Women's WCh. G7: Long fight, but no winner

by Albert Silver
3/11/2016 – Possibly the most apt description of the seventh game was a mutual war of attrition. For the third time an Open Spanish was the battlefield of choice, and the preparation of both players was suitably deep. A very long fight ensued in which chances appeared for both sides, but nothing decisive, and after 81 moves they called it a day. Report with analysis by GM Mikhalchishin.

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2016 Women's World Chess Championship

The Women’s World Chess Championship Match 2016 between the current World Champion Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine and Challenger Hou Yifan of China (former World Champion 2010-2012, 2013-2015) takes place in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 1-18, 2016. The first game is scheduled to start at 3 pm local time on 2nd of March 2016. You can watch the games live in our broadcast window at the bottom of this page.

Game seven

Photos by Vitaliy Hrabar for the official site

A selfie at move one? Not your usual scene!

As the players approach the winning line, the battles will be that much more tense, especially since the champion is now two points behind and near desperation in terms of match situation. A big question was not only on what her opening choice would be for game seven, but her state of mind after the disappointing loss in game six. Whatever her state of mind going into the rest day, her mental resilience was evident as she fought as hard and as well as she could, never overpressing, and never giving in to despair. In spite of not achieving the score she wanted (needed) her attitude was exemplary.

Just one point away from regaining the title

Game seven annotated by GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

[Event "Women's World Champonship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.03.11"] [Round "7"] [White "Hou , Yifan"] [Black "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C83"] [WhiteElo "2667"] [BlackElo "2563"] [Annotator "Adrian Mikhalchishin"] [PlyCount "161"] [EventDate "2016.03.11"] [SourceDate "2016.03.11"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Be7 10. c3 Nc5 11. Bc2 d4 12. cxd4 (12. Nb3 {This position has become popular among the fans of the Open Spanish recently. White can move into a slightly better ending, which happened in the game, but doesn't really have any real winning chances.} d3 13. Nxc5 ({The bishop retreat led to sharper positions:} 13. Bb1 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bf5 15. b4 O-O 16. Re1 Qd5 (16... Bg6 {is very tempting:} 17. h3 a5 18. bxa5 Rxa5 19. Rxa5 Nxa5 20. e6 fxe6 21. Rxe6 c5 22. Qe1 Bf6 23. Bf4 c4 24. Bd6 Bf7 {with good counterplay, Shirov,A (2722) -L'Ami,E (2628)/Wijk aan Zee NED 2011}) (16... Qd7 17. h3 Bg6 18. Ba2 Kh8 19. Bf4 a5 20. bxa5 Rxa5 21. b4 Ra4 22. Bb3 Rxa1 23. Qxa1 Nd8 24. Qa7 Ne6 25. Bd2 Rd8 $11 {Shirov,A (2723)-Caruana,F (2675)/Wijk aan Zee NED 2010}) 17. h3 Rfd8 18. g4 Be6 19. Re3 {Karjakin,S (2723)-Mamedyarov,S (2719)/Khanty-Mansiysk RUS 2009. (34)}) 13... dxc2 14. Qxd8+ Rxd8 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. Be3 Rd5 17. c4 bxc4 18. Rac1 Nb4 ({Worse is} 18... Nxe5 19. Nxe5 Rxe5 20. Rxc2 Rb5 21. Rxc4 Rxb2 22. Rxc7 Kf7 23. g4 Re8 24. Rd1 Kg6 25. a4 Rb4 26. Rd4 a5 27. Rxb4 Bxb4 28. Kg2 Rd8 29. h4 {Svidler,P (2693)-Kaidanov,G (2629)/Moscow RUS 2003. Black has to try to hold a difficult endgame.}) 19. a3 Nd3 20. Rxc2 Kd7 21. Bd4 (21. Bc1 { was simpler.}) 21... Rb8 22. Bc3 c5 $6 ({A more principled move was to improve the position of the bishop:} 22... Bc5) 23. Nd2 {with a better endgame, Hou,Y (2578)-Koneru,H (2600)/Tirana 2011}) 12... Nxd4 13. Nxd4 Qxd4 14. Nf3 Qxd1 15. Rxd1 O-O {[#]} 16. Be3 ({Other tries are possible} 16. Nd4 Rfd8 17. b4 Na4 18. Nc6 Rxd1+ 19. Bxd1 Bf8 20. Bf3 Re8 21. a3 Nb6 22. g3 h6 23. h4 g6 24. Bg2 Bg7 25. f4 f6 26. Bb2 fxe5 27. Bxe5 Nc4 28. Bxg7 Kxg7 29. a4 bxa4 30. Rxa4 { with some chances, Hou,Y (2578)-Koneru,H (2600)/Tirana 2011}) ({Black was able to hold the draw easily after} 16. Ng5 h6 17. Bh7+ Kh8 18. Nxe6 Nxe6 19. Be4 Rad8 20. Be3 Bg5 21. Bxg5 hxg5 22. Kf1 g6 {1/2 Efimenko,Z (2703)-Caruana,F (2712)/Poikovsky RUS 2011}) ({But worth trying is} 16. Bg5) 16... Rfd8 17. Rdc1 h6 18. Nd4 Bd5 19. Bd1 {This was Hou's prepared novelty.} ({She has also tried } 19. f4 Ne6 20. Nxe6 fxe6 21. Bg6 Rac8 22. Bc5 Kf8 23. Bxe7+ Kxe7 24. Rc5 Bc4 25. b3 Bd3 26. Bxd3 Rxd3 27. Rac1 Kd7 {Black has to overcome some small problems here, Hou-Koneru,Tirana,2012}) ({The more active} 19. Nf5 {didn't promise more.} Bf8 20. Bxc5 Bxc5 21. Bd1 Bf8 22. Rxc7 Be6 23. Ne3 Rd2 24. Bc2 Rad8 25. h4 Re2 {Black has very comfortable play. Robson,R (2465)-Kaidanov,G (2595)/Saint Louis 2009}) 19... Nd3 20. Rxc7 {[#]} Bf8 {Muzychuk spent 45 minutes here!} ({There were a few serious options such as} 20... Bg5 21. Bxg5 hxg5 22. e6 fxe6 23. Nc6 Rd6 24. Ne7+ Kf8 25. Ng6+ Kg8 26. Bc2 {with a slight advantage,}) ({but best was} 20... Bc5) 21. e6 fxe6 22. Bg4 Re8 23. b3 Bd6 { It is necessary to kick out this Rook from the seventh rank.} 24. Rc2 Ne5 25. Be2 ({It was possible to handle it a bit more precisely with} 25. Bh5 Rec8 26. Rac1 Rxc2 27. Rxc2 g6 28. Be2 h5) 25... Be4 ({White stays a bit better thanks to the small weakness of the e6 pawn. Black has to play carefully.} 25... Rec8 26. Rac1 Rxc2 27. Rxc2 Kf7 28. f4 Nd7) 26. Rd2 Bb4 27. Rdd1 Bd5 28. Rac1 Rac8 { [#]} 29. h4 ({In the commentators rooms we evaluated} 29. f4 {as more dynamic} Nd7 30. a4) 29... Ba3 $1 {Now Black starts to fight for the c-file.} 30. Rc2 Rxc2 31. Nxc2 Be7 32. h5 Rc8 33. Nd4 Kf7 ({It was better to do a bit differently} 33... Nd7 34. f3 Nf6 35. g4 Kf7) 34. f3 Bf6 ({Very good was} 34... Rc3 35. Bd2 Rc8) 35. Kf2 Rc3 ({Or} 35... Bh4+ 36. g3 Bf6) 36. f4 Nd7 ({Worse was} 36... Nc6 37. Nxc6 Bxc6 38. Bd3) 37. Bd3 Ke7 38. Bb1 {[#]} Bh4+ ({Also possible was} 38... Kf7 {as a waiting strategy}) 39. Ke2 Bf6 {[#]} 40. g4 $2 ({ Black would face some real problems after} 40. Nf5+ $1 Kf7 41. Bd2 Rc7 42. Ne3) 40... Bxd4 $1 {A very brave decision by Mariya! It is not easy to give up such a bishop.} 41. Bxd4 ({Compensation for the pawn was clear after} 41. Rxd4 Nf6 42. g5 hxg5 43. fxg5 Nxh5 44. Kd2 Rc6 45. Bd3) 41... Rh3 $1 (41... Bf3+ { would be a difficult fight for the draw.} 42. Kd2 Bxd1 43. Kxc3 Bxg4 44. Bxg7 Bxh5 45. Bxh6 Nb6 46. Be4 Nd5+ 47. Kd4) 42. Rc1 $6 ({Hou Yifan wants to show activity,but better was defensive strategy} 42. Rg1) 42... Bf3+ 43. Kf2 {[#]} Bxg4 ({White would have some serious problems after} 43... Nf6 44. Bxf6+ (44. Rc7+ Kd8 45. Rxg7 Nxg4+ 46. Kf1 Rh2) 44... Kxf6 45. Rg1 Bd5 46. g5+ Ke7 47. gxh6 gxh6 48. Rg7+ Kd6 49. Ra7 Rxh5 50. Rxa6+ Kc5) 44. Bxg7 Rxh5 45. Kg3 Bf5 46. Bxf5 Rxf5 (46... exf5 47. Rc6) 47. Bxh6 Rc5 $1 48. Rf1 ({White could make draw now in a slightly worse position with} 48. Rxc5 Nxc5 49. Kg4 Nd3 50. f5 Nb4 51. a4) 48... Nf6 (48... Rc3+ $5) 49. Bg5 Kf7 {Rook endgame is the best draw solution} 50. Bxf6 Kxf6 {[#]} 51. b4 ({Passive defence was better} 51. Rf2 Kf5 52. Re2 Rc3+ 53. Kf2) 51... Rc4 52. Rf3 Kf5 $1 {Now it becomes clear that Black will win a pawn} 53. Ra3 Rxf4 54. Rxa6 Rxb4 55. Rb6 Ke5 56. Kf3 Kd5 57. Ke3 e5 58. Kd2 {[#]} Rb2+ $2 ({Black could keep winning chances after} 58... Kc4 59. Rc6+ Kd4 60. Rd6+ Ke4 61. Rb6 Kf3) 59. Kc1 Rb4 ({It was not so difficult way to draw after} 59... Kc5 60. Re6 Re2 61. Kd1 Re4 62. a3 Re3 63. Kd2 Kd4 64. Rd6+ Ke4 65. Rb6 Rd3+ 66. Ke2 Rb3 67. Kd2 Kf4 68. Rf6+ Kg4 69. Re6 Kf5 70. Rb6) 60. a3 $1 {Very precise move.} Kc5 61. Re6 Re4 ({It was necessary to try} 61... Rc4+ 62. Kb2 Kd4) 62. Kc2 Kd4 63. Rd6+ Kc4 ({The last try to play for a win was} 63... Ke3 64. Rd5 Rc4+ 65. Kb3 e4 66. Rxb5 Kd4) 64. Rc6+ Kd5 65. Rb6 Rc4+ 66. Kd2 Kc5 {[#]} 67. Rb8 Ra4 68. Rc8+ Kd4 69. Rb8 Ra5 70. Rd8+ Kc4 71. Re8 Kd4 72. Rd8+ Ke4 73. Rb8 Rxa3 74. Rxb5 {Now we have a very well-known Philidor draw position.} Kf4 75. Rb8 Kf3 76. Rf8+ Ke4 77. Rb8 Ra2+ 78. Ke1 Kf4 79. Rb3 e4 80. Rc3 e3 81. Rc8 1/2-1/2

Time is running out. Will Mariya Muzychuk be able to pull a rabbit out of her hat?

Current standings

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 G10 Pts
Mariya Muzychuk
Hou Yifan


March 11 Friday 15:00 Game 7
March 12 Saturday 15:00 Game 8
March 13 Sunday Day Off  
March 14 Monday 15:00 Game 9
March 15 Tuesday Day Off  
March 16 Wednesday 15:00 Game 10
March 17 Thursday Day Off  
March 18 Friday 15:00 Tie-break games
March 18 Friday 18:00 Closing Ceremony

All games start at 3 p.m. local time, which is an hour ahead of European time, two ahead of Britain, and seven ahead of New York. You can find the starting time at your location here.

Women's World Chess Championship 2016 live broadcast

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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.
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Aighearach Aighearach 3/12/2016 09:01
@oputu: You missed game 2, Hou Yifan won with white.

What I find hilarious is the complete lack of opening line awesomeness from Muzychuk. Next time they want to not publish her games, she should protest and publish them, because she's the one who looks silly when there are no secret lines being hidden after all. It is almost as if her own team was conspiring to give the psychological advantage to her opponent!
Justjeff Justjeff 3/12/2016 07:18
I detected no Sinophobia in the comments. Maybe Muzychuk just has a couple of fans who decided to post?
X iLeon aka DMG X iLeon aka DMG 3/12/2016 03:32
What is all this Eurocentric Sinophobia that I detect in comments (and note: I'm european)? 2016 AD and it's still us and them everywhere I look. Us v neighbour district/village/area/team/town/country/continent. No one seems to be seeing the obvious: Hou Yifan is the best female player in the world right now, and the only reason Muzychuk became Wch last year was because the chinese player did not enter the contest!
oputu oputu 3/12/2016 11:01
All Hou's win over this opponent are with the black pieces. Going by that history, I would rather Mariya was black again today.
fightingchess fightingchess 3/11/2016 11:59
tomorrow the last practical chance for mariya to come back.
raywu raywu 3/11/2016 10:34
well, she's doing a lot better than Ushenina did
Josue Josue 3/11/2016 10:17
Yifan getting closer and closer.