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Lightning Bolt
14You may recognize the nickname of the world's fastest sprinter - Usain Bolt. In this tournament we also have one woman that is outrunning the competition: Hou Yifan. With just two rounds to go, she has a lead of two points and is therefore sure of at least shared first. Displaying a perseverance and ambition already 'not required' by her tournament situation, Hou Yifan won with Black against Muzychuk in only 28 moves!

The meteorological conditions have suddenly deteriorated in Lopota and this was reflected in some of the today's games, featuring hair rising and inexplicable blunders. Or maybe it was the other way around, the skies were crying out in rains at the unfortunate player's unhappiness... And the abundance of decisive games was similar to that of the rain: four out of six and it could have been more!

Playing with White against Stefanova, Dzagnidze refrained from giving perpetual check and eventually got under decisive mating threats. The Georgian risked everything, hoping to keep trailing the leader, but now dropped down on a shared 3rd-4th position. Harika - Ju ended in a draw after all the resources had been exhausted: White was stalemated on move 54. The Chinese player is now alone on the second place. In Danielian - Koneru the Indian threw the game away in one move, while looking for ways of maintaining her initiative. With this win, Danielian joins Dzagnidze on the podium. Kosteniuk put a lot of pressure on Zhao Xue, but attack and defense matched eachother and the game ended in a draw after 77 moves, when there was not enough material left to continue the fight. Muminova obtained her first victory so far at the expense of Khotenashvili and joins her on 1,5 points.

Anna Muzychuk - Hou Yifan 0-1

As the tournament progresses, an increasing amount of 'accidents' happen.

Including clock malfunctioning; but the chief arbiter KK Chan has everything under control

Today Anna Muzychuk had an off-day when she faced Hou Yifan. She didn't achieve what she was looking for out of the opening, a Sicilian, and, in an attempt to stabilize the position, she exchanged queens on move 15:


15.Qg5 which strongly met with 15...Qxg5 16.Bxg5 h6 17.Bd2  a4! and White's queenside is falling apart. Anna was unable to come back in the game and after 18.Bd1 Nd4 19.Nc7 the strong exchange sacrificed:


19...axb3! quickly decided matters.

With two rounds to go Hou Yifan is assured of at least a shared tournament victory!

Elina Danielian - Humpy Koneru 1-0

Elina Danielian had gotten a nice edge out of the opening against Humpy Koneru
but gradually Humpy had stabilized her position.

In the diagrammed position:


Black's activity and the potential weakness of the a4-pawn, should give adequate compensation for the isolated d5-pawn. Elina decided to expell the e4-knight with 30.f3 but this natural move fails to 30...Qd2! with big threats on e3 and f2. The game proceeded
31.Nc2 Ng3 (31...Nc3 was indicated by Humpy in the press conference, and this looks very strong indeed) 32.Nde1 Bf5 33.Bd3 Be6 34.Qb2 Nd7 35.Qd4


Despite time-trouble, the worst looks over for White. In fact there is the small threat of Bh7+ winning the queen which is why Humpy decided to play the fatal 35..Kf8. After 36.Qh4! the game saw a sudden end. Both mate on d8 is threatened as well as the knight on g3.

Time troubles are difficult to meet at the end of a long, tiring and important event.

Harika Dronavalli - Ju Wenjun 1/2

One of the most exciting games of the round was Harika Dronavalli-Ju Wenjun which saw a sharp King's Indian. Up to move 14, both players were in their books, as they played exactly the same line before against each other:

Drona - Ju1

Here 14...bxc6 played by Wenjun surprised Harika (the Chinese played 14...Qxc6 in their previous encounter), who only briefly looked at it before the game started. With such a long tournament and when the stakes are high, it is important to preserve the energy, since anyway, most of the times what the players check rarely appears on the board. And right in the moment when Harika did just that, choosing to go in fresh (she prepared very hard and for many hours before each and single game played in Lopota), Wenjun decided to repeat the line!

Sorting things out over the board

One of the many critical moments came on move 20, where it seems Wenjun could have gotten a significant advantage with:

Drona - Ju

20...Nb3 21.Rb1 Nac5! when, despite the pawn deficit, Black has total control over the position. Wenjun's
20...e4 looked good too but allowed Harika to exchange bishops with 21.Bg4 and after the further 21...Bxg4 22.hxg4 Nb3 23.Rb1 Nac5 24.Nhf5! White suddenly got strong counterplay against the black king. Harika invested an exchange to further develope that initiative but Wenjun reacted well and fended all posible threats.

Drona - Ju2

Still, some accuracy was required after 38.Nd4! but the Chinese accurately assessed the rookending after 38...Kf4 39.Ne6+ Kxg4 40.Nxc5 Rxc5 41.Ra6 Rc8 42.Rxa4 Kh3! to be drawn. The official verdict came ten moves later when the players agreed a draw. A great spectacle!

"So now I am alone on 2nd place"...Wenjun is having a good tournament: 2639 performance and +13 rating points!
In addition, she also scored her 5th GM norm out of 9 rounds; her title application should be all right now.
When asked why she is still a WGM, Wenjun mentioned bureaucratic reasons - for example:
she is missing the arbiter's signature in one of her papers.

Nana Dzagnidze - Antoaneta Stefanova 0-1

Antoaneta Stefanova came well prepared against Nana Dzagnidze today in a Slav with ...e6 and ...a6.

Antoaneta allowing herself a break, while Nana was in deep thoughts

Nana, playing with the white pieces, also kept a quick pace in the early stages of the game but it was clearly Antoaneta who came ahead of the opening, to such proportions that already on move 24 her advantage had taken on a decisive form.


There was nothing wrong with the game continuation, 24...Rh8, keeping all the threats in the position, though perhaps 24...Nf4! was an even stronger way to proceed, the point being 25.Rxb7 Re8! 26.Rxc7 Ne2+ 27.Bxe2 Rxe2 and White has to give the queen to avoid mate. But time-trouble (there were too many options available, as Antoaneta mentioned, making her decisions more dificult along the way), played a big role in this game as well. We make a small jump to move 30, Where the elegant:


30.Rxc7 Nxc7 31.Qf4 Qxb6 32.Qg5+ would have secured a draw by perpetual check. But the complications didn't end there! When the smoke of the time-trouble had cleared the position, the game was still highly complicated; by this time though, it was Antoaneta Stefanova who found her way better through the complications, with a bit of help from her opponent as well.

Nana risked everything to get a point, refusing to give perpetual and going the hole hog
in her courageous attempt to catch up with the Express...and this strategy backfired:


Not seeing a good way to stop ..Ng4+, Nana Dzagnidze soon had to resign. 

Alexandra Kosteniuk - Zhao Xue 1/2


Alexandra Kosteniuk was building up a strong attack against Zhao Xue but the Chinese made a miraculous escape. Coming from the Petrosian system of the Queen's Indian, Alexandra built up an impressive centre that Zhao Xue tried to challenge by ...c4 and ...f5.


It let to a semi-closed position where the main question was if White were to get g2-g4 in at a favourable moment. After carefull maneuvering, Alexandra managed to play just that in the diagrammed position: after 32.g4 Qd6 33.Qe3 fxg4 34.Rxg4 it looked very promising, indeed. The rooks have the open g-file to attend to, the bishops do a perfect job on c1 and c2 while the role of the knight on e5 speaks for itself. A phase in which White further developed her first wave of attack ensued, and this resulted in the following diagram, where Alexandra felt the moment came to strike with:


40.h6 Qh5+ 41.Qh3 Qxh3+ 42.Kxh3 Ra8 43.hxg7 but Zhao Xue fought like a lioness with 43...Nd6 44.Rg3 h5! and even managed to steer the game to an equal endgame. Perhaps 40.Qh3 was the more practical choice, keeping all options open and not allowing a queen-trade.


An excellent defensive effort by Zhao Xue and a very good game from Alexandra, too! Only time trouble and the too many options at hand are giving problems...

Nafisa Muminova - Bella Khotenashvili 1-0

33   16
Both Nafisa Muminova and Bella Khotenashvili were still waiting for their first win before this round

Bella used the modern defence in search for a fight but Nafisa didn't seem the least bit bothered. The opposite, fairly quickly in the game she got a nice positional advantage and people praised her decision on move 25:


White would like to centralize her b1-rook but at the moment this is not easy to realize. Another issue is the bishop on f1 which is not a very good piece. Nafisa decided upon the instructive 25.Be2! Nf7 26.Bd1! Bh6 27.Bxb3 axb3 28.Rad1 Rbd8


But Black is still active and doesn't seem in such a bad shape. Nafisa proved otherwise with 29.f4! the point being 29...Rxe4 30.Nd5! with decisive threats on e7 and f6. From that moment on it was White who was calling the shots but it was not the end of the game.


Instead of 48.Qe1 Nxf4 49.a6! queening, 48.Qxd3 cxd3 49.Be1 d4 50.c4 d2! 51.Bxd2 d3 almost allowed Bella to save the game. However, pressed by a long and tiring defense she eventually succumbed under the pressure of White's passed pawn and had to resign on move 63.


With two rounds to go, another question opens to the public: whether Hou Yifan will reach a 3000 performance by the end of the tournament. But there is a lot of fight going on for the podium, so let us hope that there will still rain with decisive games, while the sun will again smile to all of us in the beautiful surroundings of Lopota!

By Alina l'Ami

© FIDE Grand Prix 2014    |    |