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Who is leading?
9With her new win against Stefanova, Hou Yifan retains her sole lead reiterating the breathtaking pace from Khanty Mansyisk. The situation at the top remains tense, though, as Dzagnidze and Ju Wenjun won against Koneru and Zhao Xue, respectively, and keep trailing the leader by just half a point. Muzychuk defeated Muminova and advances on the fifth position with 3/5, while Dronavalli-Khotenashvili was a correct draw, keeping the Indian half a point away from the podium and allowing the Georgian to escape the last place. Kosteniuk - Danielian reached the same result in a much more dramatic way and established a length record for the Grand Prix circuit with 133 moves! This was a dark day for the black pieces, who scored only two draws.

Nana Dzagnidze - Humpy Koneru 1-0

The game between Nana Dzagnidze and Humpy Koneru was a bit of a rollercoaster-ride. Starting from the English opening (a favourite this round!) Nana got a pleasant advantage out of the opening but Humpy fought back, took over,  and on move 21 she lashed out with the strong:

Dzagnd- Koneru

21...Ne5. It transpired there is very little White can do against ...Ng4. Having said that, Humpy surprised everyone (and herself, which she admitted during the press conference) by meeting 22.Nd1 with 22...Qh5 instead of 22...Ng4.

As it is often the case in a game of chess, it is difficult to break a trend
and having lost her advantage, Humpy miscalculated few moves later:

Dzagnd- Koneru1

With 26...Qe1+ 27.Kg2 Qb4 Black could have kept the equilibrium. True, White wins a pawn with 28.Rxc6 Qxb3 29.Rxc8+  Rxc8 30.axb3, but after 30...d4! there won't be much time to enjoy the extra material. In the diagrammed position Humpy instead chose
26...Qg4 which ran into 27.Rxc6! with the neat point 27...Rxc6 28.Qxd5+ Kg7 29.Qxc6 Qxd1+ 30.Rf1! and White will gain a decisive material advantage. The game still lasted another 20 moves but the final result was never in doubt.

Shared second, plus 12 rating points and 2731 performance!

Hou Yifan - Antoaneta Stefanova 1-0

Hou Yifan firmly remains in the lead after a convincing victory against Antoaneta Stefanova.

21   36

Using the English opening, Hou Yifan quickly managed to seize the iniative, making optimal use of the fact that her opponent still had her king in the centre.


With her last move 16.Nd5 Yifan prevents castling as this would run into a check on e7. Therefore, the knight has to be eliminated.
In the press conference Antoaneta proposed 16...b5 as a possible improvement, the idea being that after 17.Qf3 Bxd5 18.cxd5 Qd7 there is no more discovered check on the e-file. In the game 16...Bxd5 17.cxd5 Qxd5 was played (perhaps bailing out with 17...Qa6 was the last chance) and now 18.Bf4+ Kf8 19.Rfd1 gave White a raging initiative. Six moves later Stefanova saw herself forced to resign.

Maybe Judit Polgar will reconsider playing in women events

Ju Wenjun - Zhao Xue 1-0

Friends are always friends, even if they have to metaphorically "destroy" each other

Ju Wenjun continued her excellent start of the tournament by defeating her compatriot Zhao Xue. For the casual observer, Xue's position seemed to be very acceptable but the decision made by Wenjun on move 20 showed a deeper feel for the position.


With the unconvetional 20.Bxf6! Bxf6 21.Ng5 Bxg5 22.Qxg5 Black's king is suddenly rather exposed to h4-h5 ideas. This was not the end of the story of course, it was only on move 33 (although, during the press conference, she blamed the unfortunate plan starting with 31...Bd7) that Zhao Xue commited the decisive mistake.


Afraid to end up in zugzwang after 33...Bxg6 34.Bh5 Kf7 35.a4 she decided against it. But 35...Bxh5 36.Qxf6+ exf6! actually saves the day. By taking away the g5-square the pawn endgame after 37.Kxh5 Kg7 is now clearly drawn.
After 33...Bb5 34.Kh5 Ju Wenjun held on to the pawn and scored a point shortly after.

Excellent start of the tournament for Wenjun: 12 rating points in the pocket, 2732 perfrmance
and second place, right behind Hou Yifan, who she will be facing tomorrow!

Anna Muzychuk - Nafisa Muminova 1-0

This encounter started out as a French defence but transformed into Sicilian territory quickly afterwards.

Anna wouldn't be Anna if she didn't set the board on fire which is exactly what happened on move 17.


With 17.e6! Bxe6 18.Bb5+ (maybe 18.Nd4!? deserves attention as well) 18...Kf8 she first prevented Nafisa from being able to castle before starting a direct assault on the king.

Nafisa's French/Sicilian brought her into trouble

The commentators where especially fond of:


22.Bd7! played by Anna, where 22...g6 was met with 23.Qf3! when Black's position proved to be beyond repair. A strong display by the, now Ukranian, GM.

Alexandra Kosteniuk - Elina Danielian 1/2

After so many decisive games, it is about time seeing something more 'peaceful'. The result from this encounter might look that way but what actually happened on the board was more dramatic than a drama.


Elina Danielian most probably left the playing hall with a bitter taste this round... In what was the longest game of the day, she had a clearly winning endgame against Alexandra Kosteniuk but it eventually petered out into a draw. First things first though, using the Queens Gambit accepted, Elina quickly got comfortable play after a series of somewhat unfortunate decisions by Alexandra, starting with:


; as mentioned by Elina during the press conference, White's plan should have been targeted against the out-of-play bishop from g6, so 20.f3 was the correct path. After what Alexandra played, she seized the initiative in the endgame:


In the diagram above, the Armenian already had a winning position, being a pawn up and having the better pieces. Alexandra played  out her last trump with 34.f4 but after the cool 34...c3! 35.f5 Bxf5 36.bxc3 Bg6! it seemed to all go Elina's way. But here is where the story gets an unexpected twist. First, Elina lost the h-pawn (she couldn't explain her shortcoming and why she placed the wrong rook on e8 on move 39, although she had plenty of time on her clock) and further on, disappointed by her choice, gifted Alexandra with a great resource!


44.Rh7+! Kxh7 45.Nf6+ Kg7 46.Nxe8 Kf8 47.Nc7 suddenly brought Alexandra back in the game. Whatever advantage Elina had left it that point, it didn't turn out to be enough to win the game.

A commendable defensive effort by Kosteniuk, who survived in the very scary-on-all-levels
Rook+Bishop vs Rook endgame!

Harika Dronavalli - Bella Khotenashvili 1/2

The first players to enter the commentary room were Harika Dronavalli and Bella Khotenashvili. For the second time this tournament, Harika used the Catalan opening and Bella was well prepared for it.


Blitzing out her moves, she equalized and soon afterwards half the board was exchanged, leaving a stone drawn rook endgame on the board. For some would look as not the most exciting game of the round, but for Bella is surely an uplifiting game after her rough start in the tournament. And only she and her trainer and most of GMs know how much work it actually is behind such 'quick' draws.


Barely out of the first free day, the tournament's tension flared up with such intensity that a second day off would be mostly welcome. Instead we all, players, commentators, fans and spectators, have to get ready for the sixth round.

By Alina l'Ami

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