Three games of the first round ended up in quick (but not quiet) draws: Ju Wenjun didn’t find a winning move against Kateryna Lagno, Olga Girya had a minimum advantage against Antoaneta Stefanova, which was not enough for an active play, and Harika Dronavalli got a comfortable position with Guliskhan Nakhbayeva, and the game logically went to a half-point.
Two rating-leaders of Tashkent Grand Prix managed to take the lead both winning with black pieces: Zhao Xue outplayed Alexandra Kosteniuk and Humpy Koneru again had the longest but successful battle – today against Elina Danielian.
Ju Wenjun – Lagno Kateryna ½ – ½
The game started with a popular nowadays Grunfeld Defence. The 17th move Nd5 was a surprise for Kateryna, but after about half an hour she managed to find the strongest Kh8.
Game was developing in a logical way, but Kateryna spent all her time on calculating, and only very fast answer by Ju Wenjun saved Ukrainian from a big trouble after her blunder 28…Nf2.
Kateryna: “I didn’t prepare this line, Ju Wenjun has never played this before, so I didn’t expect it at all. It’s a quite sharp line, and ones I lost here without any fight just because I mixed up the moves. Despite it was a rapid game, I wasn’t happy anyway, so I rechecked it at home ones again, of course today I didn’t remember anything, so I had to find the moves at the board. From 14. Be5 you have to know like 10 moves ahead, and somehow 17.Nd5 just shocked me! I was checking all the possible moves: 17…Nxd5 18.Bxd5 Bxd5 19.Qxd5 Rd8 20.Qxb7 Nd3+ 21.Ke2 Nxc1+ 22.Rxc1 Qxh2 but there is 23.Rh1 with winning position; 17…Nxc4 doesn’t work because of check 18.Ne7+ Kh8 and 19.Rxc4; on 17…Nfg4 I didn’t see anything after 18.h3”
Ju Wenjun: “And on 17…b5 I would have played 18.Ne7+ Kh8 19.Nxc6 bxc4 20.Qb5 Nd3+ 21.Ke2 Nxc1+ 22.Rxc1 Qxh2 23.Kf3. 17…Kh8 is the main line here”
Kateryna: “Yes, after spending 30 minutes or even more I found the right move and here I felt that I saw it before. Afterwards I have to play sharp (18…g5), otherwise White will castle and I am just exchange down. I think after 21…Qh3 already Ju Wenjun was surprised”
Ju Wenjun: “Yes, normally it is played 21…Qh5 22.Rg1 Qxh2 23.Rxg2 Qxg2 24.Nd6”
Kateryna: “And of course 28…Nxf2 is a big blunder, but I already prepared myself for 29.Re2, and completely forgot about 29.Qc3. I should have played something like 28…g4. But my opponent played Re2 very quickly; probably she thought I didn’t see it.
Girya Olga – Antoaneta Stefanova ½ – ½
In Chebanenko Slav opening Olga played 5.e3, which is not the most principal choice, and white have a solid but not pretending position.
Antoaneta: “The whole game maybe was slightly better for White, but I didn’t see any special improvement neither for Black or White. But of course 19…Be7 was a dubious move. Olga should have answered with 19…g3 and maybe Bg2.”
Olga: “Maybe it was better for Black 19…e5 20.dxe5 Nxe5 21.Bf4 Nxf3+ 22.Qxf3 Qd7 23.Rd1 Qe6”
Nakhbayeva Guliskhan – Dronavalli Harika ½ – ½
After an unusual moves order was played by the opponents, the position turned into Nimzo-Indian. White didn’t get much from the opening, and position simplified after changing bishop on c3.
Harika: “I didn’t like this passive move 6.Bd2 for White, because I got a very comfortable position after 7…e5 8.d5, and maybe I had a slight advantage afterwards, but I couldn’t find anything in the time trouble. If the position goes to an endgame, I think I will be worse because of my knight, so I have to maintain my pieces. Therefore I played just waiting moves. 22.Rb1 was very good move, otherwise I could get the initiative by Qa8 and Ra2. Maybe I should have played 25…Ra2 instead of Ne7.”
Guliskhan: “I think 26…Ra2 was better: I can’t play 27.Rb2 because of 27… Ra1+ 28.Kg2 fxg3 29.fxg3 Rff1”
Harika: “Yes, and 27.Rc2 Ra3 28.Kh2 Ng8 also looks good for Black, at least better than what I played.
Khotenashvili Bela – Muminova Nafisa 1 -0
Bela has chosen to play Catalan, playing 8…Bd6 Nafisa let White get their pawn back, more principal move was b5. Probably White should have played 17.Rxd6 to get the initiative. Later on Black used all the chances to improve position, but in a severe time trouble didn’t find winning move 32…Nh7, and playing Ba5 instead let her opponent to take a breath. Closer to the time control Nafisa made few more mistakes and after time inclement Georgian didn’t have problems to convert her advantage into a point.
Bela: “After 11.a3 I wanted to play 12.b4, but it was difficult to play without a plan”
Nafisa: “I thought she would take on d6”
Bela: “Yes, I spent a lot of time thinking about 17.Rxd6, but during the game didn’t like 17…Rxd6 18.Nxe5 Ng4 19.Nxd7 Rxd7. I missed 22…Bb3, and my position was very unpleasant”
Nafisa: “First I was going to play 27…Bb6 28.Bxf6 gxf6 (28…Rxf6 29.Nd5) 29.Ne3”
Bela: “Yes, after 29…Bd4 30.Nf5 Be6 it is lost”
Nafisa: “And of course the mistake was 39…Nc4, but I was already in a big time trouble”
Kosteniuk Alexandra – Zhao Xue 0 – 1
Alexandra played a rare line with 6.Bg5 against Berlin wall. Zhao Xue didn’t expect this move, but managed to equalise position playing natural moves. Alexandra overestimated her chances in middle-game, and after a few inaccuracies Chinese move by move outplayed her opponent.
Alexandra: “The game was about equal, I was not sure to play 13.a4 or not, because of 13…a5, so I played Rad1 just to wait”
Zhao Xue: “I didn’t like 14.h3, maybe Nd4 was better, then if I play 15…c5 she could play 16.Rdd1 with good position”
Alexanra: “I didn’t want to change this knight, but maybe it was interesting”
Zhao Xue: “It was already another long game… I am not sure about 19.Qe4”
Alexandra: “Yes, I saw the line which happened in the game, but I thought I have some counter-chances. Maybe was good 20.Qd4 Qxd4 21.Nxd4 Bh7 22.Rd2 Ng6 23.Nf5 Rxe5 24.Nxg7, but I thought how I played also was fine. I was very surprised by the moves 28…Rh8 and 29…Kd8, that’s why I played 30.c4. It worked very well at the end, but I just couldn’t believe that it can be good! But maybe it is strong. I saw the idea 30.Rf1 Nxe5 31.Re1, which is a good possibility, but it seemed that 30.c4 is so nice, but it became worse. Maybe the position is still holdable, but it was difficult to find defending moves, so 30.c4 was just a mistake.”
Danielian Elina – Koneru Humpy 0 – 1
Elina played the same opening as yesterday – Nimzo-Indian with 4.Qc2, and Humpy replied with a classical line with a castle. Inaccurate 18.e4 let Black siege the initiative, which was enough for Humpy to gradually increase the advantage by putting a pressure on her opponent. Finally being short on time Elina lost control and after few mistakes found herself trying to defend a knights endgame with pawn down. As usually Humpy has shown a great technique and soon joined Zhao Xue in the lead.
Elina: “I think the game was close to equal, but at one moment I started to play very badly. First of all, 18.e4 was a mistake where all my troubles began: I should have played 18.Bb1 as I wanted. Maybe white is little bit better due to two bishops.”
Humpy: “Yes, the move 18.Bb1 looked very normal. Also I should have played better, like 38…c3 instead of Kd6, and then 39.Ke2 Nb2 40.Ne3 Kd6 (41.Nf5 Kc5 42.Nxg7 Kc4) 41.Nd5 Nc4”
By WFM Maria Emelianova