Women's World Ch: Favourites fright

by Macauley Peterson
11/6/2018 – The Chinese are off to a flying start at the Women's World Championship knockout in Khanty Mansiysk. Of the seven players from the East Asian powerhouse who have reached the second round, the three playing white each scored a full point on Tuesday's round opener. The four black players are well positioned after earning draws. Rating favourite Anna Muzychuk scored a win with the black pieces in the top Russia vs Ukraine contest. | Pictured: Mobina Alinasab | Photos: Official site

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Chinese strong

Mobina Alinasab (pictured above) is setting herself us as a favourites-slayer at the Women's World Championship. In the first knockout round, the 18-year-old Iranian eliminated IM Elisabeth Paehtz, the world number 13 among women. In today's game, the first of the second round, she upset eight-time Polish Champion Monika Socko. Other unexpected wins came from Zhu Jineer, who surprisingly shut out Lela Javakhishvili in the first round and won once again versus Russian Champion Natalija Pogonina, while Zhai Mo toppled Nino Batsiashvili.

World Champion Ju Wenjun is in good stead after dispatching seven-time US Champion GM Irina Krush, and Ju was glad to sign a few autographs afterwards.

The middlegame was level and the players looked headed for a draw after the queens came off, but Ju had a tiny nibble thanks to a mobile kingside pawn majority. She managed to exchange into a favourable rook and knight ending in which she was able to secure a passed e-pawn. Her advantage steadily grew until Krush made a fatal mistake on move 36. 

 

Ju had spent 15 minutes on her previous move, but now Krush is confronted with a tough choice. Only with 36...b6 can she continue to fight. But she played 36...a6? White's rook is going to reach d7 and the difference is that it is far more critical for the b7-pawn to fall than the a7-pawn, as black can gain some measure of counterplay by advancing c5 to obtain her own passed pawn. For instance, 37.Rd2 Rg3+ 38.Kh7 Rg5 39.Rd7+ Ke8 40.Rxa7 c5!

In the game, 37.Rd2 Rg3+ 38.Kh7 Rg5 39.Rd7+ Ke8 40.Rxb7 Rxf5 41.Kxg7 gave Ju an overwhelming advantage as Black's split pawns are sitting ducks.

playing hall

The playing hall is down to 32

Incidentally, the Chinese proved to be as solid as the Great Wall with the black pieces as well. Ni Shiqun and Lei Tingjie held GMs Alexandra Kosteniuk and Nana Dzagnidze respectively. Tan Zhongyi, the rating-favourite against Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim from Uzbekistan, also drew her first game with black as did Zhao Xue against Zhansaya Abdumalik.

A hit and a miss for Muzychuks

Second seed Anna Muzychuk succeeded in winning with black against Anastasia Bodnaruk and looks likely to advance to the third round tomorrow. Her sister and former World Champion Mariya Muzychuk, however, lost with white to Ekaterina Atalik. In an instructive minor piece ending (worthy of the Karsten Mueller treatment), Muzychuk was a bit worse thanks to Atalik's passed h-pawn, but it was nothing serious until... 

 

You can play through the moves on the live diagram!

Muzychuk played 35.Ne5. It was vital that Muzychuk bring her king towards the kingside with 35.Kc2. But it takes a bit of work to figure out why. The main factor is that the pawn can't simply make a run for it. After 35...h4 36.Ne5 h3 37.Ng4 stops the pawn in its tracks as 37...Bg3 fails spectacularly:

 

Can you see why? Try it out against the engine!

38.Nf6+ wins the loose bishop by force thanks to a fork or discovered check!

35.Kc2 also leaves the e5-square vacant for White's bishop after the move played in the game 35...Ne2 and from e5 the bishop is well placed in this endgame on the h2-b8 diagonal. On 35...Nxf3 36. Kd3 gains a tempo due to the threat of Ke2. But in the game, with White's knight on e5, she was forced to play 36.Bd2 instead:

 

Black's best way to make progress in this position, which Atalik missed, is 36...f6! when White needs to strongly consider giving up her knight with 37.Ng4. Atalik played 37...Bd4 straight away and now once again 37.Ng4 is a surprising resource, but practically forced! White's extra pawns keep her in the game. After 37.Nc6 Black is winning fastest with 37...h4, but Atalik's ...Bf6 was also good enough with the h-pawn advancing on the next move. Muzychuk decided to sacrifice her bishop to stop the pawn, but the knight is a clearly inferior piece to have left compared to the Ng4 sacrificial concept.

More twists and turns ensued in this endgame, as Muzychuk struggled to defend with her a lonely king and knight. Black's f-pawn stayed on f7 until as late as move 89 before finally getting rolling, but by then there was nothing left but to hope that Atalik could not mate with bishop and knight (it turns out she could and did on move 122!).

Anna Muzychuk is keeping any eye out, perhaps for her sister

Results of Round 2.1

Ju Wenjun (CHN) 1-0 Krush Irina (USA)
Zawadzka Jolanta (POL) ½-½ Koneru Humpy (IND)
Lagno Kateryna (RUS) ½-½ Hoang Thanh Trang (HUN)
Bodnaruk Anastasia (RUS) 0-1 Muzychuk Anna (UKR)
Kosteniuk Alexandra (RUS) ½-½ Ni Shiqun (CHN)
Galliamova Alisa (RUS) 1-0 Goryachkina Aleksandra (RUS)
Muzychuk Mariya (UKR) 0-1 Atalik Ekaterina (TUR)
Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (UZB) ½-½ Tan Zhongyi (CHN)
Gunina Valentina (RUS) ½-½ Ushenina Anna (UKR)
Socko Monika (POL) 0-1 Alinasab Mobina (IRI)
Dzagnidze Nana (GEO) ½-½ Lei Tingjie (CHN)
Khotenashvili Bela (GEO) ½-½ Harika Dronavalli (IND)
Stefanova Antoaneta (BUL) ½-½ Saduakassova Dinara (KAZ)
Zhu Jineer (CHN) 1-0 Pogonina Natalija (RUS)
Abdumalik Zhansaya (KAZ) ½-½ Zhao Xue (CHN)
Zhai Mo (CHN) 1-0 Batsiashvili Nino (GEO)

All games of Round 2.1

 

Andre Schulz contributed reporting

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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