but they don't seem to actually give white any significant advantage; those lines seem to just lead to a fairly easy draw for black. Obviously better than what happened. But white's mistakes only sent her from = to -, not + to =. I know computers are not always correct, but the lines as stated seem to need additional work, even in hindsight, to live up to the commentary.
jimliew jimliew 3/10/2016 08:01
It should read "black to play and win"
johnmk johnmk 3/10/2016 02:39
Yes I'm afraid it is a lopsided match. Hou has been regularly competing with the strongest male players.
buchaiah buchaiah 3/10/2016 02:24
i agree with ivan3ivanovich
Aighearach Aighearach 3/10/2016 01:37
Hou Yifan is young and still improving. It is getting impossible to make even tiny mistakes against her. She will likely be overall top 10 within a few years.

This was classic defend and exchange at the exact right moment to end the attack with the attacker off balance. That is all she needs. Beautiful game, even if the computer finds some exact error her opponent finally made.

I know I sure need a lot more than that to work with in my games!! And if I had her training program, that would still be true.

The Champion Returns!
mozartiano123 mozartiano123 3/9/2016 10:45
Game over!
fons fons 3/9/2016 10:36
@ emerlion:

Computer also plays 23.Be2 (initially), so the move cannot be completely without merit. Evaluation only starts to really go downhill after 25.Kh2.

Commentators disliked it strongly for strategical reasons, which also makes sense.

A possible explanation could be that she wanted to follow up with 24.f3, but saw too late that the move allows dangerous counterplay and so that left the bishop stranded on an inferior square and a worsening position. -> 23.Be2 h5 24.f3? Ng8 25.fxg4 Nf6
algorithmy algorithmy 3/9/2016 09:52
some body threw the towel in behalf for Maria!!
KevinC KevinC 3/9/2016 09:51
@emerlion, While I agree that allowing h5 was not wise, f6 does not really give any kind of attack either...it just keeps the game, well a game with chances for both sides. Also, this is not blitz.
ivan3ivanovich ivan3ivanovich 3/9/2016 09:40

f6! should have been played already in move 19. If white takes the pawn with the knight then Bxe5 and pins the knight, if white takes the pawn with the queen then Qxg4+ . All whites problems with immovable pieces have been solved.
emerlion emerlion 3/9/2016 09:22
Someone needs to explain 23. Be2. f6 is the first blitz move you have to look at. Now it happens it's not only a blitz move, it gives a strong attack. Be2 allows h5, which paralyses white attack. I guess it's nerve going to a sharp line.
ff2017 ff2017 3/9/2016 07:44
This happened in games in the previous matches, the Humpy or Ushenina would have a significant advantage in one game and the complexities would cause them to crumble in the face of Yifan's defenses.

Actually Humpy vs Mariya in the knockout was like this except with Mariya as a the eventual victor.
ChiliBean ChiliBean 3/9/2016 07:34
Exciting game. Hope the others are too....then we have the Candidates! More chess more fun! :D
X iLeon aka DMG X iLeon aka DMG 3/9/2016 07:17
The expected then.... Hou is just too strong for any other woman player. Go girl!