Top Two Seeds Advance, but Another Favorite Falls at Women's Ch.
BySamuel ShanklandFeb 15 — 11:00 PM
Image by David Llada
Only seven of the 16 matches were decided on Wednesday; the others will be decided in tiebreakers on Thursday.
So far, the Women’s World Championship in Tehran has not been dull. Thursday, more than half of the matches in the second round of the knockout tournament will go to tiebreakers as only seven of the 16 matches were decided on Wednesday.
The top two seeds, Ju Wenjun of China and Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, were among the ones to advance. They each made easy draws on Wednesday after winning the first games of their matches on Tuesday.
Ju Wenjun of China during Round 2.
Valentina Gunina of Russia, the No. 6 seed, will not be joining them; she is on her way home. After a tough loss on Tuesday with White, she had to swing for the fences with Black on Wednesday, but she took took too many risks and lost a quick game to Ni Shiqun of China. Shiqun, the No. 38 seed, has now defeated two higher-rated opponents in regulation and scored 3.5 out of 4 possible points.
Ni Shiqun vs. Gunina, Valentina
Womens World Ch. |Tehran |Round 2.2 |15 Feb 2017 |1-0
13. Rfd1Black has already taken some risks and has a strange looking setup, but she is more or less okay. 13... Qa5?A blunder, after which White has a decisive edge.
( 13... Nxd4!14. Bxd4Qxb315. axb3e5!Black would be fine in the endgame because 16. Bxa7does not work because of: 16... Bxa717. Rxa7Kb8!18. Raa1Bc2And White loses material. )
14. Nb5!White is threatening Nc4 and there is nothing that Black can do about it. 14... Rd5
( 14... a6This move would not have helped. 15. Nc4Qxb516. Nb6+ )
( 15... Qxb516. Nd6+ )
16. Bf3In just a few moves, Black's position has become a total train wreck. White's pieces are incredibly active and the Black king is getting mauled. Black even can't save the rook on d5. Despite the level material, the engine already is evaluating White at +5 the equivalent of being up a rook. 16... b6
( 16... Rxd1+17. Rxd1Qf818. Nbd6+ )
17. Qa3Kd7Not a happy move to play. 18. Ncd6Bg619. c4!Simple and brutally efficient. White does not even let Black sacrifice an exchange to keep the d-file closed. 19... Ne5
( 19... Rxd1+20. Rxd1And Black cannot avoid a devastating discovered check. )
20. Be2Bc221. cxd5Nxd522. Rd2In addition to all of Black's other problems, she is down a rook for a pawn. The game ended soon afterward. 22... Bg623. Nc4Qf624. Nc3Nxc425. Bxc4Qe526. Nxd5Qh2+27. Kf1exd528. Rxd5+Ke629. Re5+Kxe530. Qe7+
Another player who won on Wednesday to clinch a spot in the next round was Le Thao Nguyen Pham of Vietnam, No. 47. Just like Ni, she has also defeated two higher rated opponents in regulation. In Round 2, her victim was Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia.
Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs. Pham Le Thao Nguyen
Womens World Ch. |Tehran |Round 2.2 |15 Feb 2017 |0-1
Kd6White is okay, but the position is very dangerous for her because of the passed a-pawn. With a couple bad moves, the position becomes indefensible. 49. Rf7?
( 49. Kd4!White needed to play this move to prevent Kc5. 49... Bc5+50. Kc4!The threat of Nf7 is no laughing matter, so Black should play: 50... Kxe551. Kxc5When the advance b6 is very dangerous for Black. In fact, Black's only move to survive would be: 51... Rd8!So she can reply to b6 by playing Rd5+. )
49... Kc550. Rxc7Kxb5The a-pawn is much more dangerous than the c-pawn as nothing stands in its way. 51. Rb7+Kc552. Rh7Bc3!53. c7Rc854. Rd7Kb6
( 54... a4This move would have been more effective. Black has nothing to fear and the a-pawn would advance quickly. )
( 55. Nc4+!Kc656. Rd6+Kxc757. Kd3!White could fight on and probably hold a draw with accurate play. )
55... Kb756. Rxe6
( 56. Nc4This move was more resilient, though after: 56... Bb4!57. Rxe6Rxc758. Kd4Rc6Black would still have a big edge. )
56... Rxc757. Kd5Bxe5!Correctly switching to a rook-and-pawn ending that White cannot save. 58. Rxe5Rc6Not the quickest way to win, but the simplest one. With the kingside protected and the White king cut off along the c-file, Black is free to advance the a-pawn.
( 58... a459. Re4a360. Ra4Rc3This would also have led to a win. )
59. h4gxh460. Rh5a461. Rxh4a362. Rh2Ra663. Ra2Kc7The rest was easy for Black. 64. Kc4Kd665. Kb3Ke566. Re2+Kf467. Ka2Kxg468. Re8h569. Rg8+Kh3
Others had to win just to stay alive. After losing Game 1 of her match to Anna Ushenina of Ukraine, No. 24, a former Women’s World Champion, Tan Zhongyi of China, No. 9, fired back and won Game 2 on Wednesday to send the match to tiebreaks.
Tan Zhongyi vs. Ushenina, Anna
Womens World Ch. |Tehran |Round 2.2 |15 Feb 2017 |1-0
b5White has more space and a nice advantage, but Tan was not content with that; she wanted the whole cake. 27. g4!?I like this move.
( 27. Rgc1This move would have been fine for White, but it would still take a lot of work to win. Black doesn't have any clear weaknesses to target. )
27... fxg4?This gives White a huge advantage.
( 27... Rac8This move was much better. The rooks will work well on the c-file and Black does not need to fear gxf5. 28. gxf5Bxf529. Bxf5exf5Black is fine because White's remaining bishop is blocked in and not very useful. )
28. Ng5!It's possible that Black overlooked this move
( 28. hxg4The automatic recapture is much less effective. 28... Bxd329. Qxd3Be7!And Black has defended against the invasion on g5 by the knight. )
28... Qe829. hxg4Now Black cannot stop f5, after which the kingside will swiftly collapse. 29... h630. f5!Bf731. Nf3
( 31. Nxf7I probably would have taken the bishop, but the move played by White is also good. )
31... Ne732. Rg2Simple and effective. White plans Rbg1, Rh2, and the kingside assault will break through. 32... Kh833. Rh2Ng834. Rf1Rac835. f6Finally a breakthrough. Black's kingside is decimated and she has no counterplay on the c-file since every square is well defended. 35... Rc436. g5!Ignoring the rook; White has a more important target in mind: the Black king. 36... Bxb437. Bxb4Rxb438. fxg7+Kxg739. gxh6+Kh840. Qg1Ushenina had seen enough and will have to try to prevail in the tiebreak on Thursday.
With so many matches still undecided, Thursday should be another exciting day.
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.