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Chinese duo
19Ju Wenjun joins Hou Yifan in the lead, Dzagnidze and Muzychuk are catching up with the Indian players, while Khotenashvili and Kosteniuk hope for better in the upcoming rounds. There is always something going on and we, spectators, organizers and chess fans alike are the spoiled ones!

The central and, perhaps, the most awaited game, Hou Yifan - Koneru Humpy, ended in a draw after the Chinese missed a great winning chance at the critical moment. The first two draws from the previous days gave the Georgian player, Nana Dzagnidze, the necessary confidence to break the ice and she scored her first victory, reaching a big tie for the third place. For her compatriot though, Bella Khotenashvili, the start of the tournament is confronted with more obstacles. Although she defended until the last drop of energy, after yesterday's defeat against Hou Yifan, Bella lost to another Chinese player, Ju Wenjun, who now joins her colleague in the lead. As for Antoaneta Stefanova, she proved, or at least it looked very convincing, that she truly recovered from her health problems by winning an impressive game against Zhao Xue.

A great spectacle offered by such a strong and interesting field of players cannot be marred by some technical problems arising now and then. Some of them are amusing, in fact, as when Danielian's DGT board displayed the generous amount of thinking time of... 3 hours! But let's see what actually happened on the boards:

"Sssst! The players must concentrate"

Hou Yifan - Humpy Koneru 1/2

The most awaited game of the day was between the current and former World Champion: Hou Yifan and Humpy Koneru.

Only the top players know how much energy it takes to be 

We will ask Yifan tomorrow what secret drink she has in her usual pink thermos

Opening the game with the somewhat excentric 1.g3 (it looks like Hou Yifan keeps this potentially lethal weapon for Grand Prix events, as she first used it in Khanty Mansyisk against Kosteniuk), the players soon ended up in Pirc territory. Although the queens were exchanged rather early, that didn't mean the game was heading toward boring waters. On the contrary, in the endgame, Hou Yifan controlled key squares and her pieces were placed somewhat more harmonious than her opponent's.

Perhaps the biggest chance, as mentioned by Humpy during the conference, was on move 29 when:


29.f4! was an interesting way to fight for the initiative.
Now 29...exf4 runs into 30.e5! while 29...fxe4 30.Nxe5+ Bxe5 31.fxe5 is also very tricky as Black is completely tied up. Hou Yifan continued in a more restrained manner and this gave Humpy the chance to organize her defences and hold the draw.

The result is important but even more important is your play - this is the "secret"
behind Yifan's smile after a missed opportunity

Ju Wenjun - Bella Khotenashvili 1-0

The tournament enjoyed a broader exposure today, as the playing hall was filled with chess partisans; the national TV channel was present to follow not only the game between the big rating favourites and old World title match rivals, Hou Yifan and Koneru Humpy, but also the two Georgian players. Being born nearby Lopota, Bella Khotenashvili was the central attraction for local fans and supporters, becoming the favourite target of the photo camera's and receiving lots of encouragements. And they were rewarded with a fierce struggle and a stubborn resistance from Bella's side but the stars were not aligned correctly for her.


Ju Wenjun answered 1.e4 e5 with 2.Nc3 and after 2...Nf6 she signalled for a long maneuvering game with 3.g3. It was the Chinese player who seemed to be more at home and Bella was soon forced to give up the bishop pair, landing into an uncomfortable position. Around time trouble Wenjun could have collected the rewards of her strategy, as White's pieces were very dominant:


36...Ra7 was Black's last move, which could have been severely punished with the subtle, aesthetic and strong, all at one time: 37.Ra6! when an exchange of rooks would lose the knight. But with little time on the clock Ju Wenjun chose differently and, for some time, it looked like Bella, who was stubbornly defending, may hold on.

Tough resistance from Bella

It was, however, not to be. When Wenjun played 60.h5+!? the question was to take or not to take...


Now 60...Kf7 61.Bxf5 Nxf4 would still be very pleasant for White, but Black keeps the drawing chances alive... In the heat of the moment, after many hours of pressure and with little time, Bella decided to take on h5, after all, a pawn is a pawn. Yet, it was a poisoned one... after the further
60...Kxh5 61.Be8+ Kh4 62.Bf2+ Kh3 63.Bd7 Ne7 the game was decided with 64.Bg3!! when Black has to give up too much material in order to prevent Bb5-f1 mate.

Tired but happy: Wenjun joins the lead

A great fight, which brought Wenjun on a shared first position and, if it won't discourage Bella, it will bring her more next time.

Zhao Xue - Antoaneta Stefanova 0-1


Antoaneta Stefanova was the first to come to the commentary room today, to show her win against Zhao Xue. The more restrained setup with 4.Nbd2 that Xue played didn't catch Antoaneta on the wrong foot, as she played it herself before. The Bulgarian former World Champion was not frightened further on, to go on a little detour with her queen very early in the game:


Stefanova's 10...Qc3 was met with 11.Nb1!?. (During the press conference the players suggested 11.Nb2 as an alternative but discarded the idea rather fast, as this would look even more strange than the queen on c3). Now after 11...Qxa1 12.Qc2 the question was whether White would be able to succesfully trap the queen, alas in the game, that was not the case. Antoaneta did have to give some material back but then liquidated into an endgame with an exchange up.


When it almost looked like Xue lifted her head above the whirlpool, she chose the unfortunate 28.Ba7, condemning the bishop to a pawn's life;
28...Rb7 29.b6 Rc8 followed by Rc1 and Kc6, quickly secured the point; the bishop is no longer an asset on a7. Instead, waiting with 28.Kf1-e2 would have given White chances to stay in the game.

Nana Dzagnidze - Nafisa Muminova 1-0

Nana Dzagnidze chose the solid Semi-Slav with 5.e3 against Nafisa Muminova, reaching the following:


The diagrammed position has been seen in countless games but both players expressed their dislike about:
12...e5, where taking on e4 is the main move. Indeed, following 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.Nd4! the Georgian player started a dangerous initiative (Nf5 is already in the air) and this soon proved decisive; there was nothing that Nafisa can reproach herself after her less fortunate twelve move.

A model win from Nana Dzagnidze who is now on +1.

Anna Muzychuk - Alexandra Kosteniuk 1-0

With her second: Pavel Tregubov

Alexandra Kosteniuk chose the Petroff-defence with the black pieces against Anna Muzychuk and, just as in the game between Antoaneta Stefanova - Zhao Xue, the game revolved around a trapped piece. Alexandra allowed her opponent to take a pawn on b7 but the question was whether the rook would ever be able to leave the mined enemy territory.


In Stefanova's footsteps, Anna Muzychuk managed to do just that, but further on,
with a clear advantage in the pocket, she let her advantage slip away.


Here 28...Qg6 or 28...Qa4 would have eliminated the dangerous c-pawn (also 28...Rc8 was suggested by Alexandra afterwards); instead, she chose
28...Nb6 which was strongly met with 29.Ba3! Rc8 30.Rc1 Qa4 31.Qc3 when the force of the c-pawn combined with the open black king gave White an overwhelming advantage. Anna didn't let it slip the second time!

Harika Dronavalli - Elina Danielian 1/2

Harika Dronavalli used the Catalan in her duel against Elina Danielian but she was unhappy with the way she treated the opening. And indeed, already early on in the game it was clear that Harika was on the defending side, hoping that Elina will not be able to push for more.

24  36

In the press room, the players were looking for alternatives for Black on move 16:


Instead of the game continuation, 16...Bxc5, perhaps 16...Qc7 was more cunning, when 17.Qxc4 is strongly met with 17...Bxf3 18.Bxf3 Nxe5 19.Qe2 Nxf3+ 20.Qxf3 Qxc5 and Black is a pawn to the good. In the game, Harika managed to exchange a lot of pieces and eventually held the draw in a rook endgame with equal pawns.

Kilometers long walks have been made already by the players around the lake...

The players declare to be happy with the tournament location, but they hardly have the time to enjoy the touristic aspects, such as jumping into the swimming pools, since preparing for the game takes away a lot of time and energy. Many of them do walk around the lake in order to relax and some may look forward for the first day off... but there stil is one round to go until then!

By Alina l'Ami

© FIDE Grand Prix 2014    |    |