World Team Ch: China beat Russia in key women's match-up

by Antonio Pereira
3/10/2019 – Two devastating attacks gave the Chinese women a crucial victory over the defending champions from Russia, who now need other teams to cooperate — by beating China — in order for them to take gold. Meanwhile, in the open section, Russia took down Kazakhstan despite Sergei Karjakin's loss on board one and are still the sole leaders. England and India tied their direct encounter and are the only chasers, two match points behind. | Pictured: Lei Tingjie | Photo: David Llada / Official site

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On the offensive 

Things could not have gone better for the Russian women until round four. But they met their match on Saturday, as China's Tan Zhongyi and Lei Tingjie carried out crushing attacks to defeat Kateryna Lagno and Valentina Gunina with the white pieces. Aleksandra Goryachkina's fifth straight win was not enough to save Russia from a surely disappointing defeat. China now have a two-point lead with four rounds to go, but they still have to face Ukraine, India and the United States after the rest day. Everything is yet to be decided in Astana. 

Tan Zhongyi has done a great job filling the shoes of Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun as the leader of China's female team. She has won three and drawn two so far in the event for a remarkable 4/5 score. Her most important achievement, however, was beating Lagno in round five, a player that not only came from winning all her games in this event but also from having great results during the last semester. 

The Chinese prioritised activity after seeing Black's king castled on the queenside and even gave up two pawns in order to keep up her attack. By move 26, White's pieces were in perfect harmony while Black was struggling to make the best of her position:

 

White’s knight just arrived in the commanding e4-square, creating all sorts of threats against the uncoordinated opposite army. The game followed 26...d5 27.xg7 d8 28.c5+ (the devilish knight starts to wreak havoc) ♚c8 29.a1! b8 30.a6+ b7. Feel free to move the pieces on the diagram above.

And now the knight's journey yielded concrete results:

 

After 31.xc7! xc1 32.xc1 xc7 the queen invades Black's position with 33.a7+ and the game is over. It was a masterful performance by the 2017 women's world champion.

Time to check what went wrong | Photo: David Llada

A similar story was seen on board three, where Lei Tingjie took full advantage of Valentina Gunina's speculative play on the queenside to charge against Black's king and close the game with a flourish:

 

Black's pieces are simply too far from the action. Lei, therefore, can wrap up her attack with the appealing 37.f5+ and Gunina resigned with mate-in-one on the board.

This was Lei's third win in Astana. Apparently, the Chinese coach considers her to be a valuable asset when playing White, as she has been assigned this colour in four games so far. The 21-year-old seems to be well on her way to closing on her peak rating of 2545 (her live rating is 2487), achieved exactly a year ago after racking up good performances in Sevilla and Gibraltar.     

The Chinese squad | Photo: David Llada

The other relevant match for the standings, Ukraine v. Kazakhstan, ended up with draws on all four boards, leaving the team led by the Muzychuk sisters a point behind their Russian colleagues. The Ukrainians will face Russia in round seven and are scheduled to play China in Thursday's final round.

Kazakhstan versus Ukraine | Photo: David Llada

Standings after Round 5

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 China 10
2 Russia 8
3 Ukraine 7
4 Georgia 6
5 India 6
6 United States of America 5
7 Kazakhstan 4
8 Armenia 2
9 Hungary 2
10 Egypt 0

All games

 

Russia two points ahead in the open section

Long technical struggles gave Alexander Grischuk, Dmitry Andreikin and Vladislav Artemiev wins in their encounters against their Kazakh counterparts. With match victory already secured, however, top board Sergey Karjakin lost the first game for anybody on his team from an equal, albeit tricky, position against Rinat Jumabayev:

 

Only White can win here, with his king, rook and bishop active and ready to harass the black monarch. However, Karjakin could have kept on fighting with a move like 61...e1 (placing the rook on d1 or f1 also works), while his choice of 61...xb4 simply gives up the game. Jumabayev found the winning 62.a7 rather quickly:

 

Black went for 62...d7 as there is no way to save mate with normal manoeuvres — the white bishop controls b7 and f7, the only roads for the king to escape the mating threats. Jumabayev captured the bishop and went on to win the game after 68 moves.

Rinat Jumabayev | Photo: David Llada

With China rather far from the leaders, India, England and the United States are vying to give the Russians a run for their money. For the Americans, round five was disappointing, as they lost 3:1 against Azerbaijan, while England and India traded blows to remain two match points behind the leaders. Luke McShane defeated Krishnan Sasikiran after the Indian miscalculated in the middlegame, but 26-year-old Sethuraman restored the balance in the match by squeezing Gawain Jones' position:

 

All positional trumps favour White and the exchange sacrifice 54.xe5 proves it. After 54...dxe5 55.e7+ g8, 56.xb5 gains a piece due to 56...xb5 57.e8+, forking king and rook. Jones played 56...d4 instead, but nonetheless resigned after 57.g4.

India and England might become the surprise winners | Photo: David Llada

Sunday will be a rest day, and the action will resume on Monday, when Russia will face resurgent Azerbaijan, India will have a tough task against Kazakhstan and England will try to get a win against the young Iranian squad.

Standings after Round 5

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Russia 9
2 India 7
3 England 7
4 United States of America 6
5 Iran 5
6 China 5
7 Kazakhstan 4
8 Sweden 4
9 Azerbaijan 3
10 Egypt 0

All games

 

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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