The second round of the 5th FIDE Women’s Grand-Prix leg in Khanty-Mansisyk turned out to be full of fight and even more bloody than the first one.
As CEO of FIDE Geoffrey Borg said at the press conference, “women’s chess is always very exciting. Men may be technically higher but we do see the higher percentage of draws with men. There’s a much higher respect from men that in certain positions they will not try to squeeze something whereas a women grandmaster will normally take an extra risk. Sometimes there’s a lot of psychology going on the board in women’s chess”.
And indeed – in the second round we could witness much risk, psychology, tension and unexpected results.
Both Valentina Gunina and Nino Batsiashvili won their games to become the leaders of the tournament race.
In the game Gunina-Skripchenko it came to a mate, what cannot be very often seen at such high-level events.
Valentina said that she had prepared the King’s Indian, but didn’t exactly remember all the lines. In her turn, Almira confessed that she had overprepared and during the game was spending much time recalling the nuances thus lacking energy.
White got a very promising position in the middlegame with a strong pawn on c5 and an open “d” file. Gunina managed to improve her pieces’ positions by very clever maneuvers, and in the severe time-trouble Skripchenko misplayed.
V. Gunina – A. Skripchenko
At the press-conference Almira proposed 29…a6 in this position with a possible continuation 30. Na5 Ne6 31. Nxe6 Bxe6 32. Qb4 Re7. 33. Bc4 – White’s position is better, but still Black is holding on.
Almira Skripchenko: “I didn’t want to create any weakness, but in the end I was making one blunder after another”.
30. Na5 Nf6 31. Rb1 Qa8 32. Bc4 Re7 33. Baf7+ Nxf7 34. Nc4 Rd7?
34… h6 is a more stubborn move.
And now the Black’s position is being knocked down like a house of cards.
35. Nxe5 Nxe5 36. Qb3+ Rf7 37. Ne6 h6 38. Nxe5, White won a pawn and soon – the game.
All other decisive results were achieved by Black.
Nino Batsiashvili upset Dronavalli Harika, who achieved a certain advantage in Giuoco Piano.
Nino Batsiashvili: “My opponent plays all the openings, that’s why I had prepared everything. But at the end of the game I was very tired”.
Nevertheless, Black was very resourceful in defense and created a counter play.
D. Harika – N. Batsiashvili
In this position White should have played 36. Qxc4 just winning a pawn, but Harika made a mistake by taking the rook on e4.
36. Rxe4 Qxe4 37. f3 Qe6
And then the fatal blunder followed – 38. Rf1? Ne2, and after gaining the exchange it took Black not so much time to win the game.
Actually, it is the best start for Nino Batsiashvili in all the stages of the FIDE Women’s Grand Pix Series so far.
Ju Wenjun outplayed Lela Javakhishvili in a very long and tense fight. The Georgian chess player admitted that at some point she was ready to resign, but then the opponent had started playing not very precisely and the game went on and on.
Black chose quite an aggressive line in the Ragozin Defence with an early pawn advance on the kingside – 7…g5 and then 8…f5. Both kings were left in the center, so the position became double-edged from the very beginning.
L. Javakhishvili – Ju Wenjun
An innocent move 12. e3?! resulted in many troubles for White. It was more preferable for her to continue with the development by playing 12. Bg2.
12…f4 13. exf4
Lela forgot about the move 13…Qe7, but still she could defend herself by 14. Ne5 with an approximate line 14…gxf4 15. Qh5+ Kd8. Ju Wenjun was going to play like this but wasn’t sure about the resulting position.
14. Be2 gxf4 15. 0-0 Bh3 16. Re1 fxg3 17. fxg3 0-0-0 – white king’s position is in danger, but Ju Wenjun, who was desperately lacking time, didn’t manage to win on the spot and postponed the struggle to the endgame with different color bishops and an extra pawn for Black. Acting very persistent, the Chinese player gained a victory on the Black’s 96th move.
Bela Khotenashvili and Natalija Pogonina, who both lost the 1st round games, tried to play solid and chose the Reti Opening. The encounter went on rather equal, but in the middlegame Black succeeded in getting something going. Natalija created a pawn attack on the queenside, and White had to give up a pawn, but, nevertheless, their position became worse and worse. Pogonina converted her material advantage with an iron hand.
A real thriller happened in the game Kosteniuk-Khademalsharieh. At some point, Black allowed White to create an attack on her king by sacrificing a pawn and then – a piece.
A. Kosteniuk – S. Khademalsharieh
28. Nxh6+ – the 12th world chess champion demonstrates her determination to fight. At the press conference Alexandra mentioned that it had seemed to her during the game that the best solution for Black had been to take on h6. Instead Sarasadat played 28…Kf8, allowing White to continue her attack.
29. Rf5 gxh6 30. Qc3 Re4 (more precise defensive resource was 20…Qe4) 31. Bxh6+ Ke8 32. Qh8+ Kd7 33. Rxf7+ Ke6
Black’s position with her king in the center looks desperate, but some moves later White made a fatal blunder.
The moment when Alexandra took the pawn she realized that Black had defense.
39…Kxd6 40. Rd1 Rd4
Then there was no doubt that Black would convert two pieces into a victory but Sarasadat was the last one to make a mistake.
68…Kf5? 69. Qd5+ – White took one of the knights and on the 75th move the players agreed to a draw.
Quite a smooth and solid game in the Semi-Slav Defence was played by Olga Girya and Natalia Zhukova: the draw became the most logical outcome.
Standings after round 2:
1-2. Valentina Gunina, Nino Batsiashvili – 2, 2-3. Ju Wenjun, Olga Girya – 1,5, 5-8. Alexandra Kosteniuk, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, Natalija Pogonina, Natalia Zhukova – 1, 9-10. Almira Skripchenko, Dronavalli Harika – 0,5, 11-12. Lela Javakhishvili, Bela Khotenashvili – 0.
Round 3 pairings:
Skripchenko – Javakhisvili, Khademalsharieh – Gunina, Batsiashvili – Kosteniuk, Pogonina – Harika, Zhukova – Khotenashvili, Ju Wenjun – Girya