WWch Rd3 G2: Koneru scores six straight wins

by Albert Silver
3/25/2015 – Arriving for the return games of the third round the four Russian players faced an uphill battle: they all faced must-win situations to avert elimination after devastating losses from day before. Two of them succeeded, Pogonina and Kosteniuk, with a chance for redemption in the tiebreaks, while Gunina fell to Cramling, and Humpy Koneru beat Galliamova in her sixth straight win.

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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.

Round three - game two

The Russian women were not the only ones fighting for their tournament lives, as former world champion Antoaneta Stefanova from Bulgaria and Georgian Bela Khotenashvili also sought to prolong their stay. As a sign of their exemplary fighting spirit all eight games continued beyond the first time control.

Anna Muzychuk was the first to qualify for the Quarterfinals by beating Lela Javakhishvili
as black. The Georgian misplayed an exchange in the middlegame, after which her position
deteriorated to the point where she had to give up a rook for a piece. Muzychuk converted
the advantage and won the match by 1.5-0.5.
The journalists were expecting the players in the media room, but the Chief of the FIDE Medical Commission had priority and the players were first taken to the anti-doping control.

After Anna Muzychuk returned she said that she "was lucky to get an opening advantage playing Black". She added that this is her most successful Women World Championship so far, since on the three previous occasions she had been eliminated by round two.

The younger sister, Mariya Muzychuk (above), also advanced to the next round. The ex-world champion Antoaneta Stefanova tried everything to even up the score, but after the exchange of the queens the position suddenly simplified, and only White could claim a small advantage. The game was drawn and Mariya advanced to the next round.

Alexandra Kosteniuk warmed the hearts of her Russian fans by winning a model game
against Harika Dronavalli to even up the score and push for the tiebreak

As she said in an interview, the most difficult part of the preparation was choosing the opening. She finally picked the ultra-flexible Black Knights' Tango, where White can't just force simplifications. Black got a slight advantage from the opening and kept pressing until White's position collapsed.

Dronavalli vs Kosteniuk

[Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.24"] [Round "3.5"] [White "Harika, Dronavalli"] [Black "Kosteniuk, Alexandra"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E10"] [WhiteElo "2492"] [BlackElo "2529"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 Nc6 {signalling the offbeat, yet flexible Knight's Tango.} 4. a3 d6 5. Nc3 g6 6. g3 Bg7 7. Bg2 O-O 8. O-O Re8 9. e4 e5 10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. Nxe5 Rxe5 12. Be3 a5 13. Bd4 Re8 14. h3 Be6 15. Nd5 a4 16. Nxf6+ Bxf6 17. Rc1 {[#]} Ra5 $1 {Black cannot afford to play just solid. She must win or face elimination.} 18. f4 b6 {Not only preventing counter play from c5 from White, but also opening new paths for the bishop.} 19. Rf2 h5 20. Rc3 Bxd4 21. Qxd4 Rc5 22. Kh2 Qd7 23. Bf1 Qe7 24. Rcf3 {[#]} Bc8 $1 25. Bd3 Ba6 26. f5 {It isn't clear whether White thought she was in the lead, or whether she underestimated the risks she was taking.} g5 27. f6 Qe5 28. Qe3 Bb7 29. h4 Re6 ({Not} 29... gxh4 $2 30. Qh6 Qg5 (30... hxg3+ 31. Rxg3+) 31. Qxg5+ Rxg5) 30. hxg5 ({It is slightly ironic that the best continuation for White is the one Black thought was prevented.} 30. Rf5 $1 Qxf5 31. Rxf5 (31. exf5 Rxe3) 31... Rxf5 32. hxg5 Ree5 {attacking g5 and threatening to invade with the rooks.}) 30... Bxe4 31. Rf4 Bxd3 32. Qxd3 Qxg5 33. Qf3 Rce5 34. Qg2 Re1 35. Rf5 Qg4 36. R5f4 Qg6 37. Rf5 Re8 38. Qh3 R8e2 39. Qg2 {[#]} Rxb2 $1 {taking advantage of the overloaded rook.} 40. Rxb2 Qxf5 {and it is over.} 41. Re2 Rf1 42. Qa8+ Kh7 43. Qxa4 Qxf6 44. Qc2+ Kg7 45. Qd2 h4 46. Rg2 Kf8 47. Qd5 hxg3+ 48. Rxg3 Qh4+ 49. Rh3 Qf4+ 50. Rg3 Rf2+ 51. Kh3 Qh6+ 0-1

Kosteniuk said, "I was unable to relax until the very end of the game. I only started to feel better when I saw the forced mate."

Marie Sebag is into yet another tiebreak. A legion of French fans hope she survives into the fourth round

Natalia Pogonina (Russia) also succeeded in equalizing the score. She caught Marie Sebag (France) unprepared in the opening and quickly obtained a big positional advantage as well as an overwhelming lead on the clock. Sebag defended stubbornly and even managed to simplify to a rook ending without a pawn. But unlike the first game of their match, this time Pogonina showed impeccable technique and secured a win. 

Pogonina criticised Sebag's decision to go for the rook ending. The French probably "expected
an elementary draw, but it turned out more complicated than that." Note that this will be
Pogonina's first ever tiebreak, so she is "looking forward to it with curiosity".

The game between Viktoria Cmilyte and Meri Arabidze was expected to be "drawn anytime soon" after move 22, when queens and most of the pieces went off the board. However, the two fighters continued playing the minor-pieces endgame well into the second time control!

In the end Cmilyte even saw a glimpse of victory when her king broke through, but Arabidze
held fast and earned her draw. The match will also continue in the tiebreaks.

Bela Khotenashvili needed to win with white in order to remain in contention, but Zhao Xue was inspired and gradually outplayed her opponent. Around the time control she even had a perpetual check, which would have ensured qualification to the quarterfinals, but Zhao flatly rejected the opportunity and continued to play for a win. As she explained - "I was material up and this is winning position".

In spite of a miraculous save by Khotenashvili in thier second game, didn't help her cause
since Zhao Xue is through to the next round

Finally, the reigning Russian champion Valentina Gunina failed to avenger her first round loss to Pia Cramling (Sweden). Cramling, playing Black, defended an inferior position patiently and with precision, despite the mutual time trouble. The game ended in a draw after 117 moves. 

Valentina Gunina's prayers were not answered this time as she was eliminated by Pia Cramling

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               2
Galliamova, Alisa RUS 2484 0               0
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Sebag, Marie FRA 2482 1 0                1
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 0               1
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Muzychuk, Anna UKR 2552 ½ 1                1.5
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 ½                1
Cmilyte, Vktorija LTU 2530 ½ ½                1
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Kosteniuk, Alexandra RUS 2529 0  1               1
Harika, Dronavalli IND 2492 1  0               1
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Cramling, Pia SWE 2495 1 ½                1.5
Gunina, Valentina RUS 2528 0  ½               0.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Zhao, Xue CHN 2527 1  ½               1.5
Khotenashvili, Bela GEO 2513 0 ½                0.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Stefanova, Antoaneta BUL 2552 0 ½                0.5
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 1 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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