Women World Championship: Looking back (2/2)

by Elshan Moradiabadi
3/15/2017 – Concluding his recap on the Women World Championship, the focus now moves forward to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and lastly the standout qualities in Tan Zhongyi, the new world champion. GM Elshan Moradiabadi provides his analysis of the turning points of missed or hit shots that ultimately decided the title.

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All photos by David Llada

Continued from Part One

Knowing your classics matters a lot in rapid chess!

It is no revelation to say that when playing in a quicker format than classical chess  we rely more on our heuristics and instant judgement. Thus, on top of all the deep opening and mental preparation, one needs to have a good grasp of the classics in chess for the sake of refreshing the ‘cores’!

Here, in a crucial battle of the 2nd round, the queen of tie-breaks, Harika Dronavali, who played tie breaks in every single match she played in Tehran, outclassed her young and talented opponent World Junior champion Dinara Sadukassova from Kazakhstan in an endgame which seemed completely ‘benign’ for black. Sadukassova failed to realize all of the characteristics of the position and Harika gradually ground her down for a very important victory.

When class trumps youth

Harika Dronavali vs Dinara Sadukassova (quarter-final)

[Event "WCh Women 2017"] [Site "Tehran IRI"] [Date "2017.02.16"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Harika, Dronavalli"] [Black "Saduakassova, Dinara"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B46"] [WhiteElo "2539"] [BlackElo "2428"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r5/1p2kpp1/7p/p2Pp3/n3P1P1/3B4/4K2P/1R6 w - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2017.02.11"] {[#]} 35. Rxb7+ {The position is just fine for Black. Although she has a weaker pawn structure and White has a strong passed pawn on d5, her strong knight and White's bad bishop compensate White's spatial superiority. However, Dinara plays too passively and without a plan from here.} Kf8 (35... Kd6 $1 { Active defense is always the best solution to secure an endgame. After} 36. Rxf7 Rc7 37. Rxc7 Kxc7 38. Kd2 Nc5 39. Bc2 g5 40. Kc3 Kb6 41. Kc4 Nb7 {The knight lands comfortably on d6 and the draw is inevitable.}) 36. Ra7 Nc5 37. Rxa5 Nb3 (37... Ke7 $1 {even without the pawn on a5 Black can draw with active defense} 38. Ra7+ Kd6 39. Rxf7 Rb8 40. Bc2 Rb2 41. Kd1 Rb4 42. Rxg7 Nxe4 43. Rg6+ Kxd5 44. Rxh6 Nf2+) 38. Ra7 Nd4+ 39. Ke3 Rd8 40. h4 Ke8 41. Be2 Rd7 42. Ra6 Rb7 43. Bd1 $1 {Suddenly White's bishop becomes extremely dangerous and from here till the end of the game Harika dictates hereself upon her young Kazak opponent.} Rb8 44. Ba4+ Kf8 45. Ra7 Rd8 46. h5 Rb8 47. Kd3 Rc8 48. Bd7 Rd8 49. Kc4 Nf3 50. Bf5 Nh4 51. Kc5 Nxf5 52. gxf5 Ke8 53. d6 Rb8 54. Kc6 Rc8+ 55. Rc7 Ra8 56. Re7+ Kf8 57. Rxe5 {A crucial victory for Harika} 1-0

Luck matters only if you exploit it

Anna Muzychuk was on fire all the way to the final. However, her path was not as smooth as her results would suggest (9/10 is amazing isn’t it?). In the semi-final, against the experienced ex-world champion, Anna was in deep trouble the entire game until Kosteniuk blundered in time-pressure. Still, what was of particular interest was Anna’s tactical alertness when she spotted the blunder in less than a minute in a severe mutual time-pressure.

The score did not tell the whole story and Anna Muzychuk was in trouble in game one of her semifinal against former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk

Alexandra Kosteniuk vs Anna Muzychuk (semifinal)

[Event "WCh Women 2017"] [Site "Tehran IRI"] [Date "2017.02.23"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Kosteniuk, Alexandra"] [Black "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C07"] [WhiteElo "2549"] [BlackElo "2558"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "128"] [EventDate "2017.02.11"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. dxc5 Nf6 6. Ngf3 Bxc5 7. Bc4 Qc6 8. Qe2 O-O 9. Nb3 Bd6 10. Nbd4 Qc7 11. Nb5 Qa5+ 12. Bd2 Bb4 13. c3 Be7 14. Bf4 a6 15. b4 Qa4 16. Nc7 Ra7 17. Nd4 Nc6 18. Nc2 Nb8 19. Nxa6 bxa6 20. Bxb8 Ra8 21. Be5 Bb7 22. Nd4 Bd5 23. Bb3 Bxb3 24. Nxb3 Rfc8 25. O-O Qb5 26. Qe1 Rc4 27. Nd2 Rc6 28. a4 Qd3 29. Nf3 Rac8 30. Bd4 Nd7 31. Rd1 Qf5 32. Qe2 Rc4 33. Kh1 R4c6 34. Rd3 g6 35. Rfd1 R6c7 36. h3 h5 37. Re3 Bf6 38. Bxf6 Nxf6 39. Nd4 Qg5 40. Rg3 (40. Qxa6 {looks winning for White.}) 40... Qh4 41. Nxe6 Rxc3 42. Rxc3 Rxc3 43. Nd4 (43. Kg1 $3 {would have won the game in style for Kosteniuk!} fxe6 ( 43... Qc4 44. Qe5 Rd3 45. Rxd3 Qxd3 46. Kh2 {Another amazing move by the king seals the deal for White!} (46. Qxf6 Qd1+ 47. Kh2 Qd6+ 48. f4 {also wins})) (43... Qxb4 44. Qe5 $18) 44. Qe5 Rc4 (44... Nd5 45. Qxe6+ $18) (44... Rc6 45. Qb8+ Kh7 46. Qb7+ $18) 45. g3 {and White wins the knight and the game!}) 43... Rc8 44. Nf3 Qxb4 45. Qxa6 Qc3 46. Qb7 Re8 47. Kg1 Qc2 48. Ra1 Qc3 49. Rb1 Kg7 50. g3 Qa5 51. Rb4 Rd8 52. Qb5 Qa8 53. Qe2 Re8 54. Qd1 Ne4 55. Qd4+ Kg8 {[#] Kosteniuk is still a pawn up with good winning chances, but what happens next is a tragedy for the ex-world champion.} 56. Ne5 $4 {A terrible blunder, overly optimistic!} Ng5 $1 {Suddenly, White's king is weak and exposed! Anna finishes the game in a flourish} 57. Rb3 Nxh3+ 58. Kh2 Nxf2 59. Qxf2 Rxe5 60. Qb2 Qxa4 61. Rf3 Qb5 62. Qc3 Re2+ 63. Kg1 Qb1+ 64. Rf1 Qb6+ 0-1

A world champion never gives up!

A story on a tournament would not be complete without talking about its champion. Tan Zhongyi went to Tehran only as the 3rd highest rated Chinese player, behind both Ju Wenjun and the experienced Zhao Xue. While Ju Wenjun had gone to Tehran right after a great success at Gibraltar, crossing 2600 for the first time in her life, all eyes was were fixed on her and Anna Muzychuk. While these players were winning their respective mini-matches one after the other, Tan Zhongyi made it to the quarter-final, with considerable difficulty. However, the turning moment was when she beat Ju Wenjun in a sensational game on the black side of a Catalan. Throughout the coverage of the Women World Championship, Tan Zhongyi’s excellent preparation was brought up on numerous occasions, but here I want to address two very important distinguished characteristics of the new world champion: Consistency and resilience.

It was as nerve-wracking as could be, but Tan Zhongyi came through when it mattered once again

To appreciate her untiring resourcefulness I give you her Armageddon game against Harika in the semi-final. After losing the second game of a classical match in a long 100+ move game, and losing the first rapid game of the tie-break as early as move 17 (she had not resigned but was dead lost), one would have expected things to be almost at its end for this talented lady. However, she managed to pull back with high fighting spirit and leveled the match, finally leading to a decisive Armageddon.

An early central pawn blunder by Tan on the black side of an Armageddon seemed like a ‘Goodbye’ for Tan Zhongyi but she kept on playing with a minute less on the clock, finally escaping her fate, thanks to a perpetual check. This was as good as a win, since she was black and had drawing odds.

Harika Dronavalli vs Tan Zhongyi (semifinal - TB Armageddon)

[Event "FIDE WWCC 2017"] [Site "Tehran"] [Date "2017.02.25"] [Round "5.9"] [White "Harika, Dronavalli"] [Black "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2539"] [BlackElo "2502"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "197"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 e6 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. O-O Be7 5. d3 b6 6. Nbd2 Bb7 7. Re1 Nbd7 8. c3 O-O 9. Qc2 Re8 10. b3 a5 11. a4 e5 12. Bb2 c5 13. e4 d4 14. Nc4 Bf8 15. h3 Ba6 16. Ncd2 Rc8 17. c4 g6 18. Rf1 Bh6 19. Rae1 Rf8 20. Bc1 Qc7 21. Nh2 Rce8 22. Kh1 Kh8 23. Ndf3 Bg7 24. Bd2 Bc8 25. Qc1 Ng8 26. Nh4 Bf6 27. Bg5 Bxg5 28. Qxg5 Qd8 29. Qd2 Ndf6 30. N4f3 Nh5 31. Ng4 Nhf6 32. Nfxe5 Nxg4 33. Nxg4 Bxg4 34. hxg4 Nf6 35. g5 Ng4 36. Bh3 Ne5 37. f4 Nc6 38. Kg2 Kg7 39. Bg4 Rh8 40. Bf3 h6 41. gxh6+ Rxh6 42. Rh1 Reh8 43. e5 Rxh1 44. Rxh1 Rxh1 45. Kxh1 Qd7 46. Kg2 Ne7 47. Be4 Nf5 48. Bxf5 Qxf5 49. Qe2 g5 50. Qf3 g4 51. Qf1 Qh5 52. Kf2 Qh7 53. Kg1 f6 54. Qe2 Qh3 55. exf6+ Kxf6 56. Qe5+ Kf7 {Both players still had over 2 minutes here. There is no argument on the stress and nerves of the situation.} 57. Qe1 ({However, White had a two move win here with} 57. Qd5+ Ke7 (57... Ke8 58. Qe6+ Kd8 59. Qf6+ Kd7 60. Qh4) 58. Qg5+ Ke6 59. Qh4 {and after the queen exchange, there is no hope left.}) 57... Kf6 58. Qe5+ Kf7 {The same win is on the board once more.} 59. f5 Qh6 {Black threatens to invade with the queen, but White could stop it easily enough.} 60. Qc7+ (60. Qf4 $1 {and the pawn endgame after} Qxf4 61. gxf4 {is simple.} Kf6 (61... Kg7 62. Kg2 Kf6 63. Kf2 $1 Ke7 64. Kg3 {and it is game over.}) 62. Kg2 Kxf5 63. Kg3 $18) 60... Ke8 61. Qb8+ (61. Qf4 $1) 61... Kf7 62. Qc7+ (62. Qf4) 62... Kf8 63. Qd8+ Kf7 64. Qc7+ Kf8 65. Qf4 Qh3 66. Qd6+ Kf7 67. Qe6+ Kf8 68. Qd6+ (68. Qf6+ Kg8 69. Qh4 { was 1-0}) 68... Kf7 69. f6 $4 {A tragic blunder that throws the win clean away. Now, only a miracle can save her match.} Qh6 70. Qe7+ Kg6 {and the problem is now clear. There is no f7 advance of the pawn since the black queen will rain checks on the white king, and if the queens are exchanged to put an end to that, Kxf7 is a draw.} 71. Qe4+ Kxf6 72. Qc6+ Kg7 73. Qd7+ Kf8 74. Qc8+ Kf7 75. Qf5+ {White is in desperation mode since a draw is a loss, and therefore has nothing to lose. It is all or nothing} Ke7 76. Qe5+ Kf7 77. Qd5+ Ke7 78. Qe4+ Kf7 79. Qxg4 Qe3+ 80. Kg2 Qxd3 81. Qf4+ Ke6 82. Qg4+ Kd6 83. Qf4+ Kc6 84. g4 Qc2+ 85. Kg3 d3 86. Qe4+ Kc7 87. g5 Qxb3 88. Qf4+ Kb7 89. Qf3+ Kc7 90. g6 Qxc4 91. Qe3 Qg8 92. Qf4+ Kc6 93. Qe4+ Kc7 94. Qxd3 c4 95. Qf5 c3 96. Qf7+ Qxf7 97. gxf7 c2 98. f8=Q c1=Q 99. Qe7+ 0-1

Although the game had many errors due to the time control and tension, what stood out was Tan Zhongyi never giving up. It reminded me of the World Champion’s quote:

 “Some people think that if their opponent plays a beautiful game, it’s OK to lose. I don’t. You have to be merciless.“  -- Magnus Carlsen

Tan Zhongyi seemed to agree wholeheartedly with Carlsen, not worrying about how well she played or not, but that she prevailed in the end. A true champion!



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 14 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.


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