1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxe5 Nd4 12.Nd2 Re8 13.c3 Nxb3 14.Nxb3 c5 15.Qh5 g6 16.Qf3 f6 17.Nxg6 hxg6 18.c4 Qd7 19.cxd5 Bxd5 20.Qg3 g5 21.Be3 Rac8 22.Qg4 Qxg4 23.hxg4 Bd6 24.Rec1 Kf7 25.Ne2 The position is roughly even.
Black is a pawn down but with the power of the Bishop pair and White’s vulnerable pawn structure, this position is about even. However, seeing all the ups and downs in the endgame yesterday, there is still a lot of play left in this game.
26… Be6 27. Ne4 In this position, I would have preferred to double up the Rooks on the c file.
27…c4 28. dxc4 I think 28.d4 is stronger. The problem with this move is the b2 pawn will become a target later on.
28…Rxc4 29. Rxc4 bxc4 30. Rd1 Black is now clearly better with the Bishop pair.
30….Rb8 -/+ 31.b3 I see White having no chance to score a victory in this position. In fact, she has to work just to have a draw. It seems that Kosteniuk is better prepared in the opening phase and she also handles complicated (non-tactical) middlegame positions better.
31…cxb3 32.axb3 Rxb3 33.Bd4 The strongest reply for Black here is 33..Bxg4. I think White “should” be able to hold this game. But this is not the result one would want with the last White game.
33…Bxg4 34.f3 Bxd4 35.Rxd4 =+ Be6 36.Rd6 If Kosteniuk wants to secure a draw heading into tomorrow, this is one way: 36…Ra3 37. Nc5 Bc4 38. Ne4 Be6 39. Nc5 =
36…a5 37.Nc5 Rb1+ 38. Kf2 Bf5 39. Ra6 In this position, 39.g4 is also playable.
39…Rb5 40.Ne4 Bxe4 41.fxe4 Rb2+ There is still a lot of work to do but White “should” be able to hold this.
42.Kf3 Ra2 43. Kg3 a4 44. Kf3 a3 This is NOT the way to hold on for a draw. Now White is in big trouble.
45.Kg3 A horrendous series of moves by Hou. Now Black has chances. The idea is after a2 then to get the Black King to f4. If Black succeeds in accomplishing this then it’s over. I am sure if computer software can understand this plan.
45…Ra1 Kh2 46.Kh2 a2 47.Kg3 Ke7 The idea is keep moving the King up and eventually try to get to the f4 square. However, the timing has to be perfect. Black has to try to avoid the line where White can play g4 and block the pawns from advancing. It looks like there is a chance that Kosteniuk will be crowned today as the next Women’s World Champion.
48. Kh2 Kd7 49. Kg3 Kc7 50. Kh2 Kb7 51. Ra3 Kb6 52. Ra8 Kb5 53.Rb8+ Kc4 54. Ra8 Kd4 55. Ra4+ Kd3 56. Kg3 Ke3 -+ 57.Kh2 Kf4 58.e5+ Kxe5 59.g4 Kd5 60. Kg2 Kc5 61. Ra8 Kb4 62. Ra6 I find it interesting that when Hou is in trouble, she fights back harder and does better. She held yesterday in a hopeless position and may do it again today. The key idea for Black is to get the King to the c3 square. Then in order for White to hold, she must keeps her Rook on the 6th rank. Everything else would lose.
62…Ra6 Kc4 63. Ra3 Kd4 64. Ra6 Ke5 65. Ra4 Ke6 66.Ra8 Ke5 67. Ra4 Re1 68. Rxa2 Kf4 69. Rf2+ Kxg4 70. Rxf6 Re2+ 71. Kg1 Kg3 72.Rf1 1/2-1/2 A nice save by Yifan and another nice effort by Alexandra.