WWch Final G2: Muzychuk takes lead

by Albert Silver
4/4/2015 – The second game probably caused no end of heart attacks from fans of both players. The nerves, compounded by more than two weeks of non-stop play without break, began to show, and after a highly theoretical Ruy Lopez Breyer, Muzychuk set up a huge attack, while missing winner after winner. Would Pogonina regroup and defend, or would Muzychuk finally cash in? It was drama to the end.

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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 two

After a solid game with seemingly composed players, the weight of the moment began to show and it led to a game full of mistakes, imprecisions and thrilling combat. Perfection looks nice on paper, but in a spectator sport it is overrated.

The players managed to surprise each other, with Muzychuk playing a Ruy Lopez she rarely
ever does, and Pogonina playing the Breyer, a first in her career

It started with a highly theoretical Ruy Lopez Breyer, in which the players rattled off seventeen moves of theory. Well, perhaps 'rattled off' is a bit of an exaggeration. As will be seen in the game's notes, the times per move are also available, saved in the Playchess broadcasts, and several moves of well-beaten paths had the players thinking for many minutes before playing. Two, three, four, and five minutes, and while that might not seem like so much, they quickly add up. The first novelty of the game was played by Natalia Pogonina, but everything suggests it was not part of deep preparation as she labored over it for over seventeen minutes.

Pogonina played a Breyer for the first time and in a World Championship. Gutsy.

As of move 21.a5, Muzychuk made her intentions clear, by burning the queenside bridges, and the kingside attack became the only really option to play for the win. A strange 26....Nf8 by Black left the knight out of the game, and preventing the rook for taking up residence on a good defensive square, and rather than acknowledge it, it stayed they for better or for worse for the next 20 odd moves. To claim this is what caused her defeat, would be to overstate it, but it did not help.

Anna Muzychuk has been extremely supportive of her sister

The build-up of the attack was done with great care and attention, perhaps overly so, as the opportunity for more energetic measures presented itself more than once. While those using their engines for their eyes only saw question marks, for those following the drama, the question was whether Black would be able to put up a defense in time, before White finally broke in decisively.

It was hardly the most subtle approach, but Muzychuk's attack eventually became unstoppable

The question was answered with a no, unfortunately for Pogonina's many fans, as the position was already explosive and the number of winning shots threatened to outnumber the non-winners. Muzychuk launched he assault, and took home the first point.

Game two

(numbers in parentheses are thinking time in seconds):

[Event "FIDE WWCC 2015"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2015.04.03"] [Round "6.2"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Black "Pogonina, Natalija"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C95"] [WhiteElo "2526"] [BlackElo "2456"] [PlyCount "115"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 1. e4 {(0s)} e5 {(0s)} 2. Nf3 {(0s)} Nc6 {(0s)} 3. Bb5 {(0s)} a6 {(408s)} 4. Ba4 {(18s)} Nf6 {(6s)} 5. O-O {(23s)} b5 {(8s)} 6. Bb3 {(13s)} Be7 {(67s)} 7. Re1 {(72s)} d6 {(97s)} 8. c3 {(23s)} O-O {(13s)} 9. h3 {(63s)} Nb8 {(41s)} 10. d4 {(323s)} Nbd7 {(7s)} 11. a4 {(146s)} Bb7 {(134s)} 12. Nbd2 {(45s)} c5 { (142s)} 13. d5 {(85s)} c4 {(186s)} 14. Bc2 {(33s)} Nc5 {(8s)} 15. Nf1 {(161s)} Re8 {(237s)} 16. Ng3 {(374s)} g6 {(136s)} 17. Be3 {(320s)} Qc7 {(92s)} (17... Nfd7 18. Qd2 Qc7 19. Nh2 h5 20. Rf1 bxa4 21. Qe2 h4 22. Nh1 Nf6 23. Qf3 Bc8 24. Bxa4 Nxa4 25. Rxa4 Bd7 26. Ra2 Kg7 27. Rfa1 a5 28. Nf1 Nh7 29. Qe2 f5 30. f3 f4 31. Bd2 Nf6 32. Be1 Nh5 33. Nd2 Rec8 34. Bf2 Ng3 35. Qe1 Rcb8 36. Kh2 a4 37. Bg1 Qc8 38. Nf2 Bd8 39. Nd1 Ra5 40. Bf2 Kf7 41. Bg1 Qa6 42. Bf2 Ke8 43. Bg1 { 1/2-1/2 (43) Lutz,C (2595)-Van der Sterren,P (2569) Germany 2001}) 18. Nd2 { (1041s) The first new move, and judging by the sheer amount of time spent, over 17 minutes, it seems unlikely it was a prepared one.} Bf8 {(641s)} 19. Qe2 {(271s)} Nfd7 {(209s)} 20. f3 {(585s)} Nb6 {(329s)} 21. a5 {(68s) The biggest problem with this move is that the queenside operations for white are shut down, and the pawn is a potential weakness. It pretty much forces White to focus on the kingside.} Nbd7 {(28s)} ({Obviously not} 21... Nba4 $2 22. Bxa4 Nxa4 23. Nxc4 $1 $16) 22. Nh1 {(33s)} Be7 {(386s)} 23. g4 {(234s)} Qd8 {(145s)} 24. Qf2 {(308s)} Bh4 {(320s)} 25. Ng3 {(3s)} Rc8 {(13s)} 26. Kg2 {(61 s)} Nf8 $2 {(314s) It is hard to explain this move. The knight has nowhere to go from f8 except back to d7, and it is not doing anything useful at its new home either.} 27. Rf1 {(110s)} Bg5 {(176s)} 28. f4 {(537s)} exf4 {(161s)} 29. Bxf4 { (18s)} Rc7 {( 160s)} 30. Bxg5 {(304s)} Qxg5 {(5s)} 31. Nf3 {(8s)} Qe7 {(209s)} 32. Nd4 {(235s)} Qe5 $6 {(266s)} ({It was time to acknowledge the mistake, and repatriate the knight on f8 to d7 to place it on the very strong e5 square} 32... Nfd7 33. Qf4 Ne5 {and Black is doing fine.}) 33. h4 $1 {(105s)} h6 { (584s)} 34. Qd2 {(43s)} Bc8 {(161s)} 35. Nc6 {(357s)} ({The only question is why not bring in the rook?} 35. Rae1 {seems more logical.}) 35... Qg7 {(63s)} 36. Qf4 {(31s)} Rd7 {(108s)} 37. Rf2 {(38s)} Bb7 {(208s)} 38. Nd4 {(59s)} Re5 { (90s)} 39. Nf3 {(137s)} Re8 {(40s)} 40. g5 {(0s)} h5 {(0s)} 41. Nd4 {(346s)} Qe5 {(795s)} 42. Qd2 {(87s)} Rc7 {(289s)} 43. Raf1 {(100s) Though White's build-up has not been exactly seamless, nor has Black been able to take advantage to organize a proper defense, much less counterplay.} Ree7 {(141s)} 44. Rf6 {(213s)} Red7 {(157s) [#]} 45. R6f4 {(237s)} ({The engines, in their infinite wisdom, point out the very nice winning shot here.} 45. Ndf5 $3 Nh7 ( 45... gxf5 $2 46. R1xf5 Qe8 47. Nxh5 Nh7 48. Rh6 {and Black's position collapses.}) 46. Nh6+ Kg7 {[#]} 47. R6f5 $3 {There is more than one winner here, but this one is the prettiest.} gxf5 48. Rxf5 Qe8 {and the point of the rook sacrifice is...} ({Giving up the queen is no help.} 48... Qxf5 49. Nhxf5+ Kg8 50. Qd4 f6 51. Nxh5 $18) 49. Qd4+ f6 50. gxf6+ Kxh6 51. e5 dxe5 52. Rxe5 { etc.}) 45... b4 {(143s)} 46. Nf3 {(171s)} Qg7 {( 43s)} 47. cxb4 {(194s)} Nd3 { (133s)} 48. Rf6 {(181s)} (48. Bxd3 $1 cxd3 49. Ne1 $1 (49. Qxd3 $2 Qxb2+ 50. Rf2 Qxb4 $11) 49... Qe5 50. Nxd3 $18) 48... Nh7 {(152s)} 49. Nd4 {(17s)} Nxf6 { (31s)} 50. gxf6 {(3s)} Qf8 {(11s)} 51. Ba4 {(238s)} (51. Nxh5 $1 gxh5 52. Bxd3 cxd3 53. Rf5) 51... Ne5 {(275s)} 52. Bxd7 {(138s)} Rxd7 {(4s)} 53. Nf3 {(137s)} Ng4 {(64s)} 54. Nxh5 $1 {(61s) At last, and not too late.} gxh5 {(105s)} 55. Qg5+ {(5s)} Kh8 {(9s)} 56. Qxh5+ {(12s)} Nh6 {(20s)} 57. Kh2 $1 {(28s) Make way! Make way! The rook is coming!} Qg8 {(231s)} 58. Rg1 $1 {(74s)} 1-0

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               0.5
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 ½               1.5


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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