2010 Women’s Chess Championship: Round #5

2010 Women World Chess Championship
Round #5 Pairings
# Player ELO
Player ELO
1 Ruan 2480
Zhao 2474
2 Koneru 2600
Hou 2591

Preview: As if on cue, China has made a statement on the world stage once again. They will boast three of the last four players in the 2010 Women’s World Chess Championship in Antakya, Turkey. This will assure that at least one Chinese will play for the world crown. India will send their best into the semifinals and will try to become the first nation in a long time to hold both the men’s and women’s titles.

GMs Hou Yifan and Koneru Humpy in China-India showdown.

Koneru Humpy was eliminated by Hou Yifan in 2008 and India missed holding all the major world titles at the senior and junior levels. Abhijeet Gupta and Dronavali Harika were the Junior Champions in 2008 and Viswanthan Anand was the overall World Champion. She will have a second chance to play for the championship. Certainly Anand will place a call to Turkey to provide moral support.

In the other matchup, those who follow chess would be presumptuous to count out Zhao Xue who is now considered a veteran at age 25. She has been a successful player from many years compiling humungous scores for the Chinese Olympiad teams. Zhao will face an upstart Ruan Lufei, a doctoral student at the Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA. Ruan eliminated defending World Champion, Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Round #5 – Game #1
Thursday, 16 December 2010

Hou breaks out on top… wins in textbook ending.

Ruan-Zhao, ½-½
Hou-Koneru, 1-0

All smiles between Zhao Xue and Ruan Lufei. They drew quickly out of a Scotch Opening. Photo by wwcxc2010.tsf.org.tr.

Ruan-Zhao was an uneventful draw out of the Scotch and neither side seemed to be in a fighting mood. The game was draw in 25 moves. In the other matchup, China’s Hou Yifan won the first game of the semifinal match against Koneru Humpy. The ending may have brought memories from Kramnik-Carlsen the other day when the former world champion could not win an ending with a subtle zugzwang maneuver. Today’s game came out of a Berlin Defense and followed Sokolov-Salov, Bukhara 1981 until Hou played 13.Bb2. Black’s pawn structure was compromised, but did not appear to be in any danger.

(Diagram #1) White uncorked 44.Bf6-e7 to set up a subtle zugzwang which looks stunning! However, upon further analysis, this amazing move only draws. Hou should play 44.h4! and only then after 44…Bc7 play 45.Be7!! (Diagram #2) Hou finished with the stunning 74.h4-h5!! After 74…gxh5 75.f5! exf5 76.e6 Bg3 77.e7 Kd7 78.a7 black resigned.

Hou offered to a trade of rooks and the game went into a bishop ending with like colors but tension was built for the next 20 moves. White has a space advantage and a better pawn structure. Hou decided to invade the kingside and set up a subtle zugzwang maneuver with the charming 44.Be7. In actuality, black can hold a draw, but decided instead to jettison a pawn to free her position. Hou continued to tighten the screws with magnificent technique. The game abruptly ended with a double pawn sacrifice and making way for a new queen. Excellent technique by the Chinese player.

Official Site
Drum Coverage
Round Five Results


  1. Chinese women have dominated chess for about 20 years now. This is a quiet fact that is not championed since China does not have an English-language media machine. They have had three world champions (Xie Jun, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua) and have won a boatload of Olympiad team medals (at one point, four straight gold and medals in nine consective tournaments). Hou Yifan will break 2600 after this tournament and they also have players like Ju Wenjun, Shen Yang, Ruan Lufei and many others. Zhao Xue is now the veteran at 25!

    However, the men have improved more rapidly than the women. They only recently got their first 2700 player and have now produced four! They won a silver medal at the 2006 Olympiad in Turin, Italy and with a talented duo of Wang Yue and Wang Hao they will be the spearhead for future Chinese strength. There is other young talent surfacing as well. China is a top five nation is chess.

    1. Oh thanks !? and very informative , it seems they are taking the recent developments in chess more seriously and dispensing with “superficial things” and by chess being such an honest game it’s obviously showing up in their results! Isnt that something 3 women from china in the semis! Peace.

  2. Wow. I didn’t realize that. I honestly wished to see Hou and Koneru in the finals but as fate would have it, they are in the semi-finals!

  3. I remember having a debate about two years ago on a blog about China’s rise. I had contended that China was a chess power and got quite a bit of dissent. Many people in that discussion had not realized their accomplishments until I listed them.

    At the time China was #3 federation in the world with only Russia and the Ukraine were ahead of them. Most of the chess world has focused on Europe since that is where the professional circuit is. Thus, stories in other regions are missed.

    Yes… China first held the crown in 1991 with Xie Jun. Before Kosteniuk ascendancy to the title in 2008, China held it three times interspersed with Susan Polgar and Antoaneta Stefanova. Russian women dominated the Olympiad so they are still a force, but the balance of power in chess has changed.

  4. I had brought up the issue that Hou Yifan and Koneru Humpy are playing in the same bracket. The defending champion is automatically seeded as number one, but his system creates problems. Susan Polgar had referenced comments by GM Mikhail Golubev at Chess Today:

    It is a shame indeed that two rated favourites face each other already in the Semifinals. Even taken into account that the world champion was seeded first, such a situation could have been avoided.

  5. Having an interesting debate on the last Hou-Koneru game. Frequent contributor Harish Srinivasan posted a drawing variation for black after Hou’s 44.Be7!

    44…Kxe7 45.Kxg6 Bd8! 46.h4 Kf8 47.h5 Kg8 48.h6 Bh4 49.h7+ Kh8 50.Kf7 Kxh7 51.Kxe6 Kg7 52.Kd7 Kf7 53. e6+ Kf8 54. Kxc6 Be7 55. Kb5 Bd8 56. Kxc5 Ke7 57. Kd5 Bc7 58. f5 Kf6 59. Kc6 Bd8 60. Kd7 Be7 61. Kc6 Kg7 62. c5 Kf6 63. Kb6 Bd8+ 64.Kb7 Kxf5 and white cannot make progress.

    This line checks out and black does draw, but of course 53.e6+? is a huge mistake since it allows the blockade. White has to play 53.f5! to keep the black pieces at bay. There is no way black can defend both sides of the board.

    Update: After more discussion on the blog, it was determined that Koneru could have drawn, but had to play very precise moves. However, 52…Kf7 is a blunder whereas 52…Kf8! draws. Black can set up a blockade is just in time to stalemate the white king and a-pawn. However, Hou would have improved her chances with 44.h4!

  6. Round #5 – Game #2
    Friday, 17 December 2010

    Hou wins match… China will regain the world women’s title!

    Zhao-Ruan, ½-½
    Koneru-Hou, ½-½ (Hou wins match 1½-½)

    In the second day of semifinals, fans were expecting some excitment, but they would have to rely on the Koneru-Hou matchup since Zhao-Ruan was another tame draw. It does not appear that these two ladies want to beat each other! It is very difficult to play friends in these situations.

    Hou Yifan was determined not to repeat her mistake in 2008 when she allowed Humpy to equalize before winning 4-2.

    The fireworks in the second game made up for the quietude of the first when Humpy essayed 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5!? It was expected that she would mix things up a bit, but the game steered into Hou’s territory because after 3…c5 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Be7 6. e4 d6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O b5 you had a Sicilian Rauzer Attack. Koneru is a inveterate 1.d4 player, but appeared to have a good chance to catch Hou napping since she probably had not prepared the Sicilian. It was not to be.

    Hou sacrificed two pawns for open lines on the entombed king. On 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Bxc4 white had a material edge, but black had compensation with the two bishops and the open files for the rooks. Stockfish recommended 22.Bd3 for white, but Humpy tried to return the material to ease the pressure. Unfortunately, Hou grabbed the material and kept pressing. After 25…a5, black had everything she could want in this position… active pieces and the initiative.

    What’s next for Humpy?

    Since Humpy had to play for a win, she could not merely trade off pieces to ease the pressure. So she conjured up counterplay with her rooks and sacrificed a pawn to get two rooks on the 7th rank. However, Hou defended nicely and in the final position, she could get a winning position with 45…Rb6+. A draw was agreed instead.

    It would have been ideal to see Hou Yifan and Koneru Humpy face each other in the finals. There have been some discussion about the pairings putting the highest rated players in the same bracket. Since the reigning champion gets the top seed, the anomaly results in a Hou-Koneru semifinal for the second time. Humpy has a bright future and is still young enough to make another run and the title.

    Photos by wwcxc2010.tsf.org.tr.

    Official Site
    Drum Coverage
    Round Five Results

  7. There will be a Chinese world champion, but India is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Know for a surety that apart from holding both championships, both nations will develop into solid powers on the chess landscape.

  8. A ChessBase contributor gave Hou’s 44.Be7 a “??” and called the move a “blunder.” I believe this is unfair and does not show any appreciation for the original idea and the thought process to play such a move. A blunder is generally a move that causes you to lose the game immediately such as losing material or walking into a forced loss. Hou’s move would only be a draw if black played some very precise moves in the position. The annotator did not even take care to note 46…Kf8! and 51…Kg7! It was not an easy draw to find.

    They also did not note the final combination involving the pawn sacrifice to win. This is a position that will be in endgame books forever. Whoever included those notes has tried to taint Hou’s win, but it was a magnificent effort and the fact that she saw the idea (which the annotator probably didn’t see) deserves some credit. It is easy to be critical when you have Rybka and Stockfish at your disposal.

    Link: https://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=6882

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