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Chasing Hou Yifan

12The decisive game rate stays very high in the sixth round of the Lopota Grand Prix tournament: only one game ended in a draw! The black colour took revenge for the yesterday's humiliation with three wins and only two losses.
Hou Yifan keeps winning (against her colleague Ju Wenjun this time) but fails to increase her advantage over Nana Dzagnidze, who defeated Zhao Xue and trails by half a point. Since tomorrow they will face each other, I dare to say that football will have to wait!
Muzychuk continues to advance. Today, she defeated Khotenashvili and ties for third with Ju Wenjun.
Koneru recovered from the yesterday's shock with a win against Harika. Both Indian players are half a point away from the podium.
Danielian's relatively short draw against Stefanova is understandable after her marathon game from the previous round and both players tie for 7th-8th.
Playing with Black against Muminova, Kosteniuk obtained her first win in this tournament, which may mark a favourable turn in her tournament fate.

Hou Yifan - Ju Wenjun 1-0

Hou Yifan's opening approach can safely be called experimental this event. But given her score, this seems fully justifiable!

When asked if this is the successful strategy, choosing unorthodox setups to get away from theory and just have a game of chess, Yifan said it is only a coincidence. If needed, Yifan can also show deep opening preparation, as she did when she played the A-group in Wijk aan Zee.

Today she met Ju Wenjun's Sicilian with the somewhat rare 2.Ne2
and it worked wonders!

Gelfand's double? Wenjun reminds me of the famous GM, who, at times, prefers blindfold calculation;
when asked though, Wenjun confessed the tension is too high and some moments
to rest her mind are necessary. Indeed, humans are not robots!

The critical moment came as early as move 9, when Wenjun forced matters with:


9...f5. After the further 10.Qc4 Ne5 11.Qd5 Bc6 12.Qxe5 Bxh1 it was time to take stock. Black is an exchange up but White has a lead in development.


Instead of the more aggressive 13.Nb5 or 13.Bf4 (which she considered as well but got a bit lost in the variety of options, as she mentioned during the press conference), Yifan chose the more restraint 13.Be2 which, however, does threaten a very nasty check on h5! Ju Wenjun was forced to go 13...Qd6 and after the queens got exchanged, Yifan locked up the h1-bishop with f2-f3. By that moment it was clear it would be a long day for Ju Wenjun but she continued to fight heroically. Nevertheless, Hou Yifan did not experience any major hickups when converting her advantage. On move 40 the scoresheets were signed.

Humpy Koneru - Harika Dronavalli 1-0

The second duel of compatriots was the longest game of the day. Although it was expected by many to end much earlier, once the queen endgame appeared on the board, some were betting on a new tournament record, which could have surpassed Elina's 133 moves of yesterday.

Fighting tooth and nail for half a point

In a sharp Grunfeld, Harika chose an even sharper pawn sacrifice, to which Humpy reacted in a way that, undoubtedly, came as a surprise to Harika. Let's see what happened:

Koneru- Drona

White's last move 12.Qd4-c4, got the queen out of the diagonal but gave Black the opportunity to play 12...cxd5 13.exd5 Bf5, with active play for the pawn, in a typical dynamic Grunfeld style. Harika instead, chose the even more active
12...b5?!! 13.Qxc6 Bd7 14.Qd6 and it would take your reporter the entire night and morning, until the next round in fact, to judge the objective evaluation of this position.

Powerful comeback for Humpy, particularly after yesterday's loss
The secret of her composure has been revealed during the press conference:
"I never worry about the outcome of the game, I just play my moves"

Having sacrificed two pawns, Harika was forced to keep the pressure in order not to allow White to consolidate.
Unfortunately for her she didn't manage (she was particularly upset of 15...Nh5, which she considered to be too slow), Humpy consolidated, kept her two pawns lead, and seemed to be cruising to victory. But the point refused to come, as Harika started to fight with immense willpower!

Koneru- Drona1

This doesn't just look lost, it very much is, but with 37...Nxf4! 38.gxf4 Qg4+ 39.Kf2 Qxf4+ 40.Ke2 Qxc1 Harika somehow managed to keep the game going. She then even succeeded to get White's mighty d-pawn off the board but in the meantime, Humpy had created passed pawns on te a- and b-file as well. A long story short, despite fighting it out to the bitter end, the position was just beyond repair for Harika. She had to resign after 5,5 hours of play.

Zhao Xue - Nana Dzagnidze 0-1

There is our Nana!


Zhao Xue used the English Opening against Nana Dzagnidze, very much to the awe of our commentators (two of them being Georgian), who thought that Xue showed understanding and got a nice edge. Xue herself thought she was winning at some pint but in the end, the game turned out in another dissapointment for the Chinese.

Time-trouble was the main cause for her defeat:


With 36.Qxc5 Qxc5 37.Rxc5 dxe3 38.fxe3 White would be completely fine, as 38...Nxe3 39.Rc7+ can't be answer with 39...Rf7 because of 40.Rc8! mating. With seconds ticking away and playing for a win, Xue chose the provocative 36.e4 which was powerfully met with 36...d3! when the d-pawn proved too much to handle. An important win for Nana Dzagnidze who is the only one able to keep the pace with Hou Yifan. And she will face her tomorrow with White! We all look forward to this game...

Bella Khotenashvili - Anna Muzychuk 0-1

   29   Lopota 200
Bella's supporters worried for her

And they were right: Bella Khotenashvili had an unfortunate accident in the opening today, a Nimzo-Indian, against Anna Muzychuk. Already on move 13 matters got out of hand.



In a standard type of position, Bella erred with 13.Ba2 which allowed, out of the blue, 13...Ng4! (threatening Bxf3 and mate on h2!)
The Georgian was forced to give up a pawn with 14.Re1 (14.g3 Qc6! would renew the threats to White's king, while 14.d5 doesn't help either due to 14...exd5 15.Bxd5 Rad8, as the players showed after the game) 14...Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Qxh2+ and this was a pawn she would not get back for the remainder of the game.

One pawn became two pawns and when queens got exchanged
Anna easily converted her advantage.

An unfortunate day for Bella but she keeps spreading
optimism with her beautiful smile

Nafisa Muminova - Alexandra Kosteniuk 0-1

The sixth round also saw the first win of former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. But, as she explained in the press conference, things didn't go as planned! Nafisa played the Scotch and Black's 4...Bc5 was met with the fashionable 5.Nb3. Alexandra explained she should have played more aggressively early on, by pushing her d-pawn to d5. We enter the game at a moment it is reaching boiling point:


Here Nafisa threw in 20.Nf6+! gxf6 21.gxf6 Ng6 22.f5! but Alexandra also found the best defense with 22...Re5! perhaps this was the moment where improvements can be found for Nafisa.


In the game she went astray with 23.fxg6 hxg6 24.Bh6 (Nafisa explained she was planning to continue Bg7-Qg2-Rf5 but realized further on it doesn't work) 24...Rh5 25.Be3

Seeing that Bg7 wouldn't lead anywhere, Nafisa decided to retreat her bishop back to e3
but the loss of two tempi costed her dearly!

25...Ne5 and Black was back in business. Perhaps 23.Bd4! was the way to proceed, keeping all options in positions. White can continue by building pressure with moves like Rg1 and h2-h4. It does look very scary!

"Bad girls don't cry"- states the t-shirt of Alexandra; we are not sure about the 'bad' part
but certainly Alexandra doesn't cry! Just like yesterday, lost or not, she fights like a tigress.

In the game Alexandra showed her class by turning the tables around and, one move before mate, Nafisa resigned.

Antoaneta Stefanova - Elina Danielian 1/2

The first ones to enter the commentary room today were Antoaneta and Elina. Both seemed to be content with a draw and wasted little time achieving just that. After an hour of play, a repetition was found and that was the end of it.

For Elina, who played a marathon-game against Alexandra Kosteniuk yesterday,
and still looking for logical explanations of her Rhe8 move,
the draw was very much welcome.

It is always a good idea to have a woman input in women events; our lady commentator,
IM Maia Lomineishvili, enjoying the scenery in the moments when she is not behind her laptop.
Maia is also working for the tournament sponsor: Socar Energy Georgia.

The breathtaking shoulder to shoulder race between Hou Yifan and Nana Dzagnidze will culminate with the direct encounter scheduled tomorrow. The Georgian will play with White... Will it be a white day or a black day?

By Alina l'Ami

© FIDE Grand Prix 2014    |    |