Saturday, 28 July 2012
As the participants approach the finish line at the Jermuk installment of the FIDE Women Grand Prix, the tension continues to rise. With the penultimate round already complete, the reigning World Champion Hou Yifan solidified her grasp on first place, and with it, first place in the entire Grand Prix cycle.
In the game Koneru – Mkrtchian, black was unable to solve her opening
problems set before her by white. Endeavoring to equalize, black
searched for the right move, but instead stumbled.
15…Nc5?? (necessary was 15... 0-0 16.a3 Nc5 16.Qg4 where at this point appears the intriguing h5! 17.Qd1 Nd5 18.Nc6 Nc3! =) 16.Qg4 g6 17.Bh6 and black’s position in hopeless.
White cashed in this big advantage to register victory.
A thrilling game was enjoyed by the spectators in the all-Chinese clash Zhao Xue – Ju Wenjun. A complex position arose after the opening phase, with mutual chances. Principles of positional chess mandated that black must move actively, with a resolute plan. Black was up to the challenge and in one sequence unleashed a series of sacrifices. Punches and counterpunches were delivered with the computer’s assessment of the position changing with seemingly every move.
32…Ng4!? 33.f4 Rf4 34.Qh3 Re4 35.Re4 Nf2 36.Rf2 Qf2 37.Kh1 Rf3 38.Qc8?? (white had to instead follow up with 38.Qg2 Qg2 39.Kg2 Rc3 40.Nb6 and despite black’s extra pawn, white’s position is preferable in the undetermined fight that would result.) 38...Kh7 39.Nd2 h3?? (for black to remain on the path to possible victory, she had to find only one more move, 39…Rd3 with the fatal threat of Rd2, leading to a decisive advantage for black.)
While black missed this chance, white was vigilant and after a few more moves, black admitted defeat.
Another thrilling struggle was seen in the game Khurtsidze – Munguntuul. White did not achieve much of an advantage out of the opening, but a pawn sacrifice secured the initiative for white as she dictated the play into the middle game. Black had difficulties navigating around the problems posed to her by white, and at one point she erred, allowing white to capitalize and achieve a winning advantage. All that was left was for white to make a couple of correct moves and the game would be decided. At this point, it was white’s turn to blunder, but black missed the golden opportunity to take advantage.
27.Bc4?? (to maintain a winning position, white had to play instead 27.Qc4 threatening Bd3) 27...Nd7 28.Bf4 Qc2 29.Rd2 Qd2?? (finding instead 29... Qa4! Black would have restored the material balance and her problems would vanish.) 30.Bd2 Nc5 31.dc and white went on to win after a few more moves.
The game Danielian – Lahno was short, but not devoid of excitement. White chose a somewhat unorthodox variation of the Grunfeld and went straight after black’s king. Black kept her cool and was able to neutralize all threats, and at one point found a perpetual check after sacrificing a rook.
17...Rd6 18.Qd6 Qc3 19.Kb1 Qb4 20.Ka1 Qc3 21.Kb1 Qb4 22.Ka1 Qc3 1/2-1/2
The game Hou Yifan – Kosintseva was a relatively peaceful one, with white getting no particular advantage after the opening. The picture changed little as the middle game unfolded, with each player choosing moves in keeping with the positional themes. Not surprisingly, the players repeated moves and on move 25, shook hands to agree to the draw.
21...Be6 22.Ng5 Bd7 23.Nf3 Be6 24.Ng5 Bd7 25.Nf3 1/2-1/2
The longest clash of the day was the game Ruan Lufei – Kovalevskaya, in which black succeeded in achieving an equal position after the opening phase. However, in the middle game, black made some inaccuracies, handing white a better position. After a series of trades, the endgame phase commenced in white’s favor, and the spectators were anticipating that the game may end with victory for the white. Just after time control, however, white stumbled.
43.a6? (With this premature push, white lost her advantage. Necessary was 43.Rc1 followed by Nc3 to try and maneuver the bishop to d5 in hopes of maintaining the pressure.)
When presented with this opportunity, black confidently found the right set up of her pieces and the opponents soon agreed to share the point.