Most Top Seeds Cruising at Women's World Championship
BySamuel ShanklandFeb 15 — 1:00 AM
Image by Jason Pierre / FIDE
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
Nh59. 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... Re810. g4Nf411. h4!White would be ready to play Kf2. After that, I think White would be a bit better. ... )
9... Qh4+10. Kd2Ng311. Qe1The only way to save the rook. 11... Nxf1+12. Qxf1It'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... f513. gxf5Bxf514. 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. Bb2cxd416. Bxd4Nc617. Ne2dxc418. Qg2Bg619. Rac1b520. f4Nxd421. Nxd4Rad822. Rhf1Qf623. Qg1Qa624. Rc3b425. axb4Qa2+26. Kd1Qb1+
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. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Bc4Bc54. O-ONf65. d3a66. c3Ba77. Nbd2O-O8. h3d69. Bb3Nh5!?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... Be6A more standard move like this would have been fine for Black. )
10. Re1Nf4?!This is asking for it. The knight will be attacked on f4.
( 10... Qf6!11. Nf1Qg6!The threat of Bxh3 forces White to continue: 12. Nh4Qf6!And with both f2 and h4 attacked, White has no choice but to repeat moves. )
11. Nf1Qf612. Ng3h5?This is seriously asking for trouble. 13. d4!White takes control of the center. 13... h4?
( 13... g6This was the best move to limit the damage, but White would still be better after: 14. Be3When she has a large center and Black has no compensation. The bishop on a7 is pretty forlorn looking as well. )
( 14... Bxf5This position would also be very unpleasant for Black. 15. exf5Qxf516. Nxh4Qg517. Bxf4!exf418. Nf3Black is going to be playing down a piece for a long time as the bishop on a7 has no roll in the game. )
( 15... exf416. N5xh4This position is all but hopeless for Black. White is up a pawn, has a huge center, and the bishop on a7 is useless. )
16. dxe5dxe517. Bg5Qg618. exf5Bxf519. Qc1!The most accurate way to finish the game. The threat of Nxh4 cannot be stopped and that will quickly end the game. 19... Bd320. Nxh4Qh521. Bf6Kh722. Bc2Bg623. Re4!Not the only winning move, but definitely the prettiest. 23... Rae824. Nf3Black 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. Nb3Black 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. Nxa1For White, an unfortunate necessity.
( 22. Rxa1dxe423. fxe4exd4And Black wins a pawn. )
22... exd4!23. cxd4dxe4!24. fxe4For the moment it looks like White has a strong center, but it turns out that her pawns are quite weak. 24... Qf4!25. Bd2Qg4!26. h3
( 26. e5The engine recommends this move, but after: 26... Nd5White is losing from a strategic standpoint. )
26... Qg627. d5?A bad move in a bad position.
( 27. Nc2Rxe4White will still probably lose, but she can fight on for a while after: 28. Rxe4Nxe429. Be3Qe630. d5!cxd531. Qxb5 )
27... Nxd5!Tactics 101. Black wins the d-pawn and will also be able to take care of the e-pawn. 28. Nb3N5f629. Qd6Rxe430. Rf1Re6Black is up two pawns. The rest was not difficult for Black. 31. Qc7Qc232. Rf3Nxc533. Nd4Qxd234. Nxe6Qe1+35. Kh2Qxe636. Rc3Nfe437. Rc1Kh738. Rd1b439. Rd8b340. Qb8Nd741. Qb7Qe5+42. Kg1b243. 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.