WWch Rd4 G1: Testing the mettle

by Albert Silver
3/27/2015 – The fourth round of the Women's World Championship bespoke the tension and quality of the eight players left in the competition. While they say some luck is needed to win a tournament, this final group also represents those who have played the best. The competition is now at its tensest and today it was Mariya Muzychuk who showed her grit by breaking Humpy Koneru's streak.

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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 four - game one

Arabidze and Dronavalli were the first to finish their game. The Georgian, playing White, employed an aggressive setup in the Queen's Gambit Declined and obtained a promising position with attacking chances. Harika decided to test the ambition and fighting spirit of her opponent by offering a draw after only fifteen moves, and to her surprise, after some thought Arabidze accepted the offer.

While Harika Dronavalli said she was testing her opponent's mettle, Arabidze did mention
she preferred rapid games over classical ones. Perhaps her early draw agreement was
for a different plan, aiming to push the match into her turf.

The game of the day was Mariya Muzychuk's win over the highest rated player of the tournament Humpy Koneru. Prior to the game Koneru had won six games out of six. Today she played black, equalized rather easily and soon seized the initiative on the queenside. She then managed to win a pawn, but Muzychuk in turn created some threats against her king, keeping her own chances alive. Suddenly Humpy carelessly moved her knight away from the action, and then missed a powerful tactical shot, allowing Mariya a big victory.

Mariya Muzychuk has had an excellent campaign so far, crowned by her win today

Mariya Muzychuk vs Humpy Koneru

[Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.26"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Black "Koneru, Humpy"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C45"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Be3 Qf6 6. c3 Nge7 7. g3 d5 8. Bg2 dxe4 9. O-O O-O 10. Nd2 Bb6 11. Re1 Nxd4 12. Nxe4 Qf5 13. Bxd4 Nc6 14. Bxb6 axb6 15. f4 Be6 16. b3 h6 17. h3 Ra3 18. Qd2 Qa5 19. b4 Qa4 20. g4 Rd8 21. Qf2 Rxa2 22. Rxa2 Bxa2 23. b5 {Obviously the pawn is untouchable since the queen must guard the bishop.} Na7 24. g5 hxg5 25. Nxg5 f6 $2 { [#] A terrible blunder that is punished very swiftly by} 26. Qd2 $3 {Exploiting the back rank weakness.} Rf8 (26... Rxd2 27. Re8#) 27. Bd5+ Bxd5 28. Qxd5+ Kh8 29. Qf7 {and now there is no protection against Re8, so...} 1-0

Anna Muzychuk, playing black against Pia Cramling, patiently defended a slightly worse
position with an isolated pawn. She tried to revert the situation by offering a pawn sacrifice,
aiming to activate her pieces...

...but Cramling declined the offer, and missed a strong reply that could have created serious
problems for Black. After the move in the game Muzychuk got sufficient counterplay; the position
became balanced, and the players soon agreed to a draw.

Eight players left. Who will be the fortunate last two?

The game between Natalia Pogonina and Zhao Xue was the longest of the day. The position after the opening was about even, but White overestimated her chances, aiming at a kingside attack. After Black's central punch Pogonina had to switch to defense, but was unsuccessful eventually transposing to an opposite-colored bishops ending that turned out to be won for Black, which Zhao Xue converted.

The gentle arbiters

The irrepressible Sergey Shipov has provided his usual high standard of commentary (in Russian)

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

Round 4 rairings / results

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 1                 1
Koneru, Humpy IND 2581 0                 0
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 0                 0
Zhao, Xue CHN 2527 1                 1
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Cramling, Pia SWE 2495 ½                 0.5
Muzychuk, Anna UKR 2552 ½                 0.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Arabidze, Meri GEO 2374 ½                 0.5
Harika, Dronavalli IND 2492 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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