She beat Anna Muzychuk, 1.5-0.5, in the rapid tiebreaker games on Friday.
Tan Zhongyi is the new queen of chess.
Friday, in Tehran, she beat Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, 1.5-0.5, in a two-game rapid playoff to become the Women’s World Champion. Tan, who is from China, and Muzychuk had ended their four-game regulation match tied at two points apiece. In Friday’s playoff, they drew their first game, in which Muzychuk had White, then Tan won the second when Muzychuk blundered in a difficult position and walked into a mating net.
The championship was organized by the World Chess Federation, otherwise known as FIDE, the game’s governing body. Tan earned $48,000, after fees, for winning; Muzychuk takes home $24,000.
The Women’s World Championship was a 64-player knockout tournament, the same model as in a tennis tournament, that started on February 10. Tan was the ninth seed — the top woman without the full grandmaster title (she is a woman’s grandmaster) — while Muzychuk was the second seed.
Tan Zhongyi during the finals. Tan is the fifth woman from China to be the Women's Champion.
On her way to the title, Tan knocked off the top seed, her compatriot, Ju Wenjun, and the fourth seed, Harika Dronavalli of India.
Anna Muzychuk was bidding to become the second woman in her family, after her sister, Mariya (2015-2016), to be the Women's Champion.
Muzychuk had to beat two former Women’s World Champions, Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria and Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia, to get to the final. She was bidding to become the second woman in her family, after her sister, Mariya, to be the Women’s Champion. Mariya held the title from 2015-2016.
Tan is the fifth woman from China to the Women’s Champion, succeeding Hou Yifan, another compatriot, who did not play in the tournament in protest of the format. (Hou said that only a match should determine the champion because the knockout tournament format does not allow a player to recover from mistakes and is therefore too random.)
Indeed, to retain her title, Tan will have to play Ju, the winner of the Grand Prix, in a match. The dates and venue are yet to be announced.
Here are the games from the playoff. In Game 1, Tan was in a bit of trouble, but Muzychuk made enough small errors to let Tan escape with a draw. Game 2 was very tense and it was only at the end, when Muzychuk blundered that the outcome became clear.
Anna Muzychuk vs. Tan Zhongyi
Women's World Championship |Tehran IRI |Round 6.5 |03 Mar 2017 |1/2-1/2
1. e4e5After being destroyed in her last game in which she used the French
Defense, Tan switches openings. 2. Nf3Nf6The Petroff, or Russian,
Defense. It has the reputation of being super solid and hard to beat. Tan is
clearly not trying to be too ambitious in the first game of the tiebreaker. 3. Nxe5d64. Nf3Nxe45. Nc3For a long time, 5. d4 was considered the best
move. But after many systems were extensively analyzed almost out to a draw
for Black, top players turned to this move. It has become the most popular
reply to the Petroff. 5... Nxc36. dxc3The broken pawn structure does not
pose any problems for White because the number of pawns on each side remains
balanced. Indeed, White now has access to the d and e files for her rooks. 6... Be77. Be3O-O8. Qd2White prepares to castle queenside, which
sometimes can be a prelude for an attack on the kingside. There is actually
some venom in this system. 8... Qe89. Bd3Nc610. O-O-ONe5Black tries to
trade pieces as quickly as possible -- before White can try to get something
going on the kingside. 11. Nxe5dxe5The most significant element of this
exchange is that Black now has a mobile kingside majority. If all the pieces
were magically removed from the board, Black would probably be able to win a
king-and-pawn endgame. But there is a long way to go before White has to worry
about that. 12. c4This pawn is not really going anywhere. It made more
sense for White to lash out on the kingside. 12... Qa413. Kb1Be614. f3Rfe8Black is trying to shore up her defenses on the e-file as White will
soon build pressure there. 15. Qe2Qa516. Bd2Qc517. Bc3f618. Qe4g6White has made real progress and forced some positional concessions from
Black. The computer now suggests 19. h4 and it is not hard to see why. White
will begin to attack the kingside. 19. Qxb7?!In one move, White loses a
lot of her advantage. 19... Bxc420. Bxc4+Qxc421. Rd7?!This move does
not accomplish as much as it appears to do. 21... Bd622. Rd1Rab823. Qd5+Forced. (23. Qa7?? Qc3!) 23... Qxd524. Rxd5Rbd825. Rxd8Rxd826. a4White still has a small edge because of her superior pawn structure, but it
is hard to win a game like this. 26... Rd7?!This helps White. Why not
26... Kf7? 27. Ra5c5This looks ugly. To be forced to play this suggests
that Black has gone astray. 28. Ka2Rb7?!An error. Either 28... Kf7 or
28... f5 were better. 29. Rb5?!White returns the favor. Instead, 29. Ra6
Rd7 30. Rc6, and Black is really tied down. 29... Rc730. Ba5Rc631. Kb3c4+!?A nice idea. 32. Kc3e4!The correct follow-up. 33. fxe4Bxh2Trades help Black and she has also created activity for her pieces. 34. Kd4?!Of course, 34. Rb7 should be played. 34... a635. Rb7Bg1+36. Kc3Bh2?!36... Bf2! With the nasty threat of 37... Be1. 37. Bb6!White's
bishop re-enters the game, and Black is once again in a precarious position. 37... Bg338. Be3Both players must have been running low on time, but
after 38. a5, White would have had a really significant advantage. 38... Re6!A good move. 39. Kd4f540. exf5gxf5Black's pawns are a mess, but
her pieces have a lot of activity and that gives her just enough
compensation. 41. Bg5h642. Bd2f443. Kxc4Re244. Bc3Rxc2?!It was
better to take the pawn on g2, but this move is understandable. 45. Rg7+Kf846. Rh7Rxg247. Rxh6Ke748. Kd5Re249. Rh7+Ke850. Be5Rh251. Rxh2?White miscalculates (if she had time). This is now a draw. 51... Bxh252. Ke4Kd753. Bxf4Bxf454. Kxf4Kc6White is one tempo too slow. If her pawn
were already on b4, she would win. But now, after 55. b4 Kd5, Black is just in
time. The rest was easy. 55. Ke5Kc556. a5Kb557. Kd5Kxa558. Kc5Ka459. b4Kb360. Kb6Kxb461. Kxa6
Women's World Championship |Tehran IRI |Round 6.6 |03 Mar 2017 |1-0
1. d4d52. c4c6The Slav Defense, just as Muzychuk played in her two
regulation games. Since she drew the last one rather easily, she evidently did
not feel any need to change what she did last time. 3. Nf3Nf64. g3Tan is
the first to vary. In the last regulation game, she played 4. Qb3, but that
did not bring any advantage. 4... Bf55. Nc3e66. Nh4White moves to
eliminate Black's "bad" bishop (which is no longer bad since it is outside the
Black pawn chain) before she can play h6 and preserve it. 6... dxc4Trying
to highlight one drawback of White's plan. It is going to be harder to win
this pawn now the knight can no longer go to e5. 7. Nxf5exf5Black's broken
pawn structure is not a major problem. The pawn on f5 restrains White's
center, as does the pawn on c6. And Black will have the d and e files for her
rooks. 8. e3White no longer wants to fianchetto her bishop 8... Nbd79. Bxc4Nb6Best. Black mus make sure that White cannot form a battery along the
a2-g8 diagonal with her queen and bishop. 10. Be2Bd611. Bf3O-O12. O-OThe opening is over and Black has achieved full equality. 12... Re813. Qc2Qd714. b3Re7This is not a mistake, but I don't understand this move.
It certainly looks very artificial; 14... Rad8 certainly made more sense. 15. Na4Rae8?!This is bizarre. There was nothing wrong with 15... Na4; the
pressure down the b-file would always be manageable. 16. Nc5This is a
great position for the knight. 16... Qc817. Bd2Nbd518. Rac1Ne419. Bg2Despite Black's odd moves, her position is still quite good. 19... g620. b4Qc7Black is having trouble finding a plan. She is basically sitting and
waiting, while White has found somethign to do on the queenside. 21. Nxe4?!An error in planning. As the computer shows, 21. b5 was good. After 21... Bc5
22. Be4 fe4 23. Qc5 Rc8 24. Qa7, White has won a pawn. 21... fxe422. b5Ba3Just in time to prevent material loss. 23. Rb1cxb524. Qb3Qd625. Qxb5Rc826. Qb3Kg727. Bc1Bxc128. Rbxc1Rc629. Rxc6Qxc630. Qa3Qb6?!The first small error; 30... b6 was better. 31. Rc1Qb4?An error; 31...
a6 was better. 32. Qxa7Nc333. Rf1Qc4Though Black has ganied activity
for her pieces, a pawn is a pawn. If White can consolidate, Black will be in
trouble. 34. Qa3Re635. Re1Ra636. Qe7Rxa237. Bxe4b538. Bf3b4Black's b-pawn seems like it could win the game for Black, but... 39. Qe5+Kh6??A blunder that ends the game. But even after 39... Kg8 40. d5, White
would still have an edge. 40. g4!Black cannot stop checkmate. 40... f641. Qxf6Ra542. h4
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.