Katya and Zhu lead in Women's Supertournament

by ChessBase
7/27/2006 – The North Urals Cup 2006 is under way, and after five rounds Ukraine's 16-year-old Katerina Lahno is leading with 4.5 points and a thumping 2865 performance! She is followed by former world champion Zhu Chen with 4.0 points and a 2770 performance. After neglecting this event we bring you up-to-date with a big pictorial report.

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The North Urals Cup 2006 Women's Super-Tournament is taking place from July 22nd to August 1st in the main hall of the Bogoslovsky Aluminium Smelter’s Arts Palace in Krasnoturyinsk, Russia. Three of the participants are former Women's World Champions (and full grandmasters), the rest are IMs, except for Hou Yifan, who is just a WFM but with a very high rating.

The city of Krasnoturinsk is located in the north of the Sverdlovsk area, 426 kms from the regional center Ekaterinburg (Yekaterinburg). It is the cultural center of Northern Ural and the home of a number of outstanding Russian scientists.

The participants

Antoaneta Stefanova BUL
2520   Women's World champion of 2004, “ABC” Team Russian Champion of 2005, 2006
Maia Chiburdanidze GEO
2504   Five time Women's World champion (1978, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1988), World Championship semifinalist (2004), 1-2 places in Challengers’ Tournament (1994)
Hou Yifan CHN
2488   U-10 Girls World Champion (2003), China team’s bronze-medalist of 2006 World’s Chess Olympiad
Tatiana Kosintseva RUS
2479   Europe’s Championship bronze medalist (2003), “ABC” Team Russian Champion of 2005, 2006, Women Russia’s Champion (2002, 2004), Women Russia’s Vice-Champion (2005), Russian team’s silver-medalist of 2006 World’s Chess Olympiad
Zhu Chen QAT
2476   Women's World Champion (2001/2002), World Girls Champion (1994, 1996)
Viktorija Cmilyte LTU
2476   Women World Championship bronze medalist (2006), Winner of Girls European Championships, Men’s Lithuanian Chess Champion (2005)
Nadezhda Kosintseva RUS
2472   Many-times Girls World and Europe’s Champion Women Europe’s Vice-Champion (2005); “ABC” Team Russian Champion of 2005, 2006; Women Russia’s bronze-medalist (2004)
Lilit Mkrtchan ARM
2459   Armenian team Europe’s Champion (2003), Europe silver-medalist (2002) Europe bronze-medalist (2006)
Svetlana Matveeva RUS
2454   Women World bronze-medalist (2006), Women World Cup semi-finalist (2002), Women USSR Champion (1984, 1991), Girls Europe’s champion (1989)
Kateryna Lahno UKR
2454   Olympic Champion (2006); Europe’s Champion (2005); Girls Europe’s and Ukraine’s winner

Note that all players (except one) have the Women's Grandmaster title. Three are full (men's) grandmasters, and six have the (men's) IM title, which is higher than WGM. The Chinese girl Hou Yifan, who is just twelve years old, is grossly undertitled at Women's FIDE Master, but she makes up for it with the third-highest rating in the field.

Note too that Kateryna Lahno is the FIDE orthography for the player who on the tournament site is referred to as Ekaterina or Katerina. We have standardized the spelling in this report. We have also changed the Maya Chiburdanidze to Maia, which is the accepted international spelling. Finally we have resisted the temptation to donate a couple of vowels to Lilit Mkrtchan's surname.

The ladies at the opening ceremony (from left to right Lahno, N. Kosintseva, Zhu Chen, Hou Yifan, Chiburdanidze, T. Kosintseva, Cmilyte, Mkrtchan and Matveeva)

Costumed presentation at the opening ceremony

Lilit with flowers

Young autograph hunters

Round one

Perhaps the most deserved victory in the first round was gained by Antoaneta Stefanova. She entangled Tatiana Kosintseva in her favorite Trompovsky opening and quickly gained the initiative. Despite the early exchange of Queens Black began to suffer from increasing difficulties and soon faced the situation of having “no oxygen to breathe”. Desperate attempts to release the pressure did not work and the game ended in a brilliant first-round win for the ex-champion.

Antoaneta Stefanova playing 4.f3 in a Trompovsky against Tatiana Kosintseva

The game between the experienced Svetlana Matveeva and Nadezhda Kosintseva proved to be most dramatic. At the press-conference Nadezhda confessed that she felt very pessimistic when her counterpart created very strong opening stand, yet she had nothing to do but fight back fiercely which brought along not only a save but a victory.

A sponsor starting the game Zhu Chen vs Viktorija Cmilyte

The game Zhu Chen vs Viktorija Cmilyte developed rather quietly. In grandmaster Alexey Bezgodov’s words, a symmetrical Four Knight Opening soon enough led to a very "swampy" position. A draw seemed to be a most probable outcome. However persistence and vitality in the search of better positions rewarded Zhu Chen with a win.

IM Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine

The game between 12-year-old Chinese talent Hou Yifan and Kateryna Lahno, 16-year-old Olympic champion, was of great interest to experts and amateurs alike. Despite the greater expertise and more titles of Kateryna Lahno nobody dared to bet on the result, because in the last few months her young opponent had scored a number of sensational wins over very strong chess players. Kateryna chose the right opening and soon it became apparent that Hou Yifan was not up-to-date with the theory. She allowed her opponent to equalise, then win a pawn. But all of a sudden Kateryna got nervous, missed good chances to win and had to agree to only a draw.

A picture of determination: Hou Yifan, 12, from China

The game Lilit Mkrtchan vs Maia Chiburdanidze was a placid and short draw. All in all the starting rose to the spectators’ expectations, because four of the games were played for about four hours, and only one was a quick draw.

Round two

The most impressive game was probably by Maia Chiburdanidze, playing white against Svetlana Matveeva. In her typical wry style Maia played an opening which is generally safe for Black, provided you know some of the subtle underpinnings. Svetlana didn't really and wound up with a worst end-game. Steady pressure by Maia increased her advantage, and Svetlana's three weak black pawns eventually led to Black's demise.

Viktorija Cmilyte vs Kateryna Lahno in round two

The win of Kateryna Lahno, playing black against Viktorija Cmilyte, was quite showy. The very choice of opening – a very dynamic Modern Benoni – showed that she was playing to win. Viktorija’s response was not adequate enough: she tried to play two openings simultaneously, on the queen and on the kingside. This did not succeed, and Black ended up with a clear advantage. The game is remarkable for three exchange sacrifices, twice by Viktorija and once by Kateryna.

Zhu Chen scored her second consecutive win against Lilit Mkrtchan. The main error of Lilit was her incautious use of time. When the game reached the state of tactical complications Lilit just wasn't able to find a clear way to a draw. Her Chinese opponent demonstrated how a top player can profit from any slightest material advantage.

The other two games ended in a draw. Nadezhda Kosintseva gained real advantage in the popular choice of Spanish play, but in the critical moment she lost time and let the ingenious Antoaneta Stefanova find an escape. Tatiana Kosintseva achieved an excellent position against Hou Yifan. But Tatiana could not make use of numerous advantages of her position and the game was drawn.

Round three

Four out of five games ended in a draw, the only decided encounter being Kateryna Lahno vs Tatiana Kosintseva. Kateryna tried to surprise her opponent with a rare continuation in the Ruy Lopez. However that “unexpectedness” turned out to be rather pleasant for Tatiana, who happens to be born in a the upper Arctic Circle city of Archangelsk, after which the variation is named. She easily disentangled herself from the complications and very soon gained some advantage. Then something happened that is difficult to explain – Tatiana overestimated her position and now Kateryna took the lead. The endgame with an extra pawn was sufficient to win.

Kateryna Lahno playing the Archangelsk against Tatiana Kosintseva

Svetlana Matveeva had lost both her previous games, and now she faced the tournament leader. The result was the shortest draw of the round, which both contenders could be satisfied with. It did however mean that Kateryna Lahno caught up with the former Chinese world champion who today represents the state of Qatar.

Round three in full swing

Hou Yifan chose a rare Bishop opening and got into a spot of trouble against Nadezhda Kosintseva, who withstood the assault of her opponent without any visible effort. Soon after that the Chinese girl’s prospects became quite questionable, yet for the third time in a row the precocious 12-year-old pulled away safely to a draw.

Former women's world champions Stefanova and Chiburdanidze meet in round three

Antoaneta Stefanova vs Maia Chiburdanidze was the game between two former world champions. This time all opening “tricks” of Antoaneta Stefanova could not break through the defence bastion of Black. At move 19, in a rather simple position, Antoaneta Stefanova herself proposed a draw.

Lilit Mkrtchan of Armenia fighting for a first win against Cmilyte

Lilit Mkrtchan vs Viktorija Cmilyte lasted a record-breaking 123 moves, with Lilit, who had only half a point so far in the tournament, clutching at the tiniest chances and coming unbelievably close to a win. However Viktorija miraculously saved the game out of a hopeless queen endgame with two pawns down.

Round four

The most important occurrence of the fourth round is the win of the Ukrainian player Kateryna Lahno over Nadezhda Kosintseva, which made her the sole leader in this event. On the black side of a Ruy Lopez Kateryna showed good preparation and confidence. She won the game in her opponent's time trouble.

Kateryna vs Dadezhda in round four

Viktorija Cmilyte scored her first win at the tournament. She was quite meticulous and even academic in opening the game. It seemed at a certain moment that the most probable outcome was a draw, but then her opponent Tatiana Kosintseva left her strategically important b6 pawn with no protection. After losing it she could no longer resist White’s pressure.

First win by IM Viktorija Cmilyte of Lithuania

Maia Chiburdanidze quite unexpectedly was not able to beat Hou Yifan with the white pieces. The many times world champion played a solid opening and accumulated a resolute advantage. In the end a true miracle occurred: the cool-minded Maia, no matter how hard she tried, could not realize her huge advantage against the sharp and smart Hou.

Facing the many-times world champion in round four: Hou Yifan

The game Zhu Chen vs Antoaneta Stefanova – once again two former world champions facing each other – started nervously. The advantage shifted from one player to the other, with not enough power to lead to a decision. The classic rooks endgame was inevitably drawn.

Lilit Mkrtchan vs Svetlana Matveeva was between two players who had not scored any wins in the tournament so far. This time Lilit was obviously going for all, and she nearly succeeded in a known position of the French Defence, in which Black had to defend in quite a laborious and uncomfortable manner. But just like in the previous round Lilit had to accept a draw (by perpetual check) in spite of being a piece up.

Information supplied by Natalia Khamidova, tournament press officer
Photos by Nikolay Galkin and V. Smalkov

Round five preview

At the time of publication round five is over and brought the following results:

Kateryna Lahno
Maia Chiburdanidze
Antoaneta Stefanova
Lilit Mkrtchian
Hou Yifan
Zhu Chen
Svetlana Matveeva
Viktorija Cmilyte
Tatiana Kosintseva
Nadezhda Kosintseva

This means that Kateryna Lahno is in the lead with 4.5/5.0 and an astounding 2865 performance. A full report on this and the next rounds will appear soon.

Sandings after five rounds


  • Official web site: The site has all vital information in Russian and English. There are hundreds of pictures, many of them quite gorgeous, but no captions, so you have to guess what is going on. The site has live game transmission with a Java applet. The games are also being shown on Playchess.com.
  • North Urals Cup 2005: Humpy wins, Xu Yuhua second

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