Sensation: Hou Yifan beats Shirov, leads alone with 7.5/9

2/2/2012 – Seventeen-year-old Women's World Champion Hou Yifan is simply unstoppable. In the penultimate round of the 2012 Gibraltar Chess Festival she outplayed Super-GM Alexei Shirov with black. Yifan is now in the sole lead and and her tournament performance currently stands, as the tournament bulletin puts it, "at a colossal 2892". Watch the final games on Thursday at 11 a.m.

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The 2012 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival is taking place from Tuesday, 24th January to Thursday, 2nd February 2012 at the Caleta Hotel in Gibraltar. The event is the tenth in the series held on the Rock, the second to be sponsored by Tradewise Insurance with technical support by Gibtelecom. The rate of play: 40 moves in 100 minutes plus 20 moves in 50 minutes plus 15 minutes for all remaining moves with 30 seconds per move added from the start.

"Hou Yifan is a game away from winning the strongest open chess tournament in history" said the tournament press release in caps. "No-one here in Gibraltar at the 2012 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival can quite believe it. A quiet, polite, 17-year old girl, here with her mother, is a game away from winning the strongest Open chess tournament in history. In her wake, some of the best chess players in the world."

Hou Yifan, from China, has beaten one elite player after another in the last few days – including Judit Polgar, the highest ranked female player of all time. At the start of the event Hou Yifan, the reigning women's world champion, was ranked number 25. But nine days later she has beaten four players rated over 2700, and her tournament performance currently stands at a colossal 2892.

On Thursday (2nd February) she faces Shakriyhar Mamedyarov, the cheerful Azeri grandmaster, rated 2747 and number 14 in the world. All eyes will be on Gibraltar to see if Hou Yifan can claim the first prize of £20,000 – as well as the top female award of £10,000. The latter of course is a foregone conclusion.

[Event "Gibraltar Open"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2012.02.01"] [Round "9"] [White "Shirov, Alexei"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B97"] [Annotator "Williams,Simon"] [PlyCount "106"] [EventDate "2012.01.24"] {The two played that most uncompromising of openings, the Poison Pawn Variation in the Sicilian Najdorf. One might think that, after all these years, everything is understood about this ferociously complex tactical variation. With the growth of computer chess that is far from true. Using computers has changed people's conception of what positions are defensible. Thus players are stronger. That is one reason so many people are rated over 2700, not inflation in the numbers.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2 Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. e5 h6 11. Bh4 dxe5 12. fxe5 Nd5 13. Nxd5 exd5 14. e6 Bxe6 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. Be2 ({One would think} 16. Bd3 {is more natural, so that Bg6ch would tie the g7 pawn down.}) ({Another alternative is} 16. Rxb7) 16... Be7 (16... b5 {prevents Rxb7, but neglects Black's development. }) 17. Bh5+ Kd8 18. Bxe7+ Qxe7 19. O-O Nd7 (19... b5 {is possible.}) (19... Nc6 {probably runs afoul of} 20. c4) 20. Rxb7 Qc5+ 21. Kh1 Rb8 22. Rxb8+ Nxb8 { That Black's king is in the centre is adequate compensation for a mere pawn.} 23. Qe2 (23. Qe1 Rf8 {is an alternative.}) 23... Qb5 24. Qxb5 axb5 25. Rf7 Nc6 26. Rxg7 Rf8 27. Kg1 Nb4 28. Rb7 Nxc2 (28... Nxa2 {is also possible, but then Black won't have two connected passed pawns.}) 29. Rxb5 Ke7 30. a4 Ra8 31. Rb2 Ne3 32. Kf2 Nc4 33. Rb7+ Kd6 34. Bd1 e5 35. Rh7 Nb2 36. Rxh6+ Kc5 37. Bc2 Nxa4 {It is true a bishop is better than a knight in the endgame. But Black's pawns are further advanced and she exerts greater control of the centre.} 38. h4 Nc3 39. Bf5 Ra2+ 40. Kf1 Ra1+ 41. Kf2 Ra2+ 42. Kf1 Nd1 43. g4 Ne3+ 44. Ke1 Kd4 45. Bc8 Ng2+ 46. Kd1 e4 47. h5 e3 48. Ba6 Nf4 49. Rb6 Nd3 50. Bxd3 Kxd3 51. Rb3+ Ke4 52. h6 d4 53. h7 Rh2 {White's position is hopeless.} 0-1


The sensation of Gibraltar 2012: Chinese GM Hou Yifan

Top standings after nine rounds

Rk.
 Ti. Name
FED
Rtg
Pts.
 Perf 
1 GM Hou Yifan
CHN
2605
7.5
2892.0
2 GM Adams Michael
ENG
2724
7.0
2826.0
3 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar
AZE
2747
7.0
2808.0
4 GM Short Nigel D
ENG
2677
7.0
2807.0
5 GM Sasikiran Krishnan
IND
2700
7.0
2776.0
6 GM Bologan Viktor
MDA
2680
7.0
2740.0
7 GM Le Quang Liem
VIE
2714
6.5
2744.0
8 GM Almasi Zoltan
HUN
2717
6.5
2740.0
9 GM Howell David W L
ENG
2603
6.5
2727.0
10 GM Movsesian Sergei
ARM
2700
6.5
2707.0
11 GM Svidler Peter
RUS
2749
6.5
2701.0
12 GM Negi Parimarjan
IND
2641
6.5
2692.0
13 GM Erdos Viktor
HUN
2634
6.5
2633.0
14 GM Sutovsky Emil
ISR
2703
6.5
2624.0
15 GM Gustafsson Jan
GER
2643
6.5
2618.0

The full table can be found here. There we see Judit Polgar in 17th place and Nana Dzagnidze in 18th, both with 6.0/9 points, the same as Alexei Shirov in 21st and Maxime Vachier Lagrave in 29th. There are also some females in this group: former women's world champions Zhu Chen (27th) and Antoaneta Stefanova (34th), together with Swedish GM Pia Cramling (31st). Note that only the players with 7.0 points are theoretical contenders for first place, and not, as previously stated, those with 6.5 points and more, because whatever the result of Hou-Mamedyarov one of them will have at least eight points.

Octogenarian Viktor Korchnoi (above left) has also chalked up 6.0/9 and is in 42nd place. Koneru Humpy and Anna Muzychuk, Hou Yifan's nearest rivals in the FIDE women's rating list, are at 5.5/9 lower down on the table. They share this slot with Anna's sister Mariya, Natalia Zhukova, Anna Zatonskih, Nadezhda Kosintseva, Soumya Swaminathan, Jovana Vojinovic and Jovanka Houska, with Irina Krush and Lela Javakhishvili following at 5.0/9. It is gratifying to see so many strong female players participating in Gibraltar.

GM Juan Manuel Bellon Lopez (above right), who is Pia Cramling's husband, is also playing in the event and, with 5.0/9 is in 93rd position. That's their daughter Ana in the middle.

So what are the pairings for the final round on Thursday? The ones you will want to watch, on live broadcast on the official site and on Playchess (links at the end of this report) are the following:

No. Name Rtg
Pts.
Pts.
Name Rtg
25 Hou Yifan 2605
-
7
Mamedyarov Shakriyhar 2747
14 Bologan Viktor 2680
7
-
7
Adams Michael 2724
11 Sasikiran Krishnan 2700
7
-
7
Short Nigel D 2677
10 Movsesian Sergei 2700
-
Svidler Peter 2749
21 Gustafsson Jan 2643
-
Almasi Zoltan 2717
22 Negi Parimarjan 2641
-
Le Quang Liem 2714
23 Erdos Viktor 2634
-
Sutovsky Emil 2703
27 Howell David 2603
-
6
Shirov Alexei 2710
Please note that the final round starts at 11:00 a.m.


Just a stairway down from the Caleta Hotel is the warm and sunny beach


A beach party – no doubt our readers will soon identify all these players for us


Beauties on the beach

Photos: Ray Morris-Hill, Zeljka Malobabic of Monroi


Links

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 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.


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