Mariya Muzychuk is the 15th World Champion

by Albert Silver
4/6/2015 – In the last game of the match, Natalia Pogonina needed a win at all costs, and the question was whether Mrs Comeback herself would be able to pull off a fourth miracle in the tournament. Unfortunately, the task was made all the harder as she had Black, and White only needed a draw, and Muzychuk pretty much shut down Natalia in the game. At the end, a new champion was crowned.

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Tournament conditions

The Women's World Chess Championship takes place from March 17 – April 7 in Sochi, Russia. The knock-out tournament is attended by 64 players, including the former World Champions Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia), Anna Ushenina (Ukraine), and Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), the three-time Russian champion Valentina Gunina, the World Vice-Champion Humpy Koneru (India), as well as other leading grandmasters. Unfortunately, the reigning champion Hou Yifan was unable to come for personal reasons, but as the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix she will still be able to challenge the new champion to a match.

The first five rounds consist of mini-matches of two games played at 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game and a 30-second increment per move. The final match will consist of four games.

In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by a series of tiebreak games: two rapid games of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score remains equal, the players then proceed to two more games played at 10 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score continues tied a final mini-match will be played of two blitz games of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds per move. Finally, an Armageddon game will be played to decide the winner in which White has five minutes and Black has four minutes, with a three-second increment per move after move 61. Black will be declared the victor if the game is drawn.

Final - game four

The final game of the final match: would a champion be hailed, or would the Comeback Queen strike again?

Pogonina certainly understood how desperate her situation was, and the opening had to have had silent cries of dismay echoing inside her head. Mariya Muzychuk's decision to play the Scotch Four Knights caught her off guard, and possibly afraid of her preparation to boot, Pogonina opted for a strange sequence 5...Bc5 and then 6...Bb4, giving up a tempo in order to force Mariya out of whatever it was she had planned. It certainly worked, but at what cost?

The fans in attendance

The opening was completely in favor of White, and though she was never quite teetering on the edge of victory, nor was she ever in any kind of trouble.

Game four

[Event "FIDE WWCC 2015"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2015.04.05"] [Round "6.4"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Black "Pogonina, Natalija"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2526"] [BlackElo "2456"] [PlyCount "112"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bc5 6. Be3 Bb4 {This is a truly bizarre idea, and hard to recommend. It does have the virtue of avoiding the opening preparation of the opponent, but at what cost?} 7. Bd3 Ne5 (7... Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 d6 9. Bb5 Bd7 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Bd3 c5 12. Qf3 Ng4 13. h3 Nxe3 14. Qxe3 Qf6 15. Be2 O-O 16. O-O Rfe8 17. Qf3 Qg5 18. Bc4 Be6 19. Bxe6 Rxe6 20. Rad1 {0-1 (64) Andrianatos,A (1390)-Kouros,A (1322) Nikaia 2012}) 8. O-O O-O 9. Nd5 Nxd5 10. exd5 Re8 11. Be2 Bf8 12. Qd2 d6 13. h3 h6 14. Rae1 a6 15. f4 $1 { Not only has White completed her development, but she is already beginning to give Black a hard time.} Nd7 16. Bf3 Nc5 17. Bf2 Rxe1 18. Rxe1 Bd7 19. g4 {In spite of needing only a draw, one cannot fault Muzychuk's willigness to come out swinging first.} Be7 20. Kg2 Bh4 21. Bxh4 Qxh4 22. Qf2 Qf6 23. Kg3 a5 24. Qd2 g5 25. Bg2 (25. f5) 25... b5 26. b3 Qg6 27. a3 gxf4+ 28. Qxf4 b4 29. axb4 axb4 30. Qd2 h5 31. Bf3 hxg4 32. hxg4 Rf8 33. Nc6 Bxc6 34. dxc6 Ne6 35. Qxb4 Qxc2 36. Qc4 Qb2 37. Bd5 Ng5 38. Qf4 Qg7 39. Re7 Ra8 {White better, and Black must certainly realizes that the only chance is for Muzychuk to blunder horribly.} 40. Qe3 Qh6 {[#]} 41. Bxf7+ $1 Nxf7 42. Qxh6 Nxh6 43. Rxc7 Nf7 44. b4 Ne5 45. b5 Rb8 46. Rb7 Rc8 47. Kf4 Nd3+ 48. Ke4 Nc5+ 49. Kd5 Nxb7 50. cxb7 Rd8 51. b6 Kf7 52. Kc6 Ke7 53. Kc7 Rd7+ 54. Kc6 Rd8 55. Kc7 Rd7+ 56. Kc6 Rd8 1/2-1/2

The first congratulations, but not the last!

That's the smile of a World Champion

With this magnificent victory, after fourteen classical games, not to mention the grueling tiebreaks, Mariya Muzychuk became the 15th Women World Champion against all odds. Perhaps a sign that she was not one of the weaker candidates is that for her monumental effert, the end result was.... a loss of two Elo!

Report by Albert Silver and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos by Eteri Kublashvili, Anastasia Karlovich, and Vladimir Barsky

Final results

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 ½ 0 ½ ½            1.5
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 ½ ½ ½            2.5


Round 1 - 64 players
March 17 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 18 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 19 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 2 - 32 players
March 20 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 21 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 22 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 3 - 16 players
March 23 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 24 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 25 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 4 - 8 players
March 26 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 27 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 28 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 5 - 4 players
March 29 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 30 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 31 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Rest day - April, 1
Round 6 - 2 players
April 2 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
April 3 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
April 4 Game 3 3:00 p.m. local time
April 5 Game 4 3:00 p.m. local time
April 6 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
April 7 Closing Ceremony*  
*Closing Ceremony can be shifted to
April 6 in the absence of tie breaks


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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