But there are still 11 undecided matches that will go to tiebreaker games on Monday. That is an unusually high number in a knockout format because the top seeds play way down in Round 1.
Sunday was an exciting day as many of the games were pretty wild. For a while, it looked like Nana Dazgnidze of Georgia, the No. 5 seed, would not even get on the scoreboard, much less have a chance to survive to Round 2. But she got a bit lucky against Khaled Mona of Egypt, No. 60, and then played well to make the most of her good fortune.
Mona, Khaled vs. Dzagnidze, Nana
Womens World Ch. |Tehran |Round 1.2 |12 Feb 2017 |0-1
Bb2White has an enormous advantage, and she had a good 30 minutes left on her clock before the first time control to put the game away. But instead things started to unravel. 32. Nh6?
( 32. Rc2!This move would almost certainly have led to a win. 32... Ba133. Rh2!And Qh8 mate is a serious threat. After: 33... Ke834. Qg8+Kd735. Qxf7+Kc636. e4!The Black king will not be able to find shelter. )
32... Qe8!The only move, but a very good one. The Black king is a lot safer than he looks and the position is no longer so simple. 33. Rc2Rxb3!34. Kf1
( 34. Rxb2?White has a fork in this position. 34... Rxb235. Qh8+Ke736. Qxb2But so does Black! 36... Nd3+ )
( 34... Bc3This move was necessary, but it's basically impossible for a human to find in time pressure. 35. Rxc3Rxc336. Qh8+Ke737. Qxc3Qb5+With a draw. But that would not have been enough for Black because she needed to win to even the score in the match. )
35. Rxb2!White still has a huge advantage, but the position is not all that clear. In such situations, strange things can start happening. 35... Qc4+36. Re2Ne437. Qh8+?!A step in the wrong direction.
( 37. Bf2!This move guards everything. 37... Rb1+38. Kg2And now Qxe2 does not include a check. 38... Qxe239. Qxf7# )
37... Ke738. Nf5+?
( 38. Ng8+!This move would still have likely led to a win. 38... Kd739. Nf6+!Nxf640. Qxf6White has removed the dangerous Black knight. After: 40... Rb1+41. Kf2The White king is safe and Black has nothing better than: 41... Rxg142. Kxg1Qxe243. Qxf7+With a queen-and-pawn ending that White should win and in which White has little risk of losing. )
38... Kd7Now Black's king is safe... and White's is not. 39. Nd4Ng3+40. Kf2Nxe241. Nxe2a5A tough game for Khaled Mona. 42. Qg7Kc843. Qg8+Kb744. g6Qe445. Kg3Qxg6+46. Qxg6fxg647. Nd4a448. Bf2c549. Nc2Rc350. Na1Rc151. e4Rxa152. f5gxf553. exf5Kc6
Ekaterina Atalik of Turkey, No. 26, also won to force a tiebreak match. I was a bit surprised that her opponent, Salome Melia of Georgia, No. 39, chose the very risky Benoni Defense in a game where a draw would send her through to Round 2. Atalik played a very fine game.
Atalik, Ekaterina vs. Melia, Salome
Womens World Ch. |Tehran |Round 1.2 |12 Feb 2017 |1-0
b5Normally achieving b5 in the Benoni can be considered a huge success for Black, but that is not the case if White can play e5. 17. e5!I like this move a great deal. 17... Nfe8?!
( 17... dxe5?18. d6 )
( 17... b4!This move was necessary, but after: 18. exd6!Rxe1+19. Qxe1Nce820. Ne4Nxe421. Qxe4Nxd622. Qe3c423. Qc5!Black would be under a lot of pressure. White is going to play Bf4 next. )
( 18. Bg5!This move was even stronger. 18... f619. exd6!The point. Now the bishop on g7 looks terrible. 19... Nxd620. Rxe7Qxe721. Bf4White has a decisive edge. )
( 18... Bxe519. Nxe5And Black is struggling. 19... Rxe520. Bf4 )
19. Be3bxa420. Nxd6!An energetic and strong move. 20... Nxd621. Bxc5!The point. White is down a piece for the moment, but the knight on d6 is not going anywhere. Once White takes it, he will be up a pawn and with control of the center. 21... Ncb522. Bxb5?A bit impatient, but White still has clear edge.
( 22. Qxa4!Black still cannot move her knight. She is still losing. )
22... Nxb523. Bxe7Qxe724. Qxa4Bb725. Rad1Usually, two bishops are better than a rook and two pawns in the middlegame, but not if the two pawns are on e5 and d5 blunting the scope of the bishops. Black is in bad shape. 25... Rd826. Qc4Kh727. d6Qe828. Qh4Bxf329. gxf3Rd730. Qe4Qe631. Kg2Rd832. f4The pawns are beginning to march. 32... h533. Rd3Kg834. Red1Bf835. f3Rc836. d7
( 36. f5!This was more precise, but the move played in the game does not spoil White's position. )
36... Rd837. Qb7Be738. Rc1!White is threatening Rc8. 38... Qa239. Rd2Qa440. Qe4!On the last move before time control, White plays a safe move to prevent Qxf4. 40... Qa541. Qd5Kf842. Rc6Qb443. Rc4Qb344. Qd3Qa245. Rc6
( 45. f5This would have won more quickly, but, once again, the move played by White is good enough. )
45... Qa446. f5gxf547. Qxf5The pawns are too strong and White's rooks are much better positioned than Black's pieces. Note how awful the Black rook on d8 is. 47... Qh448. Qh7Qg5+49. Kf1Qg750. Qxh5Na751. Rh6Bg552. Rh8+Ke753. Rh7Qxh754. Qxg5+A fine game by Atalik.
Sarasadat Khademalsharieh of the host country, No. 20, also won a fine game against Sopiko Guramishvili of Georgia, No. 45, to send her match to tiebreak.
One player who avoided tiebreaks was Rout Padmini of India, No. 40, who upset and eliminated Elina Danielian of Armenia, No. 25, with a win that was, in my opinion, the cleanest game of the tournament so far.
Padmini, Rout vs. Danielian, Elina
Womens World Ch. |Tehran |Round 1.2 |12 Feb 2017 |1-0
15. Bc3Qxc5?This was the only real mistake Black made all game, but it's almost decisive. White now has a space advantage, a pawn wedge on e5, a lovely outpost on d4, and a simple plan of opening the f-file.
( 15... Bxe5!This move was necessary, as it would have destroyed the White pawn center. Black would then have had chances in a complicated position. )
16. Nf3!White overprotects e5 and gets ready to
invade using d4. 16... Kg817. Bd3Bg618. Nd4!Not fearing the loss of the e-pawn. 18... Kh7
( 18... Bxe5?19. Nxe6!And White wins material. )
19. g3!Another strong move. White is preparing to play f4. 19... Rhf820. Qd2Qc721. Rae1White's play is simple, clean, and elegant. She just brings all her pieces into play and prepares f4. 21... Kh822. Bxg6!
( 22. f4This is good, too, but I like the move played by White even more, as it brings the Black knight to g6. )
22... Nxg623. f4gxf424. gxf4f5 cannot be stopped. 24... Rg825. Kh1Ne726. f5!Nxf527. Nxf5exf528. Rxf5Qc6?This leads to the loss of the queen, but Black was going to lose anyway.
( 28... Rae829. Qxd5Re730. Ref1White is up a pawn and has much more active pieces. )
29. Rf6A very clean and impressive game from Padmini. If she can keep up this level of play, she will be a major threat in the tournament.
Hopefully the tiebreaks will be as entertaining as the other games have been.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.