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The Usual Suspect
4After four rounds and right before the first free day, Hou Yifan takes back the sole lead, with 3.5/4, half a point ahead of a compact group of players: Ju Wenjun, Harika Dronavalli and Nana Dzagnidze.

There was only one draw in a round when much has been decided by time troubles: the game between Ju Wenjun and Humpy Koneru. The Indian GM skilfullly eschewed getting herself into a stew and applied surgical measures when needed, to salvage the only half a point of today's round. 
No solidarity has been seen in the games between friends and fellow countrymen, as the outcomes in both the Chinese (Zhao Xue vs Hou Yifan) and Georgian (Bella Khotenashvili vs Nana Dzagnidze) head-to-head combats ended peremptorily. 

As for the less fortunate players sharing the same fate, 0.5/4 (Alexandra Kosteniuk, Bella Khotenashvili and Nafisa Muminova), the rest day comes in handy, promptly lending a helping hand to the ladies in reassembling their forces. 

Zhao Xue - Hou Yifan 0-1

Hou Yifan continues where she left of in the previous rounds: winning her games.

27   5
And now we know why Yifan is so strong...

She is getting help from her brilliancy and not from a "secret"drink

Playing with Black against her compatriot, Zhao Xue, the reigning women world champion used, as early as move 7, an original piece exchange, reminiscent of Bent Larsen: 

Zhao - Hou

Trading her g7-bishop for the c3-knight with 7...Bxc3! 8.dxc3 Bf5 9.Ra1 Nf6 created White double pawns on the c-file and further on proved to be not only instructive but very strong, too; especially White's c1-bishop is suffering due to lack of scope. Of course, this was only the beginning, nothing decisive yet - Hou Yifan kept her advantage throughout the game, while Zhao Xue continued to defend stubbornly.

Defending becomes even more difficult with little time...

Zhao - Hou1

With 32.e6 Xue was ready to open peace talks following 32...fxe6 33.Rd8+ Kg7 34.Rd7 with perpetual check. Yifan though was in no mood for negociations and replied 32...Rxe6! instead; after:
33.Rxe6 fxe6 34.dxe6 Rd1! White was suddenly pinned down. Time pressure accelerated the downhill pace for Zhao Xue, as she was unable to find a defence and, having lost both her b- and e-pawn, she had to resign immediately after the time control.

Bella Khotenashvili - Nana Dzagnidze 0-1

The Georgian derby Bella Khotenashvili - Nana Dzagnidze was no less original. The strong GMs, and friends as well, soon entered uncharted territory when, in the Petrosian system of the Queens Indian, Bella's somewhat unusal 6.Bf4 was met with the rare and found over the board 6...Bd6.


After nine moves both players had double pawns and White decided to stay with the king in the centre in order to use the g-file for a potentially deadly attack. Given the uncommon pawn structure, it was for a long time unclear who was better:


As time-trouble approached, Nana Dzagnidze confidently seized the initiative:


With her last move, 21.Rh4, Bella signalled the start of a direct attack on the king but it was in fact her opponent who struck first with an exchange sacrifice:
21...Rxc3! 22.bxc3 Qxa3 when it is white's king that is suddenly under severe pressure. Lack of time didn't help Bella either: her king was under too much fire and leaving the bishop en prise, trying to get through with the attack, made things only worse. Her friend was not friendly at all, as Nana grabbed all the material she could and forced Bella's resignation shortly before the time control.
But once the game has finished, the guns are dropped and the 'enemies' are friends again. 

Bella, Nana and everybody else were happy to see Salome Melia,
and her lovely second daughter: Mariam

Humpy Koneru - Ju Wenjun 1/2

The main question that the audience had for this important game was whether the Chinese had missed an opportunity for more along the way.

"How to make progress?" - that was the question...

Starting from a King's Indian (Averbakh system) Wenjun had, at first, comfortably equalized before exchanging the right set of minor pieces and ending up with the classical good knight vs bad bishop. Although Humpy could have repeated the moves (Bh6-f4-h6...), she felt morally obliged to fight for more with the white pieces.

Things could have turned ugly, hadn't Humpy kept her enviable composure

Koneru - Ju

Humpy just played 36.g3 in order to exchange as much as possible. Here, instead of 36...fxg3 that Wenjun played, perhaps 36...Rf8 deserves attention, keeping the strong hold on f4. Black could then try to improve the position of the king or try to break on the queenside with b7-b5. In the game, after 36...fxg3 37.Kg2 Rf8 38.Bd1 Rf4 39.Kxg3 Rxe4 40.fxe4 Black still had a beautiful knight on e5, but that didn't turn out to be sufficient to win the game. On move 58, having made no further progress, Ju Wenjun resigned herself to a draw.

Elina Danielian - Anna Muzychuk 1-0

You might recall the middlegame battle of principle between White's pair of bishops against the two black knights from the second round, between Alexandra Kosteniuk - Harika Dronavalli. If in that game, the knights had the fnal word, here, helped by the open character of the position, the strength of White's bishops prevailed.

Back on 50%

Elina and Anna entertained the public by chosing one of the sharpest lines in the 4.Qc2-Nimzo. As early as move 7 the board was on fire and it would take your reporter considerable time to give any objective value of the opening phase.
In any case, when the smoke cleared it didn't seem like Anna was doing bad at all.

Daielian - Muzy

Elina just played 19.Rc1 in order to stop the c6-knight from leaping forward and after the further 19...Qd7 20.Bc4 White was able to consolidate and make her bishop pair work wonders.

Time trouble is the most unpleasant guest a chess player could get...
Anna missed a beautiful yet difficult-for-a-human-brain opportunity

Emil Sutovsky, Anna's second in this tournament, suggested the very strong 19...Qe8 after which Nd4 is again in the air. The big difference with the game continuation is that 20.Bc4 can now be met with 21...a6 22.Rc5 Nd7!! followed by Nce5 with a big advantage. Chess is a subtle game!
After this moment, the game slowly but surely drifted Elina's way and despite mutual time-trouble, the final result was never really in doubt.

Nafisa Muminova - Harika Dronavalli 0-1

After her victory against Kosteniuk in the French defence, today Harika decided to repeat it and yes, the jackpot it was! Being very well prepared, she scored her second point with black pieces and with the same opening, making us wonder whether the players will 'dare' to start 1.e4 against her in the remaining rounds.

A thematic, and especially designed for Harika, punjabi!
Delivering the pseudo-sacrifice on d4

Nafisa met Harika's French Defence with an extravagant setup of the advance variation, implying a lot of pawn moves with many pieces on their initial squares. Nothing wrong with that, had she continued in the same concrete and dynamic manner:


Black had previously 'sacrificed' a knight (coming from c6) on d4 in order to win it back with a pawn interest. The question for White is now how to give the piece back? In the press conference, the players looked at 14.Bxe4 dxe4 15.Ne5 when the greedy 15...Qxb5? 16.Nc3 Qa5 is swiftly punished with 17.0-0! Qxc3 18.Qa4+ with a winning attack. Better is Harika's suggestion of improving this line with 15...Qa5+ when 16.Nd2 runs into 16...e3! while the endgame after 16.Qd2 is fully playable for Black.
In the game, Nafisa made a natural but losing move: the short castle.
14.0-0 and after 14...exf3 15.Rf2 Be7 Harika held on to her extra material and soon decided the game in her favour.

Antoaneta Stefanova - Alexandra Kosteniuk 1-0

In the game between former World Champions it was Antoaneta Stefanova who was in the driver's seat the entire day, continuing her favorable pace. Against Alexandra Kosteniuk, who didn't find her best shape yet, she got a big advantage out of the opening:



With a big centre and harmonious pieces, the Bulgarian continued to play energetically, pushed her e-pawn further in order to use the e4-square for her pieces and tried to launch an initiative against Alexandra's king.

In her usual aggressive style, Antoaneta wanted to push g4 at a proper moment
but thought that a bit of restraint wouldn't hurt

Although that attack never fully materialized, Kosteniuk did see herself forced to give up a pawn. When in the endgame she had to give up a second pawn nobody thought much of her chances to make a draw, despite the presence of opposite-coloured bishops. And indeed, Stefanova didn't trip, improved her position step by step and eventually forced resignation on move 76 after a marathon - almost 6 hours of play.

For such tiresome games, energy supplies are more than needed!


Big fights, time troubles, many decisive games, all these are good reasons for the spectators' delight, but they may also tell about the tiredness of the participants. They surely welcome the tomorrow's free day, when most of them are expected to relax by taking part to the traditional excursion. Even though there will be no games tomorrow, we trust you will stay tuned to learn about Georgia's touristic attractions!

These ladies accessories have witnessed so many scoresheets with
brilliant moves, blunders, also lucky pens, chocolates...
And tomorrow they will travel outside the Lopota resort.

By Alina l'Ami

© FIDE Grand Prix 2014    |    |