The most awaited game of the day was also the last one to finish. Long after all the other games were over, Hou Yifan defeated her closest rival, Dzagnidze to increase her advantage to one and half points. It was interesting the gradual way the World Champion escaped from the compact group trailing her. For the last three rounds there were three players at only half point behind her, then two, one, none anymore.
Ju Wenjun fought back after her yesterday's loss to the leader by winning against Stefanova and caught up with Dzagnidze in a tie for 2nd-3rd.
Muzychuk, who drew against Koneru, dropped half a point away from the podium, but still has to play direct games with all the three players classified above her. The only other draw of the day was Harika - Zhao, which didn't affect the classification too much.
After breaking the spell with her first win of yesterday, Kosteniuk obtained a new victory, against Khotenashvili this time, and keeps chances for a positive result. Danielian also won (against Muminova) and steps onto +1.
This was an entertaining round with many decisive games, but the way it started it looked as if we would have no draws at all! It becomes obvious that the players start feeling tired, mistakes are popping up now and again. Most of them consist of careless pawn moves, as if for just an instant of a second, the players forgot that those little guys cannot step back to mend the weaknesses left behind...
The swimming pools are patiently waiting for the players to try them out
but none had anytime for that, so far...
I do see some chess players! But not our ladies, who, at this hour, were fighting indoors...
the Georgian national men's team though, had a moment of respite from their trainings before the Olympiad.
Until the second rest day, there is still one round to go tomorrow and another extra one for us to examine underneath:)
Nana Dzagnidze - Hou Yifan 0-1
The game of the day was obviously the one between first and second place in the event, Nana Dzagnidze and Hou Yifan. It was a quiet maneuvering game, a common occurrence for the Queen's Indian defence.
First place, +19 rating points, almost 3000 performance and 1.5 points
ahead of the 2nd place! I don't think it's that bad...
The commentators praised Hou Yifan's 16...Re7!, which is reminiscent of Kasparov's ...Re7 against Karpov. Since, sooner or later, Black is going to push e6-e5, she already preparing to have both rooks on the e-file. Nana's aggressive 17.g4 forced Yifan to play 17...e5 immediately, adhering to the rule that an attack on the wing should always be countered in the centre.
18.dxe5 Nxe5 19.Bxe5 dxe5 20.Qg3 Rae8 made Black the winner of the first part of the game, who enjoyed 'easier' play. But Nana fought well, regained control over the position and it almost looked to be heading toward a drawish endgame.
A real fighter, Nana Dzagnidze, who remains on the 2nd place but shared now with Ju Wenjun.
This is were Hou Yifan showed her class by extracting water out of an apperently very dry stone!
Here Black's advantage has already taken big proportions and 42...Rd3 43.Nd1 Ra3! not only seems to win the a-pawn but after 44.Rh8 Ra2+ 45.Kf1 Nd3! suddenly also White's king and knight got in danger. Perhaps, even here the game was still salvable but, in a practical game and without much time left, it became a daunting task. Ten moves later Nana had to resign. A big win for Hou Yifan, who is on her way to the tournament victory.
Harika Dronavalli - Zhao Xue 1/2
We have seen pretty unorthodox opening ideas this tournament but none as inspiring as:
This is what we could see in Harika-Xue today. Her inventive opening idea seemed to had given Zhao Xue wings, as she continued to outplay her opponent with every move.
Being under severe pressure, Harika decided not to sit around and wait but to start active counterplay with 18.Qg3 dxc4 19.bxc4 Bxc4 20.h4. However, the attack never materialised as Xue continued precisely, increasing her advantage.
Defending again a very difficult position, but today with more success!
In the press conference, Harika explained she had already resigned to her fate, when in the position underneath Black pushed her g-pawn with 41...g5.
Xue's idea was that now 42.Qh6 can be met with 42...Qe4+ 43.Kg3 Qg6! with a winning pawn endgame. But, to her horror, she discovered that 44.Qxg6+ fxg6 45.f4! gxf4 46.Kxf4 would be followed by g4-g5, which allows White to draw the pawn endgame. After such a shock, the only option left for the Chinese was to deliver perpetual check...chess can be cruel!
Anna Muzychuk - Humpy Koneru 1/2
The Petroff-defence is what Humpy Koneru used against Anna Muzychuk today. But Anna was well prepared, using a line which has also been seen in the games of her second, GM Emil Sutovsky. It seems the second did his job well (although from afar) - White certainly had strong pressure out of the opening.
With her homework done, Anna had some time to ponder upon Xue's 1...b5
(against 1.Nf3), which we mentioned above
Although many pieces were exchanged, the initiative persisted throughout the middlegame. On move number 27 the players reached the following position:
Very strong now is 27.Qb3+! Qf7 28.Re6, when Black is somewhat tied up, and Be5 is coming. Perhaps this was a big moment since after 27.Bf4 Bxf4 28.Qxf4 g6 Anna did keep some pressure but Humpy was in no mood to give her another chance and held the draw.
A good draw for Humpy today, keeping her on +1.
Ju Wenjun - Antoaneta Stefanova 1-0
Just as in the previous game (when Wenjun played against Hou Yifan), Ju Wenjun-Stefanova saw an early boiling point as well.
In this already difficult position, Black could have made the best of it with 13...Nxb2 14.Nxe6 Qxc3, although the complications still run many more moves deeper than that. Instead, 13...Rad8 14.Rxd8 Rxd8 15.Nxe6 fxe6 16.Ne4 Qd4 17.Bg5 illustrated the weaknesses in Black's camp. Stefanova saw herself forced to give two pawns in order to fend White's threats but that became too costly.
Ju Wenjun won on move 28 and is now back on track, sharing the second place with Nana Dzagnidze.
Alexandra Kosteniuk - Bella Khotenashvili 1-0
A second consecutive victory for Alexandra Kosteniuk who dealt with Bella Khotenashvili's Pirc/Modern defence in a very convincing manner.
For Alexandra, the second half of the tournament looks completely different
than the first one; and she still has to play Hou Yifan!
In the diagrammed position, 13.Ne2 followed by Nf4 would give White a serious advantage but Alexandra's energetic 13.a5! was even more convincing.
Following 13...Qc7 14.Na4! Qxa5 15.Nc5 Qb6 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.e5! Black was in dire straits as the king has no refuge and the centre is about to collapse. Bella was unable to reorganize her defences and had to resign shortly afterwards.
A misfortune never comes alone...but there are 4 more rounds to go
for Bella to minimize the damages.
Elina Danielian - Nafisa Muminova 1-0
Armenia's number one, Elina Danielian, played some great attacking chess today. Faced with rather unorthodox opening play from her opponent, Nafisa Muminova, she quickly seized the initiative throwing thunder and lightning upon Black's king.
When Elina's advantage had already taken upon winning proportions and when many moves looked appealing:
Elina estimated 20.d5!
as being the most convincing way, since it allows the bishop on c3 to join the party. After the further 20...Bxd5 21.Be4 Be7 22.Bxd5 Bxg5+ 23.hxg5 exd5
Black resigned, as 23...gxh6 24.e6+ loses the queen.
The fate of the first place almost looks as if decided, but a fierce battle for the podium is still to be expected. Difficult to keep pace with such an express, who overshadowed even her own previous performance from the FIDE Women GP held in Khanty Mansyisk. If there Yifan was leading with a full point ahead of her nearest rival and four rounds to go, here there are also four rounds to be played but she has an advance of one and a half points. The question remains: will any of her remaining opponents succeed to throw sand in Yifan's wheels? We will soon find out!Meantime, life goes on...By Alina l'Ami