Tehran WGP Rd6-7: Nana Dzagnidze joins lead

by Alina l'Ami
2/19/2016 – The sixth and seventh rounds offered great action, with a slew of decisive games, enough to satisfy any fan. After catching up with Natalija Pogonina, Nana Dzagnidze is now first be virtue of tiebreak, hoping to take over the lead. The youngest player in the competition, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, is in full ascension as she scored two win. A large illustrated report.

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Photos by Alina L'Ami for the official site

Round six

After round six, Nana shared first but had the superior tie-break

IM Batsiashvili Nino 2485 0 - 1 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2403
GM Gunina Valentina 2496 ½ - ½ WGM Pogonina Natalija 2454
GM Koneru Humpy 2583 0 - 1 GM Ju Wenjun 2558
GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2509 ½ - ½ GM Cramling Pia 2521
GM Zhao Xue 2506 1 - 0 GM Harika Dronavalli 2511
GM Zhukova Natalia 2484 0 - 1 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2529

Natalia Zhukova - Nana Dzagnidze 0-1

Started as a positional Queen's Indian, the game Ukraine vs Georgia soon acquired the contours of the King's Indian. Chances were balanced for a while, until time trouble interferred in the logical course of the game.

Natalia's attempt to unbalance the position with...

26.Rf7 offered Black too much material for the queen. Nana slowly
but surely converted her material advantage, thus catching up with
Natalia Pogonina in a tied first place.

Valentina Gunina - Natalija Pogonina 1/2-1/2

Valentina and Natalija know each other very well, as they had played many games previously. This didn't prevent the theoretical positional Exchange Queen's Gambit from becoming a fierce combat. None of the players was happy with her play in this game, but this is more of a sign of their maximalism and permanent strive for improving. The first critical moment occurred on move 12, when White spent 21 minutes on 12.Rce1 and Black answered 12...Ne4 after 24 minutes.

Shared first with Nana Dzagnidze but with an inferior tie-break

Regarding her uncompromising attitude, Valentina mentioned during the press conference that this is the way she is built, she always wants to continue playing and the word "draw" is not really a part of her vocabulary. Today she could have been punished though but Natalija didn't take advantage of the favourable occasion and the game ended in a draw.

Zhao Xue - Harika Dronavalli 1-0

In Zhao Xue - Harika Dronavalli, the Indian player adopted the Stonewall Dutch structure in an attempt to generate counterplay as soon as possible, irrespective of the inherent strategic risk. Her approach seemed to pay off when Xue played the rather slow plan 7.h3 and 8.g4 (White usually waits for a good moment for carrying out g2-g4 without wasting time with h2-h3, as Harika pointed out during the conference). But Black committed a similar mistake with:

11...a6 instead of her own suggestion during the postmortem analysis 11...b5!?, a move bearing some similarity with her b7-b5 from her previous round game against Koneru. Xue reacted accurately with 12.c5 (underestimated by Harika) and the Indian GM eventually had to pay with the full point for her hesitation.

I cannot help noticing the players' transparency and sincerity during the press conferences. They do not hide their weaknesses, an attitude that in fact makes them stronger in the long run.

Humpy Koneru - Ju Wenjun 0-1

Shared third with Zhao Xue, with 4.0/6

China also won the other game of the mini-match against India, Humpy Koneru - Ju Wenjun. In a sharp 4.f3 Nimzo, Humpy didn't remember her analysis well and without noticing, entered a line which is known to be winning for Black. After 9.Nf3? instead of the better alternatives: 9.a3 or 9.Be3. Wenjun was just too happy to sacrifice a piece a move later with: 

10...Nxe5!, following her analysis and inviting the white king to a long walk which, despite the doctors' recommendation, did not prove healthy at all. A nice win for Wenjun and a painful loss for the Indian player.

Nino Batsiashvili - Sarasadat Khademalsharieh 0-1

Not the best day in the office for Nino...

...but a good one for the young Iranian talent

After several missed chances in the previous rounds, Sara scored a full point, leaving the "honourable" 50% level. It many times happens that the theoretically less strong player displays too much respect for her opponents, quite an inhibiting feeling, but during the press conference Sara was smiling and confidently stated that she felt in advance she could win today. Nino remains on 1.5/6, a result that could be caused by the demanding Tata Steel Challengers too, where she played right before coming to Tehran.

Antoaneta Stefanova - Pia Cramling 1/2-1/2

A classical player will always remain in fashion: Pia

Climbing to the top is difficult enough, but staying there is even harder. And the hardest of them all is getting back up after you fall. Antoaneta Stefanova - Pia Cramling was a game between two players to whom the tournament fate didn't smile much in Tehern, but they seemed determined to play a creative and hard fought game from the very beginning. In a peaceful symmetrical English, the dialogue of original moves was initiated with:

5...Ne5 and 6.Nh2, leading to hard-to-predict plans, possibilities of castling on either side for both opponents and curious piece trajectories. The game eventually ended in a draw by repetition.
During the press conference, when the problem of theoretical preparation was mentioned, Antoaneta confessed she loves chess and loves creating, thinking, reinventing the wheel... For the ultra-experienced Pia, preparation is important but she finds it refreshing playing without loading your hard-drive to the maximum.

This is when extra fuel is needed...

And tea helps too!  Some of the best your press officer ever drank comes from this kitchen.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade - they say... quite a good piece of wisdom for the
less fortunate players. Howevefr, they may face an additional challenge: the Iranian lemons are
sweet, and not sour! (Tested and hooked forever!)

The tournament enters the second half with two leaders, making the fight even more interesting. Will Natalia Pogonina manage to renew her string of victories or will Nana Dzagnidze's final "sprint" prevail? Everything is possible, so do stay tuned with us for round seven!

Meanwhile, our chief arbiter IA Ashot Vardapetyan makes sure the venue will be ready, together with...

... his hard working team!

Round seven

Preparing to enter the ring

Dzagnidze Nana
1 - 0
Batsiashvili Nino
Harika Dronavalli
½ - ½
Zhukova Natalia
Cramling Pia
0 - 1
Zhao Xue
Ju Wenjun
1 - 0
Stefanova Antoaneta
Pogonina Natalija
1 - 0
Koneru Humpy
Khademalsharieh Sarasadat
1 - 0
Gunina Valentina

Nana Dzagnidze - Nino Batsiashvili 1-0

It must be hard to play against somebody you know for years, with whom you share worries and hopes, prepare together for the Olympiads and other team competitions... And yet, Nana - Nino was a reckless strategic fight, eventually leading to a better endgame for White.

A 2725 performance and first position after seven rounds

Nana wasn't too happy with her technique as for instance on move 64 (a magic number in chess!), Nino could have saved the game with...

64...Kc4 (capturing another pawn and securing the draw) instead of the losing 64...c5, which allowed White to be just in time with queening and regrouping against the c & d pawns. Later, Nino couldn't explain how come she didn't find the saving move with 25 minutes on the clock, but for Nana Dzagnidze this is an excellent result, maintaining her joint lead (by better tie-break) with Pogonina.

Natalija Pogonina - Humpy Koneru 1-0

And yet another point joins Natalija's collection. Although she enjoys a slightly higher performance
than Nana so far, 2738, she suffer from an inferior tie-break at the moment.

Humpy met Natalija's Catalan with an ambitious line which had come into the limelight lately. Black allowed the exchange of her light-squared bishop for a knight then castled long, right under the pressure of the unchallenged g2-Catalan-bishop, after 5...Bd7 

6. Ne5 Bc6 7. Nxc6 Nxc6 8. 0-0 Qd7 9. e3 0-0-0

Recent games have shown that Black's counter-attack with ...h5-h4 shouldn't be neglected, but even though Natalija was visibly surprised by Humpy's choice, her well prepared and consistent queenside attack was more effective. The Indian GM confessed her disappointment during the press conference but, even though inside she must have been very affected, her demeanour was that of a true winner who also knows to accept a defeat. As for Natalija: how does she manage to win so many games? According to her, the secret is to focus on the journey and not on the destination, in other words on the game itself and not the final result.

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh - Valentina Gunina 1-0

Who could have thought that the basically peaceful Exchange Slav could generate such a sharp tactical battle as Sara - Valentina? I wouldn't have liked being in their trainers' and fans' shoes during the game as the engines' barometer indicated abrupt changes of evaluation several times. 

Two happy characters no matter the result. This was before and, although I don't have an
"after" , I guarantee their smiles were there too!

2610 performance, 4.5/7, fifth place and +20 rating points. Not bad at all!

During the press conference Valentina was strong enough to display self-irony while Sara stated that the full point is good, but she would have preferred to take it with better play.

Ju Wenjun - Antoaneta Stefanova 1-0

How could I miss that?!

38.Nxb4? Immediately after releasing the piece, the Chinese player saw the refutation of her combination, but in severe time trouble Antoaneta failed to do the same and lost relatively quickly after 38... Rxb4 39. Ba3 Nc6 40. Rc1 Ne6 41. Rxc6 Qxc6 42. Qxb4 Bxd4 43. Qe7+ Kg8 44. Bd6...

But Black has an ace up its sleeves: 38... Qxb4! can be played since 39. Qxb4 Rxb4 40. Rxe7+ Kxe7 41. Ba3 is not working in view of the amazing 41... Bc5!! - this can go straight into the tactics books.

Pia Cramling - Zhao Xue 0-1

In third with 5.0/7

This was an excellent day for the other Chinese player, too. After a slightly unusual opening (3... b5! - perhaps a favourite square for Xue this event?), she took over the initiative with Black against Pia Cramling. Both players agreed that White would have maintained drawing chances had she not played the passive:

22.Nb1, eventually costing her a pawn and the game after 22... Rd8 23. Bxe7 Qxe7 24. Qc1 (if 24. Qe1 Qc4, attacking the a4 and e2 pawns) 24... Qxc1 25. Rxc1 Bxe2 The players concluded that even after that, the endgame could have been stubbornly defended by White but in the end, Black's advantage prevailed.

Harika Dronavalli - Natalia Zhukova 1/2-1/2

The only draw of the day was Harika - Natalia. White met the Karo Kann with 2.c4, later grabbing and holding on the d5-pawn. The players agreed that Black had some compensation, but all in all White should be better. 

Harika regretted...

20.Nd1 suggesting that 20.Ne2 would have sent the knight on a better trajectory. She "forgot that Black can actually respond with 20... Bd5 as well", after which her plan with Qd2, attacking the h6-pawn was no longer as effective. 21. Qd2 Bxb3 22. axb3

Once the chance was handed, Natalia did not hesitate

22... g5! 23. Bg3 f5 In the mutual time trouble Harika's 24.Nxg5 could have cost her dearly. She had seen in a flash the unusual and very strong idea 24.h4!! but feared it was too weird to be good. The game ended in a move repetition but with more time on Black's clock, White wouldn't have had an easy life.

The players may appear to be sitting but their hearts are running a marathon...

The tournament doctor makes sure nothing will go wrong...

... while anything that can go right, will go right, under the skillful hands of Ms. Sahar Nouri.

Behind the scenes - hard working people: responsible with the technical part Mr. Molaei

The camera magician and chess publisher: Mr. Mohammad Kheirkhah

Standings after seven rounds


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 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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fons fons 2/21/2016 04:39
If only chess players had the courage to speak up about the things that FIDE does wrong. Unfortunately they are too afraid. And the money is good.
sidbis sidbis 2/21/2016 01:50
Poor women who need to hide their calculations under the counter ...
elizium elizium 2/20/2016 06:37
Ju Wenjun is the real beauty
john robert john robert 2/20/2016 02:44
Surprising that Khademalsharieh (2403) is currently in 5th place with 4.5/7 while in the last three places are Stefanova (2509) with 2/7, Batsiashvili (2485) & Cramling (2521) both on 1.5/7. Home advantage may be factor but it's a good performance so far from the young Iranian who has drawn with the three leaders and remains undefeated so far.
henki3 henki3 2/20/2016 12:55
Are there any ChessSuperHeros out there to rescue these WFM's?
Magnus to the rescue? Naka in a wingsuit? MvL without glasses?
Or can only rough guys like scarred Topalov and unshaven Grischuk save them from this Stockholm syndrom tournament?
PatrickP PatrickP 2/20/2016 12:43
Nice articles. Clear, nicely written with her own style. And very, very nice photos. Great job again Alina!
tarantolla tarantolla 2/20/2016 12:07
seems Sara is grabbing a place among top women chess players, Congs to her for this worthwhile achievment
Sookhteh Sookhteh 2/20/2016 09:30
Thanks To chessbase for the nice reports and Iranian team work for the Tournoment Directory and Specially Sara Sadat for her Strong and creative games
algorithmy algorithmy 2/20/2016 08:23
At her best form Nana Dzagnidze playes like a top Gm!
vinniethepooh vinniethepooh 2/20/2016 08:21
Sara and the Pogo and Nana.....brilliant chess!