EWICC: Paehtz takes her shot

by André Schulz
4/19/2018 – Elisabeth Paehtz was able to win her game against Laura Unuk in the ninth round of the European Women's Championship and thus took on the leader, Valentina Gunina in round ten. But the Russian star drew without much difficulty to maintain her full point edge going into the last round. Photos: Oleksandr Martynkov / Official site

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Gunina looks unstoppable

Valentina Guinina has set a blistering pace at the European Women's Individual Championship in Slovakia. In round nine, she won her third game in a row, against Klaudia Kulon, and her seventh win overall in this tournament.

The Polish WGM repeated a variation of the King's Indian Defense, involving a pawn sacrifice, which she had used earlier in the tournament to beat Natalia Zhukova.

 

Move the pieces on the live diagram

11...Nh5, offering the d6 pawn is the most popular continuation in this position and after 12.Bxd6 Qf6 13.Nc2 (Zhukova had played 13.Nb3) 13...Nf4 black gains compensation for the pawn in the form of the bishop pair. 14.Rf2 Ne5 15.c5 (15.Bf1 attempting to keep the bishop doesn't work due to Nfd3! Bxd3 and the bishop on d6 falls). And here, the first sign of trouble for Kulon, as she thought for over 20 minutes before playing 15...Nxe2. After 16.Qxe2 Qe6 17.Rd1 the compensation has all but evaporated.

Kulon, not wanting to grovel in an endgame with 17...Qc4, went for the surprising 17...f5:

 

That put Gunina into the tank for nearly 30 minutes, but she eventually took 18.exf5 gxf5 and immediately followed up with 19.Qf1. It turns out 19.Qe1! would have ended the game quite quickly as White is simply going to win a piece thanks to the threat of Re2 with a deadly pin along the e-file (even Rd4-e4 if necessary would have made Alekhine proud!).

Instead, Kulon's counterplay continued until she had battled back to total equality:

 

With 32...Qxe1 33.Qxe1 Ra1 black could simplify with good drawing chances. Instead, she played 32...Rc8 and went passive, leading her position to quickly collapse: 33.Kh2 h6 34.f4 Bf7? 35Be7 Qh5 36.Qd7 +- The c6 pawn drops off.

The duel between the two former World Champions Antoaneta Stefanova and Anna Ushenina ended without a winner. 

 

Ekaterina Atalik and Elisabeth Pähtz benefited from this draw — their victories over Elina Danielian and Laura Unuk allowed them to catch Stefanova and Ushenina. The match between the German number one and the 18-year-old Russian Unuk quickly ended in a combinatorial massacre:

 

Laura Unuk

Laura Unuk

Gunina's to lose

Valentina Gunina deftly handled her last black game, as Paehtz took her best shot in Wednesday's round ten. Paehtz chose the exchange variation against Gunina's Caro-Kann defence. The game went smoothly without any major excitement en route to a draw.

 

With 24...e5 25.dxe5 Bd8 Gunina breathed life into her dark-squared bishop, and held comfortably.

The games on neighbouring boards also ended drawn and so did not change the status quo at the top of the table. Nana Dzagnidze and Mariya Muzychuk were able to win in the next points group down against Olga Girya and Meri Arabidze respectively and thus moved up. 

Nana Dzagnidze

Nana Dzagnidze from a prior round

Dzagnidze's opening, with the white pieces, didn't work out against Girya and she was behind most of the game. Her bare king was cause for concern. But the Russian threw the game away in one move.

 

Possibly concerned that the line 27...Rg4 28.Rxh6+! Kxh6 29.Qxg4! Rxg4 Nf5+ would give white chances to hang on, Girya tried 37...Rg3? But this loses after 38.Rxg3 Bxg3 39.Qf7 and on QxQ RxQ+ the b7-pawn is lost. Instead after 39...Rg7 40.Qxe7 Rxe7 41.Nf5 the knight fork on f5 is decisive for white.

Now, with Gunina's full point lead, a draw with white in the final round eleven will be enough to clinch clear first. If she should lose to Atalik, then Ushenina, Dzagnidze, Sefanova and Paehtz all have a mathematical chance of catching her.

Top results of round ten

Name Pkt. Ergebnis Pkt. Name
Paehtz Elisabeth 7 ½ - ½ 8 Gunina Valentina
Atalik Ekaterina 7 ½ - ½ 7 Stefanova Antoaneta
Ushenina Anna 7 ½ - ½ Osmak Iulija
Kulon Klaudia ½ - ½ Goryachkina Aleksandra
Dzagnidze Nana 1 - 0 6 Girya Olga
Muzychuk Mariya 6 1 - 0 6 Arabidze Meri
Mammadzada Gunay 6 ½ - ½ 6 Cornette Deimante
Javakhishvili Lela 6 1 - 0 6 Badelka Olga
Bulmaga Irina 6 0 - 1 6 Shuvalova Polina
Szczepkowska Karina 6 1 - 0 6 Unuk Laura
Kashlinskaya Alina 1 - 0 6 Ziaziulkina Nastassia
Batsiashvili Nino ½ - ½ Gaponenko Inna
Mkrtchian Lilit ½ - ½ Sebag Marie
Shvayger Yuliya ½ - ½ Pogonina Natalija
Milliet Sophie 1 - 0 Cramling Pia

Standings after ten rounds (top 20)

 

All games

 

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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royce campbell royce campbell 4/19/2018 03:09
Bigger prizes ahead ... Draws at the top boards insure a ticket to Khanty-Mansiysk.
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