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Hou Yifan grabs sole lead
41The vintage of history is forever repeating and today we witnessed Khanty Mansyisk reloaded - Hou Yifan is in sole lead with a perfect score: two out of two, just like on Siberian grounds, which hosted the 4th FIDE Women GP! And yet, the history of yesterday's black day for Black became brighter in the second round: two important victories for the defenders of this colour, one for Hou Yifan herself and the second for Harika Dronavalli, who proved that knights can be stronger than bishops, even in open-type positions!

All the other games were drawn, which makes it for an important and solid step forward, especially for Elina Danielian, Nafisa Muminova and Antoaneta Stefanova, who stood up after yesterday's defeats. Overall, the peaceful results came only after accurate, precise, logical and well fought play, so don't leave the page too quickly, the ladies have interesting moments in stock for you.

Bella Khotenashvili - Hou Yifan 0-1

Khotenasvili-Hou revolved around one word: time-trouble! True, Hou Yifan obtained a fine position after the opening, a classical Nimzo-Indian, but nothing much seemed to be wrong for White either. Around move 25 though, Bella got herself into a massive time-trouble, where the lack of seconds brought along a serious question. On move 34 her Chinese opponent set a devious trap:


After 34...Qf5!? and with a clock on fire is easy to miss what happened in the game; Bella's 35.Rc1 was powerfully met with 35...Rd2! and suddenly White's position collapses. The point is 36.Nxd2 Qxf2+ 37.Kh1 Ng3+ 38.Kh2 Nh4! - white's king is under too much stress to hope for salvation. 

Severe lack of time for Bella today

However, with 35.Rf1 as suggested by both players in the post-mortem analysis, Bella could have put up a stiff defence, as it is not entirely clear how Black should increase the pressure. This begs the question whether not 34...Rf5! (suggested by one of our online-viewers) was a stronger move. Indeed it seems very difficult to meet the threat of Rxf3 followed by Ng5. Food for thought, but in any case Hou Yifan will be more than happy with the point in her pocket!

Two out of two, perfect score and sole lead!

Alexandra Kosteniuk - Harika Dronavalli 0-1

Harika Dronavalli reacted excellently to the surprise that Alexandra Kosteniuk had prepared for her in the opening. In a French Winawer with 4.exd5 Harika defied chess laws and gave up both of her bishops, feeling good with the knight pair in her camp:


"My knights are stronger"

She had rightly judged that the activity she got in return was strong enough to put up a fight against the bishop pair. Although Alexandra initially liked her position and felt comfortable out of the opening, during the press conference the Russian GM admitted she might have been too optimistic.

"Perhaps I over estimated my position"

Soon Alexandra was forced to give up her bishop-pair and got stuck with a weak pawn on e3, which Harika happily took off the table. In the endgame, Alexandra tried to save the house from fire but that extra pawn Harika took finally proved to be decisive.

Nafisa Muminova - Ju Wenjun 1/2

The encounter between the only two WGMs of the tournament ended peacefully after 2 hours of play. In the 3.Bb5-Sicilian Nafisa gained an advantage after her opponent played determinedly yet a bit risky, making an important structural concession along the way:

Ju Wenjun decided it was time for more concrete action and tried to gain more space in the centre with:
12...e5 which was also aimed to stop any impolite march of White's d-pawn. The drawback of her last move though lies in the weakened d5-square (and the light squares in general), while obstructing the bishop on g7 as well.

Ju Wenjun shared her enthusiasm during the press conference, over the recent win of Lu Shanglei against Magnus.
The World Blitz was thoroughly followed here, too!

She tried further on to back her plan up with an ingenious knight retreat 14...Nb8 but that left White with a safe and pleasant long term advantage: bishop pair, better squares, d4-break floating in the air...
Perhaps a better way for Ju Wenjun to have continued was 12...Nd7, followed by queenside counterplay with b5-b4.

Nafisa remained as happy after her draw

Faced with the unusual knight detour (14...Nb8), Nafisa thought she should punish it immediately and played in the most straightforward way by pushing
15.d4. This drastic measure was the most natural one but, perhaps, a bit too direct. Preferable might have been 15.Ne3, keeping all the options open. In the final position Ju was forced to repeat moves, as avoiding the three-fold repetition rule would lose her precious d6-pawn. On the other side of the board, with white pieces, Nafisa was happy as well to stay safe, proving that the kamikadze style doesn't suite her well and that a draw is a good way to recover after yesterday's defeat.

Antoaneta Stefanova - Anna Muzychuk 1/2

20   9

In spite of having some health problems (which we all hope she overcame them already), Stefanova played in the most aggressive manner against Muzychuk's Dutch defence; and justifiably so!


On move 10 she lashed out with 10.g4!? but Anna kept cool, played 10...Qe7 and stayed in the game. Perhaps a trickier question for Black to face was 10.hxg6 hxg6 11.Rxh8+ Bxh8 12.Ke2! and now Qh1 idea is a very unpleasant one to meet.
In the game, the inventive Bulgarian GM kept some pressure as well but she went for safety first and, understandbly so, decided to repeat the moves. During the press conference she explained that given the fact she didn't feel well, a draw was preferable than an unnecessary loss. 

Elina Danielian - Nana Dzagnidze 1/2


The duel between Danielian and Dzagnidze was, as usual between these two no-half-measures players, a tough and long fight. In the Nimzo-Indian with 4.Qc2 the queens were soon exchanged but, if you think this was due to some boring and dryish decision to get rid of the pieces and go home - you are wrong!

Danielian - Dzagn

The thematical 13...d5 break that Nana played may not surprise the readers but the risky knight capture after 14.exd5 Nxd5 - might! (more natural and headache free would have been to cut things short and recapture with the pawn). The Georgian player though went the hole hog, which required very deep and precise calcluation, as it left her very same knight deeply stranded into the territory of her enemy. Surprisingly, there was no way for Elina to take advantage of this, as Nana kept finding ways to keep the knight alive. The final sleight of hand was 21...Nb5! after which she had no more problems to hold the game.

On move 43 the players signed under the peaceful result, sharing with us later on that an accurate and correct game will always keep them in good spirits. A solid start of the tournament for the local hero, Nana Dzagnidze, and a good way to come back after yesterday's loss for Elina Danielian. 

Humpy Koneru - Zhao Xue 1/2

The Queens-Indian game between India vs China developed in a rather tame fashion but in the middlegame Koneru seemed to be making some headway.

Koneru - Zhao


The commentators praised Koneru for the excellent positional decision of 25.Qd3! since after 25...Qxd3 26.exd3 the c6-square became available for the knight on a5. However, Zhao Xue defended well, managed to extinguish the knight on c6 by placing her own knight on b8, continued to exchange all the rooks and skillfully steered the game towards a draw.

Stubborn defence from Zhao Xue

There was still a moment in the game where Humpy felt she could have oposed Black more serious practical issues by exchanging the two pairs of rooks (29.Rxc8 Rxc8 and 30.Rc1) - trying to play the same minor pieces endgame but, as she said during the press conference, in a slightly better version. Nevertheless, a good and correct fight, where the equal score was the logical outcome. 

This was, in short, the story of today's second round; and now that Carlsen has won the blitz (all our participants were following with great interest the games in Dubai!) perhaps the games from Georgia will "distract" you more?!

By Alina l'Ami

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