Women's World Championship Final: Good night, bad knight!

by Elshan Moradiabadi
3/1/2017 – In the second game of the four-game finals for the Women's World Championship 2017, Tan Zhongyi managed to put immense pressure on birthday-girl Anna Muzychuk with the white pieces. She played a technical game, perfectly suiting her style, and won thanks to the bad knight in her opponent's position. Illustrated report with GM analysis by Elshan Moradiabadi.

Photos by David Llada

The second game of the world championship match between Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk and Chinese Tan Zhongyi saw another technical and calm battle in which the Chinese outplayed the ‘birthday girl’ Anna Muzychuk who turned completed 27 years yesterday.

Anna Muzychuk celebrating her birthday with coach Evgeny Miroschenko and Anastasia Karlovich

In a rare line of a Slav, the queens were traded as early as move ten. A somewhat balanced queenless middlegame occurred and soon we had some more pieces traded off and an endgame was on the horizon very soon.

Throughout this whole process, Tan Zhongyi was in control of her position...

...while Anna was trying to solve her minuscule issues.

Things seemed uneventful until Anna decided to start an adventurous knight assault on g4. This was both tactically and strategically unsound. Tan proved prepared and played a brilliant strategic game while managing tactical nuances and although she may have let her winning chances diminish a couple of times, she controlled the events masterfully.

Anna was resilient and resourceful but when the chances were there, she once again placed her knight on a poor square, after which her efforts were of no use and Tan Zhongyi extracted the first blood on Anna’s birthday!

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"] [Site "ChessBase"] [Date "2017.02.27"] [Round "6.2"] [White "Tan, Z."] [Black "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D43"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "111"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2003.06.08"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 {A solid approach by Anna Muzychuk. She had choses different openings in this championship but Slav is by far the most solid of all.} 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Qd3 $5 {An interesting choice. Modern theory consider this move as harmless.} dxc4 6. Qxc4 b5 7. Qd3 a6 8. e4 (8. Bg5 c5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 $1 10. d5 Bb7 11. dxe6 Qxd3 12. exf7+ Kxf7 13. exd3 Rg8 {½-½ (47) Aronian,L (2792)-Giri,A (2782) Leuven 2016 Gave enough compensation to Giri in order to hold against Aroninan.}) 8... c5 9. dxc5 $5 {Very rare! Does Tan Zhongyi play for a draw of this is a psychological surprise?} (9. e5 cxd4 10. Nxd4 {Or} (10. Nxb5 axb5 11. exf6 Nc6 12. fxg7 Bxg7 13. Be2 $5 {1/2-1/2 (46) Tregubov,P (2627) -Gelashvili,T (2547) Dubai 2002}) 10... Nd5 {Are two interesting alternatives.} ) 9... Bxc5 (9... Qxd3 10. Bxd3 Bxc5 11. e5 Nfd7 12. Be4 Ra7 13. O-O O-O { looks harmless for black}) 10. Qxd8+ (10. e5 {was played by Ex-top 10 Chinese GM, Wang Hao.} Ng4 11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12. Bg5+ Kc7 $2 (12... Ke8 $1 13. Ne4 (13. O-O-O $2 {Is creative but risky and ex-world champion Vladimir Kramnik punished his opponent effortlessly. Even if he is a strong player like David Navara.} Nd7 14. Ne4 Bb7 $1 $17 15. Nxc5 Nxc5 16. Bh4 Ne4 17. Rd4 Rc8+ 18. Kb1 Nexf2 19. h3 Nxh1 20. hxg4 h5 21. g5 g6 22. Be2 Ke7 23. Be1 h4 24. Nxh4 Rhd8 25. Rf4 Ng3 26. Bxg3 Rd2 27. Bg4 Rcc2 28. Be1 Rxb2+ 29. Kc1 Rdc2+ 30. Kd1 Rc4 31. Rxc4 bxc4 32. a3 Kd7 33. Bd2 Ra2 34. Bc1 Bc6 35. Be2 Ba4+ 36. Ke1 Ra1 { 0-1 (36) Navara,D (2672)-Kramnik,V (2788) Prague 2008}) 13... Bb4+ 14. Bd2 Bxd2+ 15. Nexd2 Nd7 16. a4 bxa4 17. Nc4 Ke7 18. h3 Nh6 19. Rxa4 Bb7 20. Be2 Rhc8 21. O-O Nf5 $11 (21... Bd5 {0-1 (86) Hernandez Carmenates,H (2580) -Jakovenko,D (2737) Dresden 2008})) 13. Ne4 Bb4+ 14. Ke2 Bb7 15. Rc1+ Kb6 16. h3 Bxe4 17. hxg4 Bc5 18. b4 Bxb4 19. Be3+ Kb7 20. Ng5 Bg6 21. g3 Nc6 22. Bg2 Rac8 23. Rhd1 h6 24. Rd7+ Kb8 25. Bxc6 {1-0 (25) Wang,H (2724)-Potkin,V (2626) Ningbo 2010}) 10... Kxd8 11. Bd3 Bb7 (11... Nbd7 {was Gelfand's choice against Tregubov.} 12. O-O Bb7 13. e5 Nd5 14. Ne4 Ke7 15. Bg5+ f6 16. exf6+ gxf6 17. Bh6 Kf7 18. Rae1 Be7 19. Bb1 Rad8 20. Re2 Nf8 21. g3 e5 22. a3 Ne6 23. Ba2 $14 {1/2-1/2 (67) Tregubov,P (2612)-Gelfand,B (2713) Sochi 2005}) 12. e5 $1 { [#] A strong and meaningful novelty. From here till the end of the game, Anna had to deal with the problem this knight posed to her.} Ng4 $2 {A serious mistake. Now, Anna has a very bad knight!} (12... Nd5 13. Ne4 (13. Bg5+ f6 14. exf6 gxf6 15. Nxd5 fxg5 16. Nc3 (16. Nxg5 $4 Bxd5 17. Nf7+ Ke7 18. Nxh8 Nc6 $19 ) 16... Bxf3 17. gxf3 Nd7 $13) 13... Nd7 $1 14. O-O Ke7 15. Bg5+ f6 16. exf6+ gxf6 17. Bh6 {and similar to Gelfand's game against Tregubov, black should be able to hold here after some difficulty of course!}) 13. Ne4 $1 {A strong move which Anna might have missed.} Bb4+ (13... Bxe4 $2 14. Bxe4 Nxf2 15. Bg5+ Kc7 16. Bxa8 Nxh1 17. b4 (17. Rc1 Nd7 18. Be4 Nf2 19. Bb1 Kb8 20. Rxc5 Nxc5 21. Kxf2 {and white has good winning chances but her advantage is not that convincing.} Na4 22. b3 Nc3 23. Bd3 Nxa2 24. Bd2 $16) 17... Bxb4+ 18. Ke2 Nd7 19. Be4 Nc5 20. Bc2 h6 21. Be3 $18) 14. Ke2 Nd7 15. Bf4 Nc5 16. Nxc5 Bxc5 17. Rhc1 $1 {Another excellent move by Tan Zhongyi. White has a great amount of advantage and black's problem is in tact: The knight on g4!} Bb6 18. Ng5 Ke7 19. Be4 (19. f3 Nh6 20. g4 {is also very strong.}) 19... Bxe4 20. Nxe4 Rhc8 21. f3 Nh6 22. g4 (22. Nd6 Rxc1 23. Rxc1 Bd8 24. Bxh6 gxh6 25. g4 {lives white with a technically winning position thanks to her monster on d6.}) 22... Ng8 23. Nd6 Rxc1 24. Rxc1 Kd7 {End of knight's agony at a cost of a pawn?} 25. Nxf7 Ne7 (25... Rf8 26. Rd1+ Kc6 27. Be3 Bxe3 28. Nd8+ $1 {and white is winning.}) 26. Be3 $2 {a serious inaccuracy which moves white from 'winning' to 'clear advantage'.} (26. Bg3 Nd5 27. Nd6 Bd4 28. Rc2 {white should be able to convert this}) 26... Bxe3 27. Kxe3 Ng6 $2 {Anna does not want a good 'knight' for her birthday!} 28. h4 Rf8 29. h5 $1 {The rook ending is winning so the knight has to move. It seems that this knight's agony would never end.} Ne7 30. Ng5 Nd5+ { After 30 moves, this knight finally lands on a respectable spot, unfortunately for Anna, it is too late for a birthday good night!} 31. Kf2 h6 32. Ne4 Ra8 33. a3 a5 34. Nc3 $5 {good enough!} Rc8 35. Rd1 Ke7 36. Nxd5+ exd5 37. Rxd5 { From here, Zhongyi converts her advantage with ease.} Rc2+ 38. Ke3 Rxb2 39. Ke4 a4 40. f4 Rb1 41. Kf5 Rb3 42. Rc5 Kd7 43. Kg6 b4 44. axb4 Rxb4 45. Kf5 Ke7 46. Rc7+ Kf8 47. Ra7 Kg8 48. g5 hxg5 49. fxg5 Rb6 50. Rxa4 g6+ 51. hxg6 Rb1 52. Ra8+ Kg7 53. Ra7+ Kg8 54. g7 Rf1+ 55. Kg6 Ra1 56. Rf7 {Not the most pleasant birthday for Anna Muzychuk!} 1-0

Check the ChessBase India report on the game with deeply instructive analysis by GM Jacob Aagaard!

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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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