Who will become the favourite?


Straight away, 5 out of 8 matches in the 1/8 finals of the women's world championship in Khanty Mansysk have seen decisive games. Stefanova, Sebag and Krush all took a confident step to the next round, after winning with Black, whilst Ju Wenjun and Ushenina won with White. The other three matches saw draws. ...


There was particular attention to board one, where Marta Socko, who knocked out reigning champion Hou Yifan, was playing ex-world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. After losing almost all the favourites, the tournament strongly needs a leader. Who could it be? Maybe Antoaneta, who acquired the taste for winning these knockouts back in 2004 in Elista. 

The Bulgarian gave a positive answer to the question. Socko only needed to lose attentiveness for a moment, in an equal position, with 20.Qe3?, and Stafanova struck with the powerful blow 20...e5! After this, the outcome of the game was decided. 

Interestingly, Socko played on a piece down, and later even two pieces, apparently hoping for a miracle. But it did not happen, Stafanova did not blunder anything, and the Polish player resigned at move 33. However, it is already too early to speak of Antoaneta being through to the quarter-final - after all, Hou Yifan also won the first game with Black against Socko, and we all remember what happened to her...


A similar scenario occurred in the games Ju Wenjun-Zhukova and Ushenina-Pogonina.  

In both, White won a pawn, the realisation involved great technical difficulties, and n both it was not accomplished without the help of the opponent. Zhukova eventually failed to hold a rook ending, whilst Pogonina went wrong in searching for counterplay. Ju and Anna, who yesterday played tie-breaks, obtained an excellent start and a nice morale boost before the second game. 


Irina Krush showed exceptional purposiveness and will to win, having already played two tie-breaks. Hoang Tsan allowed her to win and then retain a pawn, obtaining only a little extra space and some pressure. . After the poor 16.Rd1 Black managed to stabilise the position and go into an endgame with a large advantage. Krush rather complicated things, with opposite coloured bishops and rather scattered forces, but the Chinese player defended very uncertainly clearly speeding up her defeat, which had not seemed imminent


Alisa Galliamova started her game in inexplicably constrained and timid fashion, and one would not have believed that she was White and had just confidently beaten Kovalevskaya and Gunina. In the first game with Sebag, the Russian was unrecognisable, allowing her opponent to do everything she wanted. Marie quickly cottoned on o her opponent's mood, and advanced from the very start. For a while, White's position was defensible, but after 23.Ne3? it was creaking at the seams...Black won a pawn, but the main thing was that the white king came under the fire of a pair of rooks and a bishop, which were unopposed. At move 35, Galliamova herself created a mating net for her king. A real KO.  


There was no serious battle in Muzychuk - Zhao-Xue and Javakashvili-Harika, both of which were drawn around move 30. However, the Kosintseva sisters showed everything that they could, playing a real game against each other for the first time in their lives. 

Tatiana had White, but could not obtain any advantage. The rook ending, into which the game went, was a little better for Nadezhda, but accurate player by the younger sister drew the game on move 65. It will be interesting to see the second duel, and who will go on. 


(Text by Evgeny Atarov)