Women's World Ch. 2017 Final G1: Last 'woman' standing

by Elshan Moradiabadi
2/28/2017 – In the first game of the four-game finals for the Women's World Championship 2017, Tan Zhongyi managed to carry out her game strategy by forcing a calm and strategic play onto Anna Muzychuk. The opening she chose to play with black did not allow Anna, with her white any chances to put pressure. Illustrated report with GM analysis by Elshan Moradiabadi.

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Photos by David Llada

As if in an adaptation of Kurosawa’s classic Yojimbo that occurred in a Texan town near the Mexican border, two young ladies, one Ukrainian and one Chinse, with scarves on, played chess in an ever-growing, polluted, never-sleeping, Tehran.

Let the match begin!

Anna Muzychuk has definitely been on fire in this tournament with an amazing run of 9/10 before the finals! Her results were clear and she exploited both her advantage and luck, as the case may be.

Tan Zhongyi, on the other hand, had a difficult task reaching finals, winning two matches in Armageddon against Ushenina and Harika, but she had shown a great deal of resilience and consistency in the whole event.

Today, Tan managed to carry out her game strategy by forcing a calm and strategic play onto Anna. The position of such ilk, a French Rubinstein, tend dry out very soon if white does not have a concrete and immediate plan to pose difficulties to black.

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"] [Site "chess24.com"] [Date "2017.02.27"] [Round "1"] [White "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Black "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C10"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2003.06.08"] 1. e4 e6 $5 {An interesting choice by Tan Zhongyi. She is definitely up to for something off-beat, since Anna has won every single white game of hers in this tournament.} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 {known as"Rubinstein" system. Tan decides to go for a technical line. This is a rather rare opening in top level. The only person I know who employs this opening at a regular basis is my friend and strong GM, George Meier. In the very top, Jobava managed to successfully employ it a couple of rare occasions!} 4. Nxe4 Bd7 {even less common than the usual Nd7} (4... Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Bg5 Be7 ({Or} 6... h6)) 5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. O-O Ngf6 8. Ned2 $1 {This is considered the best square for the knight! The dark-square bishop heads to b2.} Be7 (8... g6 $6 {is a risky and unreliable way of playing this line.} 9. b3 Be7 10. Bb2 O-O 11. c4 Re8 12. Qe2 Bf8 13. Ne5 Nxe5 14. dxe5 Nd7 15. Be4 Nc5 16. Bxc6 bxc6 17. Nf3 Qd3 18. Rfe1 Red8 19. Kf1 Qxe2+ 20. Rxe2 Nd3 21. Bc3 a5 22. Rd1 Nb4 23. Red2 Rxd2 24. Rxd2 a4 25. a3 Na6 26. b4 Rc8 27. Ng5 Be7 28. Ne4 Kf8 29. Ke2 h5 30. g3 Ke8 31. f4 Nb8 32. Bd4 Nd7 33. Be3 Nb6 34. Kd3 Rd8+ 35. Kc3 Rb8 36. Bc5 Bd8 37. Be3 Be7 38. Rd3 Bd8 39. h3 Be7 40. Rd2 Rd8 41. Rxd8+ Kxd8 42. Bc5 Kd7 43. Kd4 Bd8 44. Nc3 g5 45. Bxb6 cxb6 46. Nxa4 Kc7 47. Nc3 h4 48. gxh4 gxh4 49. Ne4 Kd7 50. a4 Be7 51. c5 Kc7 52. Nd6 f6 53. Ne8+ Kd8 54. Nxf6 bxc5+ 55. bxc5 Kc7 56. Ng4 Bd8 57. Ne3 Kd7 58. Nc4 Kc7 59. Ke4 Kd7 60. f5 Bg5 61. f6 Bh6 62. a5 Kc7 63. a6 Kb8 64. Na5 Ka7 65. Nxc6+ Kxa6 66. Nd4 {1-0 (66) Inarkiev,E (2709)-Melkumyan,H (2633) Doha 2016}) 9. b3 O-O 10. Bb2 b6 11. c4 Bb7 12. Qe2 c5 {All is according to the latest theory. So far, so good!} 13. Rfe1 $6 {This does not make enough sense to me. d5 may be a threat but it easily could be parried. It is more natural to me to put the rook on d1.} (13. Rad1 cxd4 14. Nxd4 Qc7 15. N2f3 {and despite the fact that black is ok, she still needs to solve a couple of problems.}) 13... Re8 14. Rad1 Qc7 15. Ne4 $6 {This is like a practical 'draw offer' to me but what else to do?} (15. Ne5 {is not better either.} cxd4 $1 16. Nxf7 {the classical sacrifice does not work here.} Kxf7 17. Qxe6+ Kf8) 15... Nxe4 (15... cxd4 16. Nxd4 a6 {0.00/43 is the 'fighting' way of playing it according to Stockfish, Houdini, and colleagues!}) 16. Bxe4 Bxe4 17. Qxe4 Nf6 18. Qe5 Bd6 19. Qe2 Rad8 $1 {This equalizes with ease. Tan Zhongyi shows a good understanding of the position. The black king won't be weak after Bxf6.} 20. dxc5 Bxc5 21. Bxf6 gxf6 22. g3 Rxd1 23. Rxd1 Rd8 24. Kg2 Rxd1 25. Qxd1 Qc6 26. Qd3 f5 {From here till end og the game, Anna tries different forms of mate patterns which all lead to nothing but perpetual checks!} 27. Qd8+ Kg7 28. Qg5+ Kf8 29. h4 Qe4 30. Qd8+ Kg7 31. Qd2 a5 32. h5 h6 33. Qc3+ Kg8 34. Qd2 Kh7 35. Qb2 Qg4 36. Ne5 Qxh5 37. Nd7 Qg5 38. Nf6+ Kh8 39. Ne8+ Kg8 40. Nf6+ Kh8 41. Ne8+ Kg8 42. Nf6+ {A comfortable draw for Tan Zhongyi. Let us see what Anna is going to do with her black pieces. She has had some luck against Kosteniuk and Kashilinskaya but final is a different matter!} 1/2-1/2

Hence, Anna found herself in a position in which she has less expertise to play.

She did not make any bad moves but it was very hard to put black into specific trouble. Maybe Anna needed to maneuver her knight via c4 but that even does not give any concrete advantage to white. Nevertheless, one should not forget to credit Tan and her team for the smart opening choice. With three games to go, anything can happen at this championship final!

Did you check the recent reports on ChessBase India?

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Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.
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sligunner sligunner 2/28/2017 06:10
The variation of the French with 4...Bd7 is known as the Fort Knox.
billbrock billbrock 2/28/2017 06:06
"As if in an adaptation of Kurosawa’s classic Yojimbo that occurred in a Texan town near the Mexican border [sic], two young ladies, one Ukrainian and one Chinse, with scarves on, played chess in an ever-growing, polluted, never-sleeping, Tehran."

So Hou Yifan (as Mifune/Eastwood) is going to ride into town smoking a cigar? This is a strange event, but not THAT strange.

For all its faults, the WWC is certainly more interesting than the Grand Prix.
Salômbo Salômbo 2/28/2017 09:39
Happy birthday Anna Muzychuk
Miguel Ararat Miguel Ararat 2/28/2017 08:35
H.Langrock in his book French Defense explains why black has nothing to fear after gxf6. See pages eighteen and nineteen
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