Within the walls of the chess academy in Khanty Mansysk, the second games of round 3 of the womens' world championship were played today. Their results have determined five of the quarterfinalists: Stefanova, Ushenina, Zhao Xue, Sebag and Donavalli. Three pairs will decide things tomorrow in tie-breaks...
On the first day of the 1/8 finals, there were a lot of decisive results, three of the winners playing BLack. But two of the losers managed to take revenge today - Zhukova against Jun Wenjun (White) and Huang Tsan against Krush (Black).
Both started the return game sharply, playing energetically and creatively, and both quickly obtained a material advantage. This was especially true of Huang, who did not face the same Krush who beat her yesterday - Irina sat back, and conceded space move by move, until she ran out room into which to retreat.
Zhukova's path to success was tougher. It seemed by move 21 that she had obtained all she could want - she won a pawn and had an attack on the king. But here, feeling that the win was close, she got nervous, and instead of the simple 22.Kd2 she chose a complicated line, overlooking an exchange sacrifice and allowing Huang to activate her pieces. However, then she took herself in hand and again achieved a winning advantage. In the position after move 29, she could have decided the game at once, with practically any other move than the one played: 30.Qh8+.
White was still winning, but after winning the rook, Zhukova conceded the initiative, and realising that she had gone wrong, she promptly erred again. Ju had a clear path to a draw, but she too turned out not to be made of steel - the move 34...Nxf5 (instead of 34...gxf5) allowed Natalya to remove the queens and take the game into an ending with rook and pawn against two pieces. The decisive factor was the passed white a-pawn, which quickly promoted. The Chinese player tried to set up a fortress, but the Ukrainian managed to break it down.
In both matches, the score thus became 1-1. The same happened in the match between the two Kosintseva sisters. Both games were drawn, and now they mustdecide things in rapid games. In eitehr case, Tatiana or Nadezhda will be the last Russian representative in the tournament.
The other two, Galliamova and Pogonina, did not manage to win after losing yesterday, against, respectively, Sebag and Ushenina.
Alisa, despite the blakc pieces, had slightly the better chances: in a complicated strategical battle, she gradually outplayed her opponent, and won a pawn, but an inaccuarcy in time-trouble allowed Marie to activate her pieces sharply. In order to avoid perpetual check, Alisa took her king across the board to the other flank where, unfortunately, it fell into a mating net.
Natalya also played aggressively, but ran up against iron defence from Anna, became upset and fell into the inferior position. Ushenina was clearly the better prepared for the tension of the occasion and never for one moment got outside the limits of her sporting task. She needed a darw in the game, and she got it...
Zhao Xue and Harika both achieved their tasks confidently and accurately. Both, as White, managed to pose their opponent insoluble problems. Against M Muzychuk, the Chinese needed only 27 moves. Maria went seriously wrong at an early stage of the opening and by move 16, had no counterplay, soon falling under a decisive attack. The Indian needed almost twice as many moves (47), although from a certain moment, the assembled experts could not guess either player's moves. Dronovalli won a pawn, but leila did not even try to re-establish equality - she took her king to one side, her pieces to the otehr, and left her pawns to theirown fate. But once they had all gone, she stopped the clocks.
A rather worried-looking game was played on board one, where Socko was trying once again to win with Black against Stefanova. It must be said that, just as against Hou Yifan, she managed to create a great deal of tension on the board, but Antoaneta did not let her emotions carry her away, but sacrificed a pawn and brought things under control. The key moment arose at move 25, when after Black's provocation, White had to take an accurate decision - and found the answer. The move 26.Ng5! immediately took the game into technical channels, where Stefanova realised her advantage.
It must be pointed out that this is already the ex-champion's fifth win in six games in Khanty Mansysk. So far, the Bulgarian has had no cause to worry and has walked through all of her opponents comfortably...And this is just the quality needed after all the favourites have been eliminated. Yuri Dokhoian said "The winner will be not the one who think up something special, but the one who produces a steady, normal, sufficiently highaverage level of move, and manages to make 40 such moves in a row." So far, Stefanova has not always needed 40!
(Text by Evgeny Atarov)
Two comebacks, three tie-breaks..