Zhu Chen wins North Urals Cup 2007

7/31/2007 – She was the eleventh world women's champion, at the age of 25 in 2002. Born in China, she now lives in Qatar. And she only ties her hair in a ponytail when she is playing at the board. Zhu Chen defeated former world champion Antoaneta Stefanova to take first place, beating out Zhao Xue on tiebreak points. We bring you another big illustrated report with pictures by Vadim Smalkov.

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The North Urals Cup 2007 took place from July 22 to 31 in Krasnoturinsk, Russia, in the Palace of Culture of of Bogoslovskiy Aluminium Smelter. The event was restricted to top female players and has an Elo average of 2478.

Round nine (final)

The final round was played on Tuesday, July 31, 2007, at 7 a.m. European time (11:00 a.m. local), 1 a.m. New York. And still a fair number of visitors logged into the Playchess server to watch the action in the critical games.


The start of the final round of the North Urals Cup 2007 in Krasnoturinsk

The big battle was of course Zhao Xue vs Kateryna Lahno. Both the girls were in the group of four that were leading after eight rounds. Kateryna seemed to have decided to go for an iron draw, and dug in with the black pieces. Both players shuffled their pieces around for a good while, until a tiny inaccuracy (probably 52...Qf8) gave the Chinese player a chance to break through. After that Zhao Xue played quite impeccably to take the full point in a 70-move encounter.


At the start of the critical game Zhao Xue vs Kateryna Lahno


The Ukrainian star wanted a draw but slipped up to lose and take fourth place


22-year-old Zhao Xue took her chance and finished second in this event


Former world champion Antoaneta Stefanova faced, well, former world champion Zhu Chen


This was also a key game, with Stefanova seeking desperately to improve on her eighth place


For Zhu a win meant she would win the entire event, at least on tiebreak

Zhu Chen (2522) - Stefanova,A (2481)
North Urals Cup Krasnoturinsk RUS (9), 31.07.2007
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Bc5 6.c3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Na5 11.Bc2 b4 12.d3 Rb8 13.Nd2 0-0 14.Rb1 bxc3 15.bxc3 Rxb1 16.Bxb1 Qd7 17.Qd1 Re8 18.Nf3 d5 19.Bg5 dxe4 20.dxe4 Qc6 21.Re1 h6 22.Bh4 Nd7 23.Bg3 Bd6 24.Nh4 Nb6 25.Ba2 Qxa4

Things have been going pretty well for Black, who has in fact just captured a pawn on a4. However, Zhu Chen, who looks like the gentlest person on the planet, unleashes a murderous attack. 26.Bxf7+ Kxf7 27.Qh5+ Kg8 28.Nf5 Bf8 29.Re3 Nac4 30.Rf3

White's attack was not watertight, and now 30...Nd6 defends the position and probably wins it for Black. Stefanova, however, plays it differently: 30...Qd7 31.Qg6, threatening devastatingly 32.Nxh6+ with a clear win for White. 31...Kh8 32.Nxh6. Now Black had a clear drawing resource: 32...Qd1+ 33.Kh2 Nd2 with the threat 34...Nf1+ winning. White will have to accept a draw, e.g. with 34.Nf7+ Kg8 35.Nh6+ and perpetual. 32...gxh6? 33.Rf7 Qxf7 34.Qxf7. Black has a rook and two knights for a queen and pawn. 34...Rc8 35.Bh4 Bg7 36.Bf6

Things are looking indeed very bleak for Black. After 36...Bxf6 37.Qxf6+ White will pick up the h-pawn or otherwise use her superior force to win. Stefanova makes it easier for Zhu: 36...Rg8?? 37.Qg6 with mate in two to follow. 1-0.


A great victory in this game and the tournament for Zhu Chen


Top seed Hou Yifan, 13, China, vs Alisa Galliamova, Russia

Before this game Hou Yifan was on place nine with a disappointing 2384 performance, while Alisa Galliamova, a former world championship challenger, was on place six and also playing below expectation. Both could definitely use a win to limit the damage they incurred in this tournament.

Hou Yifan (2523) - Galliamova,A (2468)
North Urals Cup Krasnoturinsk RUS (9), 31.07.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Bf1 Bg4 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4 d5 10.e5 Nd7 11.e6 fxe6 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Nxd4 14.Qd1 Nc6 15.Rxe6 Nf6 16.Nc3 Kf7 17.Re1 e6 18.Bg5 Bc5 19.Bxf6 Qxf6 20.Ne4 dxe4 21.Qh5+ Qg6 22.Qxc5 Rhd8 23.Qb6 Rd7 24.Red1 Re7 25.Rd6 Kg8 26.Qc5 Rf7 27.Bc4 Rf6 28.Rf1 Raf8 29.Rd7 Nd8 30.Be2 Rf5 31.Qd4 Qf6 32.Bg4 Rb5 33.Rd1 e5 34.Qc4+ Kh8 35.R1d2

Now Black, who was doing okay in this game, comes up with a surreal plan: 35...Qb6? 36.Qxe4 Rxb2?? 37.Qxe5. It is over, 37...Rb1+ 38.Kh2 Qf6 39.Qxf6 gxf6 is a clear win for White. As in the previous game Black prefers to allow mate instead of taking on the suffering – but this time mate in one, actually executed on the board! 37...Rxd2?? 38.Qxg7# 1-0. Ever seen something like this before?


Alisa Galliamova's loss took her to place nine on the table


Hou Yifan won this game but will lose a bunch of points from this tournament

The 17-year-old Anna Muzychuk, who was born in Lvov, Ukraine, but has become a Slovenian citizen and player, faced a d6-Sicilian by her Russian opponent Nataljia Pogonina, who was in contention for a tournament victory. After 30 moves the game had turned into a queen ending with each side having four pawns, Anna with a distant passer on a4. She managed to get it to a7 and from around move 40 must surely have been winning. But on move 45 she gave up the a-pawn for two on the kingside and subsequently was unable to win the queen + 3 pawns vs queen + pawn ending, although she tried to do so for (take a deep breath) 154 moves.


Anna Muzychuk faces Natalija Pogonina in a marathon 154-move draw


The winner Zhu Chen with the head of Bogoslovsky Shmelter at the press conference


Would you have recognised her? North Urals winner Zhu Chen with her hair down

All pictures provided by Vadim Smalkov

Final standings

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