WWch Final G1: At last

by Albert Silver
4/3/2015 – After over two weeks of relentless competition, the final match has arrived. It is hard to imagine the toll this has had on the players, since this is not like a two week tournament, each two games determined whether they would stay or go home. At last, only two warriors still stand, and both went through their own trials of fire. Report, game and player impressions.

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Tournament conditions

The Women's World Chess Championship takes place from March 17 – April 7 in Sochi, Russia. The knock-out tournament is attended by 64 players, including the former World Champions Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia), Anna Ushenina (Ukraine), and Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), the three-time Russian champion Valentina Gunina, the World Vice-Champion Humpy Koneru (India), as well as other leading grandmasters. Unfortunately, the reigning champion Hou Yifan was unable to come for personal reasons, but as the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix she will still be able to challenge the new champion to a match.

The first five rounds consist of mini-matches of two games played at 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game and a 30-second increment per move. The final match will consist of four games.

In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by a series of tiebreak games: two rapid games of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score remains equal, the players then proceed to two more games played at 10 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score continues tied a final mini-match will be played of two blitz games of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds per move. Finally, an Armageddon game will be played to decide the winner in which White has five minutes and Black has four minutes, with a three-second increment per move after move 61. Black will be declared the victor if the game is drawn.

Final - game one

After over two weeks, only Natalia Pogonina and Mariya Muzychuk remain

Pogonina had white in the first game. A fashionable line of the Meran variation arose, which led to a game that was seemingly calm on the surface, but that was anything but that in reality. It was just enough tension to keep the game moving forward, and was a worthy start of the fight for the title.

A calm, almost bored expression hides the turmoil underneath

The players were understandably tense, though neither showed this in the game, and one would have thought this was merely a day like any other. The board was a different story, and both Pogonina and Muzychuk played a composed game in which Black was in danger only once, though that is all it takes. It ended in a draw after the life had been squeezed out of it.

Though Pogonina missed a move, it was not clearly decisive as analysis shows

Game one

(numbers in parentheses are thinking time in seconds):

[Event "FIDE WWCC 2015"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2015.04.02"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Pogonina, Natalija"] [Black "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D45"] [WhiteElo "2456"] [BlackElo "2526"][PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 1. d4 {(0)} d5 {(0)} 2. c4 {(0)} c6 {(0)} 3. Nc3 {(0)} Nf6 {(0)} 4. e3 {(0)} e6 {(16)} 5. Nf3 {(0)} Nbd7 {(11)} 6. Qc2 {(2)} Bd6 {(17)} 7. Bd3 {(8)} O-O {(57)} 8. O-O {(7)} dxc4 {(108)} 9. Bxc4 {(5)} b5 {(7)} 10. Be2 {(10)} a6 {(130)} 11. Rd1 {(25)} Qc7 {(157)} 12. e4 {(36)} e5 {(67)} 13. dxe5 {(39)} Nxe5 {(9)} 14. h3 {(14)} Re8 {(339)} 15. Bg5 {(534)} Nxf3+ {(889)} 16. Bxf3 {(55)} Be6 {(44)} (16... Nd7 17. Rac1 Ne5 18. Be2 Be6 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. exd5 c5 21. b3 Rac8 22. Be3 Qb7 23. a4 c4 24. axb5 axb5 25. Qb2 Qe7 26. bxc4 bxc4 27. Qd4 Bc5 28. Qe4 g6 29. Bxc5 Qxc5 30. Qd4 c3 31. d6 Qxd4 32. Rxd4 Nc6 33. Rc4 Rxe2 34. R4xc3 Rd2 35. Rxc6 Rd8 36. g3 R2xd6 37. Rxd6 Rxd6 38. h4 h5 {1/2-1/2 (38) Kunte,A (2476) -Ter Sahakyan,S (2568) Chennai 2013}) 17. Rac1 {(1134)} Rad8 {(588) Both players have completed their development, and for all purposes Black has equalized.} 18. b3 {(210)} Bh2+ {(820)} 19. Kf1 {(530)} Be5 {(997)} 20. Be3 { (283)} ({The flashy} 20. Nd5 $5 cxd5 21. Qxc7 Bxc7 22. Rxc7 dxe4 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. Bxf6 gxf6 25. Bxe4 {doesn't promise a lot.}) 20... h6 {(398)} 21. Ne2 { (201)} Rxd1+ {(62)} 22. Rxd1 {(48)} Bc8 {(144)} 23. Kg1 {(322)} Bb7 {(112)} 24. g3 {(846)} Rd8 {(591)} 25. Rxd8+ {(264)} Qxd8 {(2)} 26. Bg2 {(19)} Bc7 $6 {(49) Not best, and could lead to trouble for Black.} (26... Bd6 27. f4 Bf8 {would lead to a simple draw in all likelihood.}) 27. Nf4 {(412)} (27. Nd4 $1 {would have given more chances for Black to slip.} Bb6 (27... Qd7 $6 28. Nf5 {and now Black has some serious issues on the dark squares. The c5-square is just begging to be taken over. The c6-pawn is also indirectly under fire once the bishop is brought in, since after a capture Ne7+ can recapture.}) 28. Nxc6 Bxc6 29. Qxc6 Bxe3 30. fxe3 {and Black has some serious coordination issues to resolve} Qb8 31. Kf2 a5 32. Qa6 Qd8 33. Qxb5 Qd2+ 34. Qe2 Qc3 $14) 27... Nd7 { (70)} 28. Nd3 {(32)} Bb6 {(123)} 29. Nc5 {(195)} Bc8 {(19)} 30. Nxd7 {(227)} Bxd7 {(37)} 31. Bc5 {(184)} Bxc5 {(59)} 32. Qxc5 {(4)} Qa5 {(9)} 33. a3 {(309)} Be6 {(64)} 34. e5 {(36)} Qe1+ {(193)} 35. Kh2 {(9)} Bxb3 {(13)} 36. Bxc6 {(34)} Be6 {(24)} 37. Bg2 {(117)} Qe2 {(26)} 38. Qb6 {(87)} Qxe5 {(34)} 39. Qxa6 {(21) } Qc5 {(19)} 40. Qa8+ {(0)} Kh7 {(0)} 1/2-1/2

In photography there is a term known as "shoot and pray", usually used
for situations where the photographer is unsure how the image will turn
out. Here they decided to take it literally.

A joint press-conference

Anastasia Karlovich: My first question is about the atmosphere: were your comfortable playing in an empty hall?

Mariya Muzychuk: Yes, it felt normal, everything went as usual. Nothing has chanced.

Natalia Pogonina: It was unusual in the beginning – too much attention, too many cameras. In ten minutes it went back to normal.

AK: Speaking of the game, were you satisfied with the outcome of the opening?

Tournament press officer Anastasia Karlovich speaking with Natalia Pogonina

NP: I was generally satisfied. Don't know what else can I tell, bearing in mind that later I will play White again.

MM: To be honest, I did not expect 20.Be3. Of course I repeated everything during my preparation, but there were so many variations, they all got mixed, and I could not recall the exact response.

AK: I am interested about the position after 16...Be6. Could White take on f6 and double black pawns?

MM: As far as I know, this move is not dangerous for Black, so I was not worried about it.

NP: I did not see any good way of arranging my pieces after that move. The bishop on f3 is blocked by my pawn, and I have some weaknesses on the dark squares.

Elmira Mirzoeva interviewing Mariya Muzychuk

AK: What were the critical moments of the game?

NP: I was told I could play 27.Nd4 instead of 27.Nf4. I saw that move but evaluated the resulting position incorrectly.

MM: I was short on time. After 27.Nd4 I planned to play 27...Qd7, but cannot say I studied it deeply, because it was unclear what move Natalia chooses. My idea was to carry out ...Bb6 and ...с5.

AK: At what point had Black equalized the game?

MM: I think after 32...Qa5 33.a3 Be6 it became completely equal.

NP: I agree, there is nothing White can do there.

Kirillos Zangalis: For both of you this is a first match of such importance in your career. Do you feel any extra pressure or do you treat every game like a regular game in a regular tournament?

MM: Of course the pressure is very high, but I wasn't too nervous today. I don't know how to explain it.

NP: I got focused on the game rather quickly. In the beginning it was kind of stressful, but stress went by as soon as I concentrated on the game. I did not think that I was playing a World Championship match.

Goran Urosevic: Natalia, you won many medals with the Russian team. Is there a difference between working with many coaches during the team events and playing here, being assisted by only one coach?

NP: I can only note that I know Pavel Vladimirovich Lobach, who helps me here, since 1998. We work together for a very long time, we are a very good team, and I feel very comfortable. 

AK: Mariya, do you know anything about coverage of our championship in Ukrainian media? Did anybody try to contact you? 

MM: I saw some information on the internet and I know there are many articles about the championship. As far as I know, some people tried to contact me, but right now I want to concentrate on chess, and my sister takes care of everything else including contacts with media.

AK: So Anna in fact works as your manager here, right?

MM: Yes, it appears so.

Report by Albert Silver and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos by Eteri Kublashvili, Anastasia Karlovich, and Vladimir Barsky

Final results

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 ½                 0.5
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 ½                 0.5


Round 1 - 64 players
March 17 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 18 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 19 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 2 - 32 players
March 20 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 21 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 22 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 3 - 16 players
March 23 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 24 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 25 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 4 - 8 players
March 26 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 27 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 28 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 5 - 4 players
March 29 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 30 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 31 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Rest day - April, 1
Round 6 - 2 players
April 2 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
April 3 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
April 4 Game 3 3:00 p.m. local time
April 5 Game 4 3:00 p.m. local time
April 6 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
April 7 Closing Ceremony*  
*Closing Ceremony can be shifted to
April 6 in the absence of tie breaks


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 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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