Yesterday, Friday the 6th, Mongolian supporters at the venue of the Women Grand Prix were very happy to witness their Champion, Munguntuul Batkhuyag defeat Humpy Koneru, the best rated women player after J Polgar. This raised hope among them to see Munguntuul progress in the Tournament ranking and take an honorable place. But for her opponent, H. Koneru, it was a disappointing game which, to her dismay, she lost due to her “passive defense” according to her own words.
Only four rounds (out of eleven) to go and there is no clear sign as to who will be the winner here in Ulaanbaatar. We have no less than 6 players, A. Stefanova, Hou Yifan, Zhao Xue, H. Koneru, T. Kosintseva, and M. Chiburdanidze, only a point of each other, who still have chances to be crowned.
Information came out yesterday unexpectedly, some 2 to 3 hours after the 7th round, that Hou Yifan became ill, it seems through food poisoning. The Mongolian Organizers were quick to react and everything was done for her recovery. Unfortunately she feels still weak today and cannot play the 8th round. Her opponent, Zhu Chen, has kindly agreed to a postponement of the game which will take place tomorrow, on the free day.
The game to watch today is the one opposing A. Stefanova to Koneru. Both of them are very skilled player and ambition to finish the Tournament as leader. A win could mean a serious advance to a final success in the Tournament.
As usual, like all the rounds before, the 8th round started at 15.00 sharp. The “O tolerance” rule is being totally accepted by the players and has been enforced without a problem.
The first game to end was the one between Kosintseva and Xu Yuhua. It ended after just 23 moves with a draw resulting after repetition of moves.
The much awaited game opposing A. Stefanova to H. Koneru did keep all promises of a strong fight until A. Stefanova blundered in the 28th move. Lack of concentration? Fatigue? Anyone’s guess.
Yildiz Betul did not repeat her performance of yesterday. She found in M. Chiburdanidze a player with a lot skill and experience and who is still belonging to the leaders in this Tournament. A very decisive win for the Georgian player.
The match involving Shen Yang and Zhao Xue was very emotional. From the beginning, this latter felt uncomfortable with her play and lost ultimately after letting Shang Yang consolidate a small advantage she took at the beginning.
When M. Sebag entered the press room, everyone knew that she won her game: her face was shining with a big smile. Surely she is now prepared for the next stages of the Tournament.
Koneru Humpy – Stefanova Antoaneta 1 – 0
In Slav opening Black chose 4.a6 variation. It is often played by Russian grandmaster Morozevich. Black move 12…f5 was dubious planning. In middlegame White strangulated Black’s active planning and themselves planned a breakthrough via b5 way. Black sacrificed a pawn and tried to spread an active play on kingside, but White skillfully foiled this plan and gained winning position.
Koneru: I played this opening for the first time. After 15… g5, I did not like my position. 17.Nd2 instead of Kh1 deserves attention. In timing she gave away c6 pawn, I took this sacrifice being confident that I can preserve my advantage.
Antoaneta: it was an interesting game. I failed to use my attacking chances. Instead of 24.Qg7 more preferable was 24…Qg5 with Nf6-Ng4 idea. The final move 28.Ne3 is a horrible blunder.
Q: Tomorrow is a day off, so how do you evaluate your tournament situation so far?
Xu: There were many difficult games until now. I think I have to play better in the remaining 3 rounds.
Tatiana: It is difficult to evaluate at present. There are 3 rounds left to play and tournament situation changes with every round. I will try to improve my play.
Yildiz Betul – Chiburdanidze Maia 0 – 1
Black move 1…b6 led to irregular opening. English chess players used to apply Black’s 3rd move f5 during the 1980-ies. White continued the game in unusual way and French defense developed. Black exchanged white-square bishops and secured a solid position. After 23rd move, White apparently had an Nh1-f2-g4-f6 plan, while Black planned to play on queenside through b4. White made a premature move Kf6 and worsened their position and with their Bishop in weak position they lost.
Maia: I wanted to surprise my opponent, so I played 1…b6 which I never did before. She played too cautious, but during the game a difficult position developed. I lost much time, I should have played faster and she had some advantage. After 29.Nf6 I managed to hold balance and won in the end.
Betul: 1…b6 move was a surprise for me and the game developed into French defense. I thought I had had some advantage in the middlegame, though my queenside was weak. After an exchange on g5 my Bishop got isolated.
Q: Tomorrow we have an excursion. Will you join?
Maia: It depends on my mood.
Betul: Yes, I will.
Xu Yuhua – Kosintseva Tatiana 1/2 – 1/2
Breyer Variation of Spanish opening was developed. Both players began playing safe, probing each other’s position, and the game shifted to the middlegame in roughly equal terms. White should have tried to move 18.a3 instead of 18.Bb5. Then both players did not display any initiative and drew by repetition.
Xu: The opening began with e5 move and after exchange of Bishops game ended with a draw.
Tatiana: Spanish opening was played. Generally, the game proceeded calmly. There were no particular opportunities and play ended soon with a draw.
Shen Yang – Zhao Xue 1 – 0
Nimtsovich defense was developed. White moved king side Knight to the edge, made castling to opposite side and shifted to middlegame. The game proceeded with both players having heavy pieces, and White had both Bishops and a Knight; Black had both Knights and a Bishop. White sacrificed a pawn, beginning a dangerous attack, won piece quality and gained an advantageous position. Black made a strange move 25…Ke6, afterwards White preserved their advantage and won in Rook endgame.
Yang: After the opening a complicated situation developed. I sacrificed a pawn, Black should have not taken it. In the endgame I had the advantage owing to e-pawn.
Xue: I played badly in opening. Though, I had chances for a draw in the Endgame.
Sebag Marie – Batkhuyag Munguntuul 1 – 0
The game was played in Arkhangelsk variation of Spanish opening. White managed to preserve advantage gained in the opening into middlegame. After a series of exchanges White got advantageous position thanks to 24.Qd4. In order to relieve themselves from a difficult situation, Black had to make sacrifices. Rook-bishop-versus-rook-and-knight endgame appeared. White preserved their winning position in Rook endgame by taking a pawn. There were no more drastic turns and White won.