Women World Championship Final: Calm before the storm

by Elshan Moradiabadi
3/3/2017 – The classical part of world women championship in Tehran, Iran, has concluded but the winner, similar to the last World Championship in New York, has yet to be determined by tiebreak. The two finalists, after shedding blood in rounds two and three, took a rest and agreed to a rather fast draw in the last round to go for a tiebreak. Report, tiebreak preview, and analysis by GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

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All photos by David Llada

Surprisingly, this is going to be Anna Muzychuk’s first tie-break while Tan Zhongyi has played a handful of them, as early as round two. Muzychuk is the incumbent Women World champion in both blitz and rapid so one might think it is to her advantage to enter this accelerated playoff. Still, while Muzychuk may have clear edge over Tan Zhongyi in a long rapid or blitz tournament, in a short match against the same opponent Anna’s chances are merely a bit better if at all.

Today’s game was as uneventful as the final classical game between Carlsen and Karjakin. In a closed Catalan, Tan’s early queen sortie followed by cxd5 forced a symmetrical position in which players wasted no time in exchanging pieces. Soon, we saw Tan Zhongyi playing e4 which was nothing but a smooth tide in dead water. The ensuing middlegame/endgame-ish position was a promised opposite color bishop position in which neither side could seek a target in opponent’s camp. Once the magical 30th move had been reached, the players signed the scoresheet to end a the uneventful day. Nevertheless, this calm day will assuredly be followed by exciting tiebreaks!

Tan Zhongyi - Anna Muzychuk (annotated by Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"] [Site "Tehran"] [Date "2017.03.01"] [Round "6.4"] [White "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Black "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D11"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {It seems that the dramatic end to Topalov-Anand's match, in which Anand won with black against Topalov to win the title had a very strong effect on white players who are playing the last game of an even match. After the 2016 World Championship in which Carlsen made a draw without trying anything at all against Karjakin, we see that Tan Zhongyi adopts the same strategy against Anna Muzychuk, and aims straight for the tiebreaks. The only difference here is: Carlsen was considered a favorite over Karjakin in terms of rapid chess while Anna Muzychuk is the Women World Rapid champion! I am sure Tan Zhongyi has a very different opinion and appproach! Let us wait and see!} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qb3 {Tan Zhongyi deviates again. It is interesting to see that despite her previous successes with the same openings, it is Tan Zhongyi who deviates from previous games and not Anna Muzychuk!} e6 5. g3 {This transforms into a harmless version of the Closed Catalan.} (5. Nc3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 b5 7. Qd3 {could have transposed to the second game!}) 5... Nbd7 6. Bg2 b6 $5 { an odd move which has only been played once before by none other than Anna's quarter final opponent Stefanova!} 7. Nc3 (7. O-O Ba6 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. Nc3 Be7 10. Bf4 Bc4 11. Qa4 O-O 12. Rfc1 a5 13. Nd2 Rc8 14. e4 Bb4 15. a3 b5 16. Qd1 Bxc3 17. Rxc3 dxe4 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. Bxe4 Nf6 20. Bb7 Nd5 21. Rf3 Nxf4 22. Bxc8 Be2 23. Qd2 Nh3+ 24. Kg2 Bxf3+ 25. Kxf3 Qd5+ 26. Ke3 Rxc8 27. f4 f5 28. Qd1 { 0-1 (28) Kadimova, I (2310)-Stefanova,A (2502) Kusadasi 2006}) 7... Ba6 $1 { This is the idea of b6. Black forces White to exchange pawns and gets a somewhat fixed pawn structure. Obviously, this all works for Black because of White's queen on b3.} 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. Nb5 Bxb5 10. Qxb5 a6 {not a fa of this move but Anna had already won the opening battle and it really does not change the overall assessment of the arising position.} (10... Bd6 11. O-O O-O 12. Bd2 Ne4 13. Rfc1 Nxd2 14. Nxd2 Rc8 {with equality.} 15. Nb3 Nf6 16. Qa6 Qd7 17. e3 h5 18. h4 g6 19. Bf1 e5 20. dxe5 Bxe5 21. Nd4 Ne4 22. Bg2 Rc5 23. b4 Rxc1+ 24. Rxc1 Bxd4 25. exd4 Qe7 26. Qd3 Qxb4 27. Bxe4 dxe4 28. Qxe4 Rd8 29. Rc7 a5 30. Rb7 Qxd4 31. Qxd4 Rxd4 32. Rxb6 Rd2 33. a4 Rd4 34. Ra6 Rxa4 35. Kg2 Ra3 36. Kf1 Kf8 37. Ra7 Kg7 38. Ra6 a4 39. Ke2 Ra1 40. Ke3 a3 41. Kf4 Ra2 42. Kf3 Ra1 43. Kf4 Kh6 44. Ra7 a2 {1/2-1/2 (44) Krasenkow,M (2660)-Georgiev,V (2567) Port Erin 2007}) 11. Qb3 Bd6 12. O-O O-O 13. Bg5 {eh...Remis?!} Qb8 14. Rfc1 Ne4 15. Rc2 Nxg5 16. Nxg5 h6 17. Nf3 Rc8 18. Rac1 Rxc2 19. Rxc2 Ra7 20. Qd3 a5 21. Nd2 Nf6 22. e4 dxe4 23. Nxe4 Nxe4 24. Qxe4 (24. Qxe4 Rc7 25. Rxc7 Qxc7 26. Qc6 { leads to a forced drawn opposite colored bishop ending.}) 1/2-1/2

Players performance and the forthcoming tiebreak

Tan Zhongyi and Anna Muzychuk came a long way for tomorrow’s tiebreak. Qualifying for this tournament is probably not a difficult matter for them but the challenges started right after the Olympiad. First there was the Hijab controversy that raised questions with regard to the possibility of organizing this event in Iran, in spite of it being the only federation to bid to organize it. The subsequent months saw countless reports ,stories, petitions, verbal discussions on social media, and etc. For instance, for Anna, things were quite unclear as her sister had dropped out of the event, stating Iran was not ‘a suitable place’ to organize world class events. Nevertheless, to their credit, the Muzychuk family proved very democratic, since Anna decided to play in this championship nonetheless.

While Tan Zhongyi was of course far away from all these controversies, her path to the final was much ‘bumpier’ than Anna’s. The nature of this tournament forces much stronger match-ups against lower rated players. In fact, she started very tough from the very first round, when she got in some trouble against David Llada's favorite player WGM Sabina Foisor who showed great fighting spirit and put up a tense battle against Tan Zhongyi but the Chinese player kept her calm and played consistently well in the second game in order to make it to the second round without needing a tiebreak.

It wasn't the smoothest ride for Tan Zhongyi to the final, but she got there, and that's what counts

She then faced the strong opponent, ex-world champion Anna Ushenina from Ukraine, whom she beat in the final Armageddon game. This trend of tiebreaks was the usual theme in Tan’s other matches against both Indians Padmini Rout and Hariak Dronavali, only winning one match without a tiebreak against Ju Wenjun, in what turned out to be the biggest upset of the event so far. Tan’s greatest asset which she has shown consistently is her ability to play even better when she is behind. She managed to level the matches a number of times and whenever she seemed to have hit rock bottom, she came back with more power and steam.

Anna Muzychuk’s path to the final was the stark opposite. Being one of the top seeds, she did not face a hard fight in the very first round and managed to dictate her class and experience. In fact, she showed the same trend all the way until the quarter-final with the exception of her game with black against Kashilinskaya. Even there, one could hardly see a clear-cut win for Kashilinskaya.

This will be Anna Muzychuk's first tiebreak in the tournament after a near perfect 9.0/10 ride to the final

It was in the quarter finals that Anna faced her first heavyweight opponent - in terms of chess strength - ex-world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. The Bulgarian had shown great form in Gibraltar and had had a good tournament up to that point in Tehran, however, for whatever reason, she barely managed to show the level of play she had been showing and Anna deservedly won the match.

In the semi-final, Anna once again had Caissa on her side when Kosteniuk blundered away a much better- possibly winning- position with white in the first game. Desperate to win and equalize, Kosteniuk took too many risks and lost the second game as well, allowing Anna to reach the final without a single tiebreak. Indeed Anna’s 9,0/10 was nothing short of spectacular, even if that path had been well-paved.

As we saw, the final match was a tense battle and luck was evenly distributed between the finalists. As in the main mini-match, Anna might be considered by many as the favorite or even clear favorite, however your author believes that the power of returning to the match plays a much more important role in deciding the champion than just playing strong chess.

Whoever wins this match tomorrow will be a well-deserved winner, as they both showed resilience, good opening preparation, readiness for opportunities, and most importantly steel nerves when called upon.

Let us sit back and watch!

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 14 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.



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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Augusta2022 Augusta2022 3/3/2017 07:53
opressive hijab pictures. Makes me sick.
Denix Denix 3/3/2017 03:14
Yes, It is Zongyi!!!
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