WWch Rd3 G1: bloody battles

by Albert Silver
3/24/2015 – Depending on which side of the fence you lie, it was either a disastrous day for the Russians, or a great day for Asian players. Whichever your preference, it was a wonderful day for chess spectators with only two of the eight games ending in draws. The tension showed in several games, with violent upheavals all around, but there was no lack of excitement.

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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 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 decided 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 winner if the game is drawn.

Round three - game one

The playing hall now down to sixteen players

Alisa Galliamova was black against top-seed Humpy Koneru. After the opening Galliamova played very aggressively – leaving her king in the center and launched a kingside pawn attack. Koneru countered with a pawn sacrifice, fighting for the initiative. Black did not dare accept it, but her attack soon evaporated, and she was unable to hide her king or connect the rooks. Instead Humpy Koneru invaded the seventh rank with her rooks in the endgame and prevailed. 

Harika Dronavalli played black against Alexandra Kosteniuk (above), and after a difficult opening, got into serious trouble. The tables began to turn when Kosteniuk allowed a passed pawn on a3. The pawn looked doomed, however, following a serious blunder of White, it transformed into a powerhouse. In order to neutralize the pawn, Kosteniuk gave up all her kingside pawns, and the rest was easy for Dronavalli.

Valentina Gunina handled her opening very poorly against Pia Cramling,
and as early as move fifteen was in a bad spot

The Russian attempted to complicate the game by sacrificing an exchange, but Pia Cramling
avoided the traps set out by Gunina and won easily

Marie Sebag quickly took control of her game against Natalia Pogonina until she reached...

Sebag - Pogonina

... this position, when she had a decisive blow. White to play and win.

Unfortunately, in time trouble with a little over one minute left for five moves, she missed it allowing the Russian back into the game. After five hours of play, exhaustion took its toll and Pogonina blundered horribly and lost.

Sergey Shipov (right), who has been providing live commentary in Russian, was quite impressed
by Zhao Xue's strong win over Bela Khotenashvili

"It feels like Bela Khotenashvili did not fully recover after the exhausting tiebreak. She looked clearly out of shape after the opening. White wasn't threatening Ng5, so there was no point in 12…h6. Just keep developing by 12…b6 or 12…Bd7, and you get an excellent version of the isolani. After the text Bela got a very unpleasant structure that could be pressured for a hundred moves – and for a tired player few things are worse than defending a passive position for a hundred moves. Zhao Xue showed good technique, conducted a brilliant kingside attack, and her victory was well-deserved."

Zhao Xue - Bela Khotenashvili

The Chinese player must now decide what to do after ...d4 attacking
her rook. What would you play as White here?

Zhao Xue showcased her technique and attacking skills

Zhao Xue vs Bela Khotenashvili:

[Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.23"] [Round "3.7"] [White "Zhao, Xue"] [Black "Khotenashvili, Bela"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2527"] [BlackElo "2513"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/3b1pk1/1p2q1pp/2r1P3/p2p1P1Q/P2BR2P/1P4PK/8 w - - 0 39"] [PlyCount "17"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] {The Chinese player has proven herself an inspired attacker on numerous occasions, and finds the path of least resistance. The rook is attacked by the d4 pawn...} 39. f5 $1 gxf5 40. Qxd4 ({White misses the quicker win after} 40. Rg3+ $1 Kf8 41. Bxf5 Qxf5 (41... Qe7 42. Qxh6+ Ke8 43. Rg8+ Qf8 44. Qxf8#) ( 41... Qxe5 42. Bxd7) 42. Qd8+ Be8 43. Qd6#) 40... Rd5 41. Qf4 Rc5 42. Rg3+ Kh7 43. Qg4 $1 {taking advantage of the pin, and threatening mate on g7 and g8.} Qg6 44. Qd4 Qe6 45. Bxf5+ $3 Qxf5 46. e6 Qe5 {protecting against Qg7 mate.} 47. Qd3+ 1-0

During the day, a group of children came to visit the venue on a field trip. Here they are
shown the blitz-playing robot.

They were then shown the commentary area where spectators could follow the games

Will this seemingly innocent visit inspire one of them to great chess heights one day?

Solution to Sebag-Pogonina:

[Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.23"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Sebag, Marie"] [Black "Pogonina, Natalija"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2482"] [BlackElo "2456"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r1r2/4qpk1/1b1pn2p/3RpQp1/1PB1P3/6BP/P4PP1/4R1K1 w - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "5"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] 35. Rxd6 $1 Rxd6 (35... Qxd6 36. Bxe5+) 36. Qxe5+ Kh7 37. Qxd6 1-0

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

Round 3 pairings / results

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Koneru, Humpy IND 2581 1                 1
Galliamova, Alisa RUS 2484 0                 0
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Sebag, Marie FRA 2482 1                 1
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 0                 0
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Muzychuk, Anna UKR 2552 ½                 0.5
Javakhishvili, Lela GEO 2481 ½                 0.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Arabidze, Meri GEO 2374 ½                 0.5
Cmilyte, Vktorija LTU 2530 ½                 0.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Kosteniuk, Alexandra RUS 2529 0                 0
Harika, Dronavalli IND 2492 1                 1
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Cramling, Pia SWE 2495 1                 1
Gunina, Valentina RUS 2528 0                 0
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Zhao, Xue CHN 2527 1                 1
Khotenashvili, Bela GEO 2513 0                 0
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Stefanova, Antoaneta BUL 2552 0                 0
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 1                 1


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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