Tan Zhongyi of China won the second game of the final. If she wins one more time, or draws twice, she will be the new champion.
Tan Zhongyi of China needs one more win, or two more draws in the final of the Women’s World Championship in Tehran to win the title. After winning Game 2 of her match against Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, Tan leads 1.5 points to 0.5 point. Game 1 of their match ended in a draw.
The championship, a knockout tournament in the same format as used in tennis, began just over two weeks ago with 64 competitors. As the No. 2 seed, Muzychuk was expected to make it to the final. But Tan, as the No. 9 seed, was not expected to be in this position.
Though China has produced most of the Women’s World Champions in recent decades, notably Hou Yifan, the reigning champion, who will lose her crown when this tournament is over, Tan was a bit of an unknown quantity when the championship began. She was the third highest seeded Chinese player, behind Ju Wenjun, the top seed, and Zhao Xue, the No. 8 seed, and the first player in the field after the top eight who was not a full-fledged grandmaster. (Tan has the women’s grandmaster title, which is not as difficult to earn.) Should Tan win the title, it would not be as big an upset as when Anna Ushenina of Ukraine won in 2012 (Ushenina was the 30th seed), but it would still be a surprise.
The final of the World Championship is best-of-four regulation, or slow, games. (Should it end in a tie, the players will go to tiebreaker games, just as in the earlier rounds.)
Game 1 was uneventful as Tan easily neutralized Muzychuk’s initiative with White.
Anna Muzychuk vs. Tan Zhongyi
Women's World Championship |0:15:33-1:09:33 |Round 6.1 |27 Feb 2017 |1/2-1/2
1. e4e6The French Defense. It can be solid and drawish or incredibly
complicated. It depends a great deal on the plans both players choose. 2. d4d53. Nc3dxe4A quieter variation than the Winawer Variation, which arises
after 3... Bb4. 4. Nxe4Bd7Black obviously wants to play solid and take few
chances. 5. Nf3Bc66. Bd3Nd77. O-ONgf68. Ned2With a bit more space
and a lead in development, White is not interested in any trades. 8... Be79. b3Not the only way to develop the bishop, but it makes sense as it will
help White control the center, particularly the square e5. 9... O-O10. Bb2b6Black's bishop is a bit awkward on c6, where it is exposed and blocks the
c-pawn. A retreat back to b7 will help Black to coordinate her pieces a bit
better. 11. c4Bb712. Qe2c5Striking at White's center before she gets too
comfortable must be done sooner rather than later. 13. Rfe1Re814. Rad1Qc7White has made logical developing moves, but because she has been unable to
do anything to pressure Black, Black's position is fine. Chances are roughly
equal. 15. Ne4Nxe416. Bxe4Bxe417. Qxe4Nf618. Qe5Bd619. Qe2Rad8Black is not worried about her kingside pawns being broken up as once the
g-pawn arrives on f6, it will actually help Black to control key squares,
notably e5 and g5. 20. dxc5Bxc521. Bxf6?!Maybe not best. The knight had
no immediate prospects and White's bishop might eventually have been useful in
supporting her queenside pawns. 21... gxf622. g3The light-squared
weaknesses are not a problem because Black no longer has her light-squared
bishop. 22... Rxd123. Rxd1Rd8The game is definitely headed for a draw. 24. Kg2Rxd125. Qxd1Qc626. Qd3f527. Qd8+Kg728. Qg5+Kf829. h4White
does not want to repeat the position and force a draw, so she tries her one
idea -- trying to pushing the h-pawn to h6. 29... Qe430. Qd8+Kg731. Qd2a532. h5h6And that is that. White has no way to make progress. The game
soon ended in a draw. 33. Qc3+Kg834. Qd2Kh735. Qb2Qg436. Ne5!?Tricky,
but it is not enough. 36... Qxh537. Nd7Qg538. Nf6+Kh839. Ne8+Kg840. Nf6+Kh841. Ne8+Kg842. Nf6+Draw by repetition.
In Game 2, Tan gained a clear edge in the opening and gradually increased it until she won a pawn. Despite a couple of small inaccuracies after that, the game was not really in doubt.
Tan Zhongyi vs. Anna Muzychuk
Women's World Championship |0:39:33-0:23:33 |Round 6.2 |28 Feb 2017 |1-0
1. d4d52. c4c6The Slav Defense. It is very solid buy also offers dynamic
counterattacking possibilities for Black. 3. Nf3Nf64. Nc3e6The
Semi-Slav. 5. Qd3An unusual move. White's idea is to play e4 as quickly as
possible. 5... dxc46. Qxc4b5This structure usually arises in the Meran
Variation, but it is with the White bishop on c4, not the queen. 7. Qd3a68. e4c5Perhaps too ambitious. Black counterattacks when White is better
developed. 9. dxc5Bxc510. Qxd8+Kxd811. Bd3Bb712. e5Ng4The wrong way.
The knight would have been better on either d5 or d7. 13. Ne4Even better
was 13. Be4. If 13... Nf2, then 14. Bb7 Ra7 15. Ne4! Nh1 16. Nc5, or 15... Nd3
16. Kd2. 13... Bb4+14. Ke2Nd715. Bf4Nc5The computer prefers 15... f5
in order to breakup White's center or dislodge the White pieces in the center.
Both make sense. The problem with Nc5 is that it allows White to keep control
of the center. 16. Nxc5Bxc517. Rhc1Bb6Black does not have time to take
the pawn on f2. 17... Bf2 18. h3 wins a piece. 18. Ng5Ke719. Be4Each move
by White gains a tempo, slowly building her advantage. 19... Bxe420. Nxe4Though the position is symmetrical, the space advantage that White has in the
center and the beautiful outpost she has for her knight on d6 give her a clear
edge. 20... Rhc821. f3Nh622. g4Sealing the knight off from the game.
White is effectively up a piece. 22... Ng8After so many moves, the knight
returns to its original starting square. Sad. 23. Nd6Rxc124. Rxc1Black
is just about helpless. The threat of Rc6 is terrible. 24... Kd7Choosing
to give up a pawn in order to keep the rook out and reactivate her knight. 25. Nxf7Ne725... Rf8 does not win because of 26. Rd1 and Black can either
play 26... Kc8, allowing 27. Nd6, or 26... Ke7 27. Rd6! Rf7 28. Bg5+! 26. Be3Bxe327. Kxe3Ng6Black tries to gain counterplay against the e-pawn, but
it does not quite work. 28. h4?!It was difficult to calculate, but 28. Ke4
was possible. After 28... Rf8 29. Ng5 Rf4 30. Ke3 Ra4 31. Rd1 Ke7 32. Rd6,
Black's e-pawn will fall. 28... Rf8?!In fact, 28... Nh4 was playable. After
29. Rh1 Ng2 30. Kf2 Kf7 31. Nd6 Nf4 32. Rh7 Nd3 33. Kg3 Ne5 34. Ne4 Rg8, Black
is still holding on. 29. h5Ne729... Rf7 30. hg6 hg6 31. Rd1 is an easy win
for White. 30. Ng5Nd5+31. Kf2White's problems are substantially over. 31... h632. Ne4Ra833. a3a534. Nc3Rc835. Rd1Ke736. Nxd5+exd537. Rxd5Rc2+38. Ke3Rxb239. Ke4The rest is easy. White's four-pawn to
two-pawn majority on the kingside is decisive. 39... a440. f4Rb141. Kf5Rb342. Rc5Kd743. Kg6b444. axb4Rxb445. Kf5Ke746. Rc7+Kf847. Ra7Kg848. g5hxg549. fxg5Rb650. Rxa4g6+51. hxg6Rb152. Ra8+Kg753. Ra7+Kg854. g7Rf1+55. Kg6Ra156. Rf7
Dylan Loeb McClain is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He was a staff editor for The New York Times for 18 years and wrote the paper’s chess column from 2006 to 2014. He is now editor-in-chief of WorldChess.com. He is a FIDE master as well.