Women's WCh. G8: Hou Yifan half point from title

by Albert Silver
3/13/2016 – After battles with both players booked to the teeth, game eight steered away from hypertheoretical debates with an offbeat Catalan. The position culminated in a blocked center with a space advantage for White, and chances for a kingside buildup, but an inaccuracy allowed Black to gain a valuable tempo, and after the queens left the board, so had the fight. Illustrated report.

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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 eight

Photos by Vitaliy Hrabar for the official site

Each and every game has enjoyed the presence of notables for the opening move, from rock
stars to famous intellectuals. The Ukrainians have certainly put on a show worthy of the moment.

As pointed out by GM Mikhalchishin in his notes to the game, if the score has not improved in Mariya Muzychuk’s favor, one significant change is how the games have developed. In all three of the last games, this one included, she has managed to secure genuine advantages that held the potential to swing things around. It would be easy to blame technique or nerves, but ultimately the takeaway for her should be that she is capable of fighting Hou Yifan over the board, and creating situations for herself.

Caricatures and art are not lost

Unfortunately, warm words, and a pat on the shoulder will be modest consolation since the Chinese  player only needs a draw to regain her title.

Game eight and he back to the wall, but the media interest has not slackened one iota

Game eight annotated by GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

[Event "Women's World Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.03.12"] [Round "8"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A46"] [WhiteElo "2563"] [BlackElo "2667"] [Annotator "Adrian Mikhalchishin"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2016.03.12"] [SourceDate "2016.03.12"] {The match has certainly become more interesting, with Mariya obtaining an advantage in all three of the last games, including this one. Unfortunately, she was unable to capitalize on them, scoring only 1.0/3. A step in the right direction at least.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 {Mariya shows that she wants to play Catalan, but wishes to avoid the Bb4 variation. This move order allows Black to prevent c2-c4 with} b5 $1 {a very popular choice recently.} 5. O-O Bb7 {Personally, I think this move is useless move as the bishop can be placed on a6 later. Other moves are better.} (5... c5 6. c3 Nbd7 7. a4 b4 8. cxb4 cxb4 9. Ne5 Ba6 10. Bg5 Nxe5 11. dxe5 h6 12. Be3 Nd7 13. Bd4 Bc5 14. Re1 Bxd4 15. Qxd4 Qb6 {with great game, Bruzon Batista,L (2668) -Ivanchuk,V (2741)/Havana 2010}) ({and} 5... Nbd7 6. Ne5 Bb7 7. c4 bxc4 8. Nxc4 c6 9. Ncd2 Qb6 10. Qb3 c5 11. Nc3 Ba6 12. dxc5 Nxc5 13. Qxb6 axb6 14. b4 Ncd7 15. a3 Rc8 16. Bb2 Bd6 17. Rfc1 O-O 18. h3 Rc7 {Black has a strong center and better endgame, Van de Mortel,J (2401)-Naiditsch,A (2586)/Belgium 2002}) 6. a4 b4 7. c4 {[#]} ({There are two very interesting options here} 7. Ne5 Nbd7 8. c4 bxc3 9. Nxc3 Nxe5 10. dxe5 Nd7 11. e4 c6 12. exd5 cxd5 13. Qe2 Rc8 14. Rd1 Be7 15. Be3 Qc7 16. Rac1 Qb8 17. Nb5 a6 18. Rxc8+ Bxc8 19. Nd4 Bb7 {White keeps a queenside pawn majority, Adly,A (2591)-Gashimov,V (2759)/Bursa 2010}) (7. a5 c5 8. c3 bxc3 9. Nxc3 Nbd7 10. Qa4 Rc8 11. Ne5 a6 12. e4 dxe4 13. Bg5 h6 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Nxd7 Qxd7 16. Nxe4 Qxa4 17. Rxa4 {with a slightly better endgame, Istratescu,A (2651)-Iordachescu,V (2582)/Haguenau 2013}) 7... a5 {This seems to be new idea.} ({Other logical moves have also been tried here, such as} 7... bxc3 8. Nxc3 Be7 (8... Nbd7) 9. Qb3 Ba6 10. Ne5 O-O (10... c6 11. Rd1 Nfd7) 11. Re1 c6 12. e4 Nfd7 (12... Qb6 $1 13. Qxb6 axb6 14. b3 Rc8 $11) 13. Nf3 Bc4 14. Qc2 Na6 15. Bf1 Nb4 {with initiative, Fernandes,A (2395)-Iordachescu,V (2645)/ Istanbul 2012}) ({Too risky was} 7... dxc4 $2 8. Bg5 Nbd7 (8... c5) 9. Nbd2 Be7 (9... c3 10. bxc3 bxc3 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. Qb3 Bd5 13. Qxc3 c5 14. Qd3 cxd4 15. Rfc1 $44) 10. Nxc4 O-O 11. Qb3 c5 12. Rfd1 cxd4 13. Nxd4 {White tries to obtain serious control over the c6 square, Grigoryan,A (2608)-Pashikian,A (2616)/Martuni 2011}) 8. Bg5 ({A simple plan that would have led to a certain advantage was} 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bf4 c5 10. dxc5 Bxc5 11. Nbd2 O-O 12. Rc1 Nbd7 13. Nb3 Bb6 14. Nfd4) 8... Nbd7 9. Nbd2 Be7 10. Rc1 ({The same similar solution was possible here} 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Rc1 O-O 12. Nb3 Bd6 13. Re1 Re8 14. Bh3) 10... h6 ({Sooner or later Black will be forced to play the artificial } 10... c6) 11. Bxf6 {A tricky move.} ({Also strong was} 11. cxd5 hxg5 12. dxe6 fxe6 13. Nxg5) 11... Bxf6 ({After} 11... Nxf6 {White would have a very strong grip.} 12. cxd5 exd5 13. Ne5 O-O 14. Nb3 Bd6 15. Nc5) 12. Qc2 ({White would get a very nice center after} 12. cxd5 Bxd5 13. e4 Bb7 14. Qc2 O-O 15. Rfd1 Nb6 16. b3) 12... c6 13. e4 O-O {[#]} 14. e5 $1 {In such positions White has to close the center sooner or later because of Black's Bishop pair. A good decision by the World Champion.} Be7 15. c5 g5 $5 {Although this might seem risky, weakening the king's position, this is in fact a sound positional decision by Hou Yifan.} 16. h3 ({Also possible was a slightly different appraoch with} 16. Nb3 Kh8 17. Nfd2 Ba6 18. Rfe1 Rg8 19. Qd1) 16... Kg7 17. Rfe1 {[#]} Rh8 {In spite of the extremely tight space, Black starts to reshuffle her pieces on the eighth rank as in the famous game by the great Sam Lloyd!} 18. Bf1 Qg8 19. Re3 Kf8 {[#]} 20. Ne1 $1 {A very strong transfer of the Knight to g2, where it will support f2-f4.} h5 21. Ng2 Ke8 22. Kh2 $6 { Not necessary.} ({The immediate} 22. Bd3 {was better.}) 22... Nf8 23. Bd3 ({ Faster was} 23. f4 h4 24. g4 gxf4 25. Nxf4 Bg5 26. Rf3) 23... Ba6 24. f4 Bxd3 25. Qxd3 Qh7 {[#]} 26. Rf1 ({White would get slightly better chances after} 26. Qe2 Ng6 27. Rf1 h4 28. Qd3 hxg3+ 29. Rxg3 Qh5 30. Nb3) 26... Qxd3 27. Rxd3 gxf4 28. Nxf4 Ng6 29. Nb3 ({The same line as in the game was} 29. Nxg6 fxg6 30. Rdf3 Bg5 31. Nb3) 29... Bg5 ({White would have a serious advantage after} 29... Nxf4 $2 30. gxf4 Rg8 31. f5 Bh4 32. Rdf3) 30. Nxg6 fxg6 31. Rdf3 Ra7 32. Kg2 $6 ({ Better was the immediate} 32. Na1 Rg7 33. Nc2 Rgg8 34. Rf7 Rf8 35. Rxf8+ Rxf8 36. Rxf8+ Kxf8 37. Nxb4 $1 axb4 38. a5 {and the pawn cannot be stopped.}) 32... Rg8 {[#]} 33. Kf2 $2 ({The knight transfer} 33. Na1 {was still possible.} Rh7 34. Nc2 Rhh8 35. R1f2 Be7 36. Na1 $1) 33... Rf8 {After one rook is exchanged, a second one will soon follow. White's space advantage has been neutralized.} 34. Kg2 ({A bit better was} 34. Ke2) 34... Rxf3 35. Rxf3 {[#]} Bd8 $1 {Now the bishop frees the passive rook and a draw is inevitable.} 36. Nc1 g5 $1 37. Nd3 Rg7 38. g4 h4 $1 {It is necessary to close all the windows for White's pieces.} 39. Nc1 Rg8 ({Why not the immediate} 39... Rf7 {?}) 40. Nb3 Rg7 41. Kf2 Rf7 42. Rxf7 Kxf7 43. Kf3 Ke8 44. Kf2 Kf7 1/2-1/2

Current standings

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


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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scoobeedo scoobeedo 3/14/2016 07:47

It is of course true ... that Hou is playing with reduced power.

She get the world title without great risk.

It was clear that she will not roll over Mariya Muzychuk like a steamroller.

She had the match always under control. Mariya Muzychuk did well but she have not the play level to be a serious danger for Hou. There was no reason to play sharper and more agressive for Hou.

- - -

And now to your comparison with TATA Steel.

How can you compare this tournament with this match???

The opponents in TATA Steel play in a different world as Mariya Muzychuk.
Hou had to play always more agressive to stay alive. If she would have played in the same way as here in the WC, this players would have slaughtered her.

The difference of her opponents in TATA Steel and with Marya is around 250 Elo points. Hou had no choice as to play different.

- - -

Or lets say it in simple words. Her chess knowledge and feeling is enough to keep Mariya Muzychuk under control but it is not enough for the Top men!

But in TATA Steel ... she had in every game headache. She was in each game the underdog!
tigerprowl2 tigerprowl2 3/14/2016 02:17
I don't think her change in attire has to do with marketing. She simply could have won the game and the title then. So, she had to be ready for whatever would have happened in case. Now she gets to do the same on Monday.
Justjeff Justjeff 3/14/2016 07:12
In the first picture Yifan Hou is sitting in a very different sort of chair. She was dressed very fashionably too. Although this is not related to the games I'm surprised the article didn't mention this change in marketing, she did it well.
thlai80 thlai80 3/14/2016 06:49
It would be a tall order for Mariya to even win a single game from Hou Yifan in the remaining 2 games. Hou Yifan's world championship record (not counting the Fide KO) now stood at 9 wins and 14 draws with 0 lost.
digupagal digupagal 3/14/2016 02:47
"Hou is playing with reduced power ... and I understand it."

What a ridiculous thing to say, I can say the same thing about Anand playing in Gibraltor, can I?
Hou lost badly when she was given a chance in Tata Steel, she was playing with a reduced power there also??

She is nowhere in control, in fact she was a better player a year ago, when she was winning everything. Nowadays she loses also.

syuanjiang syuanjiang 3/13/2016 04:22
We should congratulate Mariya to put a good fight. Before the WC, I expected Yifan would crash her in 7 or 8 games. Mariya made it a close contest. Her preparation is really good and she is still improving. This match would give her a big boost of confidence. I expected that Mariya would be a main woman challenger to Yifan in the years to come. Watch out, Yifan!
scoobeedo scoobeedo 3/13/2016 05:20
Hou is playing with reduced power ... and I understand it.

- - - - - - -

The FIDE should stop to organize "world championship" tournaments which do not deserve this classification.

Lets be realistic:
The wc title from Muzychuk was not a REAL wc title. And she is (at this moment) not at a level to hold the REAL wc title.

Hawkman Hawkman 3/12/2016 10:56
Agreed. She's 1/2 a point away from victory with 2 games to go. It doesn't get much better than in a WC match.
fightingchess fightingchess 3/12/2016 10:38
@algorithmy there is nothing wrong with her. this is a world championship match and her opponent is sufficiently strong to put up a good fight.
raywu raywu 3/12/2016 10:32
@algorithmy, I thought so too, but it seems that Mariya adapted to Yifan and got a lot better near the end of the match. Anyways, she's doing better than Humpy and Anna.
ivan3ivanovich ivan3ivanovich 3/12/2016 10:22
12. cxd5!? looks to give white a chance to attack.

If 12. - exd5 then white will have two files under control and if 12. - Bxd5 then the c7 pawn will fall.
algorithmy algorithmy 3/12/2016 10:10
I thought that match would be a piece of cake for Yifan, what is wrong with her?? yes she is 2 points ahead but still not showing her best at all!