Women's World Championship Final: The Greek gift from Persia

by Elshan Moradiabadi
3/2/2017 – The third game of the Women's World Chess Championship in Tehran saw one of the best games of the tournament so far! What else could make a championship as spectacular as this than to have the the best games of the event take place in the very last rounds! Trailing by a point, Anna Muzychuk could not believe her eyes when she was given the chance for the classic Greek gift with a bishop sac on h7. Full report with analysis by GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

All photos by David Llada

The 28th of February may be Anna Muzychuk’s birthday but in 2017, Anna just might prefer March 1st! Being down 0.5-1.5 and having her last game with the white pieces, Anna Muzychuk went into the game all ready for a tough fight. Tan Zhongyi once again opted for the French but this time she went for the mainline with 3…Nf6 instead of her successful Rubinstein from the first game.

The players followed a rare line of theory until Tan Zhongyi blundered horribly and let Anna finish the game with a known ‘Greek’ bishop sacrifice on h7. Anna knew the key moves and played them all until she got a completely winning position. After that it was all about when Tan Zhongyi would throw in the towel.

Keeping her best poker face on, Anna Muzychuk probably couldn't believe her opponent would allow the classic sac, and could just look serious.... and hope.

The fateful blunder on the board, Tan Zhongyi stares at her opponent. Did she realize at this point the gravity of what she had done, or did she think somehow this was a bluff?

The game ended as early as move thirty and tomorrow we will watch the very last classical game in this world championship, in which Tan Zhongyi will have the white pieces. A tough battle ahead indeed!

Anna Muzychuk - Tan Zhongyi (annotated by Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"] [Site "Tehran"] [Date "2017.03.01"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Black "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2558"] [BlackElo "2502"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:04:35"] [BlackClock "0:25:29"] 1. e4 e6 {Tan Zhongyi remains faithful to her French defense.} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 {No more Rubinstein today!} 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 {This is one of the best known headaches for Black in this line!} O-O ({ In one of the rare successes of black in this line, this year's dark horse of Wijk aan Zee, GM Baskaran Adhiban played in the following fashion against world championship finalist Sergey Karjakin:} 8... a6 9. a3 O-O 10. dxc5 Nxc5 11. Qf2 Nd7 $146 {An interesting novelty worthy of thorough investigation.} 12. Nd4 Nxd4 13. Bxd4 f6 14. exf6 Bxf6 15. Bxf6 $6 {I am not sure about this move but it is not easy to assess it with one look at the board.} Qxf6 16. g3 g5 17. O-O-O gxf4 18. Kb1 f3 19. g4 Ne5 20. g5 Qg7 21. g6 hxg6 22. Bd3 Bd7 23. Rdg1 Nxd3 24. cxd3 Rf5 25. Rg4 Raf8 26. Rhg1 Be8 27. Nd1 Rh5 28. h4 Re5 29. Ne3 Bb5 30. Rd4 Re4 31. Rxg6 Bxd3+ {0-1 (31) Karjakin,S (2785)-Adhiban,B (2653) Wijk aan Zee 2017}) 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. O-O-O Qa5 11. a3 Be7 $6 {Despite Sadorra's victory against Wesley So and Nepomniachtchi's against Shomoev, I consider this move a serious inaccuracy.} 12. Bd3 $6 $146 {could have been met with} ( 12. h4 {appeals more to me.} a6 13. Bd3 {and similar to the game the threat of Bh7 is devastating.}) 12... a6 $6 (12... Nc5 {should have given Black enough means to maintain dynamic equality.}) 13. h4 {Now the threat of Bxh7 is imminent.} b5 $4 {This loses by force. It is strange that Tan Zhongyi was not aware of this 'Greek gift' sacrifice. All of these moves and the sacrifice have actually been played before!} (13... f6 {good or bad should have been played.}) 14. Bxh7+ $1 {The Greek gift in the final of world women chess championship!} Kxh7 15. Qd3+ $1 {The strongest according to Houdini and colleagues!} Kg8 16. Ng5 f5 (16... Bxg5 17. hxg5 Rd8 18. Qh7+ Kf8 19. f5 exf5 20. Nxd5 {leads to inevitable mate.}) 17. Nxd5 $1 {Anna knows the details to the tee!} (17. Qe2 Bxg5 18. hxg5 g6 19. Qf3 Ne7 20. Nxd5 Nxd5 21. Rxd5 Kf7 22. Rdd1 {1-0 (22) Zaas,P (2224)-Greig,S (2164) ICCF email 2014}) 17... b4 18. Nxe7+ Nxe7 19. Bd2 $6 (19. Qd6 bxa3 20. bxa3 {and the rest is easy!}) 19... Rb8 20. Qd6 {Anna is winning, the rest is just a vain struggle by Tan to save the game but the game was long over before she signed the scoresheets!} Qc5 21. Bxb4 Qxd6 22. Bxd6 Ng6 23. Nxe6 Re8 24. Bxb8 Rxe6 25. g3 Bb7 26. Rh2 Nc5 27. Rd8+ Kh7 28. Bd6 Ne4 29. h5 Nh8 30. h6 Nf7 31. Rd7 Rxd6 32. Rxf7 1-0

A face of misery and disbelief. She could only wonder what had she done?

Having finally calmed herself, Tan Zhongyi extends her hand. Time to move on. The Chinese player has shown great reslience against adversity, so she is absolutely not to be counted out!

The score is now tied 1.5 - 1.5 with one game to go in the classical time control.


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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rokko rokko 3/2/2017 09:02
19. Bd2 deserves probably a full "?" as after 19. - Nd5 20. Qe2/Qf3 Ra7 21. Qh5 N7f6! (black gives the material back), computers do not see an advantage for white any more. It is true that black's reply is not obvious.
englishplayer englishplayer 3/2/2017 01:58
Rokko, I agree. It looks like that move throws away the entire advantage. Also, Black's 17th and 19th moves both look like "?". Either way this is an exciting game to play out. I love the way Anna was really bold and applied great pressure with moves like 14. BxH7 and 17. Nxd5. Anna came to win.
koko48 koko48 3/2/2017 03:53
Would you really call a blunder- leading to a thematic, well known and easy to calculate sacrifice, "one of the best games of the tournament so far"?

That comment, the two question marks he gave Harika Dronavalli for 130. Ne3 in the B&N mate ending (an extremely harsh assessment of the move, since it still led to checkmate), and other comments makes me think GM Moradiabadi is annotating these games in a somewhat insulting and patronizing fashion...There were many better games played in the tournament, than this one
englishplayer englishplayer 3/2/2017 05:21
Koko48, that 130 Ne3 was not a "??" because the position after the move still leads to a forced mate if white knows what she's doing. However, The move is clearly inaccurate and did call into question if she understood the ending. Now she took 45 moves where 50 moves would have resulted in a draw. Would the 2 question marks be deserved if the game ended in a draw in 50, instead of a white win?
koko48 koko48 3/2/2017 05:53
@englishplayer Two question marks should only be given to a blunder that throws away the win...Harika still forced mate after 130. Ne3....The move at most deserved a single '?' because it extended the game (and even that is debatable...a dubious '?!' may have been a better assessment)

Harika corrected herself and got back on track after she played 130. Ne3....If she had ended up drawing the game, then it would have been the drawing moves made after 130. Ne3 that deserved the '?' or '??'

A fair amount of male chess players have no respect for women, and that comes through in their comments and annotations