WWch Final G3: One step from the title

by Albert Silver
4/5/2015 – After the nervous wreck that was game two, with errors and mistakes belying the nonchalant face both players displayed, game three was a different beast altogether. The two finalists duked it out in a Semi-Slav, sidestepping the Meran for less chaotic waters, and succeeding to a degree. It would go down as an uneventful game, were it not for one move.

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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 three

While not everyone went to Sochi to follow the games in person, the media has been very present

Although the official novelty appeared on move 12, both sides played engine perfection until move 19 suggesting that White had anticipated the new move. After a quick melee, the position transformed into a middlegame with a piece up for White, and three pawns for Black. White's piece seemed to present the better prospects, but a mistake allowed the pawn to become a veritable nuisance after which White was playing to survive. If she failed, the match was over.

The players get ready for battle. Natalia seems unaware that Mariya is staring her down. Or is she?

Muzychuk tried hard to keep the position alive, and did an excellent job, even  avoiding a position that would have let her opponent have an easier time defending, but the draw was always on the board until ...

Game three

[Event "FIDE WWCC 2015"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2015.04.04"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Pogonina, Natalija"] [Black "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D45"] [WhiteElo "2456"] [BlackElo "2526"] [PlyCount "133"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "RUS"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Be2 a6 11. Ng5 Qc7 12. e4 Bxh2+ {A novelty, and surprisingly one that only appeared now, considering the engines like it.} ( 12... h6 13. e5 hxg5 14. exd6 Qxd6 15. Bxg5 Qxd4 16. h4 Bb7 17. Rad1 Qc5 18. Qd2 b4 19. Na4 Qa5 20. b3 c5 21. h5 c4 22. Qe3 Qe5 23. Qxe5 Nxe5 24. Nb6 c3 25. Nxa8 Rxa8 26. Bxf6 gxf6 27. f4 Nc6 28. Rd7 Na5 29. Rfd1 Kg7 30. Rc7 Bd5 31. Kf2 Rd8 32. Bf3 f5 33. Ke3 Rd6 34. Bxd5 exd5 35. Rc5 Re6+ 36. Kd3 Nc6 37. Rxd5 Kh6 38. Rh1 f6 39. g3 Ne7 40. Rd7 a5 41. Rh2 Re1 42. Kc4 Re6 43. Kb5 Nc6 44. Rd1 Kg7 45. h6+ Kh8 46. h7 {1-0 (46) Nepomniachtchi,I (2714)-Korobov,A (2687) Jerusalem 2015}) 13. Kh1 c5 14. e5 cxd4 {This is the point. The knight is pinned, ensuring Black will not walk away down material.} 15. exf6 Nxf6 16. f4 {One thing is clear, Pogonina was not caught off-guard here.} Bg3 17. Qd3 dxc3 18. Qxg3 h6 19. Nh3 Ne4 $6 {Black is the first to deviate from the computer suggestion. Was her preparation short, or did she forget?} (19... Bb7 {is the only good move according to Komodo 8.}) 20. Qe1 Bb7 21. Bf3 cxb2 22. Bxb2 Qc2 23. Bxe4 Bxe4 24. Rf2 Qd3 25. Kh2 {White is up a piece, but down three pawns. Since the pawns are not yet pulling their weight in the position, White can be said to have the advantage as the pieces should be able to put some pressure.} Rfd8 26. Rc1 Rac8 27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. a3 Bd5 29. Rd2 (29. f5 {was needed. Not only because it creates a bit of unpleasantness but because it frees the f4 square to bring in the knight.}) 29... Qg6 30. Qe5 f6 31. Qe3 Rc4 32. Rf2 Qf5 33. Bc3 Ra4 34. Bd2 $2 {The first real mistake, and one that could have given White a lot of trouble.} (34. Qc5 {was necessary to not allow the pawns any breathing room.}) 34... a5 $1 35. Qc5 Qd3 36. Bc1 Qc4 37. Qxc4 Rxc4 38. Bb2 b4 39. axb4 Rxb4 40. Bc3 Rb5 41. Rd2 a4 42. Bb2 Rb3 43. f5 a3 44. Bd4 Rb4 45. Nf4 a2 46. Nxd5 Rxd4 47. Nxf6+ gxf6 48. Rxa2 e5 ({Black wants to avoid} 48... exf5 {since it would almost certainly lead to an easy draw. The rook and f- and h-pawns against king and rook alone are not hard to defend if you know the method, and Black is betting White knows it.}) 49. Ra8+ Kf7 50. Ra7+ Ke8 51. Ra6 Ke7 52. Ra7+ Rd7 53. Ra6 Kf7 54. Kg3 $4 {[#] A terrible blunder that could have cost the game and match.} Kg7 $2 {Black misses the opportunity} (54... h5 {could have changed everything. Opening the door for the black king.} 55. Kh4 Rd2 56. Ra7+ Kg8 57. Ra6 Kg7 58. Ra7+ Kh6 59. Kh3 Kg5 60. Re7 Kxf5 61. Rh7 Kg5 62. Rg7+ Kf4 {and the black king supporting the passed pawns is enough.}) 55. Kg4 Re7 56. Ra3 Kh7 57. Ra6 e4 58. Ra2 e3 59. Re2 Rg7+ 60. Kh4 Rg8 61. g4 Re8 62. Kg3 h5 63. gxh5 Kh6 64. Kf4 Re5 65. Rxe3 Rxe3 66. Kxe3 Kxh5 67. Kf4 1/2-1/2

It was no doubt a huge relief for Pogonina's supporters and fans, whose heart must have skipped a beat when the engines began posting large scores in favor of Black. To be fair to Muzychuk, it was a single window of opportunity, and the move didn't exactly scream "play me" when the chance appeared.

A win or a draw are all Mariya Muzychuk needs to become the new Women World Champion

With a point ahead prior to the fourth game, Natalia Pogonina will need to pull of one more comeback if she is to push the match into the tiebreaks. If she fails, Mariya Muzychuk will be crowned the new Women World Champion.

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 ½             1.0
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 ½ ½             2.0


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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