2018 Women’s World Chess Championship (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)

2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)

Ugra Chess Academy in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

The Women’s World Chess Championship has begun with 64 players from 28 countries! It started only a week prior to the World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. One may ask why do these two important events overlap? It’s a great question. Two things would happen, more chess for the fans or fans choosing which event they will follow. This will hopefully be the last time that this overlapping of events will occur.

New FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich has proposed some changes in the world championship cycle including using the knockout as a qualifier for the Women’s candidate tournament. This decision was supported by the FIDE Congress at the Olympiad and will apply to the 2019-2020 cycle.

This change could not be more welcome. Ju Wenjun (right) is the current Women’s champion and top seed, but she has only held her title for six months. The current format means she has to defend her title immediately in a totally different format. For She will be joined by most of the top players in the women’s field with the exception of Hou Yifan who is currently undertaking studies at Oxford.

Top players to contend with Ju for the crown are: Former world champions Alexandra Kosteniuk (2551, Russia), Mariya Muzychuk (2533, Ukraine), Tan Zhongyi (2527, China), Antoaneta Stefanova (2490, Bulgaria), and Anna Ushenina (2451, Ukraine) are taking part in the event as well. The tournament will also see such chess stars as Humpy Koneru (2557, India), Kateryna Lagno (2556, Russia), Anna Muzychuk (2555, Ukraine), Aleksandra Goryachkina (2536, Russia) and Valentina Gunina (2525, Russia).

For this tournament, “zero tolerance” will be in effect. As in the others, the first five rounds consists of two-game mini-matches (two classical and then two-game tiebreakers) and the final will be four game mini-match followed by two game tiebreakers. In the event of a tie after all the rounds, a final Armageddon game will be played to determine the winner.

SCHEDULE

1 November (Arrivals)
2 November (Arrivals / Players Meeting / Opening Ceremony)
3-5 November Round 1
6-8 November Round 2
9-11 November Round 3
12-14 November Round 4
15-17 November Round 5
18 November Free Day
19-23 November Round 6 and tiebreaks (final match)
23 November Closing Ceremony
24-25 November Departures

Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
Live: https://ugra2018.fide.com/live/
PGN Games (TWIC): https://theweekinchess.com/assets/files/pgn/wchwko18.pgn

40 Comments


  1. PARTICIPANTS of the WORLD WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 2017

    a) From average Rating List 2/2017 to 1/2018

    01. Ju Wenjun (CHN) 2580.75
    02. Gunina Valentina (RUS) 2507.25
    03. Lei Tingjie (CHN) 2507.16
    04. Zhao Xue (CHN) 2490.25
    05. Girya Olga (RUS) 2485.08

    b) From World Women’s Championship 2016

    6. Tan Zhongyi (CHN)
    7. Muzychuk Anna (UKR
    8. Harika Dronavalli (IND)
    9. Kosteniuk Alexandra (RUS)

    c) World Girl Junior Champions 2016-2017:

    10. Saduakassova Dinara (KAZ) World Junior G20 Champion 2016
    11. Abdumalik Zhansaya (KAZ) World Junior G20 Champion 2017

    d) 28 players from European Women Championships 2016 & 2017

    12. Ushenina Anna (UKR) 2016
    13. Vega Gutierrez Sabrina (ESP) 2016
    14. Stefanova Antoaneta (FID) 2016
    15. Mkrtchian Lilit (ARM) 2016
    16. Paehtz Elisabeth (GER) 2016
    17. Atalik Ekaterina (TUR) 2016
    18. Bodnaruk Anastasia (RUS) 2016
    19. Zawadzka Jolanta (POL) 2016
    20. Javakhishvili Lela (GEO) 2016
    21. Matnadze Ana (ESP) 2016
    22. Shvayger Yuliya (ISR) 2016
    23. Goryachkina Aleksandra (RUS) 2016
    24. Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan (SCO) 2016
    25. Khukhashvili Sopiko (GEO) 2016
    26. Dzagnidze Nana (GEO) 2017
    27. Galliamova Alisa (RUS) 2017
    28. Lagno Kateryna (RUS) 2017
    29. Muzychuk Mariya (UKR) 2017
    30. Socko Monika (POL) 2017
    31. Danielian Elina (ARM) 2017
    32. Nechaeva Marina (RUS) 2017
    33. Khotenashvili Bela (GEO) 2017
    34. Zhukova Natalia (UKR) 2017
    35. Pogonina Natalija (RUS) 2017
    36. Hoang Thanh Trang (HUN) 2017
    37. Gara Anita (HUN) 2017
    38. Gaponenko Inna (UKR) 2017
    39. Kashlinskaya Alina (RUS) 2017

    e) 8 players from Americas

    40. Cori T., Deysi (PER) (Continental 2016)
    41. Miranda Llanes, Yerisbel (CUB) (Continental 2017)
    42. Aliaga Fernandez, Ingrid Y (PER) (Continental 2017)
    43. Foisor Sabina-Francesca (USA) (Zone 2.1)
    44. Krush Irina (USA) (Zone 2.1)
    45. Ouellet, Maili-Jade (CAN) (Zone 2.2)
    46. Vazquez Maccarini, Danitza (PUR) (Zone 2.3)
    47. Lujan, Carolina (ARG) (Zone 2.5)

    f) 12 players from Asia/Oceania

    48. Kuilkarni Bhakthid (IND) (Continental 2016)
    49. Nakhbayeva Guliskhan (KAZ) (Continental 2017)
    50. Alinasab Mobina (IRI) (Zone 3.1)
    51. Hamid Rani (BAN) (Zone 3.2)
    52. Vo Thi Kim Phung (VIE) (Zone 3.3)
    53. Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (UZB) (Zone 3.4)
    54. Zhai Mo (CHN) (Zone 3.5)
    55. Ni Shiqun (CHN) (Zone 3.5)
    56. Zhu Jineer (CHN) (Zone 3.5)
    57. Sun Fanghui (CHN) (Zone 3.5)
    58. Hardegen Kathryn (AUS) (Zone 3.6)
    59. Padmini Rout (IND) (Zone 3.7)

    g) 3 players from Africa

    60. Wafa Shahenda (EGY) (Continental 2017)
    61. Toubal Hayat (ALG) (Continental 2017)
    62. February Jesse Nikki (RSA) (Continental 2017)

    h) 2 nominees by FIDE

    63. Humpy Koneru (IND)
    64. Nino Batsiashvili (GEO)

    TOTAL: 64 players

  2. Interview with Mobina Alinasab (Iran)

    Video by ugrachess.fide.com

  3. Interview with GM Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria)

    Round #1, Game 1 (Full Broadcast)
    3 November 2018

    Round #1, Game 2 (Full Broadcast)
    4 November 2018

    Videos by Ugra Chess

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 1)

  4. Round 2, Game 1 (6 November 2018)
    China dominates as young stars emerge!

    Chinese Dragon

    Fabiano Caruana had an interview with Tania Sachdev asking about potential Olympiad champions months after winning the 2017 Olympiad. He mentioned China (which went on to win both titles in Batumi) and rationalized it by the nature in which China rolls out unknown talent. Speaking of the men… “There are so many young Chinese players who are up and coming and you haven’t even heard of them. You see them pop up in some tournament and gain 100 hundred points.”

    His comments are certainly on the mark as the Women’s Chess Championship sees Chinese players leading the charge with an undefeated round while European players are faltering. 15-year old WGM Zhu Jiner crushed Russia’s GM Natalija Pogonina in a Vienna after dispatching of GM Lela Javakhishvili 2-0. Looks like China has found another star.

    China’s Zhu Jiner

    WGM Zhai Mo beat Georgia’s GM Nino Batsiashvili as contender is on the brink of elimination. 18-year old Iranian player WIM Mobina Alinasab toppled GM Monicko Socko with the black as the Polish player tossed a piece in one move.

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
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    2018 Women’s World Chess Championship (Knockout)
    Round #2 – November 6th-8th, 2018

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 2, Game 1)

  5. Round 2, Game 2 (7 November 2018)
    Ju, Muzychuk advance… Humpy Koneru ousted… China’s Zhai Mo on 4/4!

    The second round of round two had eight players advancing to the round of 16 with eight tiebreak matches tomorrow. Ju Wenjun ousted Irina Krush while 22-year old Zhai Mo completed the sweep of Nino Batsiashvili. The 2018 Chinese Women’s champion also won both of her games in her upset of Russia’s Olga Girya. She will benefit from the extra rest days while others are fighting in the tiebreaks.

    China’s GM Lei Tingjie advanced
    Photo by ugrachess.fide.com

    Russia’s Valentina Guinina advances beating Anna Ushenina of the Ukraine, who won the Knockout championship back in 2012. Fortunately, the Ukrainian still have their ace in Anna Muzychuk who ousting Russian player Anastasia Bodnaruk. Perhaps the biggest upset of the round had Iran’s 18-year old sensation Mobina Alinasab getting a 2-0 clean sheet against Poland’s Monika Socko.

    Socko is known for eliminating Hou Yifan in the 2012 tournament. After that fiasco, Hou vowed to skip the knockout tournament due to the randomness of play. She did return to win the title, but did not play due to her studies at Oxford. Speaking of Chinese prodigies, Zhu Jiner lost to Natlija Pogonina and will have to test her rapid skills against the experienced Russian.

    It appears that the youth movement is taking over with Tingjie Lei eliminating Nan Dzagnidze, but young Russian star Aleksandra Goryachkina was sent home by compatriot Alisa Galliamova. Indian hopeful and one-time 2011 championship contender Humpy Koneru was also eliminated.

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
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    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 2, Game 2)

    Interview with GM Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine)

    Round #2, Game 2 (Full Broadcast)
    7 November 2018

    Videos by Ugra Chess

  6. Round 2, Tiebreaks (8 November 2018)
    Russian women power into the 3rd round!

    The eight tiebreakers were hotly-contested as the Russian contingent stormed into the third. Both Valentina Guinina and Alisa Galliamova had already gone through after beating compatriot Aleksandra Goryachkina. There were eight tiebreakers with four involving Chinese players and three involving Russian players. Surprising all Chinese players lost in the tiebreaks and all the Russia players won (except Goryachkina). A relieved Alexandra Kosteniuk explained her victory!

    Alexandra Kosteniuk: “In the second game of the classical part I have already said goodbye to this Championship because the endgame was very unpleasant. So the day of tie-breaks was already good for me because I was still in the game… Nothing is over until it’s actually over.”

    After China had such a wonderful day after Ju Wenjun, Zhao Mo and Lei Tingjie had already advanced, but out of the four Chinese who went into tiebreaks they all lost! Former world champion Tan Zhongyi was taken down by 19=year Uzbek player Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova.

    Uzbekistan’s Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova
    Photo ugra2018.fide.com

    Central Asian players have impressed this tournament as Kazahkstan’s Zhansaya Abdumailk beat Zhao Xue who has been a championship contender for the past 10 years. With the elmination of 15-year old Zhu Jiner, she is now the youngest in the field at age 18.

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
    Live: https://ugra2018.fide.com/live/

    2018 Women's World Chess Championship (Knockout)

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 2, Tiebreaks)

  7. Round 3, Game 1 (9 November 2018)
    Ju Wenjun marches on! Guinina upset

    It has been a whirlwind tournament for the teenaged Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova of Uzbekistan. After beating a former world champion, she beat Valentina Guinina in the first round of their match and put the Olympiad champion on the brink of elimination. Her 7.e6!? was a bold move to play to put her opponent on her heels. Actually Guinina only spent 25 seconds to play 7…Nf6. The game was extremely unbalanced and may have caught the Russian off guard. The game went on to feature the major artillery (R+R+Q), but white had a strong central passed pawn that carried the day. Guinina ended up blundering mate.

    Total domination after 23.Ne5

    Anna Muzychuk beat Antoaneta Stefanova in a game of giants. The game was a total disaster for the Bulgarian as she was busted by move 16. Muzychuk finished her off nicely with 22.Bh7+! Kh8 23.Ne5 with a totally crushing position. The game ended with a mating attack. Mariya Muzychuk miraculously drew her game with the Iranian sensation Mobina Alinasab. Muzychuk struggled throughout the middlegame, but managed to get the pieces off the board into a pawn down queen ending. However, her king was exposed.

    Alinasab has her chance after 48…Ke8, but allowed a perpetual check after 49.h7. What should she play? The engines give 49.Kh2, but hard to find such a move.

    The Iranian player started pushing her h-pawn to glory h6, captured black’s h7-pawn and appeared to be winning the full point. After 48.Qg7+ the engine gave +55.62 and after 48…Ke8 it was +42.58. Unfortunately, her sense of danger eluded her and she played 49.h7?? allowing a perpetual check. Amazing!

    In other news, Jolanta Zawakzka beat Zhansaya Abdumalik when the young Kazakh lost the thread in the complications. All the other games were drawn including the marqueen matchup between GMs Harika Dronavali and Alexandra Kosteniuk. Half of the games were decisive and the tournament has showed a lot of intensity with a number of upsets. Now we are heading to the rounds where the strongest players usually show their strength, but will a new star emerge?

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
    Live: https://ugra2018.fide.com/live/

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 3, Game 1)

    Round #3, Game 1 (Full Broadcast)
    9 November 2018

    Videos by Ugra Chess

  8. Round 3, Game 2 (10 November 2018)
    Three comeback wins… six matches go to tiebreaks!

    India’s Dronavali Harika ponders against former World Champion, Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia. They drew again and will go to tiebreaks. Photo ugra2018.fide.com

    Three players rallied from an opening match loss to force tiebreaks. Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, who has been in fantastic form, lost her first game of the tournament when she played too recklessly in the opening against Valentina Guinina. The Russian was relentless in attack although she missed the devastating 26.Nf5! (mate in nine!) and played the more direct 26.Rhe1 winning material.

    Antoaneta Stefanova also bounced back from a loss to level her match with Anna Muzychuk. The Bulgarian legend trotted out the London/Colle System and ended up facing a position more akin to the French. Muzychuk attempted to close the position with 19…f5, but then after 20.exf6, she played 20…e5? when the board opening up as white’s pieces were poised burst into action. Black was left flatfooted. Muzychuk was able to get pieces off, but ended up in a hopeless rook and pawn ending.

    Zhansaya Abdumalik

    Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan
    Photo ugra2018.fide.com

    The young Kazakh phenom Zhansaya Abdumalik also lasted another day after dominating with the white pieces against Poland’s Jolanta Zawadzka. Abdumalik essayed a gambit after 9.O-O going for an open position. After 10.Qh5!? g6 11.Qd5 Be6 12.Qc6+ Bd7 13.Qxc3 Bf6 14.Qf3 the queen’s romp resulted in a rather peculiar position.

    All Zawadzka needed was a draw and she began to play passively and handed the initiative over. Finally she hemorrhaged material after 34.Bg5 when white threatens a rook and to trap the queen with 35.g4. Zawadzka resigned ten moves later. Here were the winner’s comments.

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
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    Interview with Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan)

    Video by Ugra Chess

    With these three comeback victories and the three matches splitting the point both games, will be six matches to go to tiebreaks! Only Ju Wenjun and Mariya Muzychuk are already through. Who will join them?

    Round #3, Game 2 (Full Broadcast)
    10 November 2018

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 3, Game 2)

  9. Round 3, Tiebreaks (11 November 2018)
    All-Russian clash ends in thrilling Armaggedon with
    Lagno winning and advancing!

    Kateryna Lagno won a thrilling battle.
    Photo ugra2018.fide.com

    Natalija Pogonina and Kateryna Lagno were embroiled in a nine-game slugfest ending with the first Armageddon at the tournament. After two hard-fought classical games, they went to rapid and those were draw. The first set of blitz games with draw with one ending in king vs. king! Lagno broke ahead in the match and needed only to hold a draw in the second ‘5+3″ blitz. She couldn’t. In fact Pogonina ended the game with a beautiful zugzwang.

    The Armageddon went to to a time scramble with Pogonina trying to hold with black. The final game was frantic and filled with errors during time pressure. Lagno marched the a-pawn and ended up benefiting from a fortuitous trade of knights after 55…Nd6?? Pogonina forfeited on time, but was completely lost in the pawn ending. As her compatriot, walked away, Lagno was still sitting at the board overcome with emotion as she sat with hands over face.

    There were six tiebreaks in all and one of the surprising results came from Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova who took both of the rapid games from Valentina Guinina. Tokhirjonova was interviewed about her triumph. What a victory for the 19-year old!

    Video by ugra2018.fide.com

    Zhansaya Abdumalik, the 18-year old from Kazahkstan, came from the brink of elimination to win the second classical and then won the first rapid against Jolanta Zawadzka. With her second white in a row she repeated the same success, but in more convincing fashion. Playing the Center Counter, she quickly seized a space advantage and closed off the kingside. Despite black castling queenside, the king scurried back to the kingside for safety, but was met with 37.Qh7!

    In the second game, Zawadzka tried to complicate things with an exchange sacrifice, but Abdumalik played energetically, sacked the exchange back and was even better at one point. However, the game went into a queen ending with both kings totally exposed. The game aptly ended in a perpetual check and the Abdumalik was through.

    Two-time world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk is attempting to reclaim the title after last winning in 2008. Photo ugra2018.fide.com

    Alexandra Kosteniuk won a thrilling battle after losing her lead in the tiebreak rapid. After winning the first blitz she held on to advance. The tiebreaks featured four endings with three results possible. For the Dronavali Harika, it was a disappointing exit after making the semi-finals in Iran. Lei Tingjie advanced by crushing Alisa Galliamova both rapid games. In the second game, she still had 4:17 left on the clock!

    Round #3, Tiebreaks (Full Broadcast)
    10 November 2018

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 3, Tiebreaks)

    Pairings for quarterfinals…

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
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  10. Round 4, Game 1 (12 November 2018)
    Ju held… Abdumalik stuns former champion!

    Results of Round 4

    Remaining in the quarterfinal are two Chinese, two Russians, two Ukrainians and two teenagers from Central Asia!

    Zhansaya Abdumalik continues her “Cinderella” run at the Women’s World Championship in Khanty-Mansisysk with a stunning victory over former world champion, Mariya Muzychuk.

    Mariya Muzychuk (UKR)-Zhansaya Abdumalik (KAZ)
    Zhansaya Abdumalik peering at Mariya Muzychuk before the game.
    Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

    In that game, Abdumalik played the tactical pin variation of the Paulsen and equalized after Muzychuk played 7.Qd3. That is not the ideal local for the queen, but white attempted to grab space with 8.e5 and neglected the safety of her king.

    She continued with 18.c5 dxc5 Bc4+ to get her king to safety, but black had already begun seizing the initiative and pounced with 22…b4!? This move is not the best but psychologically, it must have an effect. After 24.axb4 25.Qxb4 Rc8+ white was hit by an avalanche of pins.

    Mariya Muzychuk-Zhansaya Abdumalik after 27...Rf5! Mariya Muzychuk-Zhansaya Abdumalik after 31...Qf2

    On 26.Rc5 a5 27.Qb5?? (27.Qd4) Now the beauty happens… 27…Rf5! (diagram #1) The crosspins are deadly and white panicked with 29.Rd3? and lost a piece after Rfxc5+ 30.Bxc5 Qe1+ 31.Kc2 Qf2+! (diagram #2)

    When the smoke cleared, black had netted a piece and proceeded to close the game out. Very energetic game by the youngest player in the field!

    Kateryna Lagno beat Lei Tingjie a day after a grueling nine-game match with Natalija Pogonina. Today it was a Petroff Defense and Lagno played very aggressively grabbing space and shepherding the two bishops. These lasers were too much for the plodding knights.

    Soon white’s rooks were in action and landed on the 7th rank. The bishops added to the attack and paralyzed black’s knights. After 41.Bh3! black would no longer hold the position. Great win for Lagno as she certainly gets a medal for the toughest fighter. A visibly tired Lagno gives her account.

    Video by ugrachess.fide.com

    In other games, Kosteniuk-A. Muzychuk was drawn in an interesting Sveshnikov. Ju Wenjun was held by Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova of Uzbekistan. White was better for much of the middlegame, but could not make anything of it.

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
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    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 4, Game 1)

    Round #4, Game 1 (Full Broadcast)

    Video ugra2018.fide.com

  11. Round 4, Game 2 (13 November 2018)
    Ju beats Tokhirjonova in slugfest… Lagno blanks Lei Tingjie,
    both are through to semis

    Results of Round 4

    Lei Tingjie flamed out of the knock out today with a rather abysmal performance against Kateryna Lagno. She played passively in the first and got lost in the complications in the second and was trounced. It is ironic, or maybe fitting that Lagno won her games which will allow her to recover from the nine-game match with Natalija Pogonina. She will face the winner of the Mariya Muzychuk and Zhansaya Abdumalik. That match went to tiebreaks after Muzychuk won in a Scheveningen. Lagno was asked the prospects of her next opponent and stated,

    I don’t know. I played with Mariya some classical games, at least, and I played only blitz game against Zhansaya, I guess. Mariya is a former world champion and Zhansaya is young and also very dangerous. We’ll see.

    After 37.Nxa4, Abdumalik had problems untangling her pieces and was unable to consolidate her fragile pawns.

    In Abdumalik-Muzychuk, the Ukrainian had gone down the exchange, but had adequate compensation with the two bishops and better pawn structure. It turns out that Zhansaya got one of the rooks trapped and had to give it back, but her pawns were in shambles and now her pieces were tied up. She also had to be careful to guard her weak pawns. It was simply too big a task. One-by-one the white pawns began to fall. In the end, black be up three pawns and Zhansaya resigned. They will go to tiebreaks. It is uncertain why Zhansaya had such a reckless approached when only a draw was needed.

    While Alexandra Kosteniuk and Anna Muzychuk have drawn two level game, Ju Wenjun advanced into the semi-finals in style with an exciting win over Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova. The teenage Uzbek played one of the sharpest lines against the Petroff and had a nice attacking formation, but black was solid after 15…Be6. White charged ahead, but overlooked a nice deflection tactic and had to donate her queen.

    Official Site: https://ugra2018.fide.com/
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    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 4, Game 2)

    Round #4, Game 2 (Full Broadcast)

    Videos by ugra2018.fide.com


  12. Round 4, Tiebreaks (14 November 2018)
    An emotional Kosteniuk advances… Muzychuk wins in an interesting way
    both are through to semis

    Results of Round 4

    In an outpouring of emotion Alexandra Kosteniuk is going onto the semifinals with a chance to compete for the championship since her last appearance 10 years ago. She defeated Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk in a contentious battle.

    After the flashy 39…Be7, but after 40.Qxe7, black had a chance to pressure with 40…Rfxf2, but played 40…Rcxf2?? Kosteniuk snapped off the rook with 41.Qxf8+! winning.

    The first game was a main line Sicilian Sveshnikov. The game follow the main line for the first 15 moves. 15…a5 has been tested at the top level and white has scored remarkably well against this line, but recently black has found resources. Perhaps that is why Muzychuk continue down that path. Instead of 16…Qd7, Muzychuk played 16…Ne7?!

    The game detoured on 19…Rfd8 and we would soon find out why. Kosteniuk found a way to probe black’s compromised pawn structure. The game reached a fever pitch when Muzychuk played 39…Be7. It seems to be strong, but after 40.Qxe7 Rcxf2?? (40…Rfxf2=) white can play 41.Qxf8+! getting three pieces for the queen. After that the lone queen was simply no match for the white army.

    In the second game, Muzychuk tried to catch Kosteniuk off guard with 1.f4. This is the same player who essayed the speculative Tate Variation of the Alekhine as a junior. She has never been afraid of these obscure ideas and actually got a nice advantage in this game.

    However, Kosteniuk got the queens off and hit the Ukrainian with a shot 24…Bxe6! to relieve pressure. White’s once formidable center was liquidated and while white still had a strong spatial advantage. With pressure building, Kosteniuk gave up a piece for a pawn. Then she got another pawn. With three pawns for a piece, black had no more dangers and was able to hold the draw and advance. After the game, Kosteniuk was overcome with emotion.

    Alexandra Kosteniuk after defeating Anna Muzychuk. Photo by Ugra Chess

    An emotional Alexandra Kosteniuk after defeating Anna Muzychuk.
    Photo by Ugra Chess

    After her sister had been eliminated, former champion Mariya Muzychuk faced a very dangerous opponent in Zhansaya Abdumalik. They traded wins in the classical with Muzychuk winning while at the brink of elimination. In the rapid, it was Muzychuk who won first, but Abdumalik stormed back to equalize.

    In the 10’+10″ Muzychuk broke out in front with a win, but it turns out that Abdumalik could’ve claimed a draw via the 50-move rule, but she resigned before doing so in the rook vs. rook knight ending. In the next game Abdumalik won a crushing game and evened the score again. Now onto 5’+3″.

    Abdumalik equalized easily in the Kan variation when Muzychuk allowed 12…b5! dropping a pawn early. The teenage phenom quickly lost her advantage after the thematic 18.e5! and ended up losing a piece. In the last game, Muzychuk essayed the interesting 7.Nh3-f4 idea. The game was very unbalanced and Abdumailk had chances, but had to settle for a draw by perpetual check. Muzychuk advances after a grueling match. Outstanding run by Abdumalik, who at 18 years of age, has a bright future.

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    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 4, Tiebreaks)

    Round #4, Tiebreaks (Full Broadcast)

    Videos by ugra2018.fide.com

  13. Round 5, Game 1 (15 November 2018)
    Ju beats Kosteniuk in Game 1, Muzychuk-Lagno ends peacefully

    Results of Round 5

    Ju Wenjun has been on a mission to prove she is the strongest woman on the planet. After winning the world title six months ago, she has been called to defend her title in a knockout format. If successful, she would be the first to defend in such a way. Hou Yifan, a predecessor, left the woman’s cycle because of the knockout format, but recently FIDE passed a proposal by FIDE President to make the knockout tournament a qualifier instead of the world championship.

    After Ju snapped off the pawn with 18…Nxa6 she could have followed with 19.Rxa6 Qb7 20.Nc6!? with dizzying complications.

    In Kosteniuk-Ju, the game started as a French Defense, Tarrasch variation. Perhaps white releases tension a bit early with 4.dxc5 instead of the normal 4.Ngf3. This gave black an easy route to equalizing. Kosteniuk began an aggressive attempt to dominate the space and Ju hunkered down in a very solid position.

    Kosteniuk then overlooked Ju’s 18…Nxa6! when after 19.Rxa6 black plays 19…Qb7 threatening the rook and mate on g2. As pointed out to Ju in the post-game interview, Kosteniuk could play 20. Nc6!? to complicate matters. After 20…Qxa6 (20…Qxc6 21.f3 and white will win a7) 21.Nxe7+ Kh8 white would be worse, but with two bishops as compensation.

    After this missed chance for Kosteniuk, the game was technically won for Ju, but Kosteniuk fought to the end. Ju was able to attack white’s kingside, force liquidation of pawns while creating yet another advantage… an outside passed h-pawn.

    While white had to tie her pieces down to watch the pawn, black’s pieces started invading the porous position of white. Finally, Ju pushed the h-pawn and as the white pieces went to stop it, her bishop attacked and won the queenside pawns creating passed a- and c-pawns.

    On 66.f5 black could’ve promoted to any piece with h1, since 67.Kxh1 Ng3+ and Nxf5 would decide. Two pawns up and the white king far afield from stopping the h-pawn, the position was hopeless and the Russian resigned ten moves later.

    Video ugra2018.fide.com

    In Muzychuk-Lagno, a Berlin was essayed, but there was no imbalances created and the game was drawn in 23 moves.

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    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 5, Game 1)

    Round #5, Game 1 (Full Broadcast)

    Video ugra2018.fide.com

  14. I had to look up “Choocolate Baby Milo” on Ju Wenjun’s shirt. It’s apparently quite a sensation in China with so many products. It reminds me of the “Hello Kitty” craze in the U.S.

  15. Round 5, Tiebreaks (17 November 2018)
    Russia’s Lagno moves on to face Ju Wenjun

    Results of Round 5

    The final is set. Russia’s Kateryna Lagno defeated her former compatriot Mariya Muzychuk in the semifinal tiebreak to earn the right to play world champion Ju Wenjun for the title. Lagno was dominant in the tiebreak portion and ousted the beleaguered former champion who objectively was not in her most consistent form this tournament.

    Anna Muzychuk watching her sister, Mariya battle against Kateryna Lagno. Photo by ugra2018.fide.com.

    Anna Muzychuk watching her sister,
    Mariya Muzychuk battle against Kateryna Lagno.
    Photo by ugra2018.fide.com.

    The first was an Open variation of the Ruy Lopez and the beginning phase was nothing special. It does appear that black’s maneuver lost time with the king’s knight moving several times and then capturing an undeveloped bishop on c1. Black’s bishops did not have the scope to plug up all the holes in the pawn structure, and white had a large spatial advantage. As it turned out, white sacrificed an exchange to exploit black’s weak pawns. She won two pawns for the exchange.

    Lagno found a way to break through Muzychuk’s defenses. Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

    When the queens were traded, the position was unclear, but three results were still possible. After 32.e6 f5 white committed her e-pawn, but black proceeded to blockade it. Perhaps in a bit of time pressure Muzychuk decided to sacrifice the exchange in order to get the theoretical draw. The game was indeed technically drawn, but white still had the outside passed pawn. Black sacrificed a kingside pawn to try to set up a fortress, but white managed to invade with her king leaving the lone black bishop overworked in trying to stop pawns on opposite sides of the board. Muzychuk resigned due to the looming 63.a7 or 63.e7+.

    The second tiebreak game was a complete disaster for the Ukrainian player. Lagno mentioned that Muzychuk looked tired during the game. This tournament has been a tough one for the former champion. After handily defeating Egypt’s Shahenda Wafa in the first round, she successfully off elimination from Turkey’s Ekaterina Atalik and won the rapid.

    Mariya Muzychuk would try to salvage the match as she had done many times in the tournament. Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

    Against Mobina Alinasab, she was dead lost in the first game, but was saved when the Iranian hastily tried to promote a pawn to the queening square allowing Muzychuk a perpetual check. Her experience got her past the young star, but then had to face another in 18-year old Zhansaya Abdumalik. Muzychuk had to fight off elimination after losing the first classical game and then failed to hold leads in the tiebreaks. Finally her experience prevailed. However, this grueling match went eight games and perhaps sapped her last bit of energy.

    With her sister watching, Muzychuk bolted out of the gate, but then went astry with slow 18.Nh2? This allowed Lagno with a blistering attack on the dark squares with 18…Na4! with threats of 19…Nxb2 in the air. After 19.hxg5, black played 19…Bd4 and the attack was already too strong. The white king tried to run to safety, but the black pieces were in pursuit demolishing everything in its path.

    After running from c1 to f5, the white army had lost too much material and Muzychuk resigned the match. End of a courageous run by the former champion. She showed a lot of determination, but in the end she may have run out of energy.

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 5, Tiebreaks)

    Interview with Kateryna Lagno

    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Round 5, Tiebreaks)

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  16. 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
    November 8th-28th, 2018 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
    FINAL (Ju Wenjun vs. Kateryna Lagno)
     
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    Drum Coverage

    The final for the Women’s World Chess Championship comes down to two players… defending champion Ju Wenjun of China (2568) and challenger Kateryna Lagno of Russia (2556). Both have traveled very different paths to get to this point. Ju has had a very smooth tournament truly demonstrating her superiority over the field. They both defeated Mariya Muzychuk and Alexandra Kosteniuk respectively. Both received medals and qualified for the new Candidates tournament in 2019.

    Ju has not had to play a tiebreak the entire tournament while Lagno has to endure three tiebreaks including a brutal nine-game match with Natalija Pogonina. Interestingly enough, the same scenario occurred last year when Anna Muzychuk waltzed through the field and was the higher rated only to lose to Tan Zhongyi. Ju will be the heavy favorite to keep her title after winning it only six months ago.

    Tomorrow is a rest day, but Monday both players will settle in for a thrilling match. No one will doubt that Lagno will be ready, but what will be interesting is how much stamina she will have left. Ju will certainly try to play her typically long positional games to tire her. The final is four classical games followed by the tiebreaks.

    All Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship

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    Image from CCSCSL/Spectrum Studios

  17. Interesting perspective on the differences between men and women from Ruslan Scherbakov, a chess trainer…

    – I mostly work with women. They require much more detailed explanation of variations and ideas. Men absorb information quicker, understand it more clearly, remember and utilize the ideas more efficiently. Top female players, by the way, play much tougher chess, more like men’s.

    When discussing openings, you can share your doubts with men, but doing it with women is not advisable, because they may lose confidence, which will adversely affect their play. You should compliment women much more, tell them they did everything right – especially if this was not the case! It will help them believe in themselves. Men cannot care less about such things, and if you try complimenting them, they will look at you suspiciously. They aren’t that bothered about criticism, too.

  18. 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
    Final, Game 1 (19 November 2018)

    Draw!

    In the women’s knockout, games tend to be more decisive. This is partly due to the type of risks often seen during quicker time controls. The opening was very complicated with many tactical themes. After Ju Wenjun built up a sizable advantage, the tension was released with the trade of queens. It appeared that Ju could play on without any risk since she was better and the fact that Kateryna Lagno had already played three tiebreaks. Fatigue could have been a factor. A draw after 38 moves should be welcome to the Russian side. Tomorrow will be a big test for both.

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    Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Final, Game 1)

  19. 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
    Final, Game 2 (20 November 2018)

    Lagno beats Ju… breaks out into lead 1½-½

    Ju Wenjun before Game Two. The world champion will need a more serious posture to keep her crown.

    Ju Wenjun must be reeling after her first loss of the tournament. She is in danger of going into the history books as the world champion with the shortest reign. With this being the last knockout to determine the world champion, it would be a huge disappointment if she didn’t solidify the crown. She has two more games to make it happen.

    There was an observation made by Alexandra Kosteniuk who was commentating with Alexander Morozevich. Kosteniuk made the comment that Ju has played very cautiously and lacks energy in her play. In fact, Kosteniuk mentioned that she was not impressed with Ju’s play in their encounter despite Ju winning the match.

    Kosteniuk also mentioned the battles Lagno had in dealing with motherhood and other personal matters. One could sense the lack of objectivity in support of her compatriot. Kosteniuk added that Ju’s play against lower-rated players amounts to waiting for opponents to make mistakes and pouncing on them.

    Of course there is more to Ju’s play, but she has played a bit cautiously in later stages of the tournament… as her opposition has gotten stronger. Perhaps the pressure of maintaining the title has affected her.

    In the first game, Ju developed an advantage, but did not press and even took a draw with the white pieces when she still had a better position. That means she is either overconfident, or not confident enough. Today, she faced a Catalan and the queens came off by move eight. Lagno donated a pawn to nab the two bishops.

    It was apparent that this was a good decision since the position was ideal for the bishop’s long-range power. In addition, black had an issue to solve with her c8-bishop. The Catalan bishop was bearing down on the black queenside with no good way for Ju to close the diagonal. Instead she offered the pawn back to neutralize the pressure.

    After 15…Be6 white recovered the pawn with 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.Bxe5. At this point, the position was a bit imbalanced, but appeared to have dynamic equality. If white could claim an edge it would be that Black was saddled with an inferior bishop and a vulnerable d-file.

    The white rook roamed the board with devastating effect. Notice its activity from moves 30.Rh1! to 45.Rb5. Total demolition.

    Lagno’s g4! was an alert move attempting to constrict the black bishop even more. However, the pawns were liquidated on the kingside and it appeared that the game was headed for a draw. However, white’s active rook swung around the entire board probing black’s camp as Ju sat and waited.

    Finally, black lost a pawn providing key squares for the white bishop. Ju position collapsed. With the white king now joining in on the attack, black’s rook became overloaded, and another pawn was lost after 49.Rxa7. This would provide a clear path for the a-pawn and the active white king was depriving the black pieces of key squares they needed to deal with the sprinting a-pawn. Too late.

    The white pawn has now replaced the black pawn on a7 and with a dominant bishop, active rook and king, black was helpless. Finally, 58…Bc6 couldn’t help as the black king looked from afar. After 59.Rb6, Ju resigned in lieu of 59…Rc8 60.Rxc6. Lagno was indeed happy and there was an overall good mood from the commentators. Ju would have to come roaring back with a sense of urgency.

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    Game from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Final, Game 2)

    Interview with Kateryna Lagno

    Video by ugra2018.fide.com

  20. 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
    Final, Game 3 (21 November 2018)

    Ju presses for win… Lagno desperately holds!

    Ju Wenjun came back with a vengeance in today’s match-up against Kateryna Lagno. In fact, she had a totally winning position at various points of the game, but stumbled when the game reached a critical point allowing the Russian player counterplay.

    The game was very exciting with many tactical themes, however, Ju failed to close the deal. With only on more game to defend her championship, she will have to simply get a game she can create chances. She has shown she can get good positions, but Lagno has shown she can defend. It will be a tough assignment for the world champion.

    Ju Wenjun preparing while Kateryna Lagno lurks in the shadows. Photo by ugra2018.fide.com.

    Ju Wenjun waits intently while Kateryna Lagno lurks in the shadows.
    Photo by ugra2018.fide.com.

    In today’s game it was a bruising battles with many tosses and turns. Ju played an aggressive line against the King’s Indian Defense (KID) with 5.Bd3!? This line has been played at the elite level, but far less that the normal lines with 5.Nf3 and 6.Be2, the Saemisch with 5.f3 and even the Averbakh variation with 5.Be2 and 6.Bg5.

    All of these lines have been tested thoroughly and are featured among top tournaments. White has scored well nearly putting the defense out of vogue. Players like Hikaru Nakamura have kept it going. Alexander Moiseenko seems to be one of the top practioners of 5.Bd3 against the KID and it would become apparent why Ju chose this line. Just as we thought we would see 20 moves of mainline theory, Lagno decided to steer the game into a Benoni after 7…e6.

    There were a number of games with this text move, but one that stood out was Tigran Petrosian versus Bobby Fischer in the 1970 Herceg Novi blitz tournament. The future world champion would prove victorious in a game in which there were three exchange sacrifices (see game). He won the tournament with a 19-3 (+17 -1 =4). Of course, this isn’t blitz, but the display was impressive. Lahno would try to get the same success.

    Ju essayed 13.h4!? a new move played with great effect. The attack was on!

    The game followed Moissenko-Bacrot in 2013, but diverted when Lagno played 10…g5?! The move is rather bold, but risky. Ju deviated from that game and played 13.h4!? Wow. Of course Lahno felt that accepting the exchange with 13…Bxa1 was too risky as white would have plenty of compensation.

    As the game wore on, it was clear that white has a type of advantage and black would need to patch up her kingside. Ju thought fore 30 minutes before playing 20.Be2, also suggested by engines. She was conjuring up a plan after 20…Qd7, but perhaps missed the chance to throw 21.fxg4 hxg4 22.Ne6! on the board. Unfortunately, she opted for a maneuver designed to remove more defenders from the wrecked kingside. Ju played energetically with 24.e5, but missed a follow-up with 26.d6!

    White still had chances, but Lagno attempted successfully to complicate matters. There were still inaccuracies, but white still had the advantage up until trading queens. This would make it difficult to win with opposite-color bishop ending. Of course, the opposite-color bishop ending Lahno won yesterday was very different.

    Lagno moved to complicate matters by pushing her own pawns. Thrilling battle. Whose pawns would reign supreme? There was one last chance for Ju to get the full point, but she missed that chance too. On 45…e3 46.Rxb3 Ke4 47.Kg2! e2 white could have uncorked 48.Rb7!! Instead she played 48.Rb4+ and after a few moves, black was able to develop a fortress. Another disappointing result for Ju. Lagno will attempt to hold the lead tomorrow and become the new women’s world champion in Russia. It should be an exciting battle!

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    Game from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Final, Game 3)

  21. 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
    Final, Game 4 (22 November 2018)

    Ju gets the equalizer… match goes to tiebreaks!

    Kateryna Lagno appeared listless in Game 4.

    In stunning fashion, Ju Wenjun equalized the her match with a thrilling victory over Kateryna Lagno. At the brink of losing her title, she roared back by trotting out the Sicilian instead of the French. The game followed Caruana-Carlsen when white played 6.b4!? but the Russia took an unusual approach with 7.a3!? Was this idea to THEN play b4? No… she continued with 7.Nc3 and they proceeded with a normal game.

    Ju decided to go all out and struck with 11…f5 12.exf5 gxf5. With the open g-file, she formed an Alekhine’s gun and loaded up on the g3-square. Lagno’s pieces were bystanders and did nothing to protect the monarch. The beginning of the end was 28…Bc8 29.Qh5?? Rxg3+! when white is mated. Absolute disaster!

    Arbiter looks on after the devastating 32...Rg2+. Photo by ugra2018.fide.com.

    Arbiter looks on after the devastating 32…Rg2+
    Photos by ugra2018.fide.com

    Game from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Final, Game 4)

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  22. 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
    Final, Tiebreaks (23 November 2018)

    China wins again!
    Ju Wenjun win tiebreak match… defends title!

    Ju Wenjun beaming with championship trophy.
    Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

    For Ju Wenjun, she maintained the title with the class and dignity befitting of a champion and never showed any sign of giving up. While her relaxed body posture before her first game wreaked of overconfidence, the loss forced her to steady herself and she got the equalizer against Kateryna Lagno in the last classical game.

    In the tiebreaks the rapid games were competitive with the first game being fought out of a Queen’s Gambit Accepted. This game had none of the twists an turns of the previous and ended in a peaceful draw. The second was similar in a Catalan variation. The game was very placid and by move 20 the game had clarified to another equal ending. No separation in the rapid, so onto the 10’+10″ blitz games.

    After two uninspiring games, Lagno would have one more chance and opted for a Reti Opening. This game went and Lagno got a slight pull in the position, but not the type imbalance to give her a chance for a win. She then started to take chances and in an equal ending overlook a simple tactic and lost a pawn after 23.Bf1? after which 23…Nd1! wins a pawn. Ju ushered her queenside pawns up the board and one of the bishops had to fall on the sword. Ju would enjoy her first lead of the match.

    Lagno’s 34…Qg6 tosses the queen.

    In the second blitz game, Lagno opted for the Modern Defense which is extremely difficult to play since black cedes the center. Following the script, Ju seized the center and tried to increase pressure to constrict black’s mobility. Lagno played solidly, but in the end had a lapse of attention and dropped her queen in one move with 34…Qg6?? after which Ju snapped it off with 35.Nxg6. Shocking. Fatigue had claimed another victim.

    Kateryna Lagno showed the ultimate fighter experience. She battled in her 4th tiebreak against a formidable defending champion and had her on the brink of elimination. The extra games finally took their toll as she lost both 10’+10″ games. The match ended when she hung her queen in one move. The only way of explaining this could be fatigue. Lagno played a total of 29 games.

    Ju was congratulated and successfully defended her title. One of the effects of her retaining the title was to provide continuity for the cycle. How can one explain a champion holding the title for only six months? Before the tournament, it was announced the the women’s cycle would include a Candidate’s tournament in which the four semifinalists will qualify. There would also be a Grand Prix series and the World Cup would now be a qualifier. This is the same as the Open cycle.

    Video byugra2018.fide.com

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    Game from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Final, Tiebreaks)

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