As Round 2 got underway on Tuesday, most of the top seeds won.

There is still a long way to go in the Women’s World Championship tournament in Tehran, but so far most of the top seeds are doing well. 

Tuesday was the first day of the second round and several of the top seeds won their first game, putting them in good position to advance. The top seed, Ju Wenjun of China, completely crushed her opponent, Zhu Chen of Qatar, the No. 33 seed. Zhu made some very strange choices in the opening/early middlegame and paid for it dearly.

Zhu Chen vs. Ju Wenjun
Womens World Ch. | Tehran | Round 2.1 | 14 Feb 2017 | 0-1
Nh5 9. g4? The Nimzo-Indian Defense with 4. f3 is very sharp. It is simply not possible to play that line well without having studied it carefully. White's last move was a huge mistake. Black now has a big advantage.
9. Qc2! This was the best move. White could then meet Qh4 with Qf2. After:
9... Re8 10. g4 Nf4 11. h4! White would be ready to play Kf2. After that, I think White would be a bit better.
...   )
9... Qh4+ 10. Kd2 Ng3 11. Qe1 The only way to save the rook.
11... Nxf1+ 12. Qxf1 It's a bad sign if on move 12 the only piece you have that has moved off the back rank is the king, and he is in the center.
12... f5 13. gxf5 Bxf5 14. c4? White is dead lost, but opening the center will not help her.
14... c5! The rest was just painful to watch. A very tough day for Zhu Chen, who really never had a chance after just one error. She will have to win with Black on Wednesday against the top seed to keep her hopes alive.
15. Bb2 cxd4 16. Bxd4 Nc6 17. Ne2 dxc4 18. Qg2 Bg6 19. Rac1 b5 20. f4 Nxd4 21. Nxd4 Rad8 22. Rhf1 Qf6 23. Qg1 Qa6 24. Rc3 b4 25. axb4 Qa2+ 26. Kd1 Qb1+

Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, No. 2, also did well, picking up a quick win against Alina Kashlinskaya of Russia, No. 34, by punishing her opponent’s reckless play on the kingside.

Muzychuk, Anna vs. Kashlinskaya, Alina
Womens World Ch. | Tehran | Round 2.1 | 14 Feb 2017 | ECO: C54 | 1-0
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 a6 6. c3 Ba7 7. Nbd2 O-O 8. h3 d6 9. Bb3 Nh5!? This is not a bad move, but it is a risky one and perhaps a little too ambitious if Black does not follow it up correctly.
9... Be6 A more standard move like this would have been fine for Black.  )
10. Re1 Nf4?! This is asking for it. The knight will be attacked on f4.
10... Qf6! 11. Nf1 Qg6! The threat of Bxh3 forces White to continue:
12. Nh4 Qf6! And with both f2 and h4 attacked, White has no choice but to repeat moves.  )
11. Nf1 Qf6 12. Ng3 h5? This is seriously asking for trouble.
13. d4! White takes control of the center.
13... h4?
13... g6 This was the best move to limit the damage, but White would still be better after:
14. Be3 When she has a large center and Black has no compensation. The bishop on a7 is pretty forlorn looking as well.  )
14. Nf5! g6
14... Bxf5 This position would also be very unpleasant for Black.
15. exf5 Qxf5 16. Nxh4 Qg5 17. Bxf4! exf4 18. Nf3 Black is going to be playing down a piece for a long time as the bishop on a7 has no roll in the game.  )
15. Bxf4! gxf5
15... exf4 16. N5xh4 This position is all but hopeless for Black. White is up a pawn, has a huge center, and the bishop on a7 is useless.  )
16. dxe5 dxe5 17. Bg5 Qg6 18. exf5 Bxf5 19. Qc1! The most accurate way to finish the game. The threat of Nxh4 cannot be stopped and that will quickly end the game.
19... Bd3 20. Nxh4 Qh5 21. Bf6 Kh7 22. Bc2 Bg6 23. Re4! Not the only winning move, but definitely the prettiest.
23... Rae8 24. Nf3 Black resigned instead of facing Rh4, or 24... Bxe4 25. Bxe4+ Kg8 26. g4 Qxh3 27. Qg5#

The only major upset of the round was Ni Shiqun of China, No. 38, beating Valentina Gunina of Russia, No. 6. Ni, who had Black, made it look easy:

Gunina, Valentina vs. Ni Shiqun
Womens World Ch. | Tehran | Round 2.1 | 14 Feb 2017 | 0-1
21. Nb3 Black had played a nice game up to this point and has a very pleasant position. Now she cashed in on her advantage.
21... Rxa1! 22. Nxa1 For White, an unfortunate necessity.
22. Rxa1 dxe4 23. fxe4 exd4 And Black wins a pawn.  )
22... exd4! 23. cxd4 dxe4! 24. fxe4 For the moment it looks like White has a strong center, but it turns out that her pawns are quite weak.
24... Qf4! 25. Bd2 Qg4! 26. h3
26. e5 The engine recommends this move, but after:
26... Nd5 White is losing from a strategic standpoint.  )
26... Qg6 27. d5? A bad move in a bad position.
27. Nc2 Rxe4 White will still probably lose, but she can fight on for a while after:
28. Rxe4 Nxe4 29. Be3 Qe6 30. d5! cxd5 31. Qxb5  )
27... Nxd5! Tactics 101. Black wins the d-pawn and will also be able to take care of the e-pawn.
28. Nb3 N5f6 29. Qd6 Rxe4 30. Rf1 Re6 Black is up two pawns. The rest was not difficult for Black.
31. Qc7 Qc2 32. Rf3 Nxc5 33. Nd4 Qxd2 34. Nxe6 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Qxe6 36. Rc3 Nfe4 37. Rc1 Kh7 38. Rd1 b4 39. Rd8 b3 40. Qb8 Nd7 41. Qb7 Qe5+ 42. Kg1 b2 43. Rg8

Wednesday, the players who are now in a hole, many of whom are the lower seeds, will have to level the scores if they want to stay in the tournament. Given how Tuesdays’s games went, I don’t expect to see many of them succeed in tying up the matches.


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.