Hou Yifan (2578)
Koneru H. (2600)
Womens World Championship 2011 (7)
Tirana, Albania, 2011
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Qd7 In one of the tabiyas of chess: Humpy decides to try something different. This move isn't bad, it's just quite strange. It's not new either, but I don't see any recent GM examples with it. It has the potential to transpose to a rare but somewhat tried line if she plays Bb7 soon, but she postpones it for a few moves. Black might just be trying to get out of theory quickly to try to complicate the issue, as a win for Black seems necessary in this match situation.
10. d4 Re8 11. Nbd2 Bf8 12. a3 I actually quite like this decision. White protects her bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal now that it can't be challenged by a bishop on e6. Further, she safeguards herself on the queenside and keeps her options open.
12. a4 was also good.
12... Bb7 13. d5 13. Ba2 by transposition would have been Karjakin-Sokolov,
13... Ne7 14. Nf1 Ng6 15. N3h2 This kind of knight dance is typical for the close structure of the Ruy Lopez. Trading Ns on g4 can prove to be unfavorable for Black, as the opening of the h-file should not be underestimated.
15... c6 16. Bg5 Be7 17. dxc6 Bxc6 18. Ng3 Nf4 19. Bxf6! Bxf6 20. Nh5 The pair of bishops hold no power, and especially the bishop on f6 cannot help the defense of key squares like f5 and h5.
20... Qe7 21. Qf3 Bg5 22. Rad1 Ne6 23. Ng4 Rf8 24. Ne3 Bxe3 Almost forced - Black has to regain some light-square control.
25. Qxe3 25. Rxe3 was also interesting, but allows 25... f5!? Yifan will have none of that.
25... Rad8 26. Ng3 g6 27. Rd2 h5 28. Qh6 Black has simply not found the counterplay she was hoping for when she went for this odd line of the Ruy Lopez. Hou holds a slight but undisputed advantage and Black can't do much more than watch. If White wants to trade pieces, Black will have little choice.
28... Nf4 29. Ne2 Qf6?! 29... Ne6 30. Ng3 would have forced Black into giving White a stable advantage or repeating moves, something I'm sure Yifan would have been quite happy with.
30. Nxf4 exf4 31. Rd3! The pawn on f4 is too difficult to defend. Black gets some slight piece activity but nowhere near a pawn's worth.
31... Rfe8 32. Rf3 Rd7 33. Rxf4 Qg7 34. Qg5 Re5 35. Qg3 Rde7 36. Rd1 g5 Not match desperation, simply positional desperation. There was little else to do in this position.
37. Rf5 Bxe4 38. Rxe5 Qxe5 39. Rxd6 Qxg3 40. fxg3 This endgame is far from hopeless. Actually Black has many defensive resources: g2 is weak, she has a fair amount of activity and overall things are not all that bad, despite the pawn deficit. However, winning this endgame is an impossible fantasy, and in a situation where you desperately need a win there isn't anything harder psychologically than to grovel for a draw.
40... Bb7? 40... a5 was a better try 41. Rb6?! a4 42. Ba2 Bd3 is ok for Black.
41. Kf2?! Kg7? 42. Bd1 h4? 43. gxh4 gxh4 44. Rd4 Be4 45. Bf3 Bxf3 46. Kxf3 Re1 47. Rxh4?! Now it's two pawns...
47... Rb1? 48. Rb4 Kf6? 49. Ke3 Ke5? 50. Re4+ Kd5? 51. Rd4+ Ke5 52. Rd2 f5 53. Kd3 Kf4 54. Rf2+ Kg3?! 55. Rxf5 Rxb2 56. Rg5+ Kh4 57. Rg6? a5 58. Rg4+? Kh5 59. Re4 59. a4 bxa4 60. Rxa4 Rxg2 61. Rxa5+ Kg6 62. Re5 is a win even without the h3 pawn.
59... Kg6 60. Re2? Rb3? 61. Ra2 b4 62. axb4 axb4 63. Rc2 Ra3 64. Kd4?! bxc3 65. Rxc3 This endgame is hopeless for Black. White just has to rearrange her pieces in such a way that they support the pawns. Black can't prevent this.
65... Ra2 66. Rg3+ Kh5 67. Ke3 Ra3+? 68. Kf2 Ra2+ 69. Kg1 Ra1+? 70. Kh2! Ra2 71. Rd3 Ra5?? 72. Rd4 Rb5? 73. h4 Rb3? 74. g3 Rb1 75. Kh3? Rh1+ 76. Kg2 Ra1? 77. Rd5+ Kh6 78. Kh3 Ra3 All White has to do is rinse and repeat, push the h-pawn, prepare to push the g-pawn. Nothing Black can do about it.
79. Re5 Ra4? 80. Re3 Ra6? 81. g4 Ra1 82. Re6+ Kg7 83. h5 Rh1+ 84. Kg3? Rf1 85. Kh4 Rf7 86. Kg5 Kh7 87. h6 Ra7 88. Kh5 Rb7 89. g5 Rb5 90. Re7+ Kg8 91. Kg6 Rb6+ 92. Kf5 Rb5+ 93. Kf6 Rb6+ 94. Re6 Rb8 95. g6 Kh8 96. Re5 Ra8 97. Kg5 It's possible that Humpy didn't have to play the last 40 moves or so, but it's very difficult to admit defeat as it is almost certain that Yifan will be able to hold at least one draw in the next three games, giving her the Championship. Another clean effort by the Chinese player who played good, logical chess.
Game(s) in PGN