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Round 4 report
Saturday, 21 July 2012
round4.jpgAfter 4 rounds of the Women's Grand Prix in Jermuk, the Chinese player Ju Wenjun has emerged as the sole leader with 3.5 points.

Chinese compatriots squared off in the clash between Wenjun-Lufei, and after the opening, black had achieved to equalize the position.  Capitalizing on her good form, Wenjun attempted to inject some sharpness into the position, and on move 20, black made a positional slip-up.


20…Nh5? (20…Nd5!? 21.Re1 Rfc8 and black would have a decent position.)
White took advantage with 21.Qf2!! and slowly ground down her opponent to earn the full point.

Lilit Mkrtchian won an impressive victory in her clash against Russian representative Yekaterina Kovalevskaya.  As a result of the opening, white charged ahead with a pair of pawns relatively deep into enemy territory on b5 and c5, but at the cost of piece development.  Black had to use this imbalance to make a break in the center, to offset white's plus and maintain dynamic equality.  However, black had other ideas, opting instead to launch an attack on white's king, which turned out to be not the most harmonious with the position.


19…h4? (19…Rfd8 20.Rfd1 d4! =)

Lilit reacted very well, neutralizing her opponent's threats, maximizing her own, and notched her first victory of the tournament.


34.Rc8!! Rb4 35.Ne6 Kh7 36.Ng5 and after a few moves black resigned.

Quite a lot of action was witnessed in the game between Zhao Xue - Katerina Lahno.  Black kicked things off by executing a novelty out of the opening.


17...ed! (the opponents have been following the game between Aronian-Caruana which  was played just one month ago at the Tal Memorial.  In that struggle, black chose the continuation 17...Nd7 and after a long struggle the Armenian was able to score a victory.) 18.Nd5 (18.fe de and while white is a piece up, black activity portends serious threats against the white monarch) 18...Ng4 19.Qf3 Be6!? 20.Ne2 (an attractive draw would have been seen after 20.Nc7 with the interesting 20…Ba2! 21.Ka2 Qa4 22.Kb1 Nf2! 23.Rd8 Rd8 24.Qf2 Rd1 25.Bd1 Qd1 26.Ka2 Qa4 27.Kb1 Qd1 1/2 -1/2) Black was in complete control, and at one point was even close to attaining a winning position.


30…Bd4? (30…b5 31.ab Bd4 32.Rd4 Na3 33.Kb2 Nb5 and black has a huge advantage.)
However, it was not to be as Lahno not only squandered her advantage, but then blundered her knight, after which white was able to secure the win.

Naturally, the feature attraction of the round saw the clash between reigning world champion Hou Yifan and vice-champion Humpy Koneru.  In fact the game itself was an even battle, and the assessment of the position never strayed from equality throughout.  Each star attempted to infuse creative ideas into the position, but each was able to parry the other's attempts, and a draw was agreed after move 37.


26...Ne3 27.Bc4 Nc4 28.Nc4 Be4 29.Nd6 Rf6 30.Ne4 fe 31.Rce2 Rc6 32.Re4 Re4 33. Re4 Rc3 34.Re7 Ra3 35.Rb7 Ra2 36.d5 Rd2 37.Ra7 Rd5 1/2-1-2

The battle between Khurtsidze-Danielian was also an intriguing affair.  Black was able to equalize after the opening phase of the game, and a few moves later set out on a risky attempt, sacrificing an exchange to generate some chances and demonstrating to the home crowd that she was going all out for a win.  However, the sacrifice was most probably not sound, objectively speaking, and black could have instead found themselves in a losing position.


28.ed (28.Bd4! Rc2 29.Qb3 Re2 30.Qd3 +-)

As the game progressed, black was constantly exerting effort to defend the position, endeavoring to hold on by establishing a solid defensive set-up.  White probed black's defenses in attempts to find a winning possibility, but in the end, acquiesced in sharing the point.


55.Rd5 ed 56.Rb6 Ra1 57.Kh2 d4 58.Rd6 Rb1 59.Rd4 Rb5 60.g3 1/2-1/2

Munguntuul-Kostintseva was a relatively peaceful event, with black taking advantage of white's somewhat passive treatment of the opening to equalize the position.  Optimistic from this phase, black tried to wrest the initiative and go on the attack herself.  However, black never blundered and in fact had a pretty secure fortress that did not offer obvious weaknesses.  Eventually, when white acknowledged that there would be no easy paths to victory, Kosintseva closed the position, exchanged some pieces and a truce was signed.

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